Mull and Muldoon

A lot of days of writing what I don't like. As Nick says, it is often a poem speaks to you.

It is almost better to read and write by long turns rather than flipping to and fro, being continually caught back by how good others are. Inhibiting that. Or to read what doesn't catch at all, a tiring sort of channel flipping from poem to poem, feeling there must be something that would resonate soon. Something I can hear and feel and which is well-rendered. It feels like playing the slot machines sometime. I just want a hit. Something ahead to rest in. Whether written or read.

Huerta might be my fav find so far from the Poetic Asides Challenges.

I think my newest favorite poem is from Paul Muldoon Poems 1968 - 1998.

Wind and Tree

In the way that the most of the wind
Happens where there are trees,

Most of the world is centred
About ourselves.

Often where the wind has gathered
The trees together and together,

One tree will take
Another in her arms and hold.

Their branches that are grinding
Madly together and together,

It is no real fire.
They are breaking each other.

Often I think I should be like
The single tree, going nowhere,

Since my own one arm could not and would not
Break the other. Yet by my broken bones

I tell new weather.

Each phrase placed sensitively, it extends and extends and still works. It is so literally and figuratively accurate. The end stopped lines or enjambed corral pace. It bears reading and rereading and forces itself to tongue, not content to stay on page.

Draw Inspiration where you may

Poetic Aside daily challenges can be broad (a memory, an animal), but then, it's never the idea that's valuable or unique, it's the implementation. The official NaPoWriMo (National Poem Writing Month) prompts for the U.S. are also rather open ended (write about paradise, or nicknames) but Joanne Merriam is setting a different bent with the lists she's running. Her normal blogging practice is to pull out quotes from books daily, but now she's posting links to poems to inspire a response, such as “Political Meeting” by A. M. Klein to “The Language” by Robert Creeley and “They are hostile nations” by Margaret Atwood. I'm a sucker for specificity.

currently reading: road trip books

Narrow Road to the Interior (Shambala, 1991) of Matsuo Basho's trip about northern Japan in 1689. Sam Hamill's forward says that over the 4 years it took Basho to polish his travelogue of the trip we took with his friend, some things shifted to more figurative than the literal walkabout. Like the tight zoom on details of the farmer saying there are too many intersecting roads, best to take his horse, which they did. "Arriving at a village, I tied a small gift to the saddle and the horse turned back." Better than taxis, hands-down.

We're pecking away at Guy Thatcher's A Journey of Days: Relearning Life's Lessons on the Camino de Santiago (GPHB, 2008). I like its historical footnotes and direct quotes of people who have walked Spain's Camino over the last couple millennia. Unlike others who walked for a month or so, he goes with a convivial why-not attitude. Unlike those who have travelled it historically, he is neither pilgrim nor thief. I'm curious to see if he'll fall in with either...In any case it doesn't sound like a glamour trip. Its play-by-play feels like going there vicariously. And since options for anything we would eat seem quite limited and its become so popular to be ecological runoff of people, maybe doing it thru the page is the best way.

I suppose that it's fitting that I get to 2007's light summer read only now since it's called Fashionably Late. Nadine Dajani's novel (subtitled, "what happens in Cuba, stays in Cuba") had me from the moment she described the smitten on sight as becoming a sudden Snuffleupagus. Is that not perfect? Swaying, ungainly, no one would believe you exist like this here, instantly a child and yet feeling huge and conspicuous. It's basically college teenagers barhopping and squealing yet she tells it in such an appealing way. It's bouncy.

Sean Stanley's deliberate nonsense of Etcetera and Otherwise is hard to describe. It is nonsensical, like if Edward Lear had sex scenes (ending with "We redressed ourselves, and then put our clothes back on", p. 35). The grammar and world regularly upends on a tiltawhirl - "as he spoke he fiddled with his dagger, only to discover the blade could be turned inside out, which released a cloud of mayflies he'd never known were there." (p.53) I wonder when/if there'll be post modern breaking the 4th wall addresses. It's ruthlessly playful, puns and spouts of versey rhyme of the two travelling journeys impossible to conventional ways of thinking. Tightrope Books has published a very strange little work indeed, but glad they did. It's goodly bizarre.

In the wings of the desk are the Pocket World in Figures: 2007, Persimmon Moons (Imago Press, 1998) by Marshall Hryciuk, Ursula Le Guin's the wave in the mind (Shambala, 2004), American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry (edited by Cole Swensen and David St. John, Norton 2009), Loose Woman by Sandra Cisneros, (Vintage contemporaries, 1994), Open Letter, spring 2009, bpNichol + 21 issue, and Canadian Poetry: Volume One (Edited by Jack David and Robert Lecker, 1982 NewPress)

Half-formed thoughts: meaning of/in poetry

which I will probably double-back on momentarily... probably even during...

