Monday, December 26, 2011

Installment Radio

You think it is a matter of money or time or energy. You form an idea and take it for a walk, but really you are shopping. You go shopping and make a couple calls on your cell phone. Nothing has changed at the stores and, by the time you get home - nothing has changed there either.

I have been thinking about what you said or wrote. Even so - and it may be right - I am all caught up here with this project. It is not a project such as has a beginning and an end. It is not a work or even a series of works that cue off one another. I may write a title, or I may forget my place and have to start over. I cannot be confident of a final report.

The central problem here is the predominance of centrality. So what I want you to do is stand up and go straight out that door and keep walking until you find you can't go another step. This will be your life's destination, so be careful to give it a name you can remember.

No doubt, I have been given a name or names. But then I can't find in myself to ask what those names might be or to make guesses. I have already left the spot where I introduced and abandoned this point, which inevitably continues a line of thought I have never bothered to describe.

Even if I say "ritual" or when I use that word - "ritual" - I feel like I have sat down somewhere, my hands in my lap, while the world continues to operate more or less as is, exchanging handshakes and meaningful glances and generally passing me by.

Someone says, "it is time." This is a signal. People who signal are a burden to those who are willing to accept signals. All signals are equal in the eyes of those who are accustomed to work. I manage resources, energy, and anxiety. I am open to grace.

I look at decisions like air or water, in the same manner. My eyes are directed at a portion or aspect of the sky; now at an area, a point of a stream, and I can sit here forever, but I will never have anything more to say than that which I am capable of relating now.

What I describe is knowledge of the sort that is constituted of description and admits of a person's ability to put thoughts and feelings into words; providing this restriction, that the very desire to speak colors and indeed helps to form the ideas themselves - in the first and final draft, or as we cry out our slogans or seek understanding or relief.

What is parallel to another thing is not necessarily its equal; so you can see where all the questioning comes from.

Form is to thought as seasons are to memory.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Days after Evenings still

It is in the nature of content to inspire confusing messages. This is how content protects itself from the casual eyes of strangers, with a web of divergent, confused, over-lapping messages, which only the pure of heart have the courage to endure.

It is as simple to understand, that nature begets a creature of words which that creature employs in relating to others of its kind the content and purpose of nature. Nature has one more surprise. This is, that the creatures believe in an omnipotent god or gods who serve as nature's master. Nature disappears in the woolen knitting ball of the language matrix and being fronted by a bearded mouthpiece.

Nature and content are clearly a problem for different but closely related reasons.

I choose to believe in God as God, not as nature's proxy or its master, though I can consider God as content. For instance, I am concerned with myself, and I do what I can, given the circumstances, but imagine (I ask myself) how many souls God has seen in like circumstances, how many souls She has seen hop out of the dugout of the empyrean womb to take their place at the dish of Jerusalem and take their swings?  And yet, His eye is fresh to the promise of each soul. She knows the averages and at the same time is blind to mere numbers. That is the promise of my religion, as I understand it, and it is not a bad promise, as promises go.

The question that arises is whether it is in the nature of God to produce confusing messages. The answer I believe is that God is not merely content, or locatable as content and subject to the approximations or conditions of content. Neither is God a problem. To say She is would be to make of problems a God - a diaphanous, ill-veined, diabolical construction.

Content that is presumed to displace God marks a colonization of the soul. I take this choice to be a much greater problem than even if a stranger were to occupy your house against your choice.

Material derives from content and its relation to Nature in the form of explicit, implicit, and latent messages.  There is a sameness to relations in as much as the ethical is full of meaning, brimming with meaning. A message is an avenue of meaning; all such messages function on an alterior plane, where definitions are bought by comparison, endorsement, or exclusion. The universality of the ethical is in this sameness, the quotidian wash of care and concern, anger and forgiveness. No one thought can suffice where the presumptions are natural, the goal material. Not merely the medium, but the messaging is the message.

There are signs and displays. Encampments, bake sales. A referendum follows a day of longing hinged on a proposal of music tonight. And tomorrow; tomorrow we visit the country.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Petal Management

I am thinking of what I can do which might help me to focus, but that sort of thinking rarely grants me focus. That sort of thinking is a kind of signal which I may or may not heed, so I write here hoping this activity will bring me to the heeding point in a style of recognition and understanding. Bear with me.

Wanting to live for and in the future - yet I have no exact idea what that means. Perhaps I am repeating myself in my moods. That would explain the semblance of a page, a blank page, day after day. I think this, and feel a spark of recognition and understanding. But that is all. I do not experience decision-making. I am not often excited by decisions. They seem all alike, being the occasions of a person's literal being making notes upon a will. I am not arguing for non-action though. I am simply not arguing.

This goes on for awhile until I move as if motivated by a basic need to move - uncontrollably, I tell myself. And I write. I do not trust it. I do not trust a person who cannot live as they should live when the means are in their reach. Here, weekend after weekend, I encounter the blank page and wallow and retire and sleep. Being merely capable is not enough for me to work. I must be over-capable. So charged with rest that I cannot stay in bed.

I think of distractions. One change I made recently was to pare down the intensity and frequency of my workouts during the week, which were at times exhausting me so that I would need two days to recover. Then, there are politics and social-networking - which are largely one and the same thing. I think I will do this week what I did two weeks ago with my workouts, which is to promise myself to cut back.

