Wednesday, December 11, 2013

People & Books, Authors & Dreams

I think that at 54 years of age I should have some grasp of what it means to be serious, perhaps even have a "plan" for instituting serious things, or imposing my way of thinking/feeling on the world. Butt, alias, I have no such plans. All my work goes to work. I have no plans. I have been a more-than-willing self-criticizer for what I perceived as a kind of Repetitive Life, but then I realized that what I have in place are means, not product. I am, after all, somewhat in the way of fluid. huh.

But, news of me travels no further than the flight of such electronically fueled arrows as the Internet allows me. Yet, I write. I have always written crazy amounts, but I write even more now. This for example (I hate the word "example" for what it means. It sounds so paltry.) is my 47th or so blog posting this year on this URL alone. I also have put 30 or so on my religion blogs, written a couple books, and, at work, billed a second-to-record year. 1740 hours. You're in the business, you know what that means.

All this is one thing, but not everything. I almost envy real writers, and I could go into details, but I would be bending your ear to no purpose. I am, after all, from New Jersey. I am a child of punk rock. There is a perfect symmetry to what I do. I would no longer stand to be nominated for an award then I would suffer the perfectly reasonable demands of all published authors. I would blow it. Guar.An.Teed. There is ever on my lips a fuck you that anticipates success in art.

My dream is to die unknown having left a body of real work.

Now, I know that such a fate leads to nothing. No one, to my knowledge, has died unknown and realized fame. Fame. The very word makes me sick at heart. It suits great writers to be famous. I am not a great writer. I am me. I am a taste and a tendency admixed with a modicum of thought. I do a certain thing or things. I do not want to cloud the waters any more than is necessary.

Writing is necessary - and insofar as someone, anyone, draws a profit, I am glad. But nothing is necessary in art, except I suppose for what is great.

There is all this, but it is not all there is. I have published 26 books now, and I believe what I say, and there is no slowing down. I find my ruminations, virtually unconscious, intruding into all aspects of my life. My writing at work - legal writing - shows this intrusion, and the lawyers I work with praise it. So, what should I do? My favorite poet is Jean Follain, a mid-20th C. Frenchman, who was a corporate layer. Is that a terminus? Probably not. Do I care? No. Why would I?

I am sure I have said this elsewhere, or something like it, that poetry is the fact of having written what appears to others as a poem. I admire and support the efforts of people who appear as poets to others, and those who do not. The analogy is, I suppose, to love those I know and those I do not know. To flow, not to burden or impede. I would hate to impede anyone in anything. Everyone is so much more interesting than any book I know.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dirty the Minnow and the Book, Harry

Dirty Harry is a beautiful movie in many ways. It matches any other movie I can think of for movement-in-time, the capture of capture in situ. The gun employed is a metaphor of course for original sin. Clint Eastwood's hair is the hay in the manger at the inn where the Lord was born. And, there are dashikis.

But whereas Clint Eastwood is too old to make another "Dirty Harry" film, and has said so, the book of poems will not go away, even as it pretends it might. No, as writers, we are either writing books, immersed, stressed, or we are pretending not too, vacant, depressed. There is too much talk about what is done with books in light of the fact that the books are made regardless. Books are to poets what droppings are to pigeons or icicles to the North wind. One might say - be entitled to state - that his/her book makes a point, has a purposes, etc. But no one really cares, unless it is to that person's purpose to say so. No, the point of any book is that of the leaf that falls to the exact spot on the forest floor that was inscribed in the book of Ages.

Interest describes all. We stand, we fall, we get up in fits and droves. An announcement reaches our ears. We head home in caravans and on pogo sticks. I for one will check the minnow traps for lost excuses, the flickering self. But the books will go on. The books. The. Books.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Story over Milk

The first speech was a kind of symbol, and we hung it around the neck of the loveliest candidate. A tremendous number of people were coming and going, illuminated by star light drifting through uneven waves of fog. Sharp words arose like columns to no purpose except to be seen. At the base of each column was an unpronounceable name.

I am not alone walking among people puzzling over names. That too is a kind of unheard music, a percussion of the blood. Perhaps if you and I had written each other more often, especially in the down time, there would be less drama. But, hey, drama is not a crime. Crime is boring. Almost nothing we discuss is a crime.

A newspaper page blows past, wraps itself around the calf of a woman walking past. It counts for nothing to have me in mind unless, of course, you are at work. This day competes. The clothes I wear, like falling leaves, are not easily assumed. To return to our story, she stood taller, if such a thing is possible, and turned and waltzed into the historical like a ship that knows its cargo and its worth. Nothing could have been more disappointing, unless you take into account the close-cropped meadow grass, and the sparse though shapely apple tree.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Is form or the tendency to employ form an obsession? Are you mental? The tendency toward formalism, which we will call formaltosis, is a condition, but whether of nature, nurture, whether healthy or not, inspired or pathetic, I have no clue.

I do not think about me or myself in the same way I think of others - to pretend, of those who are not formalists, or are not afflicted with formaltosis. I do not fully understand anything, granted, but I can't imagine not having a set of blank canvases set aside or in potential on which one does one's work.

A telling recollection. At Iowa, Jorie Graham asked our class what we see when we look at a blank piece of paper. This was 1994, so we could be presumed to write/type on paper. I responded that I saw every poem that had ever been written, all of which had first to be wiped from that page before I could write.

Thinking back to those days, I miss my typewriter/word processor. I used to set a page in it and then set myself to what had to be done with it. If the piece of paper sat there for more than a day or so, I would remove it and insert another when I felt that I was ready to write. That happened rarely. I think that was a healthful exercise, even in the service of such form-related maladies as I suffered from. Going one level deeper, I believed then as now that all people are principally the same person; therefore, our efforts originate form a common source, even as the words vary. That I have entered the Catholic church is, to put a point on it, incredibly unsurprising.

The message of humanity is that We matter. The message of a poem is that I, as we, matter in this particular, traceable way, or manner.

So, form. Form the invitation, the flower bouquet, the word of love. I have always viewed my poems as at least in part a confession of the fact of being, acting in counterpoint (never exclusively). I am older now, and have no ideas for believing differently. This does not make my original. It shows that I am merely human.

Well, formalists. I also like how formaltosis appears in manner, gesture, and in our political commitments. Then, all of a sudden, I lose interest in this subject. I have gone too far along the dock to where the fish do not bite. I succumb to a paltry sky. I lose myself in wondering what to do.

I should write, is all. Shall we condemn the wren for habitat repetition? I like what is new more than I like the news per se. I like it when someone appears to have something and they and their friends are excited. I do not call that a form of anything. I call it life.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Howitzer, Flowers, Blondie, Alit

I am working on something which could be a book-long situation, rambling and, in the end, when it comes right down to it, should one hold its pulpy feet to a figurative fire, with a point. Here is one page of what I suspect will carry on to 60 or so.

Writing as if we are starting again will not do, nor as if we are ending anything. It being understood we are not correcting or correct. Writing that is writing will not do, that is not writing should have thumb to wrist pulse. Poetries that borrow tableware are fine indeed. I can’t keep track of everything I think or feel. A woman writing who falls for every bloody sunset but will not be dictated to. Whom one cannot dictate to. Who, dictator, will do. Woman like trees and trees unlike women. The word Woman, the mention of trees. Writing as if capitulating or canvassing, catapulting, all these like fresh vegetables for sale, all in a line, in wooden crates that may have served another purpose. The draft animal, the decommissioned howitzer. I like a truck that drives like how cold rivers make me feel inside. Inside here, where poems sprout like hats falling from a shelf.  

There are a couple items here I can discuss for those who like discussion. Though why anyone in this day and age wants to discuss anything, unless they have to, like, for work, is beyond me. We are like the birds of the air except we tweet and chirp in flight, alit, feeding, and a-fuck. Lord. Anyhop, I like the word "poetries" which I think covers a lot and allows to whatever one imagines it covers proper dignity. Did I ever tell you that I was in a Blondie video? Heart of Glass, as a dancer, me and friends and a lot of people. Back to the poem, and certain images or thoughts occur which should not be held to account. Everything here is my fault. No poet advances anything, thought they are marvelous at suggesting or offering up the category of advancement. Liberace had his candlesticks as poets have their advancement. What Percy Shelley said about poets being the unacknowledged legislators of the world is nothing to how he got to that statement. There was a time when people cared how one got to one's statements, and that time was when one was young and in school, not when that same person, let's say, came to teach. No, we can afford to age, but that is not a blanket endorsement.

I am happy to employ the word "howitzer" for the ages. It hardly matters what we say. "What." What does the moon say? If the moon says only I am the fucking moon, you have everything you need to know about either what the moon says or might say. What's the difference? Maybe that you ask. Okay, so you ask. What, you want a medal for asking questions? Let's do that. Let's give everyone who asks questions a medal, just as we water the starving flower.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Form & Mourn - JFK and the Quilted Sonnet

What is the form for mourning? For a loved one, a pet, a president. A dead project. Bad grades. Tornadoes. Murder and suicide. The Mets.

