Back to poetry's first principles.

"What I'll have to do is, I'll have to read that play."
-Holden Caufield on Hamlet
William Shakespeare Discussions
Shakespearean Sonnet Greetings @ Classicgreetings.com

William Shakespeare Discussions
William Shakespeare's . com
Preserving a Most Majestic Light
& Shakespeare on the Outer Banks

by Becket Knottingham

November Thunder
I heard the thundering of my peer's wondering,
What had been done to their inheritance--
The Great Books through which religion does sing,
The tradition by which is born romance.
And I dreamed the children began rising,
Against their pagan parents' darkened culture,
As they awakened, began realizing,
That they alone did command their future.
For long ago one of them took the helm,
With prophets and disciples by His side,
To sail on towards a renaissance's realm,
Where for God's poetry He gladly died.
        And deep in yer soul, can ye hear that thunder?
        'Tis nothing more than the children's great wonder.

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Thirteen Great Literary Voyages of Williamshakespeares.com
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1. Macarthur Study Bible
2. Shakespeare
3. Moby Dick
4. Catcher in The Rye
5. American Founding Documents
6. Thoreau
7. Emmerson
8. Plato
9. Aristotle
10. The Great Gatsby
11. Norton Anthology of Poetry
12. C.S. Lewis
13. Drake Raft Field Trip
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7. Ozzy/ Black Sabbath
8. Pink Floyd
9. Bob Dylan
10. The Beatles
11. Led Zepplin
12. Eric Clapton
13. Van Halen
14. Beethoven's Complete Symphonies
15. James Taylor

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On Shakespeare
Back From The Dead For A Renaissance.
William Shakespeare Discussions

by Becket Knottingham

Well mates, I finally made it out here. With my Ph.D. in physics in hand, I loaded up my windsurfing trailer with all the second-hand classics I'd bought from the Bookshop over the years, hitched it all to my Jeep, and headed into Hurricane Floyd to establish a new Classicals Café on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. As the flagship of the WWW RenaissanceTM, it was important that jollyroger.com get out beyond the corporate cubicles and the ivied towers, out to where the postmodern fog is breaking. Poetry can only ever be anchored by institutionalized indifference and aesthetic faithlessness; and besides, a little knowledge of linux will transport one's work about the watery globe far more readily than an entire army of contemporary marketers, agents, professors, and editors. And how beautifully pristine and solitarily sublime it is out here beside the ocean, on this sunny, warm November day, 'neath the Carolina blue sky. I'll be grabbing my wetsuit and catching some wind just as soon as I add the final touches to this site. How I wish ye could join me.

It has been written that one cannot serve two masters, and thus literature belongs to the readers and writers of poetry rather than to the politicians, the deans and economist/administrators, and the venture capitalists. For the type of classical poetry which I have come out here seeking is far too valuable to be bought, sold, and traded; it is granted by God within dreams rather than by startup financing or within the pomp and circumstance of graduation ceremonies.

Although often discounted by bean counters, the will to truth is a most valuable entity, for it pens poetry for free, and there is no material force that can counter nor corrupt the philosopher/entrepreneur's spirit. Following one's free spirit sometimes pays little or nothing at all; thus few people can afford to work for poetry in a booming economy, and that is what ultimately makes it so valuable. For Microsoft owns the wondrous word processors and browsers, Cisco owns the marvelous routers, Excite and others own the invaluable search engines, Amazon.com owns the most efficient distribution centers and the loyal customer base, Salon.com and Ivillage.com own the old-world nihilism, and we own the words of the WWW RenaissanceTM.

With all the thousands of publishers and millions of dollars of government grants and billions of dollars of venture capital with which we're supposedly competing with out here on the net, how was it that three poets came to own the World's Classical PortalTM? For a few simple, complimentary reasons. First off, most venture capital firms are only interested in short-term monetary gains, and so the creation of everlasting poetry and literature does not show up on their radar. Thus we have little or no competition from any well-financed sector. And even if we did, their money would buy hype far more easily than it would ever buy integrity and profundity of meaning, and thus even if they wanted to, the venture capitalists could not create nor enhance classical literature by investing in it. They are excluded from the club. The poet alone can create literature by investing his spirit's time. And though there is no pay for the initial labor, once a classic is written, it gets free passage to all corners of this watery globe. It must be known, it must be read, and only foolish, nihilistic tyrants and vindictive feminists have ever tried to inhibit the Greats' inevitable propagation.

Governments, by their very nature, prefer bureaucracy over art, and thus their self-serving investment of other peoples' money usually finances esoteric farces. And the contemporary publishing houses, lying somewhere between the postmodern business gurus and the postmodern socialists, naturally must harbor all the requisite postmodern prejudices against the Greats--it is in their character to refrain from passing the literary judgements that define and defend God's higher aesthetics. But as is so often the case, the iron rails of their political prejudices have become the iron bars of their prison. Thus it is that the WWW RenaissanceTM is owned by the three sonneteers and the tens of thousands who have signed their souls aboard jollyroger.com.