This is beginning to create a kind of sense. Here I sit, writing. I may write a poem. I then will turn the computer off, or at rate avoid the news, the politics, and the networking for the entire remainder of the day. Tomorrow morning I go to the computer last having written on it. What will be my expectations? They may first be to write. That after all is what I am missing. The expectation, the lead into the act. I have acquired a habit of responding, relaying, playing to a subject. That is politics, not poetry as I understand poetry or must, being the manner in which I write it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Water and earth do not lie, but you will tell me what is right and wrong about people we have never met. You can never know why a thought appears, but I will fall apart without a kind word or look at least every now and then. You are being reasonable, but I am thinking about what I need to get to a better place. I look over the landscape and say, I need to slow down. I am not a young man any more. I cannot rebound from error and I cannot afford mistakes. You will not hear this from me because one mistake would be if I distracted you from your purpose.

I assume you have purpose. The media - which is a word that is fluid with dictionary meaning - tells me what you do. Expert commentators step in and out like water birds too full to fish and too fragile to remain on land.

I know how things are done, which is merely saying I do, without knowing one way or another, but not feeling like I am lying either. I am not feeling like I am lying, but I know that depends on me, not you or some outside source for truth measurement. I think the same is true for you, but I can never be certain. Some avenues go further than others, but none are utter or complete. Certanly, I have never come close to circling back to myself, to seeing myself from a distance so as to be able to form an opinion that I could return to myself for some purpose. I do not know what it would be.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Glancing Guide to Forms

This is how you began -

As a child the world appeared sometimes this -

Or, this -

In time, you might possess one of these -

You will certainly earn one of these -

Monday, September 19, 2011


All desires are ships, and many desires are sailing ships. I have a bird's eye view of the deck, tending slighty astern. The ropes and tackle and on-board equipment are placed neatly. There is evidence of use and travel, but no obvious signs of wear. The deck itself is polished, the wood worn but straight, for all desires are true. There is no sign of life, though the evidence of life is everywhere. We cannot see below deck. My eye encompasses only ten yards or so of the surrounding water. Calm seas, I think, or that is my impression.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Time is not what it was. We hardly see each other anymore. A wave of the hand, a vague smile suffices where once we shook hands or even embraced like long-lost friends.

Maybe it is the town that has changed. I look for and see white picket fences, boys riding bikes, people of all ages walking alone or as couples, sometimes leading or trailing a dog. But perhaps the town has changed somehow, in ways I cannot see. Perhaps the people have changed.

If I asked, would people tell me how they have changed? Is there a story to change or a science? Is anyone, meaning everyone, competent to tell their own story? I thought that took a certain talent and practice.

No matter. At the end of the day I am the one who has lost touch with time. And I am unconcerned, not worried at all, not about time, not one bit.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


It makes perfect sense in retrospect that when I finally got going on the "epic" poem it would look nothing like what I first intended. The rhythms are prosy, the lines long, the action shifts quickly, fancifully. What themes are recurring notes there are occur like fruit or nuts hanging from a tree.

I can see the poem lampooning and entertaining, I hope, and therefore being Byron's-Don-Juan-inspired, I suppose. So, the form is global while the execution is local, and there it is, and that is good for me and others I hope and makes me glad. Any one poem is a writing in its time. The author merely launches it in among all the other craft, being responsible for the construction but not the voyage. Readers now are so very intent on purpose and so easily hooked by meaning - it is a perfect time to write long and easily about anything, anything at all, and to catch the reader at his or her interpretive expectations and mistakes - and to release them of course, somewhat the wiser, one hopes.

Cantos or strophes will be 50 lines as I intended originally. I was able to write 46 lines of the first one and do a drawing over a two-hour period at the Clinton Street bar last night, hip-hop blaring through the room. It was a perfectly barsy, lovely setting to write. I don't pretend to understand why such venues work for me, but I know that I could never have started this poem sitting at home.

I can't try to write a poem without thinking about writing a poem, which means writing what I know to be a poem, being what I or others have written. In this instance, I was driven by several x-treme failed attempts to dislocate myself and simply GO - and it worked, producing what I need and have not noticed elsewhere, so be it. I am sure too that I can keep it going from home with perhaps occasional sojourns off-site.

Other thoughts: this first epic, called "Elephant" will run ten pages in a manuscript called for now: (dot). The MS will include 10 visual/poem drawings, ten pencil drawings, and 20 individual box poems split evenly into four categories, tentatively labeled lyric, history, quotidian, and technical. I hope to finish and publish by the end of the year.

Here are the first several lines - thank you for reading.

Most of the words are clearer than they need to be,
In fact, you might be surprised. The people were in
Cars and trucks. A few rode elephants, but they had
All the gear too. Fancy blankets and pillows; these
Saddles that wobbled like heck but they didn’t fall
Over. The traffic was a mess I guess but no one was
In much of a hurry. Young girls circled me pouring,
In turn, cool water, pure milk, and sweetest nectar
From lightly polished brass pitchers. This specific
Girl was my wife, and I want everyone to understand
That particular point. Back and forth, up and down......

