she moves north

she moves north

 

toward the high plain

 

absolved, perimeter lines

where climates

are fixed

 

a deferred hail storm

 

between self

and sky

 

the point of incident

still here,

beneath the pine

 

as interior elements

 

travels through northern

vosotros—

interior codes

never switch

 

and sits, ungroomed,

around the woodfire

 

you can felt the remnants

to house a bird

 

that’s an element

to forget

and learn again

 

 

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neighbor

neighbor

 

the dawn walk—

not yet fully

bodied

 

remember, now

as the season of crows

 

a hand in similar

shape, but

close

 

*

 

behind fences,

they do

what they want

 

no consequence

 

(voices whisper

otherwise

 

*

 

the old Mason—

granddaughter in a princess cart,

together on the dirt road

 

I have questions

about the density

of matter

 

of hands holding

genetic pattern

 

*

 

plants push limits, repeat

limbs in fractals

 

till they feel enough

the sky

 

ladders, the product

of a finite will

 

there may be a shadow

in this yard

that joins us

there

 

forgo

forgo

 

he moves

toward the open

ocean

though his rations

are ashore—

 

naming, competing,

breathing

 

other verbs

tangle

and surface

at the shoreline

 

the sky pulls out

accumulated

toxins

at an entry point

 

silver glint,

dolphin’s eye—

recall

 

the written world

continues to talk–

 

 

unwritten,

threads currents

that launch

ships

 

 

 

 

 

she

she

 

a trace drawn in the sand

 

directions

move west, always

west where an edge

fluct

uates

between

shore

and sky

 

she speaks a word

just to hear it

 

ave

 

in fare

well

 

*

 

afternoon

at the reservoir

at a looped location

within the sky

 

whether fishing poles

or tuning forks

a hum even here

where the key

changes

 

she tried to capture

sound

 

learned to let it

continue on

just out of reach

 

always, only

at a shore

 

meet there

at the co

incident a glancing

off of two

 

*

 

as the moment draws

near

 

from within,

her hand leaves the imprint,

a membrane expands

 

she falters

without knowing—

falls at the distance

of an altar—

from within

the membrane

of a concept

 

*

 

what is the correspondant

between a shore and an

altar or a sound

felt in the bones around

the heart? I dug in

to find her, did she feel this?

 

a tuning fork

tapped against the table

picks up sound through air

 

look through my hand

in the light, there’s nothing

there but illusion

of blood traced back

to a common source

 

codes evolve in binaries—

light and dark, substance

and foam, blood

and bone, word

and absence

 

but scripts traced on the flip side

no longer do

prospects

prospects

 

evidence of predators

along the fence line—

 

their songs travel among

weeds, burrow

alternate paths

 

parallel shapes

settle,

 

overlays

confuse the lyric

 

*

 

I become entranced

with cast shadows—though

who will believe—

 

dimensions

unfold themselves

 

as a word

spoken

 

glints in the light

 

small to large

to small again

 

*

echoes both hands

in a cooling trend

 

the verge

of a complicated

sleep

 

 

*

 

from atop a boulder,

scanning the paths

for even a glimpse

 

 

dilation effect

dilation effect

 

in and

ex

hale di

vide space be

tween min

utes

 

objects surface

 

the horse’s nose

comes forward

 

from a ground

of white

noise

 

apparition

diverts

from the true

contract

 

between

unnumbered

selves

 

*

 

on a steep incline,

all else slows down

to support movement

away from center

 

this is not the moment

you have been waiting for

 

*

your hand surfaces

from under the covers

 

brushes its way into

a local translation

of time

and space

*

we are moving at odds

to us

 

Why write?

Only 8 years ago, I was a writing teacher. Now I am unsure about the idea of anyone teaching”writing” to anyone.

I remember that by the time I started formally learning how to write, I thought I knew everything. I had a writing “habit” without much structure to it, first fueled by reading poetry, later encouraged by Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and other how-to-be-a-writer books.

Automatic writing worked for me. A love for the Beats and the Surrealists was working for me. . .as did the prompts assigned by inspiring and caring high school English teachers. Until I decided to enroll in the Creative Writing/Poetry program at UCSC.