There is no form for mourning. Mourning, likes death, is an ongoing conversation. We put forms in front of our mourning as a means of displaying it. Solace, quilted boxes, a yearly trek w/bouquet. Nothing wrong with that. I have no patience (okay, I have some patience...) with people who criticize the trappings of mourning, as if to pierce the veil and reveal terrible truths. How stupid (maybe not too much patience after all).

Mourning is real, the forms of mourning "more real." That is not hypocrisy, it is art. The quilted lining to the mahogany-style casket is not a waste, but one part of a musical score, the constant music of seeing and making. I for one see no art or "truth" in tossing bodies into a fire like so many ruined gloves (huh?)

To the point, I mourn the death of JFK. That is nothing new. Any time I think about his death I mourn. It can be enough to take me right out of a productive day. I think of JFK then and what we might have said in the ensuing years - and so I think of Bobbie, and Martin - and pretty quickly I am bit of a basket case, at least until tomorrow.

That is to say, I mourn. I do not worry about the mourning or the forms that attend the mourning, mine or others' mourning. I do not debate the flame at the grave. I hope to visit it someday and pray the Rosary for the repose of his soul and Bobbie's. That too is a kind of form, a form one places in front of oneself as a means of being. Being after all is not the thought of being, but the impartial and active participant in history which is being having become. Am I the only one who did the reading?


Anyway, I am happy to mourn. Among other pleasant effects it helps to show that I am alive to loss, which is a great gift after all. I hope never to abandon my appreciation for death, loss, and the forms we use to place our feelings in context, for all to share.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Where a Duck is Placed and Assumes a Species of Significance

Once there was a duck. A duck too sensitive for other ducks. A dancing duck too shy to dance. A useless duck. A useless and anonymous duck, shy and quintessent.

Against the fabric of this portrait of a duck, let's place a gun, a sedan, and music playing. We drove through the night and into the next day; like a surgeon's knife we found the basis of things, a tumor hopelessly spawning.

Life is like a series of columns. Columnar thought, politics, accomplishments. The columns are not infinite but broken off, as if there had once been a roof. The background is a quiet swirl, far off, of steel rain and impenetrable mist. "That is where you will find God" - said the duck - "It is where he found me."

Everything is like a steaming holiday pie. Pies are the short leaves of a sapling we are not quite certain is there yet. Why all this decisioning? Who asked us to make such judgments?

Choice lies before me like a sea of discarded playing cards, their suits revealed as if that matters. But I choose the duck. The duck. The. Duck.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Form in Poems and the Visual New

I am no older than when I was young except in certain details. The details are not certain of themselves, but others are I suppose. Scientists and other writers of fact are bound to be certain of such things.

But I am no older, for I am no different. All the facts have changed, this is true, and I have "aged" in the conventional sense, my dear writers/scientists, but I am no older.

For I am not an I that can age. The I I am is the same I it was when I was twenty years of age.

That takes care of that.

To the purpose of this forum, this blog - which I take to be an immensely ribboning, cascading monument to the human capacity of persistence in the absence of an other indicator; to our purpose, dear reader, my statements of "I" are nothing compared to our constant address of form as we inquire into its nature, as we seek its newer incarnations. As we contrast and compare.

And then, as we expect something. I am forever (or constantly) seeing received prosodic forms in current poems, bastardized of course, and never so unique as the writer might hope, but they are there nonetheless. And this is because the writer has read a lot of sonnets, for one example, and the form emerges from that glomming, or because the form itself is something perfectly inherent.

That is, when we write poems, we tend to write in one of the received forms.

I believe this, of course. It would be foolish of me not to. I am a poet, a fairly well-read and well-educated one, and I am a formalist. Not of received forms per se, but of the block form I work in.

But I am not a scholar, and I do not delight in stating the apparent. I like to believe that a thing means something. And that if the meaning is more or less apparent, that another meaning lurks. And then, because I am not even a clever scholar, I like to go outwards to what you might call a philosophical or metaphysical or even moralist vantage point, and ask Why?

Matching almost precisely my opportunities or experiences of reading new poems are instances of doubt and dismay. That so much effort to interest and inform seems oblivious to the form of display and the effect that has on the overall message.

But. I am also not a critic. In any event, I prefer to view others' work as serving some positive purpose, if only to keep the writer from a life of utter drudgery.

So, in the world of form, I see two camps that I care to recognize (I have no use for anyone who thins writing in received forms is "poetical" in itself. That is pathetic). One the one hand, we have successful accomplished modern writers who to a varying degree understand what they are doing. On the other, we have visual poets, who are taking poetic forms, their representations and presentations, into new territory.

And, so, I turn to the Concrete Formalist Poetry website, which has become a playground for visual poets. Clearly, I am delighted. I have no hope for the written poetic word except as I hope for the best of anything, anywhere, at any time. But the visually-oriented poet is doing something different, I think. Something potentially fresh, with implications for a world that is cascading forward into new tactile realms. And, so, I see my work as a kind of iteration of foundations. Brickwork. Non-acculturated stone.

May it serve its purpose. Whatever anyone conceives that to be. I do not expcet to grow any older in my hope that anything I write goes any further than this: not to write is a crime.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Joy Tedium, for John Milton

Tedium is not alone. It is a composite phase. It is not an event, or exception. Tedium is art made perfect.

I heard a story today from a little girl who stopped me in the street to tell me that she had lost her purpose. "You are so young, little girl," I uttered with all possible tenderness. "How can one so young have lost her purpose?" She replied, "It is in the nature of purpose to be lost. Purpose is not a thing to be acquired and held and profited from, like a convertible asset. You mistook my statement of fact for one of lament. I have lost my purpose, this is a fact," said the little girl, "but I have not lost my critical sensibility."

Ah. If only I were half so wise as the little girls one meets in Portland. Unlike the books on  our shelves, or the birds of the air, there are all kinds of people dipping in and out of cafes and convenience stores who are chock full of answers.

Just the other day, walking out, bleeding inside from an incurable mortality, I found myself paying attention to some things and ignoring others. Meanwhile, my body was digesting something. Coffee and fat mostly, I suppose. The phone rang and rang. A computer spoke but I was already elsewhere. It's like I can never catch up to my success. It's like I will always be the last one to know myself.

I have come to accept the world. What is the alternative? Even where I doubt, I water flowers, or I pull them up. I return from a long bike ride, flowers in the pockets of my jersey already wilting. I appear here and there, usually out of a sense of obligation, and am a brick.

Where is his joy?

Joy is not alone. It is a transmutive forage. Lymph-like epodes embark. The window of opportunity is glazed with the likes of you. A great noise awaits. Cigarette smoke. The moments where we pause and light our cigarettes - in compliance, in assumption - the stuff of eternity.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

This is my Apology

The day was already old when the day was new. What you brought, the music, settled into lines and checker-board excavations not of your making. Every now and again you looked up and smiled at me. I was waiting for you to finish, but you cannot finish. You seem to be enjoying yourself. And, to be completely open about this, I am not unhappy watching you. I manage a sort of arrangement - you would say twice as much is done behind my back - and so the room, while inherited, is not a complete mess. I do not know, and I will not know, what the ending looks like. Really, I have no preference. But I will not resist. I will not delay, and I will not remember myself leaving you to yourself. You do not deserve to be alone.

And so, I apologize.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Age of the Auto-Didact: The Form of Righteousness in American Poets: a Complaint and Lament

Nothing speaks to cultural decline with such force as short-sheeted ambition. There is no music so dull and dour as that of the poet who seeks mere restitution. There is no moment so perfectly suited to despair as when an artist wants nothing more than that one set of facts should be replaced by another set of facts.

I for one look to the future, to future generations and those individual voices, who will, I trust, find something in this universe more to their taste - more suitable to desire - than singing songs of blame over matters of dollars and cents. That society should practice equitable laws is a fine and necessary thing. But the form of righteousness that has overcome the American Poets has overwhelmed every other tone or consideration than that of a hurt I cannot bring myself to believe they feel.

I wonder at a generation of artists so attuned to balance sheets in lieu of personal accounts. That one or another entity should possess this or that amount of monies, and that one should pretend shock that individual persons do not - writing it out here, I can hardly believe what passes for meaningful conversation these days, when we are all to blame for the world we live in.

The puerile nature of blaming this or that worldly power for some lack of having served some poetic individual's  finer inclinations - I ask, if this is what writing modern poetry leads a 30/40-something to, then why bother? Why be a modern poet? Why bother at all, and how can we ask others to care? If a feeling is the point - what of critical care?