I am trying to sort out the drive and appeal of subjects and tones chosen. Why does something matter to someone in the context of their lives? Why decide what someone says is worth saying or reading?

Another has the same pieces to life puzzle therefore one should a) commiserate and congratulate b) compare, debate finer differences c) move on because it is the same-same; only fresh matters.

Another has different pieces to the puzzle therefore one should a) challenge b) find incomprehensible c) marvel d) absorb, internalize

It seems terribly contentious this idea of meaning. If you are communicating, you must *mean* something, intend to persuade of something or else it is gum-flap wasting everyone's time. People are willing to sleuth to code-break if they have to. It's the mentoring/savior urge. There is already too much which is surface and random. Let us impose a meaning or pattern in language at least. The story behind the story. The relationship fodder build on going thru the hoops of Times New Roman, or grabbing the ligature of literature and touching the skin of a person in the process. Poetry is just a convoluted way of communicating and if we can cut past that and just converse, so much the better. Poetry was a kludge that served and can be dropped. That's what I've got from some conversations.

And from this British comedy. Which puts its finger on the absurdity of the matter.

Our human brains work on significance, on story. How do we absorb otherwise? Too random and nothing registers (except for those who add 9/10 of content to any random object, event, word.)

How do we succeed in denying the right to read between lines? To say there is no story here is seeming to tease some kind of hard-to-get. Nothing is without purpose and people will impose their imagination on stars until some constellation comes. Why not proactively pitch an arbitrary significance so we can move past into the nitty gritty of sound and play and experience of language.

Poetry is fiction and other lies mixed in with truth. Officially, the story is that the narrator is not to be assumed to be the speaker. This is practical. It allows speech to be made at all without losing face, a sort of double ledger; I declare this crafted vision of the world but declare, I don't speak of myself. You can try out ideas without claiming them as your identity. Everyone knows its pretend. People still speculate much like one would over people who are just room mates, wishing for the seeming to be sordid.

Still stuck in my craw is the charge laid against me a decade ago that writers are all liars and cannot be god-seeking with that chosen profession. Cue the boilerplate of lies are more true than truth. He who assassinated my paper silhouette also dismissed English poetry as being inferior with no precedents used, no layers, no need to reference what went before and a readership who are gladly illiterate and cannot recognize their own cultural references. The truth of that gets me still.

I still answer myself to it. But when I read does not comfort or teach. So little can captivate me. And that is my wanting to always be on the high of hearing, the next hit of new angle, of novel take, of special phrase, but that is only meaningful with a contrast of downtime. Nothing can stand out if all things are equal.

I feel largely deaf. And cranky. But I would rather fight to understand than gloss over blankly. I would rather there be something to get, even if it is the punchline of gut laugh at life is a cosmic joke, let's remember it's all nonsense. I would rather get what someone put into it. I can make stuff up without getting anyone else involved. If someone else is speaking, I want to know what they know. If they speak and I talk and impose, neither of us get any gratifaction of being heard.

"The sound of tireless voices is the price we pay for the right to hear the music of our own opinions." - Adlai E. Stevenson

But looking back at what was written, there are all kinds of filters of cultural distance and my own bias reinforced when I want to break my own bias away from systemic patterns into one-off instances, blown into molocules. I don't want to hear my own assumptions whereever I go. If I could live outside myself, I would. And I try to when I listen.

I'm blind. I'm calloused when I hear some words, some tones. A pattern to dead end of someone going self-pitying, someone being entranced by the romance of fearful beauty, of looking uncritically and speaking at the level of construction sites instead of bricks. I get blocks I don't want but I can't sidestep my bias fast enough to hear the person behind the words. It is a humble thing to hear the person even when the person is angry with pain, or blowhard with insecurity or tremulous with overcompensating against fury. Or whatever. I want to understand where it is coming from. Which is story, which is person, which is too intimate when we want to arms length of words.

So we go to thin-slicing, a piece of salami of world view to the vegan. Another woman dismissed in succession. Embedded presumptions like nails deep in tree buck the saw. If I wish to be irritated, non-poetry life has ample opportunities without being struck by how as female I have the option of pat domestic nice dears, dysfunction-loving suicidals or balanced and intelligent lesbians. Maybe that makes my issue one of tribe of like-minds, coming from and going to the same place. I don't want to be challenged by underlying assumptions or trip at low level but move on to pure ideas, beyond color, class, gender, generation.

