Saturday, December 5, 2009

Live Carpenter Ants

I believe I have exhausted doubt. I have given it full rein to express itself, to show me what it can do. The results were miserable of course, but that is merely doubt being doubt.

In lieu of doubt, I perform, in the way sound substitutes for silence. I come to my work and my life like a ghost made mortal, filling his old shoes just as they were left. Where, and when, I doubted I lived my life at half-speed. Doubt gave me no insights to the world as it is or myself as I was. And certainly there are no dreams in doubt.

I learned from doubt to avoid it. To examine it, perhaps, to employ doubt in the suited form of skepticism, yes, but to avoid contact with it. In the moment that accept what I am, I am free of doubt. How else can I change or enact any controversies unless I believe in myself as a mechanism? All can be doubted, all can be freed from doubt. There is much to do.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

This Air

I have been living in wordlessness, drained of thought, exhausted for ideas. So that when I turn toward the facts of my mind, I am blinded by physics. I am required to know in an instant and sense things perfectly: images, distances. I cannot survive long in this air without assuming I belong, and so I write, like everyone else, and if no one taps me on the shoulder or if no two people require me to move, I will remain exactly where I am, head down. Not in an attitude of prayer, but of resistance.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

One Green Tractor

There is no clearer sign of health in a writer than wordlessness, allowing that the writer is a subset of the person, as it indicates you do not have the words to express what your are thinking and feeling. In time, you will, but for now you must live in worklessness.

In this instance, I articulate my interest as a consciousness, even curiosity, concerning the point or range at which a poem, having been written from out of one's experience, thought, or feeling, reenters the world of experience, or if it does; and, if it does, is it in the form of the poem or another form.

I have lived under the assumption that a poem is a poem, that any one thing thing is itself. I have believed that the business of art is to render experience, and that the object of art contributes itself as a thing rendered. But now I mistrust these notions. Let's look at a green tractor, acknowledging the myriad associations that accompany our looking at it. This is more complicated than it appears, this tractor, for in time one begins to wonder where the tractor ends, and the world begins; and so what about poems, which we send out to publish or publish ourselves, or read at public gatherings. At a certain point, a thing reenters the world from which it has called out for examination, as it aligns itself with the examiner.

I mean to suggest, or it appears I am tending that way, that we risk our intelligence, our sensitivity, with a language of perfect ends and understandings. I think the conscience resides in sensitivity and susceptibility rather than in conclusions: that intelligence is in the nature of a state of risk and dismay. That a thing is and can be known surprises no one; that a thing known speaks to its own purpose in becoming unknown should disarm the casual, intelligent spectator.

The objects of our interest may appear to rise from out of the muck of everyday things, but that is a sensory fiction. We arise, in interest, in relation to our sense of ourselves unaroused. Interest is a function of time and purpose, with opportunity to give it depth. Like little sensitive tractors we paw about the earth of our collective experience and raise the dust of significance. No wonder then that we are disappointed when the dust settles.

Whether or not you believe in God, your work is in front of you. I cannot say now when a poem reenters the world, or even if I have captured what I mean by my interest. I am less concerned though about what I might mean, or what I might understand that I cannot express. So, as to purpose, I am in a real sense resolved, if not satisfied. What else would I call work?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Learn to write

I say "form' to myself, repeatedly crossing that threshold. Exhaustion renders blank what might lie in front of me. I maintain that I am being denied a result, a thought, a product.

Even effort is a kind of ghost, or a too-difficult assemblage of parts and timing. I am not critic enough to lead myself to the woodpile. Instead, I limp from self to self, each permutation having just vanished, often while making a point.

Worst of all are the dozens of people that surround you, and you having nothing to say. They run on and on, much of it quite convincing. You can stop no one, you can say nothing. I tumble from task to task, causing no harm.

If I demonstrate, I am caught. I cannot retire. I cannot rest in my sleep.

You do not write. Your brain and body write. You are represented by a name you put to things you cannot do. What do I call you now?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Write About

Criticism is a general term covering all sorts of writing which take as a starting point another piece of writing. Poetry is a general term for a writing which intends to produce an effect in itself. Criticism and poetry are often quite different in this way.