Where is the insight, the dance? Is complaint-at-power suddenly news? Does this constitute a work? Are you kidding me? Is corporate accountability the stuff dreams are made of? Are our writerly cannons so completely voided? These ultimate "concerns" in matters economic expressed as blame and complaint strike me as misplaced, unbalanced, and, frankly, obnoxious. Or, embarrassing. It stuns me what these people take "seriously" as a solution, when the solutions have been before us for eons. When eons' worth of persons named and unnamed have labored for fairness and balance and, may I say, have gotten us somewhere better than where we were, and by a fair margin.

Children of the obvious, this should appeal mightily to you, who manage somehow to believe that you and you alone discovered the writings of Karl Marx

Drawing a point, building an argument, seems futile where, however one even begins to consider the matter, the subject is prosaic and closed. I can only theorize very generally, and so I offer this observation. Lacking religion, people almost inevitably form one of their own, often (these days) based on personal tastes and opinions, or what suffices to please their friends. This outcome is pathetic, especially when you consider the influence of religion on such expectations and standards as pervade contemporary pronouncements. The likes of Nietzsche and Marx had the intellectual fortitude to do battle with historical forces. But not today's scholar/poet.

And so, whereas religion, philosophy, or critical theory helps to describe the general ambition of "economic equality" (from which one is free to create important solutions) it does nothing to explain the unsophisticated rancor that underlies and really sets into place the Form of Righteousness in American Poets. I don't know that any Americans have ever been so culturally inept. There is a breathtakingly uninteresting and baseless character to the underlying assumptions - that, somehow, all corporations are evil. That capitalism is necessarily evil. That ownership of property is necessarily evil.

Funny. I thought religion owned determinations of what is "evil" and that such judgments were out of fashion. But, no. Ours is the Age of the Moral Atheist, baptized by the function of blame. God is such promptings by friends as support their opinions. There is no work or reality here, no functioning humility or simple, hard-earned kindness, but a dream of the Self blanketing with blame what does not appeal to that same Self.

Auto-didacticism, thy name is love.

What fine, enduring work this is, this temple of nose-blown tissues and stilted doubt. This heaven of NOT. Who can fail to be bored to tears?

I labor, in this time and place, to understand how a person can form such judgments while at the same time maintaining an attitude of utter vigilance with respect to unfair judgments.  As I said, religion has no answer - except where the practitioner has managed to convince him or herself that she or he is utterly right. A business truism might apply here: if you have no competition, you have no market.

But the American Poet is not concerned with business, or markets, or audience, except insofar as his or her friends share the same opinion. That done, success is complete.

American Poetic politics is something like a certain fiction, of some note, where a being arises from dust and conceives that, in the absence of competing types, they must be God. If the futility were provocative or new, we might have something. But from my perspective this is all better gotten over, and as soon as possible. Not that I believe for one moment that this phase will soon pass. I am certain it will get worse. I am certain that it will mature and ripen and turn putrid before some new thing can emerge to save us from ourselves.

I have lamented in this blog my lack of success as a writer. Well, I can say that nothing reassures me in my decisions - to write as I do, to publish my own books - quite like observing certain tendencies of certain of my would-be peers. And so, in unison with anyone who might care to agree with me, I offer these petitions:
  • Let me fail, let me be washed away as one who has never known success in poetry.
  • Let me fail wildly, as one who has no clue.
  • Let me be mocked, derided - or better yet, ignored, as one whose language fell unsounded to the earth.
  • Let me say, I am weak, and partial, and wrong, forever.
  • Never let me blame others for my own failings.
And, finally, let me always celebrate the best we have and have done. Let me live in purpose and profit in intelligent choice. Let me always acknowledge others for their hard work and, while the war will be waged forever on this earth, let me never surrender.

Gladly I will fail, but I will fail well.

In the name of the kind, the knowledgeable, and the founded, now and forever.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Few Ideas for Books or their Content

Without bothering to explain why, I can say I have no use for books of poems that purport to be written simply to publish a book of poems. Put another way, I am tired of poets who are merely poem publishers, whose work is the work of being a poet known for the poems they have written. This looks unreasonable. Fine. Perhaps then it is very poetic. I do not care either to excite or to offend, but in the meantime here are a few thoughts I suppose for content of that which purports to be a book of "poems."
  • Besides wordy poems, I sometimes provide more concrete poems, including those with numerals, etc.
  • I also might provide drawings. These are usually rendered with a graphite stick. Goodness my days are complicated.
  • How about taking photos though, saving them as jpeg files and inserting them into a word doc? That would be a nice way to push the wordy poems out away from each other.
  • A page of more or less pure color inserted here and there.
  • Repetitions of a dedication page, taken up as a kind of apology.
  • How about a book that purports to determine reaction and response to an absurd degree and so offers directions or advice to the reader for "coping" with the poetry?
  • Voting, investment, breeding instructions. This one really is quite relevant. It would not have to be an ongoing, insertionary form of proto-representation (don't screw with me you punks) but might conclude a matter in offering the sort of post-Edenic guidance any poet would be proud to sign off on.
  • In the midst of this, we create or teach children.
  • Work-out routines; song-lists; coupons.
When the world was young, one might have put one's hand out and expected nothing in return. Those are long gone.

Friday, October 4, 2013

This MS/Book - Show a Monsters

I printed out the unconscionably ragged/telltale efforts of the last few months. There are fours poem types. 3 I am calling word listy impressionable types; 3 sonnety ones - out of 6 drafted, having disposed of the ones where I was trying to say something, apparently, which of course never works;  2 quatrain strophe types that purport to an effect, and; a five pages of short-line quatrains that appears to draw across the lines of the other 3 types.

The interesting part is, I can't see these working together except by doing drawings that bridge them. I mean, of course they will be interspersed and all that, but it is new to me to assemble prospective poems and sense drawings are needed for specific bridgings, ass opposed to saying, Well, this MS needs drawings, period. Then fitting them in, usually in a kind of pattern, such as 3 poems: drawing; 3 poems: drawing, etc. I feel that some credit for this situation (I hesitate to call anything in art a development) should be accorded the fine individuals who contribute to the Concrete Formalist Poetry website. The effect of all their visual art/poetry must be felt and responded to. No, art is not merely on our walls. It is in our blood, or coursing through one's mind. Formed as perceived, or realized in reaction and perception.

I think the title will be "Show a Monsters" which pulls from a line - but I want to credit Ike Eisenhower, who is fond of posting images on face book where a puppy is always referred to as "a puppies." But there's more to that and this, as one should expect.

Anyway, I sure love writing. I love how each book is different. The process, etc. varies, always. This work will be produced and published in, I would say, about 6 weeks, and be my 25th book I use book and MS interchangeably). It is always new, and I am in a good place where I can recognize that this is a sign of a species of mental and perhaps emotional health. I may not be read much; I may never be reviewed; but then I know I can't flap my arms and fly to the moon. Or, so what. So what. Why on earth should I compare my life to others' lives? It just doesn't make sense to do that, certainly, not in terms of creative production. When assailed by doubts and self-loathing, it would be more to the point to ask God for his advice; to which He might respond, I could care less. Just be nice. Well, I can do that, most days anyway.

Other notions touching on collateral. I have looked at other Print-On-Demand sites, and is still the best for me. I have been working on cleaning up the books to make them more regular in terms of which pages have numbers, etc. Oh God this sounds stupid, doesn't it? I mean, can you imagine anyone caring? I'll ask God. Lord, I am concerned at title pages and such having header lines or numbers. Guide me. Tchya! Right!

Once this puppy is in the book, I might go to life in the clouds - buy a Chromebook, etc. I have to say, I am quite excited about the Cloud Life. In the end, I will still create a pdf and publish via - I mean, I don't see changing my more-or-less incredible intractability. Or collaborating. HaHaHaHa! But, who knows. If someone asked I would twist myself into a Southern Belle's curls to oblige and impress. God forbid.

Finally, I have done good work in cleansing my bookshelf of all but three feet of work, constituting only that which I am reading or want to read, or is a lively hinge-point. So, I have concrete works, a couple friends' books - all my religious literature - Bishop Percy's three volumes (that's poetry - 17th Cent.)  - Dante, The Aeneid. A few others. But I am selling off the majority of the litter of dead white men. Gee. I hope God approves.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Formed to Fail and Failure Alive - A Panoply

I feel chastened by art, not so much inspired. I do not have a lot of energy - perhaps not that critical sufficiency - to respond in kind or react. Or, to do so self-consciously.

The older artist (at 54 I qualify, I trust) is wise to be less self-aware than self-unaware. To be self-aware as a white, middle-aged, middle class worker-bee is not the sort of thing that inspires mind-bending collateral. No, I think that such as I am do better, if one wants to provide service, to keep our eyes away from US to OTHERS, whatever the other is, in that place and time. We, then, can lend a particular voice in saying YES. A voice certain others (like ourselves, but utterly self-inclined) might not have expected to hear.

