Saturday, December 20, 2008

Speak for Days

The first consideration in when selecting a campsite is comfort. Dry, slightly elevated ground, at least twenty feet away from any water source, is ideal. Once camp has been established, you can set out on hikes, etc., and in so doing, and with each return to camp, you will feel more secure in your choice. What is outside the perimeter of your camp will seem less hostile; what is inside will seem more wholesome. The exact perimeter of your camp will vary and depend on the terrain and the length of your stay. Over time, you may make slight improvements here and there. Don't forget to fill in your latrine and dig a new one every couple days. But camp will never seem like home. You are a stranger here. You have contracted to live here and to leave it as you found it, to the best of your ability. You cannot pack out your feces, but you will pack out your gear, and your memories, and your smell. The trees tolerate your presence. They say nothing and reveal less. Those within your camp perimeter may seem gentler than those outside. Your perspective shifts. Those outside seem more majestic. You want to camp further away from where you came from, your home. Check this impulse. Once you are home you can decide and plan on where to camp next, but do not camp from out of your present camp, not unless you have no home to compare your camp to. Go home first. You have contracted to go home.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Turn it in to Someone

Allow this rummaging post, as I move from what was to what will be. Unless this is the what will be: a rummager. Oh I hope not. I like projects. I like a beginning, a middle, and an end. I like a thing with shape. I like to shape things. I am like that.

My life is taken up lately with therapy, working on my depression and frustrated behaviors. It's a long story, featuring a variety of characters contributing emotional distance, negative modeling, and downright encouragement to act in ways I now find difficult to fathom, so poorly do they represent my heart. I have to say things are looking up. I feel inwardly vacant, true, but I am not feeling or doing or saying the sorts of things that have made living so terribly difficult these past several years. I have the support of family. I am pretty well off. Let's hope I can repay them with the same sort of kindness and respect they have shown me.

On the subject of subjects, I haven't any. I feel here and there the urge to write, but when I sit down to do it, Poof! All gone. So I sit here not getting frustrated, not getting ideas, scanning FaceBook at odd intervals for directed or lateral posts to respond to. And I play MyFarm, a virtual farm game. No, I haven't much to say except to hope for more from myself, but without bitterness. Just a quiet hope. I make myself available. I read, occasionally, I watch a little TV. I love movies with Jackson. Last night it was Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

I look forward to work, cautiously, where I do well, but which is in flux just now as we have a new group head. I am of course turning cartwheels to please her and think I do, but you have to remain cautious in such times. I look forward to Sundays. Endi and I are alternating attending the Friends Meeting at the meeting house on Stark. I must say, those meetings are just right for me. It's night and day compared to any regular church service, and really, the precepts match up fairly well with my understanding of what's been asked of us and was suggested for worship. There's more to be said, but not just now, as I continue to rummage and mention in a passing manner.

On to poetry. I recall believing that a poem is a thing to be written when something must be said for which there is no other vehicle or means for expression. And I suppose I must continue to believe that. I feel sometimes a tendency to write, and could probably manage something that looks and sounds like a poem, but I feel no urgency, and so at the outset would be unconvinceable. Even so, I recognize that I could surprise myself. I am interested lately in more experimental works and poetics, so perhaps there may be an opening soon for some more composed approach to writing.

I will end there then.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Something in the Nature of a Box

Is it a gift or a casket? It is the gift if a casket: reader, bury your desires. It is a casket of a gift: beware the offerings of strangers, for all pleasure is a foretelling.

As the composer of this gift I have no perspective. I have a condition. My condition as of the moment is that of a man who recognizes that he has accomplished what he set out to do. It is neither good or bad, this accomplishment. I have written the poems in the manuscripts I needed to write. I have done my work. I have made it available. I have settled the contract. In that, I take pride. I am through. And I will move on.

And so, I place and arrange the boxes of my strophes in the boxes of my poems in the boxes of my books into the box which is detailed in the beginning to the end, from the depth of my experience to the height of my ambition. I present this box to you, the reader. May you be as successful in doing what you set out to do, and a good deal wiser than I in recognizing when you have finished your work.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Watchful in Times

I find myself on the verge of speech, then shy away, somehow fearful and afraid. I can't say why. I don't know why. It is not for lack of trust or content. Perhaps it is for lack of color.

So, I am working on a painting. I have been stuck on the initial image for a few weeks now. It is a paltry image. A burlap canvas crossed by separate horizontal, elongated patches of white gesso. Over two patches toward the bottom, I applied Phthalo Blue, then Phthalo Green to the other. Then I have a slash of yellow centered by a red swirl on a gesso patch up and to the right. All this will dry, then I will begin to actually paint.