Critics sometimes appear to believe that their writing should produce a particular effect however. The effect often is to intend to impress the reader with the critic's thoughts, if not his writing. Good criticism (and I think there should be at best good, not great, criticism, this being a social skill), should make one mindful of the subject of the criticism, which is to say a particular piece or set of writing, and the writer or writers responsible for it.

I am certain I have read good criticism. I now avoid bad criticism. It occurs to me to put my hand to writing good criticism, or the sort of criticism I would like to read. I hope I can justify the effort this requires by entertaining or pleasing my writer friends! Well, at least I can do something to describe a sort of principle which might lead to other principles, or qualifications of our shared experience as readers and writers.

Further to principles, the story is in the telling, not the outline. Criticism should be well-written, which I take to mean that the writing should not distract you from the content/tone/implications/meaning being related. There is no one thing or set of things we can believe poems can or should do, any more than we can believe - and I mean believe, not expect, or wish, for, or dream about - that people should say or feel one particular thing or set of things.

I think one goal I would like to accomplish in criticism is not to complain. Not to complain about what a piece of writing does that I do not like, not to bother with what might have been that isn't. Not to criticise, not to annoy or bother the writer. I would hope to illustrate or lend credence to what is accomplished, to what happens that is worth noting. I see no reason not to share impressions. One can question, certainly, but the trick is to do so honestly - which means allowing the writer or reader an opening to respond.

In the end perhaps criticism must be a selfish act. I have admitted that I hope to write the sort of criticism I would want to read. That is, I have no particular ax to grind. I am not an employee of a University or press. I have all the fame I want as a poet, being perfectly obscure. What do I hope to accomplish? To bring some sense of relief to authors, any authors. To note and notarize. To make sense. To make some small bit of peace.

If you read this blog and would like me to write about your work or a friend's work, please let me know. Any piece I would seek to publish would be sent first to the author for comments, including where I might send my review. I may have suggestions where to send too.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Jonathan Swift

I would like to give you a name. You wouldn't have to use it. You wouldn't have to thank me for it. I cannot give you the name just now, but I want to be able to give it to you when I am ready to, when the time is right. I ask you to trust me to know when the time is right, and to allow me to give you a name.

I ask a lot, don't I? I ask your forgiveness. If you will allow me to give you a name, I will allow you to give me whatever you like. I set no conditions. I already trust you, this much is certain. The only rule is, whatever we give we must not ask to be returned. We cannot be opening ourselves to each other and withholding ourselves from each other at the same time. I appreciate rest, yes, of course I do, but I promise never to withdraw.

Most of our time has been spent out-of-doors with no restrictions as to season. If anything, Summer holds us to ourselves somewhat. I hope I am not over-controlling. I hope you feel like you have had a hand in our games.

I will share a secret. At a given dozen or so moments every day of my life now, I wonder if it will be my last moment. That is, I anticipate my death with the frequency of a man hoping for an idea, and with some of the same emotions. I am wishful for insight and relieved that my world has not been tossed. Don't tell a soul. We are alone so infrequently, you and I.

What have you been reading? Good things, no doubt. And seeing good paintings too, I hope. Where does it stop, and why should it? Old men like us can clap as loud as any others.

The house is waking so I must go. Think about what I have asked - will you? Thank you. Let's stay in touch then.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Be. Serious.

Being serious tires me. I am good for ten minutes, tops, before I begin to feel the force of life draining away and I begin, however clumsily, to seek a means or passage by which I might clamber back to common ground. Good humor is a conduit; seriousness is a cell. Perhaps that is why people who seem perpetually serious often appear over-taken with their own opinions. You cannot be a greater or should I say better fool than to take yourself too seriously.

But what does this mean, to take yourself seriously? I believe that within any given day one encounters instances that require a literal or meditative interpretation. Such instances - let's pick neutralish ground - such as balancing your checking account - call for an energy that cannot be replenished in the act. There is no conversation, no art. Enlisting oneself in the function of checking account balancing, voting, conflict resolution, business discussions, etc., is to enter in a contract which must have a set duration. Otherwise is madness.