But, guess what. I am wrong. Do you know that? Do you know, that any successful artist is concerned first and foremost with advancing their agenda? The emphasis-claims vary from time to time, from overt to inferential (our time is heavy on the inferential - getting arrested at a bank sells books, etc.)

Did you know that I am always wrong when it comes to poetry? It's true! I know this sounds like bragging, or some kind of weird psych-out, but it's not. I simply have a kind of interior divining rod for finding exactly the wrong choice to make. Now, this confession (hah. I've said this a dozen times in these blogs, more or less) may sound like I have given up. But nothing could be further from the truth - because I have nothing to give up in the first place! I have no reputation, no publisher, no critical success.

Strangely - and really - but this is a kind of reiteration, kind of like saying NORTH as the needle of one's interior compass points that way - as time goes on, I am more and more heartsick at my failures in poetry. I am honestly sad and feel I have made terrible errors. People ask me about my work. I say what I do, that I have published 14 books through and I say, I do not recommend this course to anyone. I am unread, unreviewed, and sad beyond description.

HARDLY the sort of image a while middle-aged middle-class male should present. Oh, and I'm Catholic. What a nightmare!

Now, having said all this (here's where the Catholic bit comes in maybe - and helps to explain why I became Catholic at the age of 53) I really, in my heart, do not care about what happens to me or my work. However idiotic I am or my choices have been (including certain stupid horrible oblivious neglectful behavior in my personal life, thank you very much) I am simply and cleansingly overjoyed at the work I see in the world - what my wife (Hello!) does, and what my friends do. But then, what they have done is quite significant. I have before me the significant accomplishments of friends, including, but not limited to: national awards, blisteringly favorable reviews, increasing reputations, contracts with strong publishers, and, let's be honest, books that matter.

So, you might ask - if you have made it this far, for which I am grateful, where does the Catholic thing come in? Let me try to explain.

However I am undone, it is because of who I am. However I might succeed, providing insight, provoking ideas, a response either for or against, such is the will of the Lord. I have nothing, nothing, nothing that is mine, except my failures. As a Catholic, I know not to take such failures as a...terminal point. No, they are nonetheless critical points of confession of culpability. Of responsibility. In other words, I can never complain. I have no grounds for saying that things should have turned out otherwise. I simply do not have that option - which is a tremendous relief!

Instead, I have the privilege of saying, This was my choice, Lord, do with me as you will.

Of course, a Catholic (I say "Catholic" but the fact is most Christians roll this way)  is obliged to turn out in this manner with everything. Even in these statements I am obliged now to acknowledge that I have served myself, my personal ambitions, my personal wishes. There is nothing in any declaration of the meaning or worth of one's artistic production to suggest otherwise.

It makes little sense, the dirt being shoveled on one's face, to color the sky.

I made choices just today to economize. To give away clothing and sell books, such as have stood on my shelves for years for the sole purpose of standing as testament to my learning. And so I divest myself of such false doctrines. I am reminded of Wittgenstein (Lord, I am no Wittgenstein) who slept on a cot and whose bookshelf held a bible and a couple other volumes.

I could write more, but do I have more to say? We have had a lot of rain today, even be Portland standards. I spent some of the day stuffing clothes into bags, boxing books, and watching some football. I love football. I love it in part for the drama, the human weight, of each and every play.

I must be tired. The world is turning over again, It does this every day.

Friday, September 20, 2013

How can I be Tired?

Writing in form, any form, is not concerned or relevant to finishing or completing anything. Those who do not understand form do not understand this.

Persons who have found the means to worry may not recognize that writing in form is only a prerequisite for a meaningful termination in equitable energies and economy translations.

The words that go out that ask are not unlike the sounds that come in and are somehow directed into shapes and patterns that when push comes to shove we will holler as the Israelites did at the walls of Jericho and say so we are what are we let it all COME DOWN.

A poem in form is primary in that (1) it admits primacy in the other that it seeks to capture (2) the author has self-abnegated to form (3) lives follow other lives into the grave like the pages of a book that woman that man rifles through considering out/inputs.

If a sonnet is a tree, you are the gardener.

By "sonnet" I mean any form. Sonnet, quatrains, villla-pants, flarf, the color blue. Anything one might capture and repeat/devolve.

All art is a kind of stupid recollection of sex: the capture and release or relief. The distinctions do not bear fruit. Something goes out or clogs. Even now, people are leaving the room to have real sex, and I do not blame them.

I can only be tired as I stop saying what is obvious.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Form Balloon, Red and Write

I like to fool myself as much as anyone. That is to say, I like to live. But I suppose writing poetry is my response to merely living for the purpose of living, as if living were in itself justification for all the wear and tear it causes oneself, and the pain it causes others.

For all that I accomplish or obtain, I know that poetry is a rhythm that will not be denied. I may not show it as I work, or tend family, church, but otherwise, whether inside or outside, a kind of narrative is playing out where I am attuned to what I have done and what is left undone. This effect or purpose is not unlike what we see in nature, the tree that stands there, year after year, while the effects of the seasons manifest themselves.

But in our case, for I am only one among many, the effect does not merely repeat itself to a predictable outcome. Or do I fantasize? Perhaps all this is very predictable. But no, I don't think so. Or at least it is not predictable in the sense that outcomes can be calculated.

I only know what I can say as one might repeat the melody of a song, one who is not particularly gifted in song or memory, but who did well at school and can carry a tune. Perhaps poets are capable of two things, in particular. Being able to hold for a serviceable time such feelings as the one described here, of separation; then, being able to allow these feelings words.

So, the rhythm, and the lyric. No less vital, no less susceptible to the color and nuances of the times.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Form, Birth, and the Force of the New

I am too conscious, these last few days, of having died to myself. I say too conscious, because it is painful, depressing. It has led to conflict. It does not lead to a way out.

I say having died to myself, as I died to my former self at baptism.

So, when I take up an issue or desire or concern of my former self, it is almost like reaching into a grave, my own grave, to rifle through the belongings of a former life, to hold out some item for a keepsake, or to advance its worth.

What am I, that I should choose to be new, and yet hope that the past would be new too?

All is God's. All is the Lord's. This the contract to which I did not merely promise myself, but to which I signed my soul, and my life as I live it. This line of thought may sound strictly personal, but I promise that there is a strong formal element.

Writing poetry is a form of covenant, or so it strikes me. In our youth, we try our hand, we express ourselves - or we vehicularize our tendencies - in the form of poetry. Later, we may establish such work as we can take out into the world and champion.

Then, as we grow older, we find that the work and ourselves have become one and the same thing. The tendency to write is almost exactly identical to the writing. The tendency has become an iteration of "I."

Now, here is the strange part. Even as I have died to my former self, I have not died to poetry, or to the poems I wrote or who I had become having written those poems. Somehow, that element, perhaps a core element - who knows? - of myself carried over. Why is this?

My new self says, it is the will of God. My old self would have agreed, but I don't pay him much attention these days - or, at least shouldn't. My new life has not changed the color of my eyes, either, I suppose. Though they have always been more blue or gray, depending on light or context.

It would be interesting when one died to be presented with a vision of all the things one touched but never really understood. I imagine something like the closing scene in the first Indiana Jones movie. Crate after crate, piled high, aisle after aisle, some tired figure pushing on a trolley the Ark of the Covenant.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Form Parenthetical or Moderne Complaint

Form as parenthetical, or capture, versus form as complaint.

The world, or what I see of it at a given point in time, presents. Perceiving, I arrive or am impressed by shape or outline. Am I, as a citizen, advanced or receding?

Form, proposed. A poem in form, or, more likely, a form as poem. Am I guilty or representative?

Fire formed to burn, writer turned toward form. But really, we are not turned. We incline that way, toward form and formalities, as a painter reaches for a blank canvas, or a musician writes on sheets scored for musical notes.

The page, the blank screen, presents. Journeying, she listed eyes to perceive Windows 8. A bird alit and mumbled in sharp tones.  All kinds of light fell away like children falling asleep.

I will die, and in this time I am presented with the sight of a street, a bit of sky. These many hours until dinner. This to do today. Form.

In a kind of work like stacking barrels, or setting a schedule for trains and their cargo in a vast sort of crossing - younger, I would have called it confusion - but this is the library of new works, some re-presented, captured, falteringly. A grasshopper's leap serves the words of a master. She combs her hair. She lays down the comb. She sips some water.

I am not her. I am watching her.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Form & Love for Schmear

Form, like trust, is a kind of principle. Like love. The incitement or engagement of the word or term begs use of the term "contract." Our intelligence is amazing though and can intercept this contract at various points, before, during, or after one or another's signatures are applied.

Love, the principle, is taken to be a kind of season of agreement, or the sound that accompanies agreement, or the principle that gives voice to oneness. Like form.

But I do not write in form because it is true, and I do not love because it is true.

