transpire

transpire

 

though elements clash to find each other

new, a surge in bonds

result from fusion

conditions

 

conditions are such. as from within,

where “in” a labyrinthine

place to dwell

 

pummeled in last night’s rain—

a wasp staggers to the peak

of a rock, a dove mills about

the pockmarked sand—

 

all of us, too, transpire

on a timeline that roots

in explicable fathoms. try

to explain, but words are new

in the grand scheme of gravity

 

such as words fall, desert rain

drops the depth of sound

and hails intersect two fronts

in refusal to bond. here crawl

moribund awe, no,

less.

 

wait for a season to start

and surge in periodic dramas,

within a scale only understood

by limits, where any prayer

for release returns to earth

as on a line wrote

from a known source

 

 

Cesar Vallejo’s Trilce

Truly original poetry written in 1929, considered by those who know and love this work as a cornerstone for experimental or “avant-garde” poetry in the modern literary tradition.

You can find information about Cesar Vallejo online, or in the prefaces to the reprinted books of poetry. In this post I will proceed, as philosopher of poetic imagination, Gaston Bachelard says: “without worrying about the poet’s ‘complexes’, without rummaging about in the history of his life” thus, free to explore the original power of his images, to search for the poetic imagination in the poems themselves which, ultimately, are more than enough.

The poems in Vallejo’s Trilce have been described as the great avant-garde poetry of the Latin American world, but I claim him as a great and truly original poet, period. The only kin to the power and originality of this work, in my opinion, is Paul Celan’s challenging and deeply moving Breathturn (Atemwende, 1967) for its emotional power and inventive expression.

I believe that each poet wrote these works not to write experimental work, but to express the depths of an existentially anguished soul using words which are, by nature, limiting and meager, as the poet faces his soul and attempts to transcribe what he hears and sees there. Though Vallejo employs elements of daily life in his poems, he is poet of Humanity, searching, longing, striving, and at times, tongue-tied with the bubbling out of the vastness of existence through his pen.

From Trilce (1929)

IX

I sdrive to dddeflect at a blow the blow.
Her two broad leaves, her valve
opening in succulent reception
from multiplicand to multiplier,
her condition excellent for pleasure,
all readies truth

I strive to ddeflect at a blow the blow.
To her flattery, I transasfixiate Bolivarian
Asperities
at thirty-two cables and their multiples,
hair for hair majestic thick lips,
the two tomes of the Work, constringe,
and I do not live absence then,
not even by touch.

I fail to teflect at a blow the blow.
We will never saddle the torose Trool
of egotism or of that mortal chafe
of the bedsheet,

since this here woman
—how she weighs being general!

And female is the soul of the absent-she.
And female is my own soul.

And:

XII

I escape with a feint, fluf by fluf.
A projectile I know not where it will fall.
Incertitude. Tramontation. Cervical articulation.

Zap of a horsefly that dies
in midair and drops to earth.
What would Newton say now?
But, naturally, you’re all sons.

Incertitude. Heels that don’t spin.
The page knotted, factures
five thorns on one side
and five on the other: Ssh! Here it comes.

Vallejo, César. The Complete Poetry: A Bilingual Edition (pp. 181-182, 189-190). University of California Press. Kindle Edition.

Vallejo’s work, and Trilce emphatically, pulses and surges with neologisms, numbers, abstract and sudden links between the poet’s experiences and imaginations. It would be tempting to read either of these passages with a lens that searches for meaning in male/female psychology, however this would lead us on a fruitless surface interpretation. Besides, what joy could it possibly bring us to analyze the poet’s psychology? Let’s read his words.

In “IX”, we experience humanity in the poetic persona’s stuttering. We experience awe-struck sensuality in a world that centers on deeply-felt experience with a woman. We feel complete immersion and release into what I can only describe as the mysterious dark matter that holds existence together. The reader continually feels tension between what the poet wants to express about his felt experiences, and the limitations of language as we know it, a tension that results in imbalance, where invented words and stutters break through the cracks.

I feel childlike joy in Vallejo’s invented words in “XII”, yet tension in what seems to be anticipatory avoidance of something coming, something beyond his control. His playful allusion to Newton, the spontaneous and urgent hushing at the end of the poem, the knotted page and balance of five thorns with five thorns; I interpret this poem as a poet, attempting to write, the “incertitude” of channeling the poetic imagination on command, and the crushing awe the poet feels once the poetic imagination is channeled.

I am moved by his poems, especially the poems in Trilce, which unfolds as an energetic and at times tortured struggle between personal  or familial experience and worldly conventions, the unattainable “ideal”, between neverending questions.

I encourage you to read the poems in Spanish; Clayton Eshleman, translator, is loyal to Vallejo’s artistic vision, but you can only truly benefit from the profundity of this work by reading the original in Spanish side by side with the translation.

This lengthy post is a meager effort to pay homage to a great poet, a deep and brilliant human being whom I very humbly acknowledge as a mentor for my own work.

 

 

fossil record

fossil record

 

“is it possible for a creature to remain

alive inside stone, inside

this piece of stone?”

 

encased as a means to consider interior

spaces, infinitesimal

pace, try to map the molecules move . . .

