Shaun Shane, the extremely reclusive and very private Poet is considered by many to be the contemporary era's greatest and singular poetic genius. And yet, Shane is frequently referred to as the UnPoet for his rejection of Poetry as meaningful and important. Shane writes " Poetry is a secondary relationship to existence. It is a symbolic engagement to living and not living itself. A Poem is not a kiss or falling in the snow, it is the thought of a kiss or falling in the snow. A Poem gets it's meaning from the things and events it stands in place of and therefore has no meaning itself. It's function is to guide someone to the beauty and inter-connectivity of properties and entities in the world, which stand apart in the world without the need of Poetry to revel them. And hence, one should cultivate the existent participation with these truths and experience of beauty directly without the intercession of abstractual metaphor." ( all quotes referenced in this article are from the introduction to his collection A Poem Is Nothing, ) his dismissiveness of Poetry and Poets is a reoccurring theme, though only representing a very small portion his work overall, as exemplified here in the title poem to his collection A Poem Is Nothing.
Additionally, Shane is well know for his criticism of the limitations of Print in Poetry to capture it's absolute truthfulness ( another value sighted by others when applying the term "Unpoet"). This ethic of his being expressed in his poem " human voice" :
it is only the human voice
that can fill
all those gaps
in the written word
" Print contorts, assigns false values to the stress's and silence's inherent in the natural presentation of a poem as truthfully conveyed in the speaking of the poem. Because, at best a printed word is only an approximation of the value of it's meaning. When I use the word anger in print it's exact emotive value is guess work. But, when I speak the poem the specific degree of emotional intensity is conveyed. For it is not only the words that frame the context of the poem but the emotive importance and hence existent importance, of it's relevance to you, which is expressed by how much to feel about something. Love isn't just love, but degrees of love, and that is how we communicate to one another, by showing the degree of emotional value of variables in our lives, whether environmental or to, or about, others. Print's inability to present the value with complete and only approximate truthfulness makes it the least favorable of all methods of poetic expression.
The Primary themes of Shane's work concern the Ontological Strictures of the Conscience Being thrown into a World not of it's own making ; and our continuous and perpetual conflict between " the instinctual drive towards self preservation (me- first-ism) and the equally valuable and powerful instinctual drive towards contingency with others: love (you-first-ism) and our moment to moment struggles to balance that out and the subsequent emotive and abstractual relationships we have with those actions: like cheating and feeling sadness and presenting oneself with a mental abstract of having less value as a person. That some how now, one has a property of deficit."
But Shane's is a purposeless world, and He is a strict Evolutionist an Atheist. Considering these abstractions to be positions of In-Authenticity. " Existence is purposeless, there is no way to be wrong or in error, just more successful or less successful to the goals you throw before yourself. There is no historical self that transcends the momentary being. What I was a second ago has vanished and thusly there is no Being there to be beholden to, just a memory of an action in the past. And that is what print can't capture, but can only attempt to create a static and constricted monument to: the Miracle of Singularity, the Only-Onceness of Something and Sometime. And that is what our moment to moment experience is, that of the singularity of the event, me, the things around me, and our interaction together. Never to be possible be again. Magnificent for us to behold, who as participators with the perception to behold right-now-ness can shape the particular way the world unfolds, whether it's standing in line for a item or kissing my lover. The world has now become an unchangeable way because of my directed will to make it that way. To look for the powers of a god externally is delusional, but to see the powers of self directed creation, the powers usually attributed to a god, are actually the everydayness of our very moment to moment being, then one can participate without the need of another's metaphor (like a poem) because one, by becoming conscious of the unavoidable nature of themselves as Shapers of reality in the moment to moment, will and must, because language and thought rely on metaphor and symbolization , take possession of their own metaphor and symbol making machine, their mind, and will create their own. Like singing to their children when they give them a bath as a metaphor or symbolic representation in beauty for their love for them , or the way they make the ice sound hard or soft as it collides around in the glass when they pour lemonade into it, by how they pour based on their mood, tired, angry or joyful. An existent metaphor, one fabricated from the actions of their-doing-in-the- now .Those are all much better than poems."
Given his stance on Poems and Poets one must wonder why does he write Poetry at all. He responds thusly. " I write Poetry because I love others and just as a parent would read their child the fables of Aesop to teach them a sense of self reflection based on the beneficial or destructive consequences of their actions, so I create poetic fables of truth, that you may see the underlying principles of existence and yourself. And that, you can then engage yourself and things, directly, with the sense of beauty that is all about us and is axiomatically known to us. We constantly evaluate our immediate situation for a value of beauty. And we find this in our everyday speech. In statements like oh it's nice here, or I don't like the feel of this place. And, just like any parent would not want his child to constantly refer to Aesop to relate his self hood to the world about him but would want him to have established through reading Aesop a general sense of morality and tailor make it to his life, so I want the same for you, to leave behind the vicariousness of Poetry, this seeing the worlds truths and beauty through the eyes of another, the Poet, and take what you can from me to see its beauty manifesting at all times in the smallest gesture you make. Like the slow flip of the back of the hand to your mouth when you yawn. Those radiant actions of eloquence, disappearing into irretrievability , never- agian-ness, thusly, becoming utterly unique. I want you to discover the direct sense of bliss that is obtained when you come to existence as completely engaged as possible and then you, as it, creating a never seen thing before, you as that thing, in the moment, manifesting yourself as creative, directive being, through Will, being as authentic as you can be, and thusly being in accord with the very structure of yourself. And hence, can have no recriminations against self and then you can be happy. For I very much want you all to be happy, for what other state is there worth living for.
Literally nothing is known of his personal life or history, leaving the only clues to who he is to be circumstantially ascertained from his work. And speculation has run the spectrum from a Doctor of Philosophy, for he most certainly shows a masterful and acute, acumen of Philosophy and Philosophical themes which inform all his work. But also, there are references to prison and drug use and crime, leading others to speculate that he might be an ex-convict. While still others claim that he is both. Without, any confirmation from the poet himself, one can only surmise. But, one thing that is not in doubt is his talent and his insight into the human condition. Shane is singular an unparalleled in any living Poet today. His work covers everything that encompasses the human life and more. He is a minimalist minimalist. there is no unnecessary metaphor, lyricism or hyperbole. He is straight to the point and his haiku like style, though equally a master of rhyme, certainty finds a ready audience in a culture that is nothing but inundated with exaggerated emotional and polemic associations through commercials, news and everyday conversation. But no one can speak better on his behalf than he and we leave you now to explore more about Shaun Shane by reading his works.