This is an exploration of the “conceit” that writing is like pole-dancing, not just because the pole itself is both a pinion and a point of support, not just because of the dancer being a spangled free-form nude meant to be erotic and arousing, not just because of the analysis of Eliade and others about the Axis Mundi (The axis mundi (also cosmic axis, world axis, world pillar, center of the world, world tree), in certain beliefs and philosophies, is the world center, or the connection between Heaven and Earth. Wikipedia), but because that’s the way it feels: arduous and sometimes upside down, even screwed by dildos.
Using wicked and dirty metaphors is an old practice that persists because they are close to the center of human culture, fertile and innovative but dangerous. We ban them and the writing based on them because they are disconcerting and upset us, or at least those who have volunteered to be the order-keepers: the politicians, the ecclesiasticals, the bosses, mamas and papas.
Pole-dancing is a disciplined kind of dancing, but the discipline comes from a strict necessity based on a center, not a dance company obeying a choreographer nor yet a wild Isadora Duncan surrender to the wind. Gravity is a harsh dance master, but pole dancing does not require that one lift one’s partner over one’s head nor get in sync with the corps de ballet.
Yet the critics at a strip club surround the dance stage and reward good moves with practical cash, direct capitalism founded on sex as usual. Not all pole dancers are female, though many amateur writers are female, particularly those writing romance, in love with the pole they hope is Mr. Good Bar.
When it became sort of semi-respectable to talk about sex directly and scientifically, and then even vulgarly, I still didn’t have access to the sequestered worlds of sex, which are many, but as they begin to speak out and claim legitimacy for something that was originally and deliberately illegitimate, defiant, and even criminal, a whole new understanding of what a human has been, is or could be has formed. As we frame up words for the forbidden, we see things that had no name and therefore no identity, things that were forbidden in part because they were invisible and therefore censored by ignorance. We are enticed, then enchanted.
“The use of pole for sports and exercise has been traced back at least eight hundred years to the traditional Indian sport of mallakhamb, which utilizes principles of endurance and strength using a wooden pole, wider in diameter than a modern standard pole. The Chinese pole, originating in India, uses two poles on which men would perform “gravity defying tricks” as they leap from pole to pole, at approximately twenty feet in the air, further information can be seen in the old vintage documentary series of mallakhamb, by yasho purush film on YouTube.
“In the 1920s, traveling circuses and sideshows would utilize pole dancing with a pole in the middle of a tent. Eventually the pole dancing moved from tents to bars, and combined with burlesque dance. The earliest recorded pole dance was in 1968 with a performance by Belle Jangles at Mugwump Strip Club in Oregon.. . . . . In the 1990s, pole dancing commenced to be taught as an art by Fawnia Mondey, a Canadian who moved to Las Vegas, USA. She created the first pole training video to use in fitness exercises. Since then, pole dancing classes have become a popular form of recreational and competitive sport.”
What was scandalous becomes a norm, what was historical is presented as innovation, what was the use of something that just happened to be there (circus tent centerpoles) to something glitzy: poles with glitter or lights in them. And then, of course, there were contests, just like book competitions. The theme of pole-dancing gets picked up by graphics and poets.
Though pole-dancing flatters men with the great big “pole” trope, perhaps it is the skill of the female entwining and depending that is the real importance: not the subject but the execution. But there are male dancers and even pas de deux. http://www.poleart.com There are not many writing pas de deux unless you count writer/editor couples. (Not publishers, who are the folks who run strip clubs.)
Forms of human expression are myriad and ingenious. Those based on human bodies, like dance or sports, are closely allied with the arts of the senses that are crucial to making “love” as a part of bonding or sex as arousal. The formal sport of arousal has not been invented yet, except by sex workers, but the writing of arousal is classic, esp. in the cultures that have escaped from the puritanism of ownership.
Puritanism, like asceticism, is a form of control, but unlike asceticism is meant to be in the service of ownership, particularly the ownership of children, esp. the oldest male child who is meant to perpetuate his patriarch. The roll of the genetic dice that creates a new person also requires the progenitor to somehow guarantee that the genes are his own and not those of the “milkman”, but also to create circumstances that he hopes will not cause this new person to be weak and blundering or in some way different from the father. This is the offence of the gay son, that he will not repeat this process with his own oldest son to extend the inheritance through more generations.
Those who will not inherit (females, gay males, flawed or excess sons) can be bought and sold just like anything else, because they dance with poles, they write books centered on issues that don’t concern the patriarch. They mock the real purpose of sex.
Patriarchs have co-opted writers through the commodification of their writing into “codexes” of pages in a binding that can be bought in great quantity — enough variation that one always buys the next, but enough similarity to give the same satisfaction. Some, of course, buy for the glamourous binding to put on their tables. Art forms demonstrate prosperity. Those that are a little risky demonstrate sophistication. The irony is that strip clubs are supposed to indicate potency, but the poles are sterile.
Genre is a pole. The real writing is in the dance of the human holding onto what may be an obsession, something they can’t leave. Maybe another time I’ll try the trope of the swing or the trapeze, other devices that can structure creation. There are many stairways to the stars, but some of them go down for other reasons. Tillich always said that the axis mundi goes down as well as up, maybe down to madness, maybe to the center of the fundamental mundi.