The individuals who "thought differently" have arguably produced the greatest and most enduring wealth ever known to mankind. Some prominent venture capitalists in Silicon Valley have recently mused that they have been at the center of the greatest legal creation of wealth in history, but really they have been at the center of the greatest inheritance. Perhaps they have forgotten the giants upon whose shoulders they have stood upon, including Newton, Einstein, Planck, Bohr, Shockley, Galileo, Gauss, Brillouin, Rutherford, Schroedinger, Faraday, Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Madison, Hamilton, Moses, Aristotle, Socrates, and all the countless souls and innovators who labored for, studied, advanced, and sometimes gave their lives for the Science and Truth which sets us free.

For the classics would exist without the internet, but the internet would not exist without the classics. The robust free-market economy would not exist were it not for The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and in turn these documents would not exist were it not for all the classical and biblical poetry which preceded them. Venture capitalists, and the second-rate, superficial, rock'n'roll publishing and university CEOs who seek to imitate them only to end up satirizing them, are inextricably anchored to bottom lines. And all profound innovations and renaissances only ever belong to the free spirits--those who venture beyond money on towards the actual creation of wealth's deeper meanings. The "New New" thing has ever been the eternal.

Society's laser-like focus upon money is complimentary to postmodernism's fierce focus upon "ism" politics, as while a preoccupation with money neglects the higher ideals so as to focus upon the bottom line, postmodernism's love affair with pure politics neglects the higher laws so as to focus upon the postmodernist's ephemeral egos. In both cases, this is bad for long-term business, for as Huckleberry Finn once said, "You can't pray a lie." Walk across a college campus, and ye'll find that both the postmodern business schools and the liberal humanists share an equal disregard for the Great Books. Turn on the TV or pick up the daily paper, and ye won't find an overabundance of rhymed reason nor philosophy profound. While one could lament, like Hamlet, "How all occasions do inform against me," we instead see this classical dearth as a vast opportunity for jollyroger.com to succeed as both a cultural and business venture. The internet is revolutionizing all aspects of life, and as it is primarily a medium of information in the form of the printed word, it makes sense that it would allow the rising poets to revolutionize poetry. Simply put, the demand for rhyming, metered poetry and contemporary words reflecting the Permanent Profound is far, far higher than the supply, and thus all stalwart literary sailors shall find ample work. For there is nothing that a generation values more than living poetry carrying eternity's meaning.

The internet eliminates the middlemen, and from a literary standpoint, this means the creative writing workshops and all their infinite jest and progeny in the form of postmodern agents, the editorial elite, and the postmodern critics in the popular press. No longer must literature be judged in their temporal, arbitrary, debased context, but now, out here on the internet, literature has an opportunity to be judged in the eternal context defined by the Great Books. And just like Rozencrantz and Guildenstern met their early ends because of their short-sighted choice to ingratiate and serve the evil king, so too is it that all the middlemen who lived by brown-nosing the feminists and serving the egos of the postmodern literary administrators shall sink on the postmodern ship which they signed their souls aboard. 'Tis the nature of the literary sport, mate. Wo to those who would cross paths with Jollyroger.com's destiny.

There's letters seal'd: and my two schoolfellows,
Whom I will trust as I will adders fang'd,
They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way,
And marshal me to knavery. Let it work;
For 'tis the sport to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petard: and 't shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines,
And blow them at the moon: O, 'tis most sweet,
When in one line two crafts directly meet.-Hamlet III,iv (William Shakespeare)
There's a deeper symmetry at the center and circumference of this universe, and those who retain a faith in the eternal community of souls, those who seek to serve something greater than their material selves, shall come to own a piece of the WWW Renaissance. In the free marketplace of ideas, the riches of Great Literature shall elude the classically-indifferent software companies, the politicians, the postmodern professors, the investment bankers, and the greater abundance of editors and agents, while favoring the honest individual--both the reader who reads to read, and the writer who writes to write. Upon these hallowed American shores, where freedom has always had a way of triumphing, freedom shall once again triumph in poetry--her sublimer essence and form shall be liberated from the postmodern monopoly.

And so it is that I've come out here to the Outer Banks to ponder a few things as I sail this renaissance on home and reunite a generation with its heritage, the future with the past, and words with their eternal, immutable meanings. For there's a powerful wind a-rising, and I didn't want to miss it. With all the poetically-indifferent Fast Company's and Business 2.0's and Wired's and New Yorker's, there's a rising yearning for entities within the popular culture judged not by how much money they make, nor by the extent and degree to which they desecrate all but forgotten traditions, but by the simple subtleties they signify.

It is only as of late that the children have been taught to expel the notion of a higher being, and in His absence, harness themselves to the advertisements and material illusions of the global economy. It is only as of late that high school shootings have replaced high school prayer, and that women have been judged by their contributions to commerce and bureaucracy instead of their finer virtues. As God faded, maverick customs came to pervade the culture as the material replaced His presence in our lives; from abortion, to a loss of the sense of commitment, to the overwhelming irony and cynicism which is little more than the result of divorcing God's greater absolutes from the popular culture.