*

infer the biosphere

in fractal layers’ repeat

as the next, and the next

explodes from a singularity

as creation stories and

calcified sequence lead us

to long, ever inward—

 

the models break down

past all possible progress

*

density perceived as holding,

as any creature down deep needs

to be squeezed, a constant to exist

 

though bones do not convey ghost lineage,

it’s in the traces of two at once,

triangulate elements as the breath

in strata, the giver where there is no need

*

Linnaeus, hierarch,

forever holding in place

our kind as distinct

in the descendancy

*

within a kingdom in ourselves

natural descendants of pressure, though

captured bones leave room

in the schema for the coelacanth,

the plesiosaur, early beings crept back

into mud, leaving the rest of us

to our agoras and sins

*

visible record leaves space

in between incidents for the metastic

variables

*

as a bother to Linnaeus—the warm vibrations

in the horse’s throat. The eye of the dog

that twitches toward, without any

other move. Aberration in the bird’s eye.

A bloom opens. The next bloom, pistil-less

in the wind. Vacuum release as a bus door opens.

The metal sign at the sidewalk says “coming

soon” with no method to interpret what’s coming

*

where divergent atoms bond together,

a movement somewhere between stone

and a restless sleep

What exactly is inspiration??

“A work in progress generates its own energy field. You, the artist . . . are pouring love into the work; you are suffusing it with passion and intention and hope. This is serious juju. The universe responds to this. It has no choice.” -Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

When asked what first inspired me to study and write poetry, I tell a story about eight-year-old me absconding with A Concise Treasury of Great Poems (a tattered paperback printed in 1958). Eight-year-old me read Shelley and Stevens and Thomas out loud in a barn, from atop a hay bale to a casual audience of horses. . .

I talk about a high school teacher who assigned for us to choose a famous poet from a list, read several poems, and then emulate the poet. Without that assignment and that dedicated teacher, would I be writing poetry now? Would I have ever “met” Lorca? gained a solid understanding of Emily Dickinson (even though the appreciation came many years later)?

Inspiration, a power that eludes us, seems to always be outside, and there is a magic formula to find or invite it in.

There is one thing I wish I knew when I was getting my degree in poetry: it’s about putting in the work. It’s not about romanticized memories or over-interpreted superstitions. It is definitely not about the stories other people tell you about yourself, and not that other people (or you) label you as a poet. It is putting. in. the work.

I wish I knew this when I was busy making excuses during a 5 year period when I was in a miserable work situation, or afterward when I told myself I didn’t even keep a journal all those years because “I couldn’t”.

The point is to write and not worry too much about what other people think. Learn what works for you, and try to create those conditions as often as possible.

I do thnk it is a writer’s obligation to read other writers, and generally inform oneself about the genre and craft–not to mention learn about a wide variety of subjects outside of one’s own limited immediate “world”. But collective wisdom says to do it because you need to, not to impress others.

Some sources that have helped me include Natalie Goldberg’s books, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and a book called Free Play by Stephen Nachmanovitch.

The epigraph at the beginning of Free Play is: “Paint as you like, and die happy”(Henry Miller)

And, as Steven Pressfield says: “You are the knight. Resistance is the dragon.”

 

 

 

 

 

as an oblate

as an oblate

 

white dappled sky, as if just any time

can repeat such a phrase at that height.

can the safety of breakfasts protect us?

could this rock unlock motion? Born

of motion to lie here sleeping. What will

come of us?

 

with eternal context for this patio—

fusion of years in systems, through trials,

that holding the fingers just-so

heals the body of traveling pains.

Then watched, till everyone who ate,

lived.

 

wall the garden to deflect threats

to impermanence.

 

breed the humble

seed into a web of visions,

a buzzing-opolis of hive life.

 

the silent ones converse in nectars.

Roots and hairs waver in the unseen

moon-pull. Having hawk-eye view of sky’s

underside, is that all is below, and before

is above. By before, meaning, before

before. “In flight” before birds.

as a forethought pushes up

through the hardpan.

cosmic bodies

when cosmic bodies seeded

space–presolar bonds

ejected from the singularity

to which none return

 

you have to muddle along

within microwave noise

as a learned skill, like driving

a one ton machine easier than

sleep, and by the very existence of,

accumulate credit scores that trail

as distant meteor tails

 

with no concept of origin distance

the generative state recedes

back to the planetesimal,

a hard place, where words

seem like places to start from

augury sequence

augury sequence

 

tautologic birds as signs—

twitching along worn, migratory

paths, as lightest bones and flights

toward east where lines drawn

are not kept

 

as hours blend within segued limits,

dreaming beings must wake,

eventually trothed with blood

and semen to nourish the earth,

assumed for centuries

an all-absorbing

algorithm

 

entrusted to smoke patterns, decisions

in a fractal universe means the next move

may erupt from below; mouths, eyes,

pelvis echo though birthrights increase

ever skyward

 

as do abilities to bounce back

from gutting, as if the center

for thriving in these lower planes

can be ripped out

 

as if futile ghosts could ever

choke a fire fed by

striving

 

as below, no longer above; aspired effort

to see—tea leaves settle

in a glass, or a hand passing over cards

can tell–doubtsafe and sacral,

makes love in the farmer’s field, this time

for life itself

Corundum

corundum

 

i.

under the root,

the ant cities explode

 

ii.

all weighs less at the dawn

moment: the unhomed

heart, even grave

goods; dawning and its polar,

dusk, weigh less. Lineage,

less. Less, as,

an,

o

 

iii.

“control of resources

of empire”—what else

to display?

 

iv.

song threads sung

while weaving are pre-

sequent; a tune

or gesture exposed

to elements decipher

threadbare

 

v.

lack of bronze vessels

does not convey,

alas; useful

only as new forms

 

vi.

does this mean we know

how to lose control? Measure

from center, as the edges have no

descendant

 

vii.

new growth imperceptible

as light interrupts planes; one

by one, orthogonal events

become permanent