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Words as to Departure Prompted in the Act of Completion

A friend commented on a recent posting, where I praised the work of Byron and wrote about the pleasures I derive from his poems, including Don Juan - mentioning dual pleasures - and referred to the author Byron's jabs at Wordsworth and Coleridge while praising Pope at his (Byron's) own expense - my friend commented:

"Who's 'our' Pope, I wonder, to hold up our Wordsworths and Coleridges to? & who even are they?"

Context is I think an unsightly sort of word for when a friend speaks, but you will want to know that this friend writes and teaches - he has written clear, sensible, lovely poems, I know - and I believe he has fallen into a lifelong habit of both meaning and prompting, which is hard work to get into and all too easy to fall out of.

I return to myself, my thoughts as prompted.

My initial reaction is properly literal - who and who indeed? Names suggest themselves but there is no fit. Not for me. Our time (as my friend well knows - and let's say goodbye to him as all that follows is none of his fault) is not Byron's. The cultural/social/historical fabrics are not the same, they do not fit or overlap or compete as did the fabrics of 1820.

But Byron - as I stated and contend - completed Pope, as poets sometimes reach back, just a ways perhaps (sometimes only a week or so), and enliven or finish another poet's work, and to a purpose. Byron's work is a wonderful sort of testament to what was fine and rich and enduring in 18th Century English literature, which is a convenient way, and not the only one of course, to refer to what got published then, as written and edited by people now long dead. Byron's poems at their beat are clear and rich and sharp and not to be fucked with (or great, we used to say and still might, in a moment of personal weakness) - and, the individual mattered some: his (her, I will allow by long-fabled and dead proxy though Byron's opinions or personal history speaks to ulterior purposes) experience, drives, motives, & missions, self-sustaining or on behalf of what we might call an "ideal" - but ignore those quotes, please.

So I ask the literal, and can I answer it? - who is our Pope, or is there is an author whose work yet might sponsor, or does in fact sponsor work by someone who now completes that work? That is a proper sort of question, but I cannot answer it as I have only a very partial idea of what anyone besides myself has written or is doing, at all let alone in terms of poems written.

This is principally because I am not professional. I publish my own work and I blog, and I live moment by moment for this, what I do, but I neither live by my writing, or criticism, or teach, and so I am not compelled to render an opinion - which frankly I take to be a potential loss. Such pressures are perhaps a form to compel personal choice where otherwise no meaning would be rendered, no change occur. And I believe in form. And I believe that the teacher is who moves the world.

But, back to my argument.

I can pick out names. I could say for myself and for myself alone that Robert Lowell is my Pope, a personal figure, one whose work I believe I identify with with perfect intensity; and I might say - I might, I say, I might say R. Lowell had it right. Some other popular poet - let's pick Ashbery, Ponge, Cage, Bernstein, whomever - is confused and confusing, mimicking Byron's charge against Wordsworth.

This would be a purely lyric invention though, available only through a lyric consideration or belief in self, which I believe I have lost sight of, or at least so I tell myself I believe. Such a reading or conveyance would be compact, easily reproduced. And all wrong. I respect and love so many, so very different poems written by such diverse poets - professional and non (so very many different sects and individuals it is not practicable to render an accounting). I enjoy and respect and see the worth of almost anything you put in front of me, PROVIDED that it is well done, or effective in purport, which means very different things for different sorts of work.

Right there is my point, made a point, alluded to vaguely before in this essay. Our world is more complex, more various - it is more peopled - than Byron's was. Speaking personally, I don't know that I can even simply react anymore and render that reaction as a principal, not finally, not with finality; or, I don't trust any one act upon mere impulse or impression; rather, instead, I trust that I, that we act.

I am one amongst we, an I in we, and I say - we act on what we believe, on what we see and what we can make of it; we, (and therefore I) act - we, poets, writers, artists, people - individually and in community (perfectly or variously defined) - we, I, may react in effect, but we act in purpose and in fact, denoting the fact of the here and the now.

I believe strongly that as the world tends it will continue to tend. We will act with purpose. Our impulses and reactions will more and more be identified as a sort of ephemera, a hermeneutic appendage. Not useless at all, no, but a step in the chain of process.

We will soon, if not now, find ourselves in constant contact.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

More Looking, Less Deciding

This idea of an epic/consecutive epics has taken hold. Epic with a small or super-condensed "E" - ten cantos each a page of fifty lines in decasyllabic block form; hoping for ten over ten years.

In my free moments I think about possible themes. Milton spun quite a bit of good from a few lines in the Bible; perhaps I could do the same? Different lines, perhaps Moses dying in sight of Canaan, or something from Matthew.

Or biography. Who are my heroes? Kierkegaard? Robert Lowell? Fausto Coppi?

Or personal biography; or a bit of local history; mathematics and science. Science fiction: satire?

Something recounting an episode from Thoreau's life, perhaps. Or, mixing two or more themes together. And I think about starting somehow and seeing what comes of it.

I have a page running where I have set down some lines:

Coincidence and chemicals and noise

The small things we put aside and forget
and will not throw away....

I woke on a ship. We were out at sea,

A face can be recovered in a dream,

There’s some relief in falling from a tree

Not everyone can be saved, bodies pushed beneath the waves,

Whenever someone says I may, I can

Strapped-down inveterate obliging cinnamon
tied-at-the-waist - incendiary troglodytes

Who lives long enough to see how it ends?
Will I complete a circle, or will trials,
delays, make of my life a half-tale - ...