There is a social balance, by which we feel free to act according to our personal interests on the one hand, while conducting regular correspondence with our community on the other. Seriousness threatens contact. One cannot be serious without falling out of love with much that is irregular, frail, and characteristic of the society we live in. Seriousness seeks to trim the edges of ragged joy and despair. It gives shape to the perfectly offhand, ill-fitting behaviors and occasions that represent most of life as we know it. What can be serious in nature, that never could draw a straight line? Be serious and you at once begin to lose contact with your source materials.

Humor therefore is not a rhetorical leavening of one's message. It is the best evidence of the door to source being left wide open. I am required to speak for myself and to do so seriously. Granted. The fact that I do so economically is a function of my desire to get back to the real work, which is gathering materials for a better life. I say what comes to mind that appears worth saying, but always I hope with an eye on an early if not elegant exit. Perhaps the gift of writing is the speed with which one can pass from community and nature to one's interior self and back again. To be serious, but only for so long. Not to lose sight of what harbors all opinions in common.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Oh You Lulu

I've learned and confirmed a few things publishing my own books. First is that of all the writers I know, I am the happiest and best suited to self publishing. I am convinced that I am writing what I must write, and that it should publish, and in the form of the manuscripts I write in. I therefore need complete control and authority over the publishing process - absent, that is, a publisher falling all over themselves to please me, which cannot and should not happen. Whether anyone reads the books - well, my view is that if the work merits reading, it will be read. If it prompts consideration, there will be discussion. My job is to do the work and make it available. My job ends there. I do not have to promote my work - i.e., no readings, thank you lord.

More on the plus side: self publishing provides optimum control over my time. From start to finish - assuming a manuscript in hand - I can publish a book in under five hours. Then quiet descends, my obligations have been discharged, my mind is clear, and I can write something new.

I am fortunate. I do not have to make a living from writing - by editing or teaching, let's say. If I were teaching, this avenue would be closed to me. I would be compelled to seek a disinterested publisher for my work. If I were an editor, I would be that publisher for other writers. Neither of those livings appeal to me.

For one thing, being the poet I am, I find it helpful, from time to time, to forget everything I know about writing. I certainly have forgotten whatever I once knew about contemporary writing and theory. Oh, it's kicking around in me in some way, having been assimilated to some degree. But not having to explain myself or others is a great relief. A constant, refreshing relief.

For another, I am not in competition for that prize, that book contest, that award, etc. I leave all that to people who would benefit from it, who make a living from writing. Not that I would win a thing, trust me.

And, well, let's face it. Most of my models are very, very dead. And not one of them taught writing - or was even an editor, now that I think about it. Most had independent incomes, besides which there are a couple doctors, a lawyer, a couple politicians, and an insurance salesman.

What choice does anyone have, really, but to write and publish as best one can?

Sunday, July 19, 2009


I try to be reasonable in my expectations, but I do not recommend being reasonable. I support reasonableness, and I avoid unkindness, and I think much can be made of the reasonable life. What supports reason is nothing different from what sponsors unreason, which is desire, in one or more forms. While unkindness is a reaction to frustration of desire, unreasonableness is an expression of desire. So, too is reasonable an expression, but it often partakes too much of the context for desire.

I like my desire whole cloth, as I am sure you do too. Where better to view the effects of desire than in unreasonableness. I am no pioneer in asserting this proposition. Consider the surrealists, dadaists, confessionalists, who seek to bypass the complex estates of reason for the pure waters at the fountainhead of the unconscious (and I will let that metaphor stand). I though do not mean to align myself with anything like a system of poetry or belief. I simply want to support unreasonableness, even as I work toward reasonableness in myself.

And it is work, I assure you. Though I believe something like this occurs, where one achieves one's goals in reasonableness and can then return to unreasonableness. I am skeptical though of the facility of my unreason, I must say. Given the work I have put in to become more reasonable, it is a sort of equal labor to return to unreason. Work of a different sort, a work of forgetting, or stumblng with eyes wide open.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Form when you said Form

You asked, Why form? Your tone seemed to me to imply either that there should be another word for form, or a wish to retire form as a thing in itself. I brushed aside your tone even as I might have seemed to address it, with mere personal observations, and so we had a nice time.

But now, I am ready to address whatever concerns you might have about the word form or form as a thing in itself. Your concerns are my concerns, even as I confess that I am at my best self writing now. I mean to say, if you were to jump at me from an alley after I had had a long day at the office and wonder at the term form, I might not be so forthcoming as I am now. Perhaps then, for every value I assert from this point on, we should deduct a 20% wishfulness tax. I will let you decide that point.

