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.

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