Am I secure, annoyed, or without sin?
Death, regurgitation, and little men.

I am considering a form other than decasyllables. Mixed lines, or fourteeners (as Chapman), or who knows. I have ordered a recent book edited by Strand that covers varieties of form in contemporary poetry, or examples of older forms used recently, I guess. There may be something in there to push me in one direction or another.

I am enjoying the process, the anxiety, the limbo. I like form for being, for me, both an object or obstacle and a means or prompt. Writing in form states an intent and humility, such as I understand, that is clear from the outset and remains in place for a reader's immediate comprehension. I have written something (says form) in the shape of what others have done wonderfully. I have added some personal twists. I hope I do not embarrass myself here, says form, but clearly I have opened myself up to criticism. Whatever I am at doing, I am willing and even happy to fail, if only because my models are so very alive, so very great.

At any rate, I find it comfortable, this process. I am still reading excerpts from Byron's Don Juan (Norton Critical Edition) but may move on soon to Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest, a so-called "steam punk" novel. This project has helped my with a couple ongoing poems which I may publish on FB in my usual manner or seek to place elsewhere.

More looking, less deciding, more living.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Writing the Idea of a Writing Idea

I feel recalled to the pleasure of a challenge, undertaken for its own sake, which is all I have been able to understand of writing poetry. And now I have an idea of a project where I can both dwell and reveal more than I know at any given point.

An epic in form of ten cantos, one page per canto, 50 lines per page, box form, all lines in all cantos the same width. Lines will point toward the decasyllabic.

A ten-page epic of 500 lines total. Brief, yes, but essential. Not really epic, is it? Mind your own forms and process, Mac. I will hope at the outset for ten epic poems for a total of 100 pages in identical form, and what will be largely interchangeable I hope. Let's say, one epic per year for ten years or so to supplement other projects, running underground or above-board as the mood takes me.

Themes are open, the range as broad as possible. Definition and redefinition and placement or form. Questing and placement or form. Journal entries and note-taking as with all the above. And love; and faith and love. Science and the cinema and placement. Truth and forgetfulness and form. Technique and pasturage and placement and form. Noise and God and noise and form. Mystery and laundry and clarity and shame.

I will make for myself the opportunity to employ ships, and dragons, and gods, and coffee, and hardwood floors, and the open highway, but I can promise nothing. I am happy to say, I promise nothing at all.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Words including the word "Byron"

Boarding the bus after work - ; I think that's right. One boards a bus. I recognized looking forward to reading more of Byron's Don Juan - and, Why?

The pleasure of reading Byron's Don Juan is at least two-fold. Fold number 1 is the story, or what happens next. Fold No. II is in Byron's digressions and ongoing moments where he reveals the tastes, impressions, and biases of the author composing Don Juan. There is no telling when these digressions will occur or where they will take us. The liner notes are scarcely more informative than the bald text of Byron's sarcasms toward Wordsworth, or the former Lady Byron, or a tutor he fell out with as a boy, or English politics, and on and on.

I say at least two-fold as perhaps there is more going on here, which is Byron revealing what the Byron wants to read Byron revealing, or la di da. But I doubt it. Byron was self-admittedly a fluid, prolific writer. It shows, in near identical rhymes in proximate stanzas, in close then distant adherence to the form (ottava rima). The wit is at turns linear - getting off a good crack - or sublime (a rhyme that lights the page). Whatever third or more aspect of the text there might be would result more as an accident of the reader than an owing to an effort by the author. And so. We. Move on.

You can be a different writer than Byron, but I don't think you could make better choices being the writer Byron was. It took me until now to really get around to him, and what a tremendous surprise it has been. Some of my favorite authors are 18th Century English - Swift and Richardson foremost - and here, here as I see it is the last of the great 18th Century writers, cast all over with Romantic concerns, especially those of the political variety. I don't know another English writer that posits George Washington in such a glowing aspect. But then Byron was a perfect reader for his own interests (which I think every good poet is once you scratch the surface, or not even). For instance, he put Moore, Campbell and Crabbe ahead of Wordsworth and Coleridge; was sure that "posterity" would decide likewise.

Well, who cares, is the point. He had the guts to read his own poems and those of his friends side by side with Pope's and say, Pope had it right.

Do we do something like?

If you are interested, or even if you aren't - I am reading a Norton Critical Edition. The translation from when English was King is quite fair, I think.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

World Update

I am currently reading and enjoying a collection of Byron's poetry. I could stop right there.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

People, People Like You, People Ask.

People ask me, how is it that you have lost so few socks? First, some facts. I have lost 2 maybe 3 socks over the last 20 years. And 2 of those were those super thin cycling socks, which could have gotten caught up in another piece of clothing in the dryer and maybe got tucked away somewhere.

This is how I don't lose socks.

You lose socks at those times/moments or fantasy junctures when the socks are vulnerable to being lost. I discovered that those times are recognizable if you are sensitive to all times at all times. This being a discussion of sock-weakness time, I confine myself to that discussion, which is this essay.