I love because I was made to love. To not love would be to deny why I was made. Not its truth, but its being.

I write and speak to form because I am one among many, all who have fallen, fall, and will fall, even as day returns and makes young men and women want to write and fuck.

I am not young, but even as I disappear I am very happy at all the love and form that surrounds me. It does not occur to me to take credit for anything I have done, except to say Yes to all of it, to the whole schmear.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Working Poem & Principles, too

Ah. I'm into a longer poem right now. Quatrains that run in and out of present concerns, all over the map, but image/association based, touching at faith. A poem.

How would you like to define what the term "faith" defines for poets? I can't imagine a definition anything under book-length. I know poets whose faith in language, sound, form, shape, science, relevance in terms of politics, race, economic, or historical considerations - and elements of these, combined and recombined- is dynamic, active, secure.

Of course, the best definitions are in fact active, dynamic ones. To state, in language that is clear and true, what is occurring, not merely what has occurred. We tend to apply definitions to others, don't we, not so much to ourselves. I have found it a relief and even a help to state what my work is. I am a concrete formalist. And, as I have stated elsewhere, imagine my pleasure that others have contributed to the effort under that rubric with clearly visual forms. I am happy to concede control over definitions, especially such as apply to me or my work.

It is all a tremendous soup, isn't it? I wonder at critics or poets who bother themselves (and others) with arguing over terms and definitions. To me, who accepts that the wind blows, yes, it is curious to argue that it blows this way or that. For, surely, it blows as the wind blows.

But people want to establish a place, build a reputation. I do not discount or seek to undermine such propensities. We are - first principle - fragile and fleeting. Who among is entitled to criticize such tendencies, borne as they are of intrinsic needs?

Even so, or, in this context, I offer an approach of self-definition, with or against oneself or others might rally or react. A nice hard, vertical plane. Maybe a pill, or an ointment. A self, put to a thing, for anyone's pleasure or displeasure. A record of reactions conformed to a principle to forward, delete, amend.

But this is all wishful thinking, really. All of my writing - poems, books, blogs - is a kind of aspiration. I write as if to be read, but I have no guarantee or confidence of being read. This makes me laugh, at myself. All this work. Hah! What would I complain about? If you are a write then you know what it means simply to write, to write for the possibility of being read. To make one's word available. Well, for me, that's what I have. It must be made to be good enough, or is good enough. Frankly, I can't tell the difference from where I sit.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

American Swimming Pools

Those dry, stumbling passages. Bad sleep. Numbing doubt. Carrying on. Inevitably, a spark. In this case, an acquaintance's poems posted to general acclaim reminds me that, for me, me, the only thing worse than obscurity and failure would be to write a successful poem.

I mean the kind of poem that people react to with cheers. The kind of poem poets write that make others say, That's good writing. Wow. So raw, alive, and true. And brave. And (therefore) how brave the poet, etc., etc. That American dream.

No, that is not my job. Even while I applaud these effects in others, it is not what I signed up for, nor what I have followed through on. So, when I doubt myself I am really just looking at myself with a stranger's eyes. That seems stupid, doesn't it. Well, it is, but I guess it's part of some kind of self-critical process - a purging element. Some purge. Like as if there's any kind of swing component! I'm like a guy showing up day after day at an empty swimming pool because he hates crowds.

Well, fine. I do enough crowd-pleasing elsewhere in my life so here's the balance, the foil, the doubt that puts borders to the form. I say that like it's a plan. Goodness, I've been like this as long as I can remember.

I think my next book will be titled "what genius" - no exclamation point or ellipsis to help solidify the irony. I do after all incline to the what of what; and I do somewhat doubt the who of genius. And, as I often remind myself, I am not a genius. Oh my, am I not. Though I like to tell others that I am, or at least brilliant. I had a good exchange recently with my wife, Endi, who possesses a kind of genius, I am sure (and have been for many years), where I called her brilliant in an email to someone, I forget who. She thanked me, and I responded, No problem. As a genius, I can say such things. I will confess, that in that context, I meant every word.

So, you see, I would rather be a clear and obvious fool than a middling success. I abhor what merely satisfies, except in strictly corporeal matters. I loathe merely good poems, sensible politics, and balanced religions.

If I never write a good poem, you can be sure it was my fault.

But to be fair. I have several friends who, like Endi, are brilliant and successful as poets. I envy them, I adore them, I respect them. If I was able to do what they do, I might do it. They write brilliantly - but HELLO they do not write the sort of Hurray for Poetry/Poet poem I referenced at the start of this posting. No, their work is engaged, complex, thoughtful, insightful, relevant, and most of all it balances itself in a life that is likewise engaged.

I say, I might do it. But let's stay honest here. I would never do but what I do, as I do it. I am somewhat hopeless that way. It's a lovely, empty swimming pool, and if it ever fills you can be sure I will find an excuse to drain it or die trying.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Theory, of Age; Proto-gyrations in the Key of Whom

If we would agree that the passage of time presents itself as equal-in-weight to the proto-gyrations of thought, we might get somewhere. Ever more I lose faith in thought, in the from-here-to-there. Which is not say that I have lost faith in thinking. Thinking is thought in time and therefore - doubles - its value. Thought is thinking have thought itself out. Thinking may or may not lead to thought.

What could be clearer?

As a boy of 20 or so (20. Ha! What the heck is 20?) I read a good deal of philosophy. That is, what energy I did not expend on sex, drinking, music, and various angers and/or allowances, I allotted to works of literature. We are all alike in this. And also in this, that from out of youth, while I altered this or that behavior, I retained a tendency to view "serious" reading (or study. study. study.) of philosophy as something somehow inviolate; in this realm of serious work my impressions at 20 sufficed for decades. Well yes they were reinforced in my 30's at U. Penn by the deconstructionists, etc. But, not just "serious" philosophy, but anything one might hope to be taken seriously was to be read....seriously.

What a canard! You know, I will not even look up "canard" - I am positive that I have that usage right.

But this is the point. I am now reading St. Augustine's Confessions (Augustine of Hippo, as I recall, to all the non-Catholics out there), and I am content to read as I am, as who I am reading. I am confident that I can read, picking my way through the garden. I get somewhere, to be sure. I am not lost. I am under no threat. I am not failing. I am reading.

So, to form.

I returned to addressing issues of form in this blog outright a couple months ago, and since then - having agreed with myself to make that address - I can see that I have relaxed my interior rules of address.

No, that's not quite it.

Form, being everywhere, is here. Here, as I sit in the North Bar (I love the North Bar) writing, or at home editing (I love our house!). It is in the social, the political, as it is thought, argued, loved and lived. I have no purpose in reversing this plain emotive-geographic fact. I can't establish rules. I have no rules to establish. I do not have the authority. To be plain I have no authority, period, but that's for another blog. I am administrator to a Facebook Group for Concrete Formalist Poetry, where numerous individuals post visual/poetic images, and so, that is what is happening there, and I am grateful for it, and I love it - and, I get it, as far as I get anything.

I am like you. I try to do the right thing. That's all it is. Am I helping in some way by providing a page that serves for others to do what they see as the right thing? If I am, I am very fortunate, not because of the seriousness of my process or procedures, but because of what others feel free to make of it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Form and the Hoodie - for Trayvon Martin

I do not perceive form as outward or inward; it is neither backward nor forward. I perceive form politically, as occurring alongside more apparent ethical choices, though it partakes of other flavors, philosophical, of which aesthetics is only a component part.

I have made a point of saying "form" not to enact for, or set it apart, but to acknowledge the middle of things. New forms come into being, or crystallize, assuming a meaning that in itself testifies to the ethics of forms and formalism. I am thinking just now of Trayvon Martin's hoodie. This garment became a device employed in empathetic identification, and now seems to have assumed the vestige of the tombstone. So very sad. I have felt myself speechless for a couple days now, and almost wished I would remain so.

I wish I could bring the form of Trayvon Martin to life, for all the forms I indulge in are nothing, really. I am alone with what I do while sharing points of contact, occasionally overlapping, for a time, with others.

It is a sad thing. This effort, the words, the time - then the sudden death of a young black man.

Forms can be made "symbols," yes. I see that I have resisted the term "symbol" in my postings. It's too neat and compact and seems to me to assume too much on the part of the symbol-namer and the symbol-reader. Such critical or literary terms are largely dead to me - they assume utter complicity. They imply a terminology that is not merely shared, but exclusive. Symbolism takes meaning and makes of itself a "form" to be exchanged, or held in lieu of greater, more exclusive outcomes.

I do not mean to be unfair or "exclusive" in terms of the history of symbolism, which is rich and remarkable. I have no argument with what the plow has done. ;-)

But, what about Trayvon. I pray for his peace, for his glory. I throw my heart there. This may be the form of a man beholden to the Word in his life, this I freely confess, allowing all possible shortcomings. But it is not a symbol of anything I can identify.