And now, more than anything, the rising generation, like all generations, wants God's greater meaning within our lives--we want character to matter, Truth to triumph, and God's romance to be pursued and served as readily as His wisdom is dimissed in the greater culture. We week these things in both our literature and our leaders. For my generation knows free love and temporal relationships and one-night stands-and I say there is yet room in this world for commitment and enduring promises--there is time enough to wait until one's wedding night, to unite two eternal souls in the form of one. We have politicians, and pundits, and pollsters--and I say there is yet room for literary leaders. We have college degrees, and Masters degrees, and Ph.D.'s, and esoteric honors and awards enough to last humanity until doomsday, and we're looking for thinkers and scholars who can render common thoughts in words that inspire and exalt. We have countless departments of philosophy, and psychology, and the psychology of philosophy, and the philosophy of psychology, and I say there's room for the love of wisdom. There are thousands of creative writing workshops, literary agents, and publishers and presses, and there is room for a shared, profound, literature. There are hundreds of novels published each year, filled with cynicism and feminism, that appeal to a small, fleeting contingent of liberal critics, and there is room enough for a couple novels which appeal to the better angels of America's wit and wisdom. We have thousands of channels, and CDs, MP3s and DVDs, and I say there's room for a popular culture as profound and beautiful as the one which was once witnessed in the Globe Theater. We have poet laureates, and poetry anthologies, and poetry teachers, and poetry experts, and more than enough deans and administrators to hand the postmodern poets all their awards, and what we're looking for is a common context of contemporary reason and rhyme. We have words, and words, and more words, and there is room for meaning. We have cultures and multi-cultures and combinations thereof, and I say there is room for a higher renaissance. We have thousands of religions to sample, compare, contemplate, and contrast, but what we're now seeking is that one, ubiquitous God who proclaimed that there would be no others before Him. We have millions of startups devoted to talking about the starting up of startups, and I feel there is room for one devoted to that which has no beginning nor end--eternity.

I hear the modern business gurus talk of entrepreneurial risk until risk is defined as following their well-worn path laid out in Fast Company--going to Stanford business school, losing millions of dollars in venture capital on some startup dot com, rebelling in the exercising of stock options before the company posts a profit, or, should the silicon lottery not work out, taking a consulting job, or a job teaching "entrepreneurship," or a job reading through thousands of business plans, and then gambling with others' money on others' abilities to realize others' visions and dreams. But surely there are greater risks than these junior-varsity monetary games for greater spirits.

Surely there are greater oceans to satiate the seafaring soul, better voyages more suited to the scientist's and poet's vision, destinations whose value cannot be counted in dollars from the mint, and yet-to-be born realities which belong not to the well-connected, but to the lone, flagship visionaries. Surely there is a renaissance to be gained by entrepreneurs, and thus I exalt not in raising venture capital, but in raising the literary standards aboard a small ship defined by a poet's words.

Why should we sell a percentage of the Good Ship so as to go into debt, hire an "innovative" marketing agency to satirize our brand, and build it into another ivillage.com, or theglobe.com, or salon.com, or thestreet.com, or women.com? It took Salinger ten years to write The Catcher in The Rye--would he have been better off had he hired some consultants and written it in five years so as to gain first mover status? Who are these expert cheerleaders in the press that fuel these foolish investments in meaningless, ephemeral, profitless "content" companies? Cannot brands build themselves as the word of quality content makes its way about the globe on the greatest medium ever known to the individual? Did not the MBA number-crunchers ever read Shakespeare?

Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulleth the edge of husbandry.
(William Shakespeare) -Hamlet I, iii
Why rush to build an audience and be the first mover when the eternal soul shall always seek the Truth in the end? These words shall wait forever to be known by all--they need no banners nor targeted prime-time advertising campaigns. Can venture capital enhance a poem's rhyme, make a story's words reach more deeply? Can all the money in the world turn postmodern nihilism into classical, enduring art? Can her soul be bought? Are publicly-traded entities the only things worth reporting on in the business news? Are we to think that everything must be marketed with a million-dollar advertising campaign-otherwise nobody will believe in it? Do the business gurus have that bleak of a perspective of humanity, that people only ever buy, talk about, and enjoy that which comes into their living rooms on TV? Do they not respect the individual creator and the individual consumer to make their own decisions, and in doing so, to choose wisely? Do they not ever ponder, that if they themselves should read a poem that they enjoy, will they not share it with their friends for free? Literature increases its value as it is shared, and thus there's a tendency for pristine poetry to find its way about this watery globe, buoyed upon the natural sublimity of humanity's yearning for shared profundity. Build it, and they will come--build it well, and they shall email it to their friends.

So it is that I seek not fill my rolodex with the names of well-known, prominent, techno-venture-capitalists, but I seek to fill my heart and soul with the words and sentiments of the Greats. For the venture clubs can gamble on business plans and hedge their bets, but I cannot. I must write what I write, come hell or high water, and I say that the rewards are vast, for there is no amount of money that can equal destiny's freedom. For I know but one ship, one direction, and one way to set Reality down--just as an honorable captain can never abandon his ship, a poet is forever wedded to his words.

The poet-leaders of the community of eternal souls never bowed down before bottom lines, but they only ever aspired towards higher laws, and thus any site truly devoted to Shakespeare must be devoted to that which he was devoted to--Truth. Let the Hollywood producers remake Shakespeare in their own image, as the bumbling, ambitious, literary thief depicted in Shakespeare in Love, but this site shall be devoted to Shakespeare's true profundity, wherein he expressed the cathartic Truth of the human condition--that deeper Truth which sets ye free.