True enough, writing is what gets written. So why form? One cannot be a formalist - or, be in a position of having been appointed with the term formalist - without having made clear certain broad decisions, or having arrived at a certain broad point of decision making, and having telegraphed same. From my interior perspective, I look upon a landscape that has little altered in twenty years. The landscape encompasses authors' works, scenes from relationships, places I have lived, paintings I have seen and painted, poems I have written, music I have heard (live and recorded), episodes from jobs, travels, vacations, daily routines - all these things, as I have said, occupy a landscape little changed.

So here we are at a defining perspective: the interior landscape has little changed even as the scenes populating the landscape have multiplied, some fading, others bursting into bloom.

What do I see in common to what I recall? Patterns and variations? Yes, I am impressed by patterns. More so - much more so - I am impressed by workfulness, by doggedness. I am impressed by thoroughness, by exhaustiveness. By fullness. By completeness. I am impressed by purpose as expressed in art. Whether it's Bach's works or Horace's or Pollock's or Milton's. I do put an author to the work, as individual determinedness impresses me. Passion impresses me. Expertness is fine, but a thorough, expressed passion trumps all else. The Ramones, AC/DC, Pollock (as I mentioned) impress me. And I am convinced that, while the particulars differed, we all of us share a similar interior landscape. That is, an underlying impression of purpose and place.

Another defining point: I emulate that which impresses me. And I am satisfied to emulate in purpose even as I produce new work. I seek to be as good an artist as the best artist is, insofar as our purposes are demonstrated in our work.

So, as to form as the thing in itself, it is an indicator of purpose, of will. I am persuaded that our will is our defining asset, and that it is in the operation of our will that we define ourselves as individuals. Form indicates an operation of the will. It is a signal of the individual poet's purpose in writing a poem. It is an assertion of purpose, and a challenge to the reader to match the poet's purpose. Rose and gauntlet, form predicates and affirms our purpose, our humanity.

A third point, and perhaps a final point. A person who writes in form has found a means in which to write. Form is a means, not an end, not a determination. Even as the form affirms, it gives way to the meaning of the poem in its specific, personal operation between that poet then and this reader now. The moral is, our purposes serve ourselves, our humanity, not mere things, or forms.

The will to form is underwritten by an understanding that will not pretend to permit purpose to surpass conscience. An urge to merely write in form produces thin, wishful works. A student's work. Rather, the form must be the vehicle for expression.

So, as to the word form, it is a word of purpose - of intention and measurement - like hammer, acre, or castle.

What do you say when you have finished for a time? I say, I hope to see you again, soon.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Before Canaan

There is no point to pretending that there is any real operating principal here other than the the function of conscience. Why else. Why else care, bother, offer, and be concerned at outcomes. No, not outcomes. There is no outcome. There are outages, and outtakes, to be sure. But even clear results are clearly framed for context. No, I cannot imagine an outcome.

And there are no introductions. Everything is in some parts familiar even if only partially recognized. There is human noise and relief there from. There is work and there is sleep. The conscience runs behind it all, a thrumming machine - a perfectly white noise, by which I mean to allow any sort of implications the reader might incline toward.

What I think to write about runs in the background too until anxiety and/or occasion permits me to bring it to the foreground and rid myself of it. In this way, my conscience is the only one working around here. The body is a sort of machine or vessel for carrying out its prerogatives. No wonder I cannot imagine outcomes. As if my conscience would be concerned with where I end up.

With my material eye, I look to trim the craft, ease the difficulties, simplify. That is my contribution - well, it's an accommodation, isn't it, to my need for comfort. What is pleasure, after all, but relief; and what offers greater relief than fulfilling the dictates of conscience?

This is not to say that I can hope to achieve what my conscience is capable of expecting of me. If the conscience is the voice of the soul, then I may never accompany it. Perhaps this is a common condition. I am one person, and I haven't the energy or desire to presume what others think on this subject. Apparently, my conscience is concerned principally with my conduct and contributions. Whatever ideas I have which do not arise from my conscience are treated as mere suggestions, colorings which fade over time.