I do not pray for the peace of all in this matter. Oh no, quite the opposite. There is work to do. And in work perhaps is where symbols fail utterly. These vaguely transparent brittle globes. There is no place for such that shatters as the merest political implication in the work of this world.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Work of the Day, While of the Day

You are trying and striving, working and failing, scraping by, until you feel dead inside and are all but willing to say you are done unless you work it out, then you work it out - a bolt from the blue, some say - but it's really just logical, or at least it's a result. It has happened hundreds of times you can be sure.

This is how it always happens.

And every time the near death is real. Like a walking shell, taking care of business but clueless. You want to stay home, fuck work. Just sleep. Screw that. Hours go by, you put yourself right, somehow. That circumstance or set-up. Then the leap, which after all is just progression, or a bit of mental-solar accounting adding up.

Tell me, what literary theory accounts for that? None that I know of. So we are left with this and religion, or just this and us.

I like the religion add-on, because I recognize that I don't make sense in a way I can fully account for or depend on, or explain in a form that would prompt replication of the experiment or effect. I have so little to say for something matter so much to me that would help or prompt a meaningful reply.

All too common, this dithering. The white coat and fresh-cleaned test tubes. Charts. Autumn light, lite. I can hardly explain the last few weeks, let alone a life. So here's the loose outline style.

Try to write poems. Fail.

Write religious poems. Fail.

Get idea about Open Catholic as a means of relating the dual/hinged accountability of self-identification and granting all others their identity. Idea about publishing religious books/poems/literatures under Open Catholic.

....dying inside...

Writing today this prayerful text, with no mention of prayer, God, Lord, light, hands, etc., etc. -
blue fall rain
stay desk rain
tops fall blue
then stay when
wind stop rain
come leap that
this hold near
lean into then
leaf stil glas
send iron send
come stay that
said iron blue
and this contemplative text -
The ironic one, I lost his number,
a shuffling of clogs, taxi signals
before we could adjust - which has
nothing to do with work. Look, I’m
on a tight schedule. Language is a
record of the liquid setting. This
can be forced. Versus this sort of
“narrative” or “facts” we want, or
we make the appropriate noises. So
it’s contract day. I love how they
just kind of drop by with the look
the eyes like coins of the vending
machine of love. You do this again

So, this is what I have needed to do. It is new as being written in the mind of the Open Catholic project, which, clearly should not be merely conventional "Christian" writing, though I can see opportunities to usurp myself and include my own rosary texts and ideas, and drawings, whether one thing or another, etc.

It's funny is what it is. I went outside for a cigarette (I almost always write in quiet little bars, this one being the North Bar on Division, near home) and thought, well, Lord, you had this all figured out, didn't you.
But this is not a religious blog. It is a blog firmly dedicated to concrete formalism, or form as realized in the visual, in what is present; or the concretion of procedure. One does not animate or serve language or the reader with abstract terms in one's attempt to provide principal or at least secondary materials. I am religious and so blame God; if I am religious poorly, blame me.
I am interested of late in the form of social occurrences. Ugh. That there is a lot to unload there. I mean, at the practical end of the spectrum, that how our actions or procedures can be represented or replicated; and at the more abstract end, how it is that one can make something occur, and the representations that are available to oneself in these acts.
And, so, this is not a religious blog. But let me say, that the process, if that is what it is, that I alluded to in opening this post, has been in place in my experience for a long, long time. As far back as I can recall since I began functioning creatively, so that would be over thirty years now. Yes, and perhaps it is simply a matter of the course of inclinations following the formal logic of effective outcomes, but my understanding has changed, or clarified. I knew all along of course that clarity was not only mine to be grateful for, that something more mattered. If I have a name or title to whom I address my gratitude, or amusement, or humility, is that such a bad thing?
This is not a religious blog, and only marginally a poetry or theory blog. What is the recurrent notion, underwritten?
We cannot afford not to fail; we cannot afford not to succeed, gloriously.
Okay. Maybe it is a religious blog. Maybe all art is at its base coined from a religious (or at least faith-driven) mentality. Ode to Rimbaud, etc.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Of Form, an Appearance

For Jackson and Endi

That form is a choice, dropping in or out. Taking up, or leaving to one side. Saying, form.

A river - the water on-rushing, the banks, what drifts, what stays.

Even as I know what was never a choice, I am left to choose; I am tasked with choice. Call it capital, the current, transparent mode (I am I) - say, Form. Or, can I afford, perhaps by a radical transference of non-conforming currency, to confess, I am in form, as form is in me?

There was a man, what we would call a pioneer, who left his village, his parents, his friends, to venture into the woods to build a house. He took with him an axe, a hammer, a saw, and such supplies as he believed would allow him to build a house.

He built a house from what he found, logs planed to fit, a roof to keep out the rain. He completed his house, and, having cooked a meal, he took his rest.

He woke the next day to a ceiling of leaves and blue sky. The woods were complete; quiet, and complete. And so the man raised himself and, taking up his tools, built another house.

Of form, an appearance. The echo that precedes the voice calling out.

One who writes about form is like a messenger for the news of what's available to anyone - just look outside. The weather of now, the movements of friends and neighbors.

No one waits for form, and form will not surprise you except to say, Form.

Here is a shape - a sphere, a cloud, a letter. But there is work to be done, issues to be resolved, relationships to negotiate. Yes, yes, indeed.

Here is a shape, a form.

Monday, June 17, 2013

I Spy a Piece of Pie

This latest effort is one of the strangest in terms of process. I do not have much to show for a few months' work. It started with single block poems, and now I am working on what appears to be something longer at 4 x 3-line free verse strophes per page, tending toward 15 - 20 pages in all I suppose.

That's the physical end of the equation, and perhaps only odd. Stranger is the feeling that I am writing these poems in an air of regardlessness. They seem very oblique, to posit themselves in a context otherwise lacking for perspective even as they shy away from each other. There is little in the way of drive.

The poems are not tired poems, but they seem to me not to be concerned if they were tired poems.

I think I have some idea of what is going on, but I am not sure how I feel about. it. This manuscript aims to be my 24th book. And, with each passing publication, even as I am more confident or sure that the way I chose was right for me, I am more fully aware and conscious of what I lack, and always will: audience, and respect. Only now, I am more inclined to face the uncomfortable truths of my choices and the way I write and publish. Not to put it aside and write but to write fully within that knowledge.

I may be treading on worthless properties or valuable real estate. I can't decide. What do I offer the reader, writing in full knowledge that when I die I will be forgotten? Or, put more accurately, that I have never been known? And therefore, logically, who is the reader of the unread? One's spouse, a few friends, and God, I suppose. Oneself. One's conscience. I, my wife, my friends, we will all die within a matter of years, leaving only God. And God, I suspect, does not care about my writings so much as about how I feel and act as a self and toward others within the fact of writing.

Writing poorly is of course a betrayal of one's self and others insofar as you waste people's time or annoy or depress them. My friends think I write well, and some wonder why I don't make more of an effort to publish my work more widely. Some things have worked out for me, and some things have not. I expect that life will continue in like manner. These books certainly help to pull things together in interesting ways. For one thing, they allow me to assume a point of observation. That too is a point of reference for the issue of form, that it suggests perspective as an inducement toward understanding and, over time, perhaps toward truth.

But now, or just now, anyway, I am not inclined to see perspectives and truths for being inexorable or ultimate or logical or even timely. Perhaps I am searching for some gift in this process I have adopted, something I could call my own that is denied others who are taken up with more present, vital trappings. Something to show for the time and effort of writing. What would that be? Perhaps serenity - to write despite myself, to do so willingly, even happily. To take as little interest as is required to put the words on paper and to see what that leads to (or away from). If my work will not be read, known, discussed, and respected, perhaps it will serve as emblematic or cautionary - of peace of mind or utter loss. Or, perhaps this is all a matter of effect, an excited, erratic beating of wings. It is to the purpose - is it not? - not to have done something that is expressly not to the purpose?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Visual Art, Formally Concrete, Poetry and the Ethical

I can hardly express my surprise and delight at the work posted to the FaceBook Concrete Formalist Poetry site lately. Or, I can, but I am unaccustomed to feelings of surprise and delight in the poetic/visual arts arena, or such as feel personal to me. So I will say, simply, thank you all, friends, for your informed, diverse, technically adept, visually arresting work. It inspires me to re-form my definitions or profile for this site, which reflects my initial long-incubating, hard-won formulation.

From a site dedicated to "poetry with a strong visual element," we now have "visual poetry with a strong formal element" - but formal, here, in terms of the visual, is conditioned by language. Or, as I see it, by notions of vocabulary. I see a lot of this work lately, strong, diverse visual work that shows the conditions and evidence of vocabulary formation and "language" (perhaps poetry. why not). Some hallmarks include the outlines of asemic (or Language/Visual) practices, such as the deconstruction of words, letters, numbers, and punctuation, to produce a strong visual effect. Other practices are evident. I hardly can name them all or even need to, I think.