We have to speak for what matters and not hide in the sand.

We must play in the sand in what is sensory because all else is constructed and passing.

It seems two sides of the same furtive coin to a) elaborate out a poem to make patently clear what the person means and why by slant and expansion as to what the reader should think as it is to b) be evasive, anti-semantic and make impenetrable poems or oblique that fail is they show the life or ideas of poet or the environs.

Both are poet-fronted. The first evangelically chases to tag passersby and the other stands with cap out, periodically touches and declares no touch-backs. Both are monologues that seek to provoke. Both come from somewhere deep at different angles.

The middle ground that is not near the poet, where there is a retelling a transposed version of ancient story or historical biography, or talking about things out there without commentary such as some haiku seems to be a different coin.

It can be plain-spoken or not, but it's position towards the reader is more withdrawn and in that way allows the reader to approach without expecting oversharing or refusal to engage. It wants to participate in culture, dialogue about what the poet has harvested, rather than conscientiously abstain or hotly lead.

"Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider." - Francis Bacon

Maybe what I'm groping towards is this reservedness of mainstream, versus specialized stylistics, experimental or workingman poems.

The attachment of the poet to the poem may be less if taking about a re-vision of a tale, or narrating nature than if it has a political bent or L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E bent. It is about out there instead of hooked so close to identity. When there is detachment is more of a sense of option, less imposition of intensity.

Maybe what one is trying to tell is not to tell to me. It is an eavesdropping on what I don't have the hooks to understand. My life and bias don't overlap enough. Our dialects are thick to one another. But perhaps I am corrupted by the idea of universal translator. I want to understand and then know which way to go on a simplistic dynamic: am I ahead and should lead or am I behind and should follow?

Metering Out

An English teacher finds himself fallen down the rabbit hole and stands now before the giant mushroom:

"I mean that I teach poetry."

"I'm not surprised," said the Caterpillar. "Poetry has a thing or two to learn. It has more feet than I do and they're terribly difficult to keep track of."

A quote from "A Common Night," by Bruce Holland Rogers in the anthology Fantastic Alice (Margaret Weiss, ed.) [via Some thoughts on meter]

AB Series

This Thursday the next edition of the A B Series brings Penn Kemp to town.

Later this month is Clifton Joseph, John Sobol and Robert Priest come.

Mid-May it's Christian Bök who spoke and performed at the 2008 Canadian Literature symposium, which had a focus on the postmodern last year (and there's a sound file there of him among others).

Factory Reading at Gallery: Rhodes and Tyler

There was a Factory Reading at a reading at Saw Gallery March 26th.

The winner of the PK Page Founders' Award for 2009 is Shane Rhodes.

Shane Rhodes
He read from his newest poetry manuscript in progress, "The Air". It's a sometimes Eunoiaesque explorations of subsets of sounds, looking around at etymologies. His skill in using devices of rhyme and meter is clear. One poem was a tribute, a monologue to a man who died of HIV, the narrator rebuking his whine that it wasn't AIDs that messed you up; it was the decade of coke-use. Another poem spoke of a backyard where among the garden, melons, were the wrecks of old cars, warted leather convertibles that would be fixed into former glory one of these days.

His last work published was The Bindery.

(The painting in the background is an oil by Michael Harrington. Each has an interesting quality of light and color.)

paul tyler
Paul Tyler read from a blue chapbook. (I know, that's as useful as "what kind of car do you have?" "Blue".) They were poems about politics ("desire inventing dogma from the dust" in one about the Taliban blowing up Buddhas because they are unnatural, not created directly by Allah and he said something like as if history left alone grows Buddhas in the desert).

He also wrote of past workplaces, butcher shop and end-stage care of seniors and the people his mind can't erase. And wouldn't want to. Like Robert Louis Stevenson's windows, it's all communication made to be heard. There were some lovely phrasings that were easy to grasp on first pass such as all of the doors of me wanting this.

A good night out of poetry. 20 or 25 people came despite the cold rain and it being end of week.

On Workshops that Work

What is a writing Workshop? from St. Augustine's confessions.

"Conloqui et conridere et vicissim benevole obsequi, simul leger libros dulciloquos, simul nugari et simul honestari ." ("Conversations and jokes together, mutual rendering of good services, the reading together of sweetly phrased books, the sharing of nonsense and mutual attentions,")

As Stephen Kuusisto adds there, "There's no room for a crystal throne in a good workshop."

Equals as partners in learning getting along.

And how blessed of state it is when serendipity and whatever else is at play makes it happen and reoccur when it does.