When I sit down to write out here in Kill Devil Hills, accompanied by the constant sea breeze and the sound of the tumbling surf in the distance, I'm becalmed by the placid faith that my words shall find the hearts and souls of all those who seek them. Five years ago, I could never have reached the hundreds of thousands that I have reached, and were it not for email, I would be tempted to believe the contemporary experts when they assert that a market for classical poetry does not exist. Perhaps not for them, but literature has never been about following markets--it has ever been about creating them. Great Literature is not always about serving the people with what they want, but it is oftentimes giving them what they need. It is not about conforming to the lowest common denominator of the popular culture, but it is raising that which is common into the classical realm, with reason, rhyme, and eloquence.

As a poet, one runs the risk of being forgotten in one's own lifetime, as a prophet is never known within their own home, but such is the deeper, profound nature of the ultimate entrepreneur's risk. For there would be no value without laws nor ideas, and all laws and ideas derive from the words of eternal poetry, philosophy, and scripture. It has ever been that the contemporary prophets have been ignored when they were not shunned and persecuted, as so many temporal, relatively unconscious livings are made by corruption's subtle art. But only words penned for and by honesty live forever.

And I never forget that the rising wind of all yer kind email responses--for which I am profoundly grateful--is the only reason this ship has made it this far. While some websites are funded by venture capital, and others by public stock offerings, jollyroger.com was funded by our shared enthusiasm for the permanent profound--I'm not sure if they teach this in modern business schools (and all schools are modern business schools now), but perhaps they are not allowed to delve into God's aesthetics, as there is no scientific proof for a Shakespearean sonnet's beauty, and thus the postmodern prejudice which seeks to deny the classical sentiments is given free reign of the culture.

With the advent of the www, it was never necessary to ask the permission of the professional publishers and aging postmodern pedants to establish and grow a renaissance, to build both the historical context and the living content, but we just did it. Any technology which presents a man with an opportunity to serve society and make a humble living while following the American Dream is a great thing, and I humbly thank all the innovators and entrepreneurs who brought the www to life--I know those tireless grad students, engineers, and programmers--they form the backbone of all modern ventures, of the very internet itself. They know far more about poetry than most modern poets, far more about business than modern economists, far more about good, hard, honest work than lawyers and litigators, far more about intrinsic value than venture capitalists and investment bankers, who never really create what they own, but only ever harness the winged dreamers to their bank accounts. And so I dedicate this site to the humble, tireless philosopher--worker in all walks of life. Were ye not out there, we would not be here, and in these words, may ye find meaning's peace.

As Chapel Hill's definitive used bookstore, The Bookshop is where I received the majority of my education in graduate school, while browsing through the over 500,000 volumes, and buying olde hardback editions of the classics. The well-weathered editions are endowed with pristine, respectful prefaces which the distinguished scholars of yore wrote, before the postmodern resentnik invasion, whereupon the profound and philosophical were replaced with the political and pornographic in academia and the popular culture. Each book cost around a dollar or two, which is a pretty good deal for the world's greatest education. A contemporary college degree can easily cost over $100,000, and a new set of the complete volumes of the Great Books costs around $1500, and thus I made out OK by spending a total of around $300 for the greatest that had ever been spoken and written, while adding to my collection of rare editions of Hamlet.

Hamlet's my favorite play. I fell in love with it during my senior year at Princeton, and since then I have learned a few things about Shakespeare's longest work. The tragedy has been translated and performed more than any other play in the entire world, and more has been written about it than any other literary work--more than any other printed work other than the Bible. Over forty-five movie productions of the play have been made, and the line "To be, or not to be" is the most quoted phrase in the English language. The thundering words have inspired twenty-six ballets, six operas, and dozens of musical works from composers including Tchaikovsky and Liszt. About playing the character Hamlet in his 1990 production, Mel Gibson said, "Then there're the lines. I know them. I've read them so many times. I go to sleep thinking about them, but the character is so confusing. It doesn't matter how many times you nail him or you think you've nailed him. It's the most elusive thing. Every time you go back to it, there's something else there which completely negates what you were thinking about before." Holden Caufield called Hamlet a "sad, screwed-up kind of a guy," and Orson Welles said, "What Hamlet is, before he is anything. . .is an authentic tragic hero who is himself a man of genius. And once Shaksepeare had written him he never wrote about a man of any genius at all again. . . Once he'd written Hamlet and discovered that there was no actor who could play him. . . he turned to something else."

But the way I see it is that it wasn't so much that Hamlet was sad and screwed up, nor that Hamlet was confused, but rather that he was brilliantly honest within a kingdom where Christian honesty was considered an enemy. Hamlet realized the dark ironies of his predicament--he saw that in such an inverted Kingdom, his perceptive sanity would be considered madness, so he feigned madness so as to throw the suspecting, murderous King and his cronies off the trail of his deeper intents of retribution for his father's murder. But the irony of Hamlet's predisposition--to avenge the murder of his father while remaining a Christian--debilitated him, and thus he ended his "To be or not to be," soliloquy with "Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all." Hamlet was trying his best to be a noble Christian in a corrupted, inverted world, and he could find no mechanism of avenging his father's death and achieving justice which was wholly compatible with his Christian sentiments.