So I am laying out my color, then I will begin to paint.

This process impacts the writing, but I can't say why or how. My personal world is very much up in the air, so perhaps my unconscious has seized on "color" as a vehicle for clarity and voice. I just can't say. Really though, this signification of color, sponsored by my ever-damnable consciousness, appears to have some pretty odd effects. For instance, I am drawn to a cherry red toy car at Target - for my son's sake, provisionally - but the car, the color, stays in my mind. I think to myself, I must have that toy car if I am to advance in my life. Just as I must execute this current painting, just so, or just as I must understand myself.

Even so, I am skeptical, seeing myself as middle-aged, grasping at odd objects and sensations as if to resurrect the impressionability of youth, when random occurrences were made to add up to something definite. Is that skepticism the key which will lead me to accepting a new relationship to the world, or should I follow my impressions?

I do not have an answer. For now, I lead myself to work even as fear the outcome. Perhaps what I am being led to by some better sense of myself than what I consciously accept, is a process and a completion which I can point to and rely on. I sometimes feel like I am one mistuned string away from a proper instrument, or that my pace is just out of kilter with those around me. So I go to readings, not reading myself of course, and I work as best I can in a mood of fearful watchfulness.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Civil in Poetry and in Marriage

Experience suggests that strong feelings right the craft, eventually. At that point, one may notice one has company in the form of friends that have sustained you, sometimes with nothing more than their friendship; and in the form of commitments in the nature of decisions and breakthroughs on issues that you had time for when you struggled to write.

So we are righted, and we look about not wanting to lose anyone or anything. We look back at what we did to put ourselves in peril, making mental notes, then to the sides and ahead, suggesting to ourselves, I must remember this.

I was very young as a writer when I saw how little poets could say for themselves that seemed to me to take part in what I saw of their poetry. Well, we throw ourselves ahead in our words, don't we, and can scarcely be held accountable for a hit or a miss, for an appointment gone awry. Even when I am right, I have to laugh at how little it matters in a world where my writing is of all the things the least significant, my goodness. But when the words come with the heart racing, pushing them forward, I am with strong friends then, some of whom are listened to and who do make a difference.

We travel together, my friends and I. We depend on each other to be civil to each other, to remain friends. We count on each other to do the best with what one has, on a given day, etc. We do not keep track, I don't think. But we watch each other closely, because watching means learning, and learning tends to be good for writers and their families.

There's not much writers ask for, other than the right to be themselves and with other writers. Their commitments are real and quite strong. In this vein, the writers I know are asking for some certain rights to be granted their friends, that they be allowed to marry in a civil union. We ask this because life is difficult enough without two people who love each other not being allowed to sign the contract of their love. We ask this because we are uncomfortable asking for our friends' support in a society that grants rights so negligently, that it allows one to vote, but cannot recognize the right to commitment.

The right to marriage may eventually be composed in an act or an amendment. I can't say, being largely uneducated on what the actual goals should be. But I do challenge myself here and now to make a difference, to put time into the change that must and will happen. I am not alone in being tired of the stratification that inhibits this society. We must support and free those who so willingly and I think magnanimously call us friends.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Think Again in Think

I will not remember myself today, though in every action I am present for purposes of memory. Whether I remember myself in what I do today is another story.

Age represents a "failing memory," which may be a fiction. I think I have become less reliant on memory, less impressed by it for my own sake, whereupon I became aware of the imperfections of my own memory. Loss of memory is hardly a cause of personal grief, though, I am sure to be impressed by others' good memory for their own sakes. But, again, I do not feel I lose anything in losing my memory. I trust I lose elasticity and capacity at the same rate as I lose memory, so all is being lost at an equal rate, and there are no regrets.

One point of caution: loss of memory is loss of hurt, and loss of hurt may influence one's writing, or whether one writes at all. All writing is the fact of having attained demonstration. Letters demonstrate a relationship; theses demonstrate an authority. Stories and poems can demonstrate almost anything, I suppose, but they cannot be called upon in the absence of motivating factors. Writing, even in pain, is a kind of victory, a thriving. One cannot thrive in the absence of one's memory of oneself.

In place of myself, I have the world as it is, or I should say the slim portions thereof that greet my eyes and ears. And I have books, which I rely on less and less as I grow older. A book is, to me, so easy and transparent a vessel of the author's own capacities to make themselves felt, that nothing can interest me that is well written. A book must be of a thing, and the thing must be of this world, thereby expanding what I see and hear, or might see and hear. Show me a qualified author and you show me only myself, to a greater or lesser degree. Such a representation does not interest someone at peace with forgetting such persons as themselves.

