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.