There's a lot of talk about the irony and cynicism which pervades this generation, and more often than not, it's discussed in terms which obscure its source, as so often those who are discussing it are the same intellectual elite who are promoting it--those who have the most to gain by it. They know what's up--they know they're guilty of a thousand thousand desecrations and deconstructions, but since honest reality means nothing to them, they project the fogs of irony and cynicism upon you, in an attempt to cloak their foul deeds. It has become fashionable to muddy one's waters so as to appear deeper, but the source of the cynicism and irony in this postmodern world can be summed up quite simply and succinctly--it is watching President Shapiro at Princeton embrace a pornographer and murderess of the Great Books like Joyce Carol Oates as the supreme literary figure, amidst great pomp and circumstance, fanfare, and flowing academic gowns. A thousand, thousand parallels to this central source may be found throughout the greater culture, from the corrupt character of the President of this great nation on down to the pornographic "art" exhibits where tax payers are forced to fund the desecration of the Virgin Mary with elephant dung and clippings of female genitalia.

Is it any wonder that in such a debased context, those who wish for more, those with classical ideals and noble aspirations, seem cynical in the face of the debauched reality? Nay, I know not seems, for we are realistic--the rising generation sees the popular literary culture as it is has been foisted upon us.

How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
-Hamlet I,ii (William Shakespeare)
Just as the villainous murder of Hamlet's father was followed by tragedy throughout Denmark's kingdom, our culture's fallen entities are but symptoms of the postmodernist's murder of Faith. What President Shapiro and Joyce Carol Oates together represent, sitting upon academia's highest thrones, are all of postmodernism's darkest, most convoluted ironies--words don't mean anything, symbolism is more important than substance, God is dead and money is all, crass commercialism is better than common sense, Wall Street and Silicon Valley are for the best and brightest while literature is an intellectual charity, religion is but a myth no different than a Joyce Carol Oates novel, except that the former is banned from public schools, and apathy concerning God's greater order is a virtue, as it allows big government economists to advance upon the people's freedoms. It was upon that ivied campus that I first learned something is rotten in Denmark.

With Elliot headed off to Davidson College to become a professor, and Drake headed up into the North Carolina mountains to establish a Classicals Café close to Boone, it was a natural choice for me to return to where the dream of a renaissance began a few years back--standing next to the Wright Brother's Memorial on Kill Devil Hill. I figured that the Outer Banks would be a great place to watch the renaissance blowing on in, as forever's truth sailed in upon time's steady wind.

And right now I'll admit that I'm missing Chapel Hill--I knew I would, and I'm glad I am. I'm missing those finer entities that we never really know until we're gone, like the burning November leaves which accompany a Carolina Autumn's latent splendor, and that first cold morning on the UNC campus when everyone's dressed up like a J-crew catalog. But it's good to miss places--it's the only way we ever know that we were really there. And that's when we are best able to write poetry--when in her absence we finally come to know what she was.

Time is the governess of all poetry--her passage and conquests foster the romantic's heartache as she by and by lays claim to everything that an eternal soul was born to miss, and then she turns and claims even that aching inspiration as her own, raising it high above the ephemeral fashions and temporary politics, and heralding it throughout eternity as poetry profound. Thus time is the poet's best friend and the secular-materialist's most-feared enemy.

O silent splendor of infinite time,
Which buries pedants 'neath significance,
Which demolishes egos, spares the rhyme,
And gives the children yet another chance.
She levels lies and raises the righteous,
And all their politics cannot withstand,
She always agrees with the religious,
Reveals the ways of the corrupting hand.
She cries for prophets when armies do oppose,
All who make mistakes know her sympathy,
And as we get older, with us she goes,
As constant as the ever-changing sea.
And you'll see the Truth always walks with her,
Hand-in-hand, she's the virgin bride to be,
So that all the noble things that once were,
And all the classics will once again be.
So if ye value yer eternal soul,
Know that time makes all honor last forever,
Where all lies but dig the liar a hole,
The wicked all join in a grave called never.
And that's how I know history's future,
And all a poet has to do is wait,
To be honest is to always be sure,
For time takes the true art and makes it fate.

Back there on the mainland, in the midst of postmodern academia and the popular culture, I at times felt like Hamlet--exiled in my own kingdom. With my literary forefathers murdered, and decadent kings and queens inhabiting the literary thrones, I knew that my moves were measured and watched with ill intent by the guilt-ridden, scheming master literary administrators. I made them nervous, as in times of nihilism, the critics, editors, and agents reign supreme, having the full power of determining the momentary literary fad and the inherent worth of any printed work, and thus any self-made poet, who circumnavigates their artificial, boring hierarchies--which they hold in higher regard than God's intrinsic meaning--to serve the people, will be feared, for he exposes the insignificance of their institutions.

Literature had been turned into a rigged game by the professional polemicists--they'd deconstructed God and hired all their friends to oversee the enforced nihilism and petty politics, while their leaders sanctified the crassification and coarsening of culture with a philosopher-king-economist's benediction. And by literature I mean culture, for what is culture but those thoughts that we think, and how do we think but by words, and what are words but poetry, and what is poetry but the highest form of literature? Sure rock'n'roll was fun, but South Park bored me, and I knew that my generation, and all generations, were ready for something greater--for something eternal and profound to rise in the midst of the popular culture. We were ready for a renaissance, and it was only a handful of ambitious slackademic-conformists, riding on the coattails of the postmodernist's triumph, who were yet against the inevitable.

