Exit Orpheus

Matthew Hong Exit Orpheus


It would not be without reluctance and perhaps too, some remorse, that I should publish this piece.

This work would be conceived towards the latter months of the final redaction of the epic poem, I, Faust. The succession of one forgotten form after another would seem twice-fold futile. Adding to this, yet another impossible legend, Orpheus. And as customary, it could not be a homage to the beauty of his vertiginous song, but rather his final shrill and tragic gesture still resounding in the halls of Hades.

I would often wonder about the chosen trajectory of my artistic formation and my feeling obliged to move in these terms. I had for some time certain verses strident in the veins, circulating an unsettling kind of homeostasis, pulsating for another insufferable task – the phantom pains in the aftermath of a twenty-year project finally let go. –Or more decidedly, the inert resin of everything unaccomplished of an otherwise unfortunate life.

Many times I had tried to evacuate these lines which had formed but lingered unarticulated. The published abstract of Cities & Dust was to be something of a chronicling, however without much condolence in its epistolary respiration.

So I would descend into my purgatory and resurface with this thing all too personal and without levity. Granted, this work would be much less autobiographical in scope than any previous attempt, but was to bear a deliberate resemblance to a reality which I was to just barely survive and from which I would wander forever marked.

I would since uproot myself to foreign territories, acclimate to a different tongue, no doubt with a drive to distance myself from the refuse of all this, to forget the English language as it were, and to deny its poetry which for me had been for a major period a kind of life force.

Though I may be no less compromising at present, I could say without any affectation that my general disposition was much more serious before when I was twenty than today as I approach forty. I was stronger then than I am now. I would think of those who preceded me and wonder whether I had not over-dwelled in this domain. I had been feeling the progressive decline of my life as a writer. There would eventually be an argument woven for my having restrained myself in my first pursuit of painting and the fine arts – anything from embarking on this path where inspiration was to be long since struck from the manifest and whatever aspiration wrested away and waylaid. Perhaps I had been summoned to assume the fallow strains of my own dissolution. I had effectively written myself into an improbable abyss, with such a terrible finale in the treatment of Faust, I was to believe I would never again rise after. One does not simply scribe an epic poem, one survives it. The only explanation for my continuing is brut insanity, or the absurd adherence to that forsaken presumption that I should somehow faithfully remain a poet.

Now having written it, I am unable to place this work in the greater scope of things. This piece would once be described as Shakespeare meeting Mamet, dining with Robbe-Grillet. Somewhat germanic in treatment and undeniably post-structuralist, it would be quite concise in its purpose, at parts even terse. –Understood, very little to illuminate its reason for being. Why I should concede to release this would remain concealed. Having derived no comfort in its dialectical opposite would have its perennial Socratic persuasion. Perhaps I had found pretext with the premise that it was a theater piece and thus open to adaptation, perhaps a sense of comfort that its readership or audience in any event was destined to be quite limited. I might be excused given my near conviction that this would be the last thing I should ever put to page. I would thus provoke the extradition of these words to their appointed vessel. Admittedly, there had been a desire to bury this thing entirely, or continue working on it for the next twenty years, which would undoubtedly amount to the same.

Surely the errors of judgment in the life of a man abound. Whereas, I had not been absolved of such tendencies in any of the aspects of my own existence, nor discharged from the various pursuits making up such patterns which presupposed for me a semblance of some meaning.

Whereas, in the face of this reality there is a will to abstain from any engagement of action, or at least to not make any sudden motions. With age I would move more and more in default rather than in defiance.

Whereas, I should not be consoled, nor my faith restituted, in the reception of this work, as had been clearly the case with the previous work. My naivete, unlike my vanity, would have its apparent and proper limits. And my pride would have long since been abashed.

Therefore, with distinct humility, and with whatever reverence might be preserved in me, I would dedicate this piece to the one, to whom I had been unable to dedicate, among other things, my previous work.

I would present this here, now while I should still be capable, before my words truly resound as those of a dead man. And so it would come to pass, my own backward gaze, impertinent and so full of noise, and still poised for pardon.

–M. H. / 2008