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.