And though we were sure of a renaissance, now and then we felt so completely low--we felt so low because we saw a mountain so high. We understood the scope and nature of the task which we had been called upon to perform:

The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right! -Hamlet I,v (William Shakespeare)

Like Hamlet yet being able to see the higher ideals of his own conscience though surrounded by a fallen Kingdom, I had sometimes felt dejected and depressed back there on the mainland, to witness the great fanfare which surrounded the second-rate politics and pornography that had come to replace the classics, while those Greater Elements had been laid to rest by a secular-materialist generation. And when we looked around at the great emphasis our generation placed on ephemeral stock options, and the honor of losing as much money as possible in a startup, we felt ever more exhorted to take up arms for our cause, and avenge the murder of the murder of the Greatest that had ever been thought and written. For rational beings, should not the penning of eternal poetry be worthy of ambitions greater than those by which politics is promoted and money is pursued?

How all occasions do inform against me,
And spur my dull revenge! What is a man,
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more.
Sure, he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and god-like reason
To fust in us unused. Now, whether it be
Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
Of thinking too precisely on the event,
A thought which, quarter'd, hath but one part wisdom
And ever three parts coward, I do not know
Why yet I live to say 'This thing's to do;'
Sith I have cause and will and strength and means
To do't. Examples gross as earth exhort me:
Witness this army of such mass and charge
Led by a delicate and tender prince,
Whose spirit with divine ambition puff'd
Makes mouths at the invisible event,
Exposing what is mortal and unsure
To all that fortune, death and danger dare,
Even for an egg-shell. Rightly to be great
Is not to stir without great argument,
But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
When honour's at the stake. How stand I then,
That have a father kill'd, a mother stain'd,
Excitements of my reason and my blood,
And let all sleep? while, to my shame, I see
The imminent death of twenty thousand men,
That, for a fantasy and trick of fame,
Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,
Which is not tomb enough and continent
To hide the slain? O, from this time forth,
My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!
-Hamlet IV, iv
Seeing the Great Books murdered, and University Presidents in bed with the fringe feminist villains, Hamlet exclaimed:

O all you host of heaven! O earth! what else?
And shall I couple hell? O, fie! Hold, hold, my heart;
And you, my sinews, grow not instant old,
But bear me stiffly up. Remember thee!
Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe. Remember thee!
. . .O most pernicious woman!
O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
My tables,--meet it is I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain;
At least I'm sure it may be so in Denmark:

Hamlet -I,i (William Shakespeare)

And when their politics did not sell on ivillage.com nor anywhere else, they turned towards the base and reprehensible to lose money in the name of making a buck on nerve.com and salon.com, which provided the good-intentioned liberals with even greater causes to sell their big-government politics, as their art corroded the culture. They sanctified the dumbing-down, temptation, and degradation by hiring women MBA's to oversee it, whereupon they pounded it into the young Ophelias' heads that Hamlet's true love was nothing more than base lust. Once again the liberal theorists projected their own grim view upon the young.

My lord, he hath importuned me with love In honourable fashion.

Ay, fashion you may call it; go to, go to.

And hath given countenance to his speech, my lord,
With almost all the holy vows of heaven.

Ay, springes to catch woodcocks. I do know,
When the blood burns, how prodigal the soul
Lends the tongue vows: these blazes, daughter,
Giving more light than heat, extinct in both,
Even in their promise, as it is a-making,
You must not take for fire. From this time
Be somewhat scanter of your maiden presence;
Set your entreatments at a higher rate
Than a command to parley. For Lord Hamlet,
Believe so much in him, that he is young
And with a larger tether may he walk
Than may be given you: in few, Ophelia,
Do not believe his vows; for they are brokers,
Not of that dye which their investments show,
But mere implorators of unholy suits,
Breathing like sanctified and pious bawds,
The better to beguile. This is for all:
I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth,
Have you so slander any moment leisure,
As to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet.
Look to't, I charge you: come your ways.

I shall obey, my lord. (Hamlet, William Shakespeare)

Modern liberalism had succeeded for many reasons--it bestowed academic honors upon idiots, and it dressed up the causes of decline as the cure for it, thereby creating an infinite loop, rolling downhill. And then they took it public to get rich off of money-losing, culture-corroding entities. Although temporary fortunes can be made by selling temptations to adults and children alike, eternity's far-greater treasures are lost by the shortsighted corruptors of culture.

Very little, if anything at all, of lasting merit shall emerge from the postmodernist's fallen, yet well-financed context, even though they handed one-another thousands upon thousands of awards, titles, and honorary degrees. But men don't follow titles--they follow courage, and courage is nothing more than the Will to serve the Truth, come hell or high water. As the murderous King realized in Hamlet,