So, perhaps I know enough of myself and those who write to be able to afford to forget some portions thereof. I must admit, whatever portion of myself that is responsible for writing is much cleverer than that portion that wishes to write. And why shouldn't it be? Haven't I see enough of writers and their books not to be fooled into thinking that my desire to write is qualified in any way other than a personal desire to do so, however grand, however humble? While writing may work wonders, it is no wonder to me that one writes.

And so I outwit myself, and I sometimes wonder if I don't laugh at myself for a writing fool. And yet I have the last laugh as I write to spite my worldliness. I may not remember myself, or think the way I would like to, but here are the words to prove that I can constitute myself even in a present loss, which is no small thing, I think.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Block that Box!

The writer - like many of us - will be the last person on earth to realize his or her work is done, that it is, to the extent of one's ability and human strength, complete, accomplished, and finished. This is one line of thought emanating from the central experience of having nothing to write. I cannot say I am blocked, as I have no particular push from within that suggests there is something to say which, owing to some psychological constraint or surplus, is not being said. I want to write and feel empty without it, but that is beside the point if I am simply an empty vessel.

Now - just to clarify one error - when I say "say," I mean write. I recognize the worlds of difference and the battlegrounds of say and write, and I honor those who serve this day, standing pike-to-pike with those who confuse speech and literacy. I think I do, anyway, and that is the point.

Another point I want to make is to indicate in a straight forward manner a few of my life's ironies. I compose in a box form. My father made a career in packaging. My boxes are poems; his boxes are boxes. My job - my paying career - is as a trademark paralegal. In my job, I assist the attorneys I work with to help clients obtain, register, and protect their trademarks - or, the words and design that indicate their goods or services; sometimes, often times, by labeling packaging and boxes with the trademark. I don't know if I unconsciously intended to please or surpass my father with these ramifying tactics. I perpetrated and awoke to these ironies, intact.

Other lines of thought are, in no particular order (though who can trust who on order): ideas are not poems, and poems are not ideas. There is no form in writing; there is form in having written. Writers who advertise a love of any given sport are not, simply not, being interesting or helpful to others or themselves. Absurdity is in the bones or it is nowhere. There is such a thing as loving someone to such depths that you have nothing to say on the subject. And, finally, poetry is as we found it. It is we who change.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Don't Think About

It goes without saying, that there is nothing interesting in being traditional. Which is not to say that traditionalists are not drawn to interesting things.

I am a traditionalist. I am married and have a child. I am in the tenth year of a traditional career in a tradition-driven profession, working in a law office. When I write, it is in form. The form is somewhat interesting, true, when looked at from a certain angle, but a form is a form. When I paint, it is (A) pencil or such on paper, or (B) paint on burlap. Using burlap - like writing in my box form - is somewhat interesting as a choice, but I am no engine of the interesting.

I am a traditionalist by choice, in that I believe generally in something called "classical precepts," and always have, and have studied and worked and made decisions and choices accordingly, and here I am. To my mind, "classical precepts" translates to there being a right way to do any given thing, that economy and efficiency are positive values, that art is contributory rather than digressive, and that the artist/author should claim moral responsibility for his or her work. None of these ideas are interesting - not in the slightest. But there they are, swirling around me. They guide me, even as I have learned they do not and should not ever have to guide others. They are not values that guide the world or control the "quality of art" - whatever that is. They are my guides. I fought hard to obtain them, to master (or should I say, allow myself to be mastered by) them, and now they are mine, and I am theirs, assuring in myself a measure of consistency, I suppose, and a healthy dose of predictability.

But, I do not cherish the predictable. I have become more and more fond of experimental art and experimental lives, where I see that the thought and spirit of art are made apparent and where the artist makes public his or her process. The most interesting choice in experimentalism is to be an experimentalist, whereas there can be nothing interesting in choosing to be a traditionalist. And as to these sorts of roles being beyond our control - well, I have already stated that I believe in one taking responsibility for one's work, etc., so you can see that I have disqualified myself from considering options.

It strikes me that a traditionalist who has come to the decision not to apply his standards to others risks being boring to himself. I mean, what is the point of being traditional if I cannot feel in some way superior to others? But I do not feel superior. Not a bit. I see my work and am glad for it. I see my life and am grateful for it, and I can describe it in varying aspects, but I do not cherish my life or work as a thing superior to any other thing. I have known anger and I have known joy. A traditionalist, as a person, is a means of doing any particular thing in a particular way, whether that be writing a poem or leading a life. I don't know that cultural diversity will ever dilute traditionalism to the point of making all choices individual and unique. Such a movement , or occurrence, is interesting to contemplate though.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I think I do a reasonable job of being honest with myself. I see what I do. I know why I do it. I admit my errors. I offer apologies. I have a reasonable sense of my own mortality.

