The Alchemy of Anger


Alchemy of Anger from Dave Bonta on Vimeo.

I hadn’t planned on making another snake video poem so soon after the last one, but I got some great footage of a northern water snake yesterday on a visit to a friend’s hunting camp, and the poem came to me this morning. The reading here might be a little over the top; I decided to try reading through clenched teeth.

(Transcript)

Whatever burns in the airless ooze of my gut,
it’s far from fire. If red be its color,
it’s the toxic red of cinnabar.
It churns. It gurgles. It ties itself in knots.

Anger is an acid, altering everything it touches.
Vitriol, the alchemists called it:
mixed with common salt, it produces
gastric acid, which those ardent
scientists of the soul revered as spirits of salt.

Ah, to think that their philosopher’s stone,
granter of base wishes,
might be glimmering at the end
of such tortuous metamorphoses!
The Alkahest, universal solvent, so wondrously corrosive
nothing could ever hold it in.

22 Comments


  1. Way cool this video poem and the one below. But, I think I like this one best of the two. The music choice, excellent. Have a great day.

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    1. I’m glad to know it worked for you. It’s interesting seeing the varied reactions to this one.

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    1. Thanks. You wouldn’t believe how much time I spent surfing Jamendo.com looking (well, listening) for a different track, just to revert to my original choice — the end of the same piece I used with “Rat Sanke.”

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    1. O.K. Maybe I should’ve read in a more normal voice, then.

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      1. No, I think it *should* be creepy.

        I’m truly impressed.

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          1. Yes, it wasn’t a very poetry-critique response, was it? I couldn’t possibly. I was too creeped out.

            Which means this really works.


  2. don’t read many anger poems that don’t come out as rants (and i’m tired of rants). this is far out. love the physiology – philosophy jambalaya. science is sexy.

    all these videopoems are inspiring (the moving poems site is fantastic – good on ya). i need to get me a video camera one of these days…

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    1. Hi danika – Thanks for your kind words. I wasn’t actually angry when I wrote the poem, of course. But I was interested to discover the double meaning for vitriol (anger and sulfuric acid), and I had forgotten that hydrocloric aicd is the main component in gastric acid, so the research was fun.

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  3. I gotta say, I just love your introduction to this piece: “I hadn’t planned on making another snake video poem so soon after the last one.” That’s awesome. …Excellently creepy piece!

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    1. Thanks for the comment. I don’t often post commentary on my poems, but the videos are a bit of an exception. So I’m glad to hear that you liked that part.

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  4. The poem is good. I love the way it plays with the vocabulary and theories of alchemy. And to some extent with the theory of humors.

    The footage is impressive. How do you get such wonderful shots?

    I feel a little sorry for the snake, though, to have been put to such use. I’m sure it was just going about its snakey business.

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    1. You’re absolutely right. I still feel a little bad for putting the snake to such a use. Then again, that was largely the way educated pre-modern Europeans saw animals: as symbols or emblems. So I think it fits with the alchemical imagery.

      Glad you liked the footage. Nothing required but patience, persistence, and a good camera — the snake was not shy.

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  5. Gosh, that’s wild Dave! And yes, convincingly alien. The hallmark of any act of creation for me is not whether it’s likely, but plausible. Truthful in its own way. And this is. I believe this is what it could be like in ‘snake world’! If ever I was bitten by a venomous snake, I think this video poem would almost inevitably pop into my mind. That would be pretty scary.

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    1. Hi Clive – Thanks for the thumbs-up on this alternate reality. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I was so focused on the anatomy of human anger, I wasn’t thinking about my images of toxicity/corrosiveness in relation to snake venom, which this species doesn’t actually possess. But to the extent that it reminds people of the cottonmouth or other highly venomous snakes, that’s a good resonance, though it may bother some more literal-minded naturalists.

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  6. Very scary in an absolutely relevant way. Everything works together, the sound, the snake, the alchemy connection. A little gem. A prize-winner.

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    1. Thanks, Natalie! I almost like it myself now that you and Clive have given it such good reviews.

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