In the corrupted currents of this world
Offence's gilded hand may shove by justice,
And oft 'tis seen the wicked prize itself
Buys out the law: but 'tis not so above;
There is no shuffling, there the action lies
In his true nature; and we ourselves compell'd,
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
To give in evidence. What then? what rests?
Try what repentance can: what can it not?
-Hamlet III, ii (William Shakespeare)
I knew the classics would guide me in this venture of building the WWW Renaissance, for the hallmark of all the classics is that they were able to overcome the petty politics of the day, on their journey on out towards eternity. I trusted in Shakespeare's beacon to help me navigate jollyroger.com out beyond postmodernism's treacherous shoals, for Shakespeare himself had found a navigable route on out towards eternity--and he too had dealt firsthand with all the darkest, most dervish ironies. For postmodernism is nothing new--it just seems new because it has always been so quickly forgotten--it is the minor character which this fallen democracy hath made popular--the backdrop against which the hero's actions are emboldened. Long ago, Hamlet expressed the darkness and dejection one feels when living in a postmodern world ruled by corrupt kings:
I have of late--but wherefore I know not--lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me: no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.
-Hamlet II,ii (William Shakespeare)
As soon I moved the first crate of books into my humble room above the new Classicals Café out in Kill Devil Hill, I drove on down the coast to visit my neighbor, the Hatteras Light, at her new home. This past summer, they had relocated the light further inland so as to protect it from the natural elements that continually reshape the ribbon of sand known as the Outer Banks. The engineers had dug under the light, sawed away at the granite foundations, and replaced them with steel girders and I-beams, and then they'd lifted the light's eight-million pounds with hydraulic jacks onto a roller similar to the one used to move the space shuttle. Then, inch by inch, they had moved the light's towering 208 feet of brick over a quarter mile inland, where they at last lowered the candy-cane-striped monument upon its new industrial-concrete foundations.

When the Hatteras Light was built in 1870, it was over a quarter mile from the ocean. But after years of storm surges and hurricane surf pounding the coast, the beachhead had eroded until waves from a distant hurricane would lap at the noble light's very foundations. Action had to be taken if the tallest light in America were to be preserved. Some people argued that the one-hundred-thirty-year-old brick structure would most certainly crumble if it were moved in the least, and they contended that rather than transporting the lofty light further inland, the best thing to do would be to build undercurrent stabilizers and barriers such as groins, about which a new beach would grow, in theory. And some thought that it would be best if we were to just let nature take its course, and allow the mighty sea to level the lofty beacon.

So too is it that we have a choice with the classical spiritual beacons. Do we turn away indifferently, and allow nature to take her course--let the blind, ignorant postmodernists level the Greatness in the sound and fury of their materialist conceits, petty politics, and ramblings? Do we introduce temporary measures analogous to undercurrent stabilizers--like some tax dollars here, and some tax dollars there, to tame the political undercurrents? But robbing Peter to pay Paul has never created any new wealth, and groins and jetties that decrease erosion in one area always lead to increased erosion somewhere else along the beach--so it is that government solutions are the postmodern liberal's favorite pastime, as while doing little to solve the problem at hand, they often quicken the cultural erosion elsewhere.

Or do we stand firm in the ivied courtyards and battle the postmodernists, who believe not in the truth, nor in the notion of private property, and in battling them, do we resort to their political subterfuges, to their lies? For anyone who speaks the Truth in their context is quickly defeated. But we own consciences whereas they own but instincts--we have apprehension and aptitude where they have but appetite, and thus the crew of the Good Ship owns the vulnerable yet sublime mark of man--character.

Ay, sir; to be honest, as this world goes, is to be
one man picked out of ten thousand. II,ii (Hamlet, William Shakespeare)

And honesty places us at a disadvantage, for to speak the Truth of their mendacious mediocrity marks us as dangerous dissenters. So how can young poets come to the fore in a world sedated with crass temptations and unbounded rock'n'roll--when we have higher standards, of what use are those higher standards in advancing our cause, when they but make us villains in this inverted culture, where wistful honesty is arrested and corruption and deconstruction and subterfuge are given free passage under the assumed identities of culture, irony, and art? Is it more noble to accept this fate and endure the whimsical opinions of the united front of fringe elements, or do we take up arms against their ocean of blind fury?

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.--Soft you now!

Hamlet-III, i (William Shakespeare)
But my merry maties--there is a third option which transcends the two that Hamlet contemplates above, and that is the poetry which contains Hamlet's contemplation. For while Hamlet's question may not be easily answered, there's a beauty in his honest struggle, and that is where we might find a safe harbor for our aspirations of a renaissance--within literature. In words we might set the better parts of our eternal souls down, and in epic poetry find the use for character that has no use in other modern realms of politics and entertainment. And via living poetry, we can take it upon ourselves to move the entire context of the Great Books into the hearts and souls of the rising generations, against the Pedant's self-serving warnings that the Great's words will crumble if moved from academia's jurisdiction. But I say the children's spirits provide a much more honest and secure foundation for the Great Books, and thus to hold the Greatest Book of them all close to one's heart is to be born again .

Like the engineers who moved the light out of harm's way, we neither have to oppose the wild ocean of postmodern whimsy, nor do we have to let it level the lofty beacons of the Great Books. But now, buoyed upon the wonders of the internet revolution, we can engineer a renaissance. We can transfer the center and circumference of the Great Books to a new locale, where they shall be safe from being eroded by the advancing ocean of conceit and ignorance which in God's absence shall always influence the shifting sands of popular opinion. We can keep the Light of all Lights lit, so that the faithful might gain safe passage through the daily culture, and the seekers of truth might return to port with the greatest spiritual treasures ever known to man.

The postmodernsists lost, never ye fear,
For Shakespeare yet exists--he lives on here.