There is a particular arena of life though that appears to be outside of my control. That arena is constituted of my tendency to dwell in my beliefs as if they were reality. In politics, poetry, romance (before I was married), I have always been capable of dwelling in the belief of a thing when that thing does not in fact exist. Take for example the current elections. Once I believed that Barack Obama would win the presidency, I began from that moment to dwell in that belief as an accomplished act. I am then vulnerable to absolute shock if the world's reality does not or tends not to conform to my belief. You can imagine the spiritual chaos I experienced during my dating decades. My passion would perfect my relationships, even with virtual strangers. I can't imagine how I must have seemed to those girls: arrogant, oblivious, or just clueless.

Onto poetry writing, where this tendency (which we have not put a name to) comes into full flower. I can see that I often - most often - sense having completed a poem before I even finish the first line. Something in the original thought or my mood prompts this tendency, this projective habitude, which I am compelled to sustain and fulfill. No wonder then that I often write quickly, once I get going, so as to close the gulf threatening my pre-obtained sense of composure. No wonder, again, that I write in the forms I choose: a box for filing up, or a series of boxes, each discrete, in a row, topped off just so.

Perhaps this mentality (projective habitude, did I say?) is agricultural in origin. There is surely no harm in a farmer expecting plants from the seeds she holds in her hands. It would be unreasonable not to expect a tomato from a tomato seed. Even so, there is peril in projection, and any farmer risks looking like a fool if his plans are upended, whether by some act of nature and/or his own poor planning. There is glory and dismay, I think, in a farmer's life.

On the other side of the human coin is the hunter mentality, which stalks toward an open horizon. For the hunter, belief is constituted only at the point of obtainment. Theirs would be an ordinal habitude. Hunters, I think, would make better writers, overall, though somewhat predictable. A hunter would be more likely to ask questions and more content with open results, and thus less likely to obtain unlikely results. Hunters, as a rule, are less excitable than farmers.

One more archaic type: the shepherd. I take the shepherd's constitutive habitude to partake of the farmer's and the hunter's both. A shepherd should and must expect that sheep will arise from sheep, while flock maintenance is an open-ended activity. Thus the well-worn classical trope of the shepherd leaning against a tree, gazing out at his flock and beyond, from out of his projective anxieties to open references of cities and plains. The shepherd's dilemma is how to choose between the one and the other, whether to dwell in the collective anxieties of his tribe or strike a clean path toward some solitary goal. It should come as no surprise that shepherds prefer music to words.

Human constructions aside, my point is that self-knowledge is not the work of the moment except insofar as one is explaining oneself to oneself and others, as I do here. In knowing myself I have cleared a passage to the work to be done. In making myself known, I have shared a terminology and a limitation. Both terminologies and limitations are forms of further encouragement, after all.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

This is not my job

If this were my job, I would make sure not to make a mistake. As it is, I expect to make mistakes, because I am unconcerned whether I am right or wrong. I do not seek agreement or correctness. I seek satisfaction and completeness. This is my art, not my job. That I call what I produce my work is not to confuse my art with my job. All is work.

As I think about my art, I have very small thoughts. Perhaps this is because my art is small. That's okay as long as my art obtains satisfaction and completeness for myself. I could not judge it otherwise, and I would as unwisely rue shortness of breath as the limited breadth of my art. No, I have small thoughts about my art because the thoughts are small, utilitarian thoughts. What will I write. What have I written. Is this a manuscript. Am I satisfied. Those thoughts - that is, those four thoughts. Usually, just the first of the four: What will I write. Having written, I ask myself Am I satisfied. The other thoughts - What have I written and Is this a manuscript - are posed infrequently, like one-armed mannequins, occurring only when I have written some substantial number of poems and am feeling like a collection or manuscript is coming into focus.

As infrequent as are my thoughts about myself, they are if anything less frequent about others. I except others' work blindly and without regard to any one critical framework except to react strongly if the work appears either wonderful or deplorable. I often see wonderful work and am glad to tell the author what I think, but I have so little else to say that I am sometimes embarrassed I said anything at all. I rarely see deplorable work. Often, the work is sad, and there is nothing I can say to sad work.

I can make up for my lack of thought in saying I am in a more or less constant state of preparedness to write. So the question What will I write is really only an exposition of the ever present consciousness that I will write and am readying myself to write. I have nothing new to say on this point, how a writer goes about his or her day, occasionally testing the mind for words that will set new work into motion.