I at some point recognized and still do that I knew when the socks were vulnerable to being lost. See if you recognize these situations. You are moving too fast, shoving laundry here and there so as to get to something you imagine is more pressing. You are tired, and it shows in how you lump about holding armfuls of ill-managed laundry....

I want to be a man about this and tell it "like it is" so here goes. You have attended to the laundry - up to a point - then the whole thing goes to Hell in a hand basket because you throw the dried laundry into a hand basket or go-kart without first folding it, and matching up socks, and pairing them appropriately as in the age-old parallel cuff inversion formula.

Note that a formula is a form for relating formation and form. Back now.

You choose where you fail. It is not my job to tell you your business. I do know this. I know that for men socks are one of the few accoutrements we can enjoy and get away with - argyles, bright colors: all the joy and chic of the donnable is oftentimes rendered alive only in socks. To lose a sock of a set one loves can be painful. It can be defeating and deflating. Deflating, says I. Opting for a style or non-style of sock all of a type is worse than murder, it is a ruining of nature.

And so I know one other thing. If you manage your laundry properly you will not lose socks unless you are a cyclist or a ballerina, I suppose. And even if you should lose one or two from now until you die, you will chalk up those losses to experience, as tokens forfeited to the notion of completeness that awaits in another, better life. A life, to be sure, where a sock is just a sock.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Waver Favors

It is a function of the occasion to forget itself, to make itself lost in the surrounding circumstances. Occasion occasion occasion.

I am unexpectedly alive, querulous, ready to write to a purpose. I do not have one yet but I will. I will have to arrange or conceive some idea, or target. I think this is typical: finishing an MS, publishing it, a couple weeks of weak writing, blowing out the pipes, then nothing, then this.

I never have an idea anymore unless compelled by the occasion of experiencing that selfsame nothing. I believe this is a function of age or efficiency. I ride one horse to a stop, walk around the corral a bit, select a fresh mount (or it selects me) and off I go.

I am reminded of a comic strip, where a wife says to her husband, dressed to go for a bike ride, "Cycling season's over, where are you going?" "Why, to train for next season, of course."

Lift a glass to our many seasons.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Representative Books

I know quite a lot about publishing, at least from what I read in books. That may be a biased source though, and so I look elsewhere, particularly to my own experience.

I am published and a publisher; and in the field of book publishing my credentials suggest I am impervious to bias, for I am exactly equally published as publishing. In all, I am somewhat more published, having dotted the literary magazines here and there until deciding I did not care to do that any more.

I do not care for publishing, but I must publish. In the same way, I do not care for gardening, yet I must make love to my wife. Can I be any clearer?

Publishing is an act whereby an author consigns his or her work to the public, however that term is defined. The public may be general, or subscription-based. It may be the monks sharing the abbey where you scratch away at your parchment. It may be this, or it may be that. It may change, over time, as the illuminated manuscripts on museum display testify.

No matter. The author publishes and so is rid of the thing being published. The effect is immediate and indelible. One is free, free to...well, write some more. But free at least of one construction and open to another. That is a wonderful feeling, and it is a freedom, a release, make no mistake.

But with freedom comes responsibility. Or does it. No, not in my case. I have no book tour obligations to meet. I have no reviewers to thank. No sales figure I might hope to reach to ensure that the next book can be published. I am not made naked, for I have spoken only to a handful of people about the poems or the book that was made out of them. As to editors or readers, I have my friends on Facebook, where I will occasionally post poems - and my wife, Endi, who is the only person I let read my manuscripts. But then she is the only person I trust to read my manuscripts as a reader, not a writer. That is, she can put her writerly self aside long enough to read and tell me a couple useful things. I almost always implement her advice (then pull back a bit) and the manuscript clicks into place.

So, I have a manuscript and must publish it. That takes about five days. I obtain an ISBN number, I draw the cover; I format the manuscript, fixing all the bugs that occur in that process, and I publish. I obtain a proof copy and hit the button to distribute worldwide.

My only obligation is to continue to write.

Is there regret? yes, there is regret, for I am never more alone than when I let go of something that has been constantly on my mind. Do I ever wish I published by more traditional channels?

Let me put it this way. There is not one word out of place in my 16 books, not one line I would change, not one drawing I would substitute. In the process of writing these books, of rewriting, of tossing out and putting in, always polishing until I was absolutely sure - in this process, I have established a greater good for myself than could ever be realized by merely publishing one book, in whatever manner, to whatever sort of acclaim. I feel that I have been true to my work and to myself. At the age of 52 I write to the edge of my abilities - sometimes beyond - and I have no regrets. I have no reputation to protect, no persons I rely on whose favor influences what words or images I will put to paper today.

I do believe that publishing the way I do annoys some of my friends, or concerns them, in that I have chosen to be "unpublished" in a conventional sense. In short, they disagree. The solution is a practical one for me though, and I ask that it be seen in that light. Certainly, it is no critique of other means. I celebrate my friends' successes on and off the publishing field.

There is so much that concerns each other - apart from being read, I mean.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Operating Book Talk

Are morals cause or syntax? Do we dress in our morals or are we driven by them?