It is marvelous to see over a lifetime how little my opinions matter to myself.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Audience, say

Poetry writing is the solution to the problem of having to write a poem. Without a solution, there is no problem, only a condition, or a tragedy. Tragedy is the fact of a condition without a solution. No solution is obvious without there having been a more obvious problem.

A solution is only as lovely as the loveliness of the problem. The heartbroken write lovely poems. Romeo and Juliet is the loveliest of tragedies. There is no solution to the ugliest tragedies. The curtain has yet to descend on the Holocaust. There is no lovely solution to the Holocaust.

When a poet is faced with the problem writing a poem (to solve the problem of having to write a poem) we experience a small sort of tragedy, because the problem cannot be solved except be the perfect solution, which mirrors the classical and mythological solution-making of quest and atonement. Every poet bound to solve the problem of having to write a poem is a Ulysses seeking to place him or herself at Penelope's side. A poet understands the Odyssey perfectly. It is a narrative whose drama resides in what will not and must not occur, not in what does occur. What cannot occur is Ulysses not obtaining the only possible solution to his problem. What occurs between the positing of the problem and the occurrence of the solution is purely historical and incidental. It should be sad though that as the solution to the problem of having to write a poem is obvious, it cannot be a great tragedy. It can be a minor tragedy, but not a great tragedy.

The poet who has written his or her poem has obtained relief, but has not achieved an end. Writing well - even fame - is not a solution to the problem of having to write a poem. Perhaps it is a consolation. Perhaps it is a separate gift. I feel that whether I write well cannot concern anyone but myself, as you have any number of models for writing well, if indeed you feel compelled to write, to solve the problem of having to write a poem by writing a poem.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Form Problemata

(1) As Abraham packed his things for the journey to Mount Moriah, he considered what knife to select with which to slay Isaac. "It should be the best knife I have," thought Abraham. He found the knife he was looking for, featuring an intricately carved handle. As he weighed it in his hand he thought, "I am a vain and silly old man. What I do is for the Lord." And so he laid aside the decorated knife, and went into the stables and picked up the knife he used for all such occasions, the knife for sacrifice.

(1)(a)Form is the historical, not history.

(2) Once upon a time there was a young man who lived at the outer edge of a city, near the ocean. While he didn't visit the ocean often, he was conscious of its presence, as it lay in the one direction only his mind could travel. In time, he began writing poems, and in time, his poems assumed a form and shape not unlike a craft with which one might ply the ocean, or draw about oneself as protection from the ocean.

(2)(a) Form is the person, not the people.

(3) In a democracy, you and I find each other through our efforts and the willingness of others to transmit others’ efforts. Payment is proscribed in a historically founded vein of transmission. In a similar vein, we say yes and we say no. Even with the years having passed and all the yeses and noes, we find each other through other’s willingness to transmit what we say for some kind of compensation: and understanding, or fee.

(3)(a) Form is the poem, not poetry.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Then, Pendleton

I hope to publish another book someday soon, within a few months, let's say. It would be my thirteenth manuscript. I should review my publishing, which is I suppose part and parcel of what I do or who I am.

I pursued for years the standard procedure of sending out poems to magazines. Some got published. That process was never a pleasant one for me. Even publishing felt like an objective, material sort of pleasure. At the same time I became aware that I would not pursue teaching, etc., and that a did not enjoy giving readings, and that most poetry bored me to tears (while all the time I was writing cohesively, producing the manuscripts I have now published) - so, in brief, at a certain point my dissatisfaction began to weigh on me until I could no longer write. After all, why should I when I had upwards of fifteen unpublished manuscripts?

The effect on a writer who feels compelled not to write is not a pleasant one. The solution occurred in order of obtaining a new computer, joining, joining Facebook, setting up this Blog. Lulu allows me to publish the manuscripts I write as I have proofed them and at the length and with the exact content and cover art as I want them to be. Facebook has provided a platform for friendship and for showing my work and learning about and interacting with other and related poetries. My blog is given over to personal essays which are tuned to issues of concrete formalist poetry, more or less: more if you are willing to believe that whatever I commit to words must be in some way related to my central concern in writing poetry; less, if you are looking for content that directly, rather than analogically, corresponds with concrete form-making.