I think I have explained how this is not my job, and that I do not go about it like a job. Perhaps if I treated writing like a job I would write better poems. I wouldn't care if I did, though. I think I would lose some other present thing if I were to impress jobliness on what I do. If anything, I dream toward less efficiency, less coherence, more presence. To be the work, the poem. To disappear.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Surprise, me

A friend, schooled in experimental poetics, wonders at having written a narrative poem, when of course all poetry is a narrative of the poet having chosen to write this or that particular poem, regardless of style. There is nothing to wonder at in conflating, abridging categories. Categories such as experimental, narrative, are not controlling factors. There is nothing in a category to prevent one from anything. No one suggests that what you know will control what you do next.

If I am undiscovered that is because I have not let myself be uncovered. The risks I take - and I must be at capacity to take those risks, for they require effort - are what uncover me to myself. Then I write. Then I can say what I have written, but I will never know what I might write next, nor do I want to know.

All this sounds cool and confident. Writing in form however I am faced with knowing to a certain degree what I will write next, and so the task of writing is complicated in that I must freshen the form while surprising myself. I tend therefore to write in arcs. I have some basic set of controlling impressions in mind, which will to a greater or lesser degree guide what comes out of me. This mode of writing produces manuscripts from ten to thirty ages long, which I title, then put to the side. I now publish those manuscripts as books, which activity should pretty much encapsulate my efforts to make myself known.

But, again, even as I publish, and therefore ostensibly uncover myself to others, I become more known to myself and less capable of surprising myself, or uncovering myself to myself. Well, I suppose that much of my life is given over now to fulfillment rather than surprise. I think there is a twist in all this which I have not yet uncovered. All it takes is one surprise to set the record straight.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Apparent, Obtainable

What is the revolution, but obtainability? What is the end of oppression, but apparency? What does experiment seek, but openness?

How do we expect to escape with novel words, while our actions are predictable? What is new in talking our way around the reality of our predicaments? The world conspires to give you birth, to sustain you. You are confessed in being. Acknowledging your confession will not surprise or impress anyone. We are all confessed.

I am confessed, and I will not deny your being. You are confessed, but you withhold yourself in what you believe. Your being and what you believe are all a part to be confessed.

This is all a passion. My passion, to place myself in the open, or be confessed in being. I do not see any one idea as being truthful while apparency is a truthfulness I admire.

What is it to be apparent? It is not as easy as it looks, and it does not make things simpler. To be apparent is to be unguarded. To uncover oneself. For all our work in uncovering others, we should uncover ourselves. That would be revolutionary. But as it is, you will not make yourself apparent while you fear others in the room are unconfessed. And yet, as writers, shouldn't we lead the way in apparency?

The politicization of wrting has made for politically minded writers. Even the poets are guarded and do not confess themselves. Who then will do what poets are unwilling to do?

It must be a terrible truth, seeking to say, I am, for poets to guard themselves from it. I must be lucky, having fallen away from the flow of poetic currency. And my wife, Endi, who could teach a world to listen to itself.

And so form, and so pubishing, and so a career, and family, and this and that. We will go camping today. Words for other words for what we might do tomorrow, or struggle to recall from years ago. And how long will I know my own thoughts? This is the time to say, I seek to be apparent and obtainable, and am confessed and explained in my desires.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Published & Happy in Lulu

I have found my ideal means for self-expression: Lulu. I am publishing my manuscripts through, a print-on-demand publishing service.

I have been frustrated for years with the look and feel and effect and overall bloodless task of publishing through magazines. I tolerated one bout of sending a manuscript out to contests. The very process of assembling a traditional book-length manuscript was one of the most exasperating, maddening tasks I ever set myself.

The background here is this: I work in a concrete formalist form; I compose in manuscripts of anywhere between several poems (15 pages or so) up to 40 pages. Composing in manuscript fashion allows me to work through a theme - I guess that's the best single word - then to move on.

I had reached a point in my life where I had 13 manuscripts, largely unpublished, except for a poem here, a poem there. Not that publishing made me feel any better about myself. I had no connection to the magazines or to the people who edited them. Then, last year, I simply stopped writing. I had no outlet for the work. I had betrayed my composing process by assembling an 80-page book-length manuscript for contest purposes. My frustration expressed itself through bouts of anger that threatened my marriage.

And, so, I resorted to the internet. I bought a decent computer and clued into MySpace and FaceBook, and I discovered Even with my back firmly set against the wall, it took some time to work up the nerve to self-publish. Ultimately, once I was able to envision the look and feel of the books, which would include my drawing on the cover, and once I began to feel something like a trickle of genuine excitement, I let myself go.