On another subject, this book (First Days Last) is fulfilling the promise of a bear. I have poems, drawings, and visual poems. I never imagined that the finished manuscript would make sense in a way that makes sense, but I am wondering now how it will make sense in a way that does not make sense. Or, it is bound to do both - sensibly, I hope. So I have arranged the elements in accordance with the abc/cab/bca scheme I outlined a while back, and now have printed out the poems themselves. I will arrange those by themselves then insert them back into the manuscript in that order to see what the whole effect is like.

With respect to morals, I think we do both. I will be very relieved when I have published this book.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Get a job, Lebowski!

A few days ago I posted a story to the effect that Walt Whitman was a routinely effective and contented office worker. This was news, for we are accustomed to believing strongly before the fact that one cannot be a poet and work in an office. We believe this, because biographers and critics - who as a rule work in Academia - discount normalcy in favor of what sticks out. This is right and proper, for biographers and critics want their subjects and therefore themselves to be noticed, and being not-normal is a routine way of being noticed - being romantic, let's say. Let's put that word to it. Romantic.

Walt Whitman, the carefree wastrel, who lounges to work, labors idly, then disappears as in a cloud of whimsy. This is more or less how Whitman's working life has been characterized. This, or, that he tended to the wounded during the Civil War. The artist a tending angel. Really, I never knew he had had an office job. He, and others. Like Charles Olsen, who served in several bureaucratic functions, I believe.

I would like writing programs to post on their university walls picture diagrams of famous and not-so famous poets, men and women, and what they did or do for a living. I would like 23 year-old MFA students to consider the challenge of writing and being a baker, let's say, and adding their name to the list. In short, I would like everyone all at once to grow up, get a clue, and not worry about what they do for a living, as long as it gets them enough money to live satisfactorily, or so that they have sufficient time and energy and freedom of thought to write as well as they would hope to.

Because that's all a job is. There is no ideal, and certainly no right and wrong on the subject of getting a living. Walt apparently thought highly of some of the bureaucrats he worked with. And why not. Why not simply do what you do well and respect others who do the same.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

in scale

All day long the sea went back and forth, back and forth. At night the moon was as if suddenly clear of obstructions and showed huge and plain. There was no talking to the moon, and so we kept our heads down and argued among ourselves.

A kind of camp was established. Its fire burned all night, various hands tossing in pieces of driftwood, paper, cardboard packaging - whatever those hands found for the purpose. Some of us stayed by the fire, lounging, one's back against a log, another hunched over, face peering into the fire. His hands move busily but without any particular end. Nervous hands.

I got up and walked out toward the waves. I heard them before I saw them, trim little ridges of foam obliterating over the barren sands. Then I reached out and felt your fingertips touch mine, as if you had read my mind. I can't say I was pleased. I am impossible to know, I am sure. I am unlovely, untrue, and will live out an undiscovered life.

But still you find me.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


I dreamed a dream where I could write poems without it taking so much out of me, but it was just a dream. Likewise, I am drawn to the experience of where the doing and knowledge of doing come together. The location of this experience or understanding is at the apex of a slender curve. I must be rested and more or less confident in my life to find this place, which is after all interior. I cannot be unique, and so this place is interior to us all, though I must suppose it goes by different names. I am uncertain of what is interesting, however intriguing, and so continue on toward what I hope will be true, even as I fall, again and again, out from my understanding. I pull my life about me, I settle my affairs - it may take hours, days, weeks or months - and set out again. I write in form in blank recognition that I am a form of a man writing in the form of poetry. In the act of writing in form - in the act - I feel like I am in physical correspondence with the location of which I speak, where the doing and the knowing are nearly as one.

Friday, March 4, 2011


Several years ago I wrote a poem called Fifteen Tercets, where I applied the structure of Terza Rima (abc/cab/bca) to the structure of the strophes, where a = one line; b = 3; c = 2, like this:

Our particularity

This capacity for
dead landscape...
name living lands

a car door slam a
race up the steps

Gray lockers flex
with a generation

quick tumble chew

On the formica my
hand exposed Noon
destroying detail

Just like a clock
to talk a lot but
keeping to itself

Old Mr
young mrhenderson

chewing on chalk.

My idea is to create a book structured in this fashion, juxtaposing the block form Fictions I have been writing (in the "B" spot), Poem Drawings (in the "C" spot), and black-and-white drawings in the "A" spot. So. The book would start with 1 drawing, then 2 poem drawings, then 3 Fictions/break/3 Fictions 1 drawing, 2 poem drawings/break - etc. Of course three rounds (a Tercet) complete a cycle, adding up to 18 entries (18 pages, as all this material is one/page). I figure four tercets to give the thing corners and balance, or 72 pages.

I am happy I think though tired from my job and hope this works. I get to choose what goes where, of course. But I have to say I have not been looking forward to trotting out yet another collection of poems. This book will have shape upon shape upon varying shapes. And the best part is I have all the Fictions written (I will need 36 and have 43 keepers so far). I need create 22 more poem drawings - which could be a problem, granted (I have 2 and am not convinced of the form) - and 12 drawings - which I can do in two days. Of course I can switch drawings for poem drawings if things get dire.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I Will Get Around To You Eventually

I want to write more poems so that I can publish more books. I want to publish more books because it allows me to think about and write more poems. Sooner or later I will die and who knows what that will lead to.

