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.