I expect to publish 13 to 14 titles over the next few months. Most titles will be perfect bound, available through, etc., I believe, besides through my Lulu Storefront. The bottom line is, my work will be available to whomever wants it. That really is all I have ever wanted out of poetry, to be obtainable. I don't need to teach. I don't need to make a living through this stuff. I just want the poems out there. That's it.

Oh - my current mood? I am more relaxed than I have been perhaps forever. I am writing again, in a manuscript titled Deserts & Streams. There is a lot of work to do, but I can do it, and for me, that is a joy and a freedom.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Take a Day Off!

I wonder about form and the battle for form against formlessness and other forms. I wonder about waking to a form, living with that form, stretching it, testing it, putting it to bed.

I wonder about the people I know and the ones I don’t, and how much I will ever know about them, whether that knowledge will deepen, and what they might know about me, and why it is that we put so much time into form or formlessness. And why that strikes me as sad sometimes, as necessary at others, and why life can be such a struggle and make such terrific sense at one and the same time.

Then I wonder what to do next, or I sleep, and my dreams are often of some use to me in clearing my conscious self so that I can work.

I am sensible
in time again
on time here,
where I sense
this black on
white, and in
places in our
places how we
stand and sit
& bleed white

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Some Feeling for a Form

The formal grounds for how one writes are one thing, the emotional grounds another. To write about concrete formalism using technical, hierarchical terminology – to speak in building blocks – negates the facts and effect of the experience that put those blocks in motion. It would be like constructing the shell of a train, pistons and all, but neglecting to provide a boiler. I have come far enough to say that I write in the block form to work with and against form. That it provides me with a non-enculturated structure with which I can do as I please. But there is more to say, more that means more than speaking of the “influence” of double-acrostics, etc. What means more is what feelings drive the choices or choice seeking as a poet, and to seek the cause of those feelings. Then I will have built something like a functional platform for understanding my own work.

I write in the block form for the same reason any poet writes in the form they write in – it brings me alive. The block form forces decisions for word choice and arrangement. It challenges me. What makes me write poetry is that the effect of a block form poem is the effect I want to see in my poetry. That effect is at the edges of the lines, at the beginnings and ends, in a constant flux between terminal endings and elision. A secondary battle is in use of punctuation versus use of line endings, strophe endings, and word phrasing as punctuation either instead of punctuation marks, or with punctuation marks.

This sounds technical, but the point I want to lead to is how the block form poems are realized at their boundaries, at the edges of the poem. Once I realized this condition of the poems, I realized that I am drawn to work – writing, painting, music – that exists at various boundaries or edges of experience. I myself, through nature or course of habit, tend to live at the edge of my life, on balance, losing balance, recapturing it. Testing those boundaries, again and again.

An attitude, a philosophy, a personality, informs a choice of form. This cannot be news. But it is news to me to make this connection which explains why I developed this form to suit my personality. I had thought I would have more to say on this topic, but I believe I have said all I need to. Certainly, the reader does not need a list of the “edgy” works I am drawn to, nor proof of my own edgy personality. I can point your way to any number of friends who will attest to that! The point of this writing is to explain an idea (the emotional behind the form choice) as it applies to Concrete Formalism. There is more to be said I believe on why authors are so willing to ascribe influence while shy to name motive. I will address that topic another time.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Something into night

It is remarkable how little thought is in a book. The evidence of thought, yes, but thought itself is absent. I say this having recently finished a few so-called great books which left me thought-bereft. I see from this point that reading is not thinking, if by thinking we hope for fresh thought. Looking back, I recall being prompted by books, but those prompts were more properly self-contained goads occasioned by the achievement of the books themselves. The promptings were mine, not the books’.

As I read now I find myself having read, not having thoughts. As I finish a book, I reach for another book. I do not reach for the pen or computer. My lovely laptop computer, buffeted by cigarette smoke and the strains of Motorhead, I am told, as I write from a favorite bar, having dislocated myself from any context that might prevent me from saying what I think instead of what I hope from myself.

For the guilt is mine in asking books to do my work for me. And it is my fault in seeking to explain myself and my poetry, instead of writing, and allowing the writing to explain itself. I am going to suggest an analogy here to Apollinaire, who it seems to me accomplished a great deal without having explained a damn thing. And now I will leave the suggestion behind as I move on. Bon chance, analogy.

I cannot explain my writing as if to fill an empty or emptying cup. I cannot simply draw lines and call it art. Specifically, I have granted myself a label – Concrete Formalist poet- and having done so, I have not written a poem. I have written well of concrete formalism, but now find I have nothing to say that would add to the subject or fill in the gaps, or sustain the sentiments of explanation and support.