The manuscripts have almost always surprised me. They have their tones, themes, characterizations. The current one I think of as being titled "Rodeo Poems" and so it should come as no surprise that there is so far no mention of rodeos, horses, the American West, etc. But I suppose a rodeo is an entertainment posing as a reenactment of a spirit of a place now lost, and so these poems are the work of a middle-aged poet, and so on and so forth. I hope the manuscript is not lost from surprise. One can always surprise the manuscript, of course, by deeming it complete. This one though, this one will finish in August, I believe. Perhaps in time for the Pendleton Round-Up.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Read & Sleep

There are any number of subjects, and any quantity of objects. Of essences, we have a few, which produce an infinity of impression.

At an given point, allowing that we have a mind that can be brought to bear on a given object, governed within a particular subject, and as we stand still to receive our impressions, clearly - the sight of ourselves in such an array is itself dizzying, setting off fireworks.

And in this vein, we or what we do might be memorable. And in another vein, we cannot know or stand still to verify how that memory is or will be constituted. All poets might at some point appreciate baseball, where talent cannot pause to consider the myriad effects of hitting a ball out of the park.

If this is an economy, and surely it is an economy; and if this is a politics - and it must be; I hope it is gentle and purposeful, that is, I hope it can be applied to the benefit of the one applying it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Someone Said Forms

I see no reason not to profit from one's misunderstandings. Every reach into the past is fancy. I have come to associate figures and incidents of recollection with emotionally marked values. They parade before me in all their fuzzy, grinning significance.

Who am I - or what would I be - to say what I am, that is not apparent to all, or what holds significance for me that would further explain what I am? And is it necessary to do so? Perhaps I have become a garden variety mere adult, living day by day propped up on the treasures and detritus of an obscure, indefensible history.

There is though an available and popular alternative to merely being, which is to chose to select a past and a form of the past, by which to conceive a form of the present. This takes energy, which is at a premium, and spirit, which perhaps I am too fond of denying myself.

The point, I take it, is to create, not explain. Not unless the explanation is in itself interesting and creative. Or, once one has performed the necessary introductions - which by definition will have been dull, routine work - the floor is open to you. Pity your fatigue or spiritless now, and the doors will close to you and yours.

But even so, I do not have ideas. I do not host concepts, though I am fully capable of addressing the odd construction. I see the value in understanding, in corralling this and that and calling it mine and yours. Somehow though I never quite can get around to this sort of work.

As I see it, I am equal parts filter, reflector, and engine. I possess an urge, I act on the urge. I appreciate the urges of others. I appreciate the significance of other and their contraptions. Mostly though I appreciate people's time, the act of having chosen to spend time writing, let's say, or teaching. I am certain people make a positive difference in doing these things, or at least maintain some part of what is positive.

What is significant in me is perhaps insignificant in others; what is significant in others is somehow lost on me. I will read your poems upside down, for all the good it will do me. While any explanation of myself would sing itself to sleep. I read this blog entry and am impressed that I am a terrible romantic, which says nothing about myself and less about others. And so I write, not to keep alive the question of who I am, but to clear my conscience of all that I am not.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Let me in

I will do you no harm. I will be gentle with your things. I will listen respectfully, even tenderly. I will make you laugh. Let me in.

I have almost no science, and my art is a given quantity. My secrets and my mysteries are commonplace. Let me in.

At the end of a stone wall is a man who places his hand on the wall to steady himself. I cannot tell whether this is his property, or whether he is exploring. I have to go. I have an appointment I should not miss.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

An Autobus

I am almost sure we think less of ourselves then we should. And we think more of those around us than they do of themselves. Not that we are inclined to change what we do, or the way we do what we do, but we deprive ourselves, nonetheless, of consideration and remedy.

I have made an effort, in this condition, to forget what I know and listen to those around me. I hoped, and continue to hope, that this attitude would promote change. I can't see that it has. It has only increased my self disregard, and strengthened my impressions of those around me.

But then, my friends, I am quite certain, are capable of opinions, which they promote and defend. I am steadily losing the ability to hold an opinion, even though, in certain aspects, I feel much more sure of myself. I suppose I could offer an opinion here and there - but I do not want to lose options, or opportunities, or perspectives, that eventually may lead to more of the same.