Becket Knottingham, The End of The Millenium

To: becket@jollyroger.com

Drifting along in the foggy night,
without a star or guiding light,
I in the distance a ship did see,
sailing upon the desolate sea.
Out of the mist she did appear,
Like a phantom drawing near.
I hailed her thrice, this Phantom ship,
Yet in silence she did drift.
A majestic beauty upon the sea,
No sign of crew or Cap'n be.
JollyRoger upon her bow,
She did not look so jolly now,
I boarded this ship with cautious care,
Awe and wonder convering there,
I search this ship from starboard to port,
And found treasures of every sort.
The treasures of almost priceless value,
Were in the cabins of Cap'n and crew.
Letters strewn across the beds,
Where these good sailors laid their heads,
Books stacked upon desk and floor,
Had been read by a million souls or more,
A Bible next to every bed,
Where perhaps nightly prayers were said.
In the Cap'ns cabin upon the the wall,
Was the Constitution there installed,
His walls were lined with every poem and story,
Shakespeare, Moby Dick, other works of glory.
Sonnets scattered on the floor of this craft,
By the Red Avenger, Alias Drake Raft.
I left this phantom on the sea,
yet to this day it still haunts me.


From: Adonis
To: becket@jollyroger.com

our new war is a spiritual war...
keep on the right track
and i will follow.

write on.

From: Ruth Mueller mueller
To: becket@jollyroger.com

I just wanted to let you know how cool it is to get mail from you. I enjoy the information and wonder I receive from your site and thank you. I am always learning new and interesting things in literature--I'm working now on my master's degree in the teaching of writing. Even though I am a grandmother and 50 years old, I find life gets better and better. Happy Halloween!!

Ruth Mueller

From: JeromeU
To: becket@jollyroger.com

You know, if i were back in college, it would seem worthwhile to start a Jolly Roger club at my local college -- more than a literature club, but a literature club of a certain kind, with that certain philosophical leaning. Maybe this would be a way to go in fostering the Coming Renaissance nationwide?

Polly's Friend

From: Jocelyne
To: becket@jollyroger.com, jollyroger@jollyroger.com

Ahoy to you both Drake and Becket,

Ha! the following is awe-inspiring to say the least. You never cease to amaze me. I'm presently working on a personal web site....(and don't know when I'll find the time to finish it but), I intend to present a classical poetic domain of sort in any case.

I want to include YOU of course! (I've used Elliot's sonnets in the past in an off mail reader ILINK conference and the users were impressed by him, you). Needless to say, I wish to provide a link on my page for jollyroger.com as well.

The WWW Renaissance is going to gel itself very well. And especially, with the upcoming publishings - I can only see success on the horizon.

Any suggestions that you may wish to offer for my web site would be welcome.




From: Tim Whiteway <@com>
To: becket@jollyroger.com

While I don't like most poetry of the modern era, most of what comes from your emails and website appeals to me. I am looking foward to buying a copy of your book.

While I now live in Arizona, I grew up on the coast of North Carolina. I lived in Jacksonville and the beach was 12 miles from my back porch. I miss the salty waves and the sound of the ocean crashing against the jetti at night.

Thanks for the memories.

From: "Isabella, Mike"
To: "'becket@jollyroger.com'"


From: jennie hanson
To: becket@jollyroger.com

I was just forwarded a message from you telling the birthing tale of jollyroger.com, and I would LOVE a copy when it is published! We've got some pirates here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Callin ourselves the Pirate Punx, we put on shows (bands), both at indoor joints and outdoor free generator shows. But we also have a love for the WORD, putting together monthly spoken word/performance nights we call "pirate rants", putting together a magazine "under da black flag". I do some small-time publishing under "she gets angry", and plan to put out many more books. I was so happy to read your essayish explanation of jollyroger.com, that it brought me near tears by the time I read the poem at the end. So glad to know I am not the only one with a strong desire to revive the literary world! Could I mention you in the magazine, maybe put in your "essay", and when we get pirate punx on the web, can we do the link thing?

With respect from the opposite sea,

Jennie Greentooth

From: Nebraska
To: becket@jollyroger.com
Subject: unplugged


Thanks for the inspiration by your example. I haven't had time to visit the Jolly Roger recently, but I would be interested in getting a copy of Unplugged when it comes out. There will be a space waiting for it beside Moby Dick in our living room. Hope you will send another memo when it's published.

From: jeff peake
To: becket@jollyroger.com
Subject: Glad to be aboard!

Todd Woollen

Ahoy from a native North Carolinian! It's very gracious of you to pick up stranded sailors like me, out here clinging to driftwood in the seas of postmodern discontent. Let me get this straight- you guys love great literature, conservatism, AND you actually believe in God? And there are at least 10,000 of you so far? I thought I already knew the only two or three others who have all of this in common with me. I'm gratified and humbled to see that there are so many more. Of course, it might be a minor miracle that we have all survived to this point.

Both my wife and I are products of a graduate English master's program. My first year there I realized that my undergraduate teachers had failed me. After all, they had me reading Shakespeare, Milton, Spenser, Faulkner, T.S. Eliot, Red Warren, and John Crowe Ransom. It became apparent to me that to prepare for grad. school one should not read these Classics, but instead should read the mental masturbations of Derrida, Lacan, Freud, Foucault,etc. Who knew? I enjoyed the program overall, but I grew so tired of the "literary criticism" game that you have to play in order to get through. Almost every contemporary critic that we read was more interested in their own brilliance than in the author or work they were supposed to be discussing. Luckily, I did not fall for their traps, though many of my friends willingly walked that unfortunate plank.

Anyway, I'm very impressed with your website and your message. I hope I might be able to contribute some booty that you will find worthy. Keep up the good work!

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