What do I say, now, buffeting my lovely laptop with cigarette smoke. I say I write in form not to justify form, but to fuck with form. I created a structure divorced from obvious cultural models which I can erect and challenge by turns. What is it to experiment – to think – but to redesign, abolish, and create. Every move can be explained, but the moves in themselves need no explanation, except to say: here is thought. To do as I do is to think, not to remember what I did. A book is the memory of thought.

But what is a bar? Well, I can say this is a lovely bar. Dark and smoky, where the bartenders put on the music, which tends toward the loud, profane, and authentic sort of rock that would seem divorced from thoughts of books. Should I write about that? No, but I can write in it.

Where I am is hell, there is no other, writes Robert Lowell in Skunk Hour – and where I am is heaven, if by heaven we mean thought in life and not as difference from non-thought. If by thinking you retreat you will build where you come to rest, if you rest, if you escape. But I wonder who escapes, or do we customarily choose to believe that life is thought in the truth of obligations, and life is hell in the fact of failure. Do we embrace thought as surely we believe we do, or do we embrace death, which is the absence of thought in all its forms.

If by thinking you advance – well, how will you know, except that you continue to run as one uncaught. The dead cannot think or extol thought. They extol books. Their thoughts are patterns aligned with patterns derived from books sponsored by authors who may have had thoughts. It is impossible to say what is life and death without having lived and died and lived to tell.

At this moment, thought is alive. It needs no further explanation. What will you wait for, to live again. To think.

My challenge then – to return the focus directly to myself – is to think alive in poetry and in writing about my poetry. Happily, I cannot be tempted to write in any other way, as I do not now read theory and do not make my living reading or teaching books. Either I think and write or I do nothing. I play solitaire. I attend to my obligations and I play solitaire, waiting, wondering what the fuck is wrong with me.

Now, having written all this, you might think I suppose I have hit upon a Formula for Life. But no, I will rest at some point and be overtaken, then run again. Having reached one point of understanding there is no law that demands I must by necessity continue in understanding. It takes a great deal of energy to reach an understanding. It is easier, much easier, to live in the words of others and mirror or parallel the understandings achieved by others. Either is the same thing, to mirror or parallel is to react in relation to the dead. There is no thought in an eclipse.
But I have found, much to my dismay and disgust, that others’ understandings, while prompting in me a desire to do the same, have in themselves provided no real support to explain my writings to myself or others. And explaining is something I must do as there is no one else to explain what I do. And, given the fundamental principle that art matters, what I do matters, as the poems are good poems and I am their only representative.

The form of explanation should be (now I’m guessing) suggestive rather than argumentative. Again, I do not want to contend with the dead on our shelves or the dead that read books and report on them to the near dead who study them. One problem of course is that suggestions imply openness or a seeking for response (which is fine) whereas I receive few if any responses to my suggestions. I can suggest, but I cannot rely on response. I cannot force the horse of response to the trough of suggestiveness. I cannot pick the grape of suggestiveness and hope for the wine of response. Or, I can hope – or do more than that: I can have …faith? But I cannot rely on the proof of response.

Faith tied, however, to human feelings, is a contract this poet is not entirely comfortable with. This is a war of words though and I must use what arms suggest themselves and are available. First rule is: what are my models. Well, my own experience (as I allude to above) is one where I imagined promptings by books that were more properly my own. So, I can say I have faith in my suggestions but do not delude myself. A reader’s response is their own prompting from within, whatever the name on whatever the book that occasioned that prompting.

So, we are clear on that point, yes? Whatever promptings you, the reader, might experience – and which I am dedicated to provide in my poetry and explanations of my poetry – are your own. These words are an arrangement in what we share and obtain in what we share. The analogy is in music, where the song claims for itself nothing new in the notes assembled to the purpose of song-making.

Let me return briefly to the books I have been reading.

The books are largely a return to books I read long ago. This effort was based on the desire to capture the promptings that sponsored my poetry. I can see that this was a failed effort. I have lived truthfully these years: written, married, worked, had a child, read, written, loved and been loved. All this is to the purpose of thought in the present, which cannot be recaptured by visiting the past. How odd, and encouraging, that I did not miss anything of importance in what I read when I was 22 years old, but took the promptings fully and acted upon them then, and now find nothing new in what I read, either of what I read when I was 22, or in what I read at 49. Without knowing it, all this life and this work has been all my own and is not supportable by others’ words. Where I am is, by occasion, hell – in that I am alone in my thoughts, and heaven, in that I believe in my thoughts. I cannot be undeceived, except by some authority that would disallow or contextualize thought. I neatly avoided a University life, preserving myself from contextualization, and I believe in God, who I trust disallows nothing that is proper to any effort to negotiate this narrow, human space. Safe in God, I am secure in myself – for the moment! There is a lot of work to do before I realize and can see and point to any sort of redeeming evidence aside from these suggestions and explanations, however complete they are in themselves.