If I am an animal, and I suppose I am, do I not want to occupy a position affording the greatest perspective allowable by nature? Or, there seem to be real reasons to be skeptical of the choice-making human, who steadily, methodically, eliminates options and perspectives until he or she has attained some absurd, and some cases dangerous, limited perspective.

You may suppose I am after all arguing for what is right, and that what is right is how I feel. But I am not. My initial comments are fully intact: for instance, I believe that my friends, who have opinions, are capable of tremendous perspective. In fact, I believe their opinions grant them a lifetime of option-making and option-selecting. I do not know that I have any perspective at all, except to wonder at what I am missing in all directions.

Of the clearest instances where I am incapable of maintaining a position is in the matter of what makes sense. There can be no limit and no hope for what makes sense in what might and, at this point, surely does qualify as poetry. I have no opinion of what is a poem, anymore than I have an opinion of what is life. If this seems wise, you are kind, or you are afflicted as I am in the ways I have outlined in this essay. You are both - kind and wise - which means more to me than my opinion of what is a poem ever will.

But I am a poet, I suppose, and so I should have opinions. Well, I believe I am purposefully confused, but I am not as curious as you might imagine. I have little interest in reading poetry, for instance. It all seems pretty much the same to me. I like reading what is different from what I write. I mean, honestly, I have been writing for near thirty years. What would I look for in a poem? For instance, right now I am reading Robert Louis Stevenson's short stories. You can imagine they are not like anything now being written, and they are uniformly at least well-written, so I enjoy them. It seems that, if I have an opinion, it is that I should be entertained. Not very poetical of me.

I shouldn't say all poems are the same to me. I like what is spare, elegant, and charming. I like several recent pieces by Litsa Spathi, for example, which you can see at the Concrete Formalist Group site on FaceBook. Like everyone else, I ask myself what it means when I like something. Unlike others, it seems, I have no ready answer to the question, or I am at the short end of a tendency to voice a coherent position.

My concern is for myself, my praise I reserve for others. A long life is made longer.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Add In Particulars

I am one among those who can be named. I am not aware of being named, but surely I am named in some manner, in certain circumstances.

What do I do about myself, in light of the fact of being named, as any person or object can be named? I am not trying to be difficult. I am simply surprised at being named, and I am unsure what to do next. I think I am supposed to forget this perspective and concentrate instead on what I name. But, being surprised at this perspective, I am not willing to easily surrender it. Surely, there is some meaning to be gleaned from this insight?

Now, I know the rules. I shouldn't be writing unless I have gleaned the meaning, or I certainly shouldn't publish. If you are reading this, then I must have arrived at some further meaning, and perhaps you have skipped ahead to the end of this piece to see where it leads to so that you can get back or ahead to other work. How like you - I might say - or how like me, to anticipate your reaction! Aren't some things better left unsaid?

I can say that the fact of being named is startling but should not come as a surprise. I can say that I have only so much control of the ways in which I am named. I can say I am unconcerned. Surprised, but unconcerned. Perhaps I am excited. Certainly, I could wish for more, but I do not. I can't support in myself a concern for how frequently I am named, or in what context. I trust that I share with all nameable things the properties of duration, materiality, and interpretive congress. That is, we play about, wed, part, wed again, we who are named: the button, the parliament, and I.

To turn about: I will take care to name you tenderly. This is a task I set myself among other tasks. I don't know that it amounts to much, either my intentions or my actions, I mean. But, being driven to such preoccupations, I cannot be surprised at what I feel and say. All my promises are real. There is no limit to change.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My Friends Work

My friends work hard. I know this not because they tell me so, but because I see them working hard. I see what they write. I see what they read. I see their faces lined with the trouble of work and worry. My friends work hard.

I know they work hard too because I work hard and we are friends. My friends would not be friends with someone who didn't work hard. Or, I should say it's unlikely. My friends would gladly be friends with someone who didn't work hardly at all, as long as when they did work, it was on something hard. My friends are not escapists or Lotharios. They are poets, writers, actors, painters, and philosophers.