Speaking of poems, I have 43 drafted Fictions but have slowed down to where I wonder why I have slowed down. Ideas are occurring to me - never a good indicator - ideas of variations and different forms to interpose with the Fictions. Ideas though are the lazy man's way out. Anyone can come up with an idea. It's takes something special to do the same thing over and over again. Yessir!

That's out of the way. The process indicates a slowing then visualizing a form of the completed work. It may be some of this or some of that. I will bet you a dollar that I end up with the book I first intended, being 87 Fictions. I would have to write I think about 50 to 60 more to end up there though. Factor in that I can't live in this project more than another six months. Tops. I live in a point/counter-point universe, and too much of even a good thing can be bothersome.

That brings me to you.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

You Said it Sunday

Reading some Beckett - More Pricks than Kicks - first thinking that considering all the people who ooo and ahh over Joyce, I trust Beckett got it, because I sure never have. Second wondering at B's language - determined, furious, "standing out."

Well then it comes to me that like Joyce his language is implicit with all the anger you would expect of an Irishman writing in the language of English. Beckett is to Dickens what Ice Cube is to Updike if you like it that way. This is not a thought so much as light dawning as to the nature of a family quarrel. The features of the living room, the artifacts, stand out. Thinking of Joyce like an Englishman thinks and you are lost even as you are bound to believe yourself. This does not mean I now get Joyce, but I better get not getting him, and what's more I respect him the more for it.

What is the quarrel. For my part, I see an Irishman as one who steps into a fight and pulls it up over his head and would sooner commend his soul to God than stop short of an end to it, whereas an English thinker can't stop talking about his options. Speaking of religion is to step into it. Beckett captures the distinction perfectly when a character, a Jesuit, finishing his debate with an atheist states "The best reason that can be given for believing is that it is more amusing. Disbelief is a bore. We do not count our change. We simply cannot bear to be bored."

I cannot bear to be bored, but what is my quarrel? Categories are elusive. Analogically, cycling suggests winners and losers. But for the cyclists there are racers and non-racers. A good racer helps "make the race." The more who race, the better the race, the more relevant the outcome. I do not know how not to race. I pull the race up over my head. I know the pleasure of winning and I know the pleasure of going to the front when the boys are chatting and picking up the pace so that the talk stops.

Even so, faculties diminish but not our need for love. To succeed in the game I play you must above all things endure. The final exhibit is one's naked will, unharnessed to accomplishment, untasked with admirers, unadorned, feckless, free. "The Spirit of the People," in this case is more or less a coincidence of actions ascribable to a person who wants what no one can give him and is determined to keep it so. This and bodily health buys me silence in which to enjoy a clear conscience, for I can do nothing and it will be the same to almost everyone if I were to write forever.

Which leads me to wonder, do I do too much? I think so. Recent experience has taught me to consolidate, to pull in the satellites, to retract and reside. My door is open, wide open to family, friends, wayfarers, but I will not venture outside. This is a way of seeing who you are as you prepare to do what you do. I will not expect myself to respond unless asked to. This seals a few ongoing leaks that I cannot support any longer. The quarrel has reached a stage of subtle influencings. I cannot retreat and I cannot remain in place or be bored.

The process is to work when you work and to philosophize when you do not, for that is a taking away of what hampers your work.

A hero cast the pitchfork, but who and what sharpened its prongs?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Stock Car Racing

The realm of distinctions is not susceptible to imagination. Imagination does however attend distinctions, as like a musician hired to practice at a trade fair.

In our perceptions we are susceptible to the Thing and its Attendants. Imagination does not assist in reduction.

Poetry, if it is good, honest work, can attend or it can reduce. It does not produce.

My poetry is a poetry of reduction. I believe one starts with what is at one's fingertips then makes choices and is chosen, resulting then in a reduction, or poem. Imagination is not a means. It is the sound, sight, or sense created by means in friction.

Philosophy is the practice of working to producing an agreeable result from means in friction.

The imagination has no place in philosophy, and no place without it. Whereas poetry in form is the registered fact that one is the hunter, not the hunted.

Aphorisms are as funny as one is willing to enjoy keeping one's mouth shut.

If I wanted to be famous, nothing would be different from now, as I would very much like to be famous. But more than that, always more, I wish to be great.

May the means and their frictions grant you the pleasures that attend an imaginary end.

I know why I will never be known. Because I am not known now. Fifty-two year old people do not get known ever, not unless they appear, as if suddenly, smiling for the simple fact of being recognized.

I am entitled to recognize myself. All the other boys have left the room.

Perhaps you think I am content. Ha. I am not content. I am at mid-wrestle always always always. But, I hate the sound of me saying something of no use to anyone but myself. Curiously, my comments on others are more about myself than those regarding myself, my practice. There is no paradox. Speaking of myself I form a secondary content, which is at some lengths more interesting than the tertiary content of criticism and commentary.

Oh well then, fine, I want to unstick myself as I am too constantly stuck, wondering how to get back to fluidity.

I love blogging, where there is every opportunity to do nothing at all.

I am in a peculiar place and have been for weeks, as if caught just inches or minutes from an understanding that would free me, that would grant me a clear, abiding, conscionable self-awareness. Always I am just this close. I do not mean to eliminate self-doubt - or do I? How much can I know writing about what I can understand?