Thank you for reading.

Monday, July 14, 2008


I don't expect to float any ideas today but I do need to reassemble my thoughts, and so something might happen.

I favor FaceBook over MySpace, clearly. I have a passel of friends through FaceBook, who I am interested in and who have included themselves in the Concrete Formalist Poetry group. That group is certainly my focal point. I have put aside cycling (racing) and other distractions and compensations. I am excited for whatever developments might occur. I have not felt this engaged and hopeful in many years.

The question I ask myself at this point is whether to cut things loose (such as cycling, MySpace) or simply let them sit unattended. My tendency is to cut things loose that do not pertain to a central project, but that habit has cost me in some ways. In this instance, I can't be sure I won't want to race and I can't be sure I won't revisit MySpace.

Here's a thought: I can cut away habits and things, but not people. So for instance I can eliminate racing but stay with my team; I can reformat MySpace to be a placeholder, a referrant to this blog or FaceBook. Rather than eliminate, I can reorganize.

As to my poetry, I am closer to writng than I was a week ago. I feel like the Concrete Formalist Poetry needs a little more attention to bring it to a point where it prompts choices for my manuscripts, which in turn would provide impetus to write. Likely. Reading and reviewing books in FaceBook is an important activity to, as I reinvigorate my mind and lay down some history for myself.

Writing this has helped, at least to reassure me I am not missing anything. Back to the pulse.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Keeping an Eye On - from MySpace

I must say, this business of reading and thinking and writing is risky, and filled with potential for missteps. Just this morning I found myself in some difficulty, thinking about posting on the subject of Barthes' Mythologies, then choosing not to do so because it would be perceived as arrogant to purportedly "review" a half-century old influential book. Now, how did I let myself get into a position of being concerned about how I am perceived on MySpace, FaceBook, or in my blogs? Well, perhaps it is because I am happy here, and fear offending someone, or losing "friends," etc. More background: I thought last night of creating a Group in FaceBook, along the lines of, "Iowa Writers' Workshop Grads are Super-Compensatory, Ego-Driven Nut Jobs - I should Know, because I am One." And then I thought to hold back, fearing I would offend someone. At the same time, I was resolved to invite as friends anyone who joined the MySpace Group I formed, Working Poets. There are certainly some interesting and divergent people who have joined that Group. But this morning, I hesitated posting those invitations. To crown my morning of doubt, I joined the Group National Poetry Foundation. Now what the hell am I doing joining the National Poetry Foundation, you ask? Well, others I know have joined it, and it does appear..."interesting."

There's that word again: "interesting." I should know better. Where something appears "interesting" and naught else, I should run like the wind.

The end result of all these mystifications and circumlocutions is I was sitting here feeling quite down, having talked myself out of doing everything I wanted to do, playing solitaire, when I should have been happily pecking away at the keyboard - for what had happened since my happiness of yesterday, except that I had second-guessed myself? Maybe the problem started with joining the Barack Obama fan club. I mean to suggest that I need to stay on top of job number one: the poetry, Concrete Formalism, and all that jazz.

So let me get to it: the Group creation, the invitations, and thinking about what positively matters to me, rather then worrying about what might matter to someone else.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Not Reading for Thought - from MySpace

I have found a line of thought. When the thoughts coalesce, I write a poem, or a blog entry here, or on one of the Groups to which I belong in MySpace or FaceBook. I find that this line of thought is not informed by reading, except to the extent that reading is pleasant and necessary to me, as is cycling, work, walks around the neighborhood, etc. I have never felt as close to my work as now that I have put reading in perspective. And poetry. Poetry, which, if I do not write it, it will not be written.

What is my line of thought? My background, as I express it today, is that my point of view is as the author of a collection of poems of a characeristic form and content. I then turn my attention to the world around me, seeking to place myself and my poetry in that world. My line of thought then is this: I am determining as I write and as I chose how to interact with what I see in the world, therefore, my responsibility is to reveal those determinations. So, I try and make audible my will and my perspective. So, you can see now why it is important that I place reading in perspective, as I write from will, from desire. Losing that focus, and it is tenuous, I lose everything. I cannot merely think and call it living, or writing, for that matter.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


This blog has existed for the sole purpose of directing you to my page on MySpace, where, besides promoting my brilliant ideas and showing off my stunning poems, I had fun.

However, I may be reorganizing, home-basing at FaceBook, blogging here, doing a little POD action.

For now, for thoughts, go to