I find this work inspiring in many way. I believe that it is work that informs and accelerates ones personal or artistic or poetic view of the world, in all its social and ethical (and artistic) multiplicity. I posted a photo the other day of children in a park, sparked by the arrangement of bodies, the range of expressions: it seemed to me to be a kind of asemic photograph. An image where the play and relationship of formalities was cogently, passionately evident. And I find myself inclined toward almost perceiving such arrangements all around me. Almost, because the impressions are so very fleeting. And saying me, I mean us; or, this work everywhere if we only are capable of viewing it as such.

We find ourselves involved so much lately, these past several years, certainly, with questions and issues of a largely social and ethical nature, while form and formations play out, with meaning. Some are more apparent as forms than others. Some require the artist or photographer's efforts in rendering a piece of art that freezes the moment in order for us to see it.

What does all this mean?

For one thing, I am interested in what it might mean, that artists are producing their own vocabularies, or building vocabularies. I won't say a "personal" vocabulary, because nothing could be further from the truth of the evidence I have seen. But, clearly, in lieu of notional, direct, immediate and "unique" pictorial events, or such statements as we are accustomed to, that proffer explanations of purpose or intent that accompany such work, this work is suggest both signature and purpose. It is intensely ethical in its grounding in or acceptance of time: that these pieces are not isolated. We have a perfect synthesis of agent and opportunity in the medium of FaceBook. In base terms, I never know what's next with these folks, though I feel sure it will build upon or relate immediately  to, in some formally, alphabetical manner, what has come before.

More broadly speaking, philosophically/ethically, to see more, is to make oneself available to know more, and to be better, as an artist, poet, human being, in the midst of all this work. I am interested at what is done; I am concerned for those who do it. Art is not an inanimate deposit, the shell of the egg, the falling leaf. Merely (even if purportedly) allusive. All this stuff matters because we matter. No further explanation is necessary except to note, that this time will go on. There is no turning back from knowing what is common, key to all.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Manuscript like a Lock

More tired of me than of you, but not merely tired. Not entirely pleased, and the poems show that. A bit defiant, maybe, but not bravely or outwardly defiant. Somewhat stuttering, falling short of a clean statement.

To what end. Does the leopard slug regret its trail of slime? Does the aluminum can questions its place on the virgin strand? As long as I abide my social contracts I am clear to grumble.

This work is no less apparent than any one thing is to itself, but is that art. And do I have the energy to laugh. Do I have any reserves of self-doubt - any such potential - that would allow me to say, for instance, into the breach. Or am I walking the cells of ungracious fact, rattling the iron bars with the oaken stick of the patently received, the pliantly obvious.

The incarnate, fainting from being.

I cannot appeal to logic. I have no music. I am too kind to simply stop or outwardly arrest the general progress, the trooping effect. You know what I mean, how time + practice = monuments. I do not have a French sponsor.

I might say my days are cards dealt in this or that combination, but no, they are days like cards are cards. I can imagine a hand of poker in a party van parked by Multnomah falls. We are killing time awaiting darkness or money. Someone needs to get to work on Monday or he's fucked. So just deal the cards, switch the station, let's go for a walk when no one's around.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

After the Lecture

It is beyond my reasoning and sensibility how a person in this place and time can stand before a crowd of like-minded individuals and say nothing and call it good.

There is a brand of literary blather that seeks nothing more than to justify its own existence by branding its progenitor as special and unique. By extension, the author's listeners are included. The enemy is Out There, that fellow hurrying home to his wife and kids - he does not get Celan.

What we have are individuals who lift themselves by pushing down others. The formula is perfect, untouched for decades, whereby one ululates over the profundities of a given author, offering to the masses one's pleas for self-minded comprehension. The high priest effect. We apparently have not tired of it. Why? Because people like US, the listeners and readers, are always INCLUDED in the elect. WE understand the author, the subject of the progenitor's special prayers. We are okay. It's the OTHERS who must be made to suffer, who are the cause of all this, whose callous disregard for the special circumstances of the subject-author's compositions has prompted all this hand-wringing. We are here after all for THEM, and if not them, then for their children.

I see this, and I wonder. How is it that such self-serving, bludgeoning efforts can go without question or doubt? How do we then turn around to point an accusing finger at the Bank of America, or the Congress, or Monsanto, when the high priests of our own tribe are so blatantly, offensively, emotionally and intellectually oppressive? If I soil and sully an idea, am I not worse then one who merely takes money and makes more from it? But make no mistake. Our lecturer is doing very well. We all admire them. The publications, the awards, the hermetic lifestyle.

What Amurica needs isn't everyone reading everyone's poems. It needs fairness. Let's turn our eyes toward ourselves - just a thought - and consider our assumptions and what we are willing to guarantee to others. At the lecture I attended last night, I found myself wishing one wish, that my presumed output never be employed to sponsor such efforts at self-justification at the expense of others. Elitism. It's a flavor that has not worn out on the tongue of the supposed smart and dainty.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Face Work

There are forms I cannot see. Agreements and truces. Established law. I am like a match, lit, extinguished.

A dinosaural futility. Coming into being, walking and wavering. A sigh. Showing up. Backing up. The announcement and disappearance. Human shell.

Who is the name? This is electronic. Passing and words for passing. Passing and a name. A name.

Humor, timing. A pile of rocks, some of them with personality. I am alive. The world. Darkness and light.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tending to Concrete Formalism - Revisiting Premise

Some visiting of definitions or set-up. Premise.

This is not a blog of form or formalism per se. It is supported by a notion or two arriving through an understanding of forms manifested in concrete, or visually cued terms. Not all forms manifest an outward visual sign or cue, but some do. Quite a few, and it seems to me that, my work aside, there is a lot of work being done that carries significant interest in form as realized in or signifying the visual.

Against this composite is work that offers itself as one-of-a-kind, or singular. Either realized and posited as unique, or random and non-reproducible. On the other hand, I admit to being formally inclined as a poet, painter, and as a person. I like to see an artist sit in a form and see what they do with it. I have been heavily impressed by such as the sonnet form (Shakespeare and Petrarch) and the odes of Horace and Keats; the paintings (or are they writings...) of Pollack. But even Corot revisiting his mist-bound woods, or Scalapino touching again and again with deictic terms.... So I found double acrostics then moved to the block form. I am there still, occasionally drawing, occasionally splitting my lines out.

I like the formal then what is not formal for the sake of why we employ form, or what it says about us. I like - I appreciate - an artist who is willing to face the camera. "This is an ode." Let the experience, the comparisons,  the doubts and/or deliverance commence.

I have never thought to try to be comprehensive, or strictly unique, or indispensable. It doesn't concern musicians - I'm thinking of George Coleman now - who may render their most beautiful music on some given night, lost all but to the impressions it created. Why should it concern me, if I am true to the effort?

So, form insofar as recognition forms a part; concrete inasmuch as there is the coloring of series. That series must end, humility. I love the epic poem, of course (one on block verse even better) - for the human effort to realize over time and suspend the inevitable, the end. But, to pick up the instrument again - pen, computer, brush. This is what I hope concrete formalism implies in effect if not immediately to the reader's mind.

So, what's new? What's been happening with me?

Well, it's not like I make myself write or paint or draw, one way or another. Work occurs in the usual way. I certainly dwell or inhabit the block form, perhaps because I feel ownership, or a mission in it. Getting the block form to function as I wanted it to as, as poems, took a couple years. That was an honorable apprenticeship following years of working in other forms and free verse. I hope I have shown range in the block form. I would love to believe that my work in the form exhibits more range than any other's work in the form. I say that to be honest and to make a point about form - concrete and otherwise. Though, the reasoning, the justification, should be self-evident. No one asks of a tree its reason to be. So a poem, a drawing, lines, color, shape. A gesture, a kind word. If received, is complete.

My comprehension in this manner has informed an evolving approach to publication. A few years ago I decided to publish my work myself via The books, and there are now 23 of them, have always carried a drawing on the cover but have since dropped such conventions as the table of contents and poem titles. Again, one need not know the species of a tree to recognize a particular tree's existence. So, I am in control, which is the least of my concerns. It is only just, given my reach in the professional sphere, which is ostensibly naught, except for the kind attentions of close friends.

What do I gain in publishing the way I do? Every book is a strictly private endeavor. It can be public (it is certainly informed by what is public) but on a case-by-case basis. Before adopting this practice, this strategy, I spent years seeking publication in the usual way. I assume you know what I mean. Then, in 2008, with eight (or was it twelve?) realized manuscripts in hand, I simply stopped writing as I could not support continuing to write with so much unpublished work. I did get back into cycling in a big way, I must say! But the frustration was, in fact, insupportable. I bought a laptop. I discovered I set up this blog and a parallel Facebook group.