I worry about some of my friends. I do not worry about the work. I work in a law firm, and some of my favorite people are partner-level attorneys who work insane hours. They are not dead, these people I know, not yet, and my writer friends will not die from their kind of work. And, as we know, anything short of death is food for thought. No, what I worry about in re some of my friends is their loneliness.

God, who I believe has gotten just about everything right, has perpetrated a bit of nastiness in that someone who does what my friends do for a living is likely to find it difficult to secure a stable lifestyle or therefore a stable lifelong relationship. This observation comes out of someone who has been a spouse of mixed blessings, you understand, so I make no excuses for myself. I though have the good luck to have the opportunity and determination to prove myself. But for some of my friends, such opportunities are scarce or hard won.

I don't know what to say to my friends sometimes. I know friends who are clearly wonderful, caring, able, loving people, who are alone - now in their late twenties, into their thirties, their forties, and then what? What I say I only say to myself, unless asked, and it is that it only takes one. One person to complete your life. And each life is in part a history of having found that person, who identically has found you, and in that there is a great deal of what God has done right and what makes this world what it is, for we cannot be determined only in determining, but in having been determined, by history, relationships, by context, by reality.

I want my friends to have what is meager and obvious, as well as what is laudable and brilliant. So what can I do except say, I love my friends. I believe in my friends. And I need my friends' support, for I am struggling in my own way too. Who knows what your love will be? Can such a thing be predictable? Of course not. Can such a thing be encompassed by good works? Yes, it can.

So here I am, admiring my friends and really not at all fearful. Not really, except as my imaginative limitations may disallow possibilities that some of my friends may be living in right now. Right now.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Pleasure Pleasure Pain

I wonder if I am in a real sense exempt from pleasure and pain. I know I do not take it into account. I do what I must do, or I do what I am capable of in response to my life's mandates, and I accept pleasure and pain as some portion of the experience of response.

All my feeling, or what I experience as feeling, seems to be focused on impressions preceding my doings: am I drawn to or repulsed by the mandate? Now, you would think that being drawn to a thing (a day with my son) that I am drawn chiefly by the intense pleasure I derive from being with Jackson, but this is not so. The mandate to be a good father is in fact stronger than any pleasure I might experience in satisfying the mandate. The requirements of serving the mandate far outweigh an personal consideration. And even my feelings toward the mandate, or whatever specific actions are required that day to fulfil the mandate, for the mandate is constant and not a temporal or local occurrence, are only experienced fleetingly, and barely heeded. I know what I must do; what difference does it make how I feel about it?

I find myself doing things which, as a younger man, devoted to pleasure, I avoided. I go to social gatherings. I attend meetings. I pray. I read the New Yorker. I wash my hands before dinner. I listen and ask questions. I do things that I must and should do, willingly or no, and I am the better for it. But I cannot say I derive pleasure from all these activities. If anything, the pain I derive from exercising patience and civility is a sure indication of value. I know I cannot trust self to do what I want and live well, and so I trust myself in pain. At what point then does pain suffice for pleasure?

Writing poetry surely is a pain, a necessary pain. Writing however is the only possible response to the mandate to seek relief from the pressures that arise when, as a writer, you have not written. I sometimes wonder how it matters what I write, though it is clear one must write well, and to a sort of purpose or emotion, or nothing is relieved. Having written, the pressures build again, and the mandate renews itself. There is no pleasure in this, only a lesser pain obtained (writing) in deference to the unbearable pressure to write. One gives up, in time, the notion of accomplishing any one set goal that would give real pleasure or sustained relief. The writer finds him or herself exactly as he or she always has been: a vessel for conduction.

Pleasure or pain. Pain or pleasure. I don't know I see a difference. I seem to recollect writers who, it seemed to me, held out for pleasure, even as they lived in pain. But that may have been mere pleasantness writ across their features. And I can sympathize with the urge to be pleasant, to acknowledge pleasantness. It seems to me also that pleasantness, contentedness, used to be a great goal for adults. Now, we are harried to feel all the pleasures of youth even into old age. Well, I for one say that's impossible, and no thanks, besides. I do not want to feel what I felt when I was twenty, or thirty, or even forty. I want to do well what needs doing, right here and now, regardless of the pleasure and/or pain that swirls about me. And if I am granted some greater happiness, then so be it. But I'm not looking for happiness per se.

Why should I?