It occurs to me that crossing into self-understanding of the sort I wrestle toward would be an insanity. True or false, determined and determining, I wander, I dare, I tempt, and yet always, always I wake in my own skin.

It also occurs to me that a window opens then shuts. I will never put myself into words I understand.

The realm of distinctions is only seemingly available to the imagination.

In our perceptions we seduced by wakefulness and cause. Imagination does not permit exclusion.

Poetry, when we work at it, trails at a distance the thing it must have for its master. Or perhaps I am in front of myself.

I have seen too much at arm's length to trust my mind by itself.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Daffy Duck spells Superman

So I go on this business trip. I guess it's not really a business trip because I am a paralegal at a law office. I flew to Seattle, stayed overnight, was driven out to Woodinville, WA - which is like the wine capital of soggy Christendom - and presented on trademarks for wineries. It was all I could do to pull my body up to behind the lectern and deliver. Then, being done, one simply reverses. To Seattle, back home. I hate it.

I like my job, but I hate travel unless I can believe in its utter necessity. I traveled to San Francisco to see a close friend in November 2010. That was a necessity. It was something I owed myself and that friend. The entire journey was fraught with the sort of meaningfulness you naturally associate with terms of belief and need. But this, this business trip. I did no service for anyone that they could not do for themselves.

The moral, the tale's end, is in common with that of any recent misadventure. I simply will not do it again. I have presented at this seminar two years now. Enough is enough. Chuck one of the attorneys out there. They seem to have some inexhaustible interior capacity to perform on cue that I sadly am lacking.

Speaking of which, I can say that this among other recent experiences has confirmed my aversion to reading in public. I hate it, and I don't understand it. Why in heaven's name am I reading to full-grown, literate adults? Certainly, not for the poetry. You can read the poetry yourselves. Should I distrust you to ascertain certain subtle yet critical nuances? Does my reading help you to "get it"? I doubt it, and who cares if it does. That's your business, not mine. Again, there are people who incline toward delivering messages - lawyers, ministers, most poets it seems. Find someone else to do this sort of rude, campfire work. I will not be missed.

There is the contention of community, that readings build community. That would be true if people knew how to read aloud, if the poetry were all profound, and if there was no such thing as books. As it is, readings present an illusion of community as demonstrated by the fact of the reading. Poetry readings are a tautological tableau.

What is community? Well, there are two communities. There is you and your friends and professional contacts. That's one. The other is the "community" critics or historians perceive as they look over at or back on you and your friends and others and form ideas of who and what was happening and give those thoughts labels and names and such. I think poets want to be perceived as important and therefore famous - or is it the reverse... - so perhaps they feel that if they demonstrate their connections - let's say, through readings - they are in effect telegraphing a name, a happening, an "ism" far into the future (or New York), a pattern of light that will fall on wide-open, impressionable history-writing eyes.

It's not so different with business trips and such. I return to the office to questions of How did it Go. It went Well. Met some Clients. Got a Little Work out of It. I have telegraphed and received confirmation. My receptor may not be a 25th Century Stanley Fish, but can I honestly pretend to control the difference, and am I so sure it matters who or when?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mind at Work

I have been making an effort to catch my mind at its work. This morning I opened up two mailings from a credit card company. One, an offer including checks which would draw against my credit line, the other a monthly bill. I was keen to perceive the exact point when my mind would know what to do with this correspondence, and the mechanisms by which it knew - when suddenly it knew, and I too was sure it knew, and I had learned nothing.

This is what always happens.

Is it boredom or inspiration that compels me to understand the workings of my mind? It is in part a defensive labor. I confess that my mind has gotten me into the kinds of trouble that a person eventually tires of and decides he will quit. One makes these decisions independent of what one's mind is capable of deciding on one's behalf, all of which sounds to me like a plot engine for Hogan's Heroes, for reasons that elude me and which I will allow to scamper away for now.

Songs run through my mind. Songs I hear in spin class or remember from other contexts. Songs I like or which amuse me for whatever reason ("wooden ships - on the wa-ter ver-y freeee."), and perhaps music is the very thing to convey the impression that the mind, even in monitoring or betraying itself, is of itself and unified in itself. Though clearly this is not the case.

Form in poetry seems to me a similar fiction as is music in one's mind. The illusion of unity. The Santa Claus we cannot afford to disbelieve, not completely, lest we disavow "ourselves." Of course, the notion of oneself is a kind of illusion, an affect. A effective, necessary pretense. How else to take the stage and speak one's part?

What I am is what I say I shall will and do, more or less, for better or worse. But I fail. I learn, dragging my mind and body through and out the other side. I sleep and dream and try again tomorrow. I cannot imagine what I am in being before I will myself to being, or except in how I represent my being. So, I open bills and letters and decide a course of action, and any attempt to understand what I am doing is bound to the tangle of reductive factors and contingencies. I know no more of myself than in seeing what I do.

All this plays to poetry writing. I do not write when I sit and watch myself to write. Only when I willingly or am capable of willingly assuming the mantle of a Self do I write. At other times, I look at my work and wonder, How did I do this? The answer of course is that my Self did it. Talk to him. Or better yet, don't. Don't talk to him any more than is necessary.