I may never be known or famous. But my work is...out there. Somewhere. Here or there. If only under an ISBN number. For the fact of whoever reads what I have done, here or in books, I have done my work, in a newish manner perhaps, but in a very traditional sense, after all. One that anyone should recognize and accept. I won't say admire. I have no perspective on what's memorable in anything I do, or in who I am, except as my friends and family are happy.

In that, I am happy.

Friday, April 12, 2013

After One and the Work in Time

Things are quiet. I ask myself if I wander too much from the purpose of this blog, bound to concrete formalism. Then I look through and see the themes align. So I blog form blogging about other things besides.

Less bombast, less confidence. More located, more certain. The address, courtship, marriage. Where do I begin? What are my choices?

The current work promises a quiet range of pretty neutral colors. So, what is done is not so much a matter of ambition for what could happen with what is done. There is victory in breath. This seems very old to me or perhaps fresh. I write for fresh, but what this is to the reader I cannot say.

No race, or announcement. No sound of the starting pistol, a cry in a crowded theater. I consider myself both a slave and an heir to a kingdom, an ontology and more than that, not of my making. Imagine a word in a dictionary, self-conscious. Something like that. For instance, walking here this evening, a plastic shopping bag blew before me onto a sidewalk a man was cleaning with a blower. Just what he needs, I thought. Then the bag being buffeted down the middle of the street in front of me by passing cars. You are like me, I thought, then dismissed that thought. Just now, going out for a bit, I saw the bag at the door. Ha. Perfect. A sign.

You know, this isn't too bad, is it? A man getting older, a formalist when all is said and done, goes quieter. Certainly I do not berate others for their choices, formal or no. Well, not too much I hope. Perhaps to amuse myself or my wife. To play the part. All in good fun. In short, I have no active complaints.

A calliope. A battering of chimes. Noise in the wind. One noise, where the wind stirs others; or no wind, no noise. Eyes, ears, and opportunity. Slave and brother.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

HOW to Write & be (except) not SUCCESSful

Hmm. Writing poems, or watching oneself write poems is, in my experience, an exercise in continually not so much writing or whatever one might write, but noting what one sees in oneself writing. I can hardly grant it the title of "process." I mean, I have started something new for which I thought, well, this might be something for which I could seek normative publishing, etc.

This was a fine, novel, sensible, adorable idea. Turning then a day or two later to actually writing, and I could do nothing until I thought in terms exactly opposite to any that might appeal to anyone. That is, I sensed a palpable thrust away from what any sensible person would consider as reasonable. I really do hate, hate, hate success in writing. I do not trust it. I do not feel it. I do not like it. I admire it in others, this is true. It is true even at this moment. I admire it in others more now than ever in my life. To publish a "real" book, to be reviewed, respected. I would like this. But for some more purposeful reason or cause, such a purpose is a non-starter. I cannot write with any desire to be admired, enjoyed, respected, or remembered. I cannot be annoying even to be successful or enjoyed. I will write whatever I can to avoid exactly any success. I will write this:

I had a cat named red carnation
whoz paws were white as hemlock
blossoms. Every day I am  a bit
fallen apart so in and out. The
temple stood despite the clouds
and the fire, then it fell like
a solitary hemlock petal. You &
I are making good time and over
the hill seas. Stay speaking my
heart says stay says Peter stay
this will be short work fr once
This poem, as I understand that term, is a perfect map of critical failure on multiple levels. It is what I live for. To express oneself in art as falling off a cliff, over and over again, only to brush oneself off, ascend the purported heights of poesie, and do it again. That is no mean task! Rudeness is easy. No, the art is in not advertising one's purpose and yet, coming clear. And so the trailings or detritus (symptoms) of sense infiltrate and abide. Like light. Campfire and the scent of magnolia. Hah!
Perhaps I do too much to please otherwise in my life? But, no. I have always been like this, blah blah. I love writing these poems. I love writing them and sharing them and publishing decent coherent books that few read, though those that do are my dearest friends, including my wonderful wife, Endi.
One more notion. I actually think everyone who knows my work to whatever degree pretty much understands all this about me and my writing, in more or fewer or different words, of course. That is, I resist the notion that I am some kind of  gatekeeper to the Secret of Me.  No. No no no. No no no, not at all. No.
I will say, this is the tempo. Everything else is color.

Monday, April 1, 2013

How to Play on Deck

In retrospect it all makes sense. Of course. It is almost always a surprise how these MSS come together and this one is too.

I assembled all new work and all un[self]published poems, going back a couple years or more. Waiting for the right time I put together a 70-odd page MS. It will be titled "How to Play." My 23rd MS.

But really this is a weird one. It has loose range and/ or focus. There is some ironing out to do with some lines but the arrangement is very close. It allows me to burn the stuff that was in abeyance knowing it will not go anywhere, so, my desk will be clean. Surprisingly clean.

So odd. I was lost and now I am clear. I do not have theories. Except that it's interesting in that my focus is writing in a particular form, publishing what I write...and that is all. I mean, the process seems to revolve on  those twin axes with only whispering interference from other considerations. If two axes, really. Poetic form is a kind of form or procedure as is publishing, self or otherwise - as I suppose are the other considerations of which I am mainly exempt.

But like I said, there is ironing out to do, and the cover art, which should be a snap as usual. After that, who knows. I certainly do not. I am older than I was. I should know more, and maybe I do. Not that I am eager to remember myself as I am now or will be. So, the MSS surprise me. This is not a complaint. It is a shoulder shrug and an open question.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

This Entry, not the Other

I can see that the 8 1/2 x 11 staple-bound format of the last book "not unlike" is not right and has been bothering me, preoccupying me, a misalignment wearing away at a tender spot. The dilemma is technical - 24 pages, where the printer requires 32 pages for perfect bound. So I will knock out 8 b/w drawings to intersperse among the text and issue a revision. I can see that fit.

I also have all recent writing and all older unpublished writing printed out. I hope to be able to assemble this into the beginning of a book at least, something I can write toward to complete and publish soon.

I hope to do all this and start on something fresh.

I am amazed at the depths of my dumbfoundedness at this technical glitch with "not unlike." I have been inwardly upset, insecure, unsure of myself, my writing - it has been eating away at me - as if I had committed some terrible crime. It's a self-published book, for goodness' sake. Well, it just shows you that where the margins are thin the room for error is virtually non-existent. If I say I have relatively complete control over this product (I have said that, and I do) - insofar as one has control over what one does - then I pay the price for incomplete or incorrect optings.

I will forgive myself these 40-off days of self-imposed misery. I will shrug off the sense that I am serving as the foil for some sort of cosmic joke on myself.

I will myself a happy Easter.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Blue when he says Form, and Form for Blue

Form appears to promote form, even formalism. This would be consistent with other experiences. Or form appears in lieu of other possible responses.

Mere form. Responsible form. Answering form. Solution form.

Can form solve anything? Well, it is a solving, a solution to a question. The pillar supports the roof. The roof secures the house. The house answers other houses in being a house, whereas a non-house might not answer. Or, it might. We need details.

Form is being, though the reverse is not necessarily true. Being is coming into, in, or falling away from form. Why do I write in form? I write in form to concede that reference point as a favor to the reader, and to give myself the option of coming into, being, or falling away. Do I believe in form? I believe in being (coming into, being in, falling away, re-forming, etc.).

I find that my mind and feelings move independently of opportunity or clear suggestions for profit or improvement. I am not a daisy, but I can relate. I am not the color blue, but I can see the point or points of blue, coming into, being in, and falling away.

One might think form = thought, but my poems are only sometimes thoughtful. I make a point of that. I have seen poets employ the block/box form to posit instances or expositions of the form of thoughtfulness. This is a common employment. I have done that, and I have done otherwise.

I do not believe that poetry is a reliable venue for thought. It is very reliable for the experience of thought, or the relation of a person in thought, or the spectacle of what thought might declare for itself independent (or successive to, sometimes amidst) the thought experience.

I am a classicist. I would know my tools and the land I work - my neighbors and the seasons; and I hope I attend to my family and their needs. I would live well and die well, with honor, leaving things better than they were or had I not been.

I am very out of touch, so I have on hand as a phantom business card this classic apology, that I do my best with what I know and understand. I examine my motives. I correct and fail and re-correct. I seek, arrive (perhaps) and am lost. I try again.

I have given up in many respects on my writing being interesting or useful. Perhaps this is my service, not to be relevant, or a threat to others, or a problem beyond being lost.

So, I do this, but I am not dependable for anything here, not really. It could change utterly, I suppose, or disappear. If it is useful, well, that's great. But the credit would go to whomever can make use of it. I am merely following the course of the logic I am capable of and my personal experience.

I am not a daisy, or the color blue. I am not even close.