I remember the first time my professor-to-be reviewed my portfolio. A cinder fell from his cigarette, which burned into one of the pages. He told me that I was going to change my writing, break it apart, turn it inside out, make it something different. Internally I scoffed.

Over a period of two rigorous years, (thanks to ongoing direct feedback from professors and peers) my writing style did evolve. My thesis/chapbook was a lyric work, centered on the natural world, including a serial poem that focused on (abstracted) childhood events. Honors in the major. Done.

But then what? And so what? If I had the drive and maturity at the time, perhaps I would have continued. But. Having a fixed mindset in regards to writing ability (“you either have it or you don’t”; supposedly I “had it”, thus I shouldn’t need to try), I didn’t try. And thus, stopped writing.

Though I loved teaching, I never continued much of my own work to the revision stage. Thus followed a few timid attempts including readings at local coffee shops. And a total lack of understanding of what I really wanted to do with my writing. I collected books on writing; I gathered writing prompts around me like pieces of a nest. A protective nest.

I think when teaching “writing” we teach something else. Perhaps a road map for learning how to find our own voice, how to become a Writer. But it’s one road map of many possible, and the budding writer may take twenty years to figure out that it’s the writing, not the peripheral stuff that is the real work.

Originally I started this post as a way to share some insight about writing, knowing that we all need support or encouragement. I suppose what I can offer now is a reminder I wish I understood earlier in life–to put in the work no matter what is going on in your life, and you can never go wrong.

Beware a sugar-rush dependence on writing prompts, a dependence on teachers, or positive feedback. Do learn from your teachers; they’ve been writing longer than you have.

Remember to be patient with yourself; be kind. You are not supposed to be perfect, whatever that means, and your words do matter in the world.

Try not to spend too long fluffing your nest or feeling accomplished, because the nest and the accomplishments (perceived or real) are probably a distraction from the real reason you are writing.

I write to understand and revel in the world I take in through my senses, to revel in the ideas that I read. I write to connect with the quiet in my life, and for the pure enjoyment of words which I see as ever changing and alive.

Why are you writing?

Uncommon correspondence

 “That’s it—this poetry is the Earth with its atmosphere // as it lies in us, in the poet.”

-Lorine Niedecker on Jean Daive’s Decimale Blanche

When Jean Daive’s Decimale Blanche was first published in 1967, it was a significant leap from previous writings in France. The words on the first page (translated):

white decimal

 

 

 

 

                                            at the edge of space

 

Pow! White decimal. White decimal . . . on a page? or at the edge of space (what space, what understanding will we ever have of this “space” of Daive’s?). Forget “write what you know”; Daive writes a new landscape (or concept of a landscape).

As an experimental poet, Daive writes into what none of us knows how to articulate. Adhere to rules of writing, and you inhabit a limited space. Plunge forward into new, unknown spaces and you write poetry like this:

I wandered
between refusal and insistence
looking on the ground

snowing
name unmakes form
the thaw the avalanche

remakes absence

*

Consider the poet Lorine Niedecker, homegrown in the Wisconsin marshland, working menial jobs and reading and writing poetry. Words like humble, homespun, ego-less, have been used to describe her. Intellectually curious, connected mainly through correspondence to the Objectivist group of poets centered in New York, Niedecker read and wrote voraciously. Like other Objectivist-labeled poets, Niedecker had read the Imagist and Surrealist poets, and from the remote Wisconsin marshland was in indirect intellectual correspondence with French writers in general.

Daive later learns that Lorine Niedecker wrote about her impressions of Decimale Blanche in her letters to Cid Corman. “Nothing new matters after Daive”, she wrote.

20 or so years after reading her comments about his work, Jean Daive visits Niedecker’s Wisconsin cabin. He “absorbs” the places she embodied in her poetry. Then asks San Francisco avant-garde poet and translator, Norma Cole, to translate une femme de quelques vies (a woman of many lives) utilizing Niedecker’s vocabulary. From a woman of many lives (2009):

She is
in a corner of the room

Night is
falling.

Please
God
is not in her plan.

But
prevailing
on humility.

With this smile
of modest

abandon.

How thoughtful, and enobling, to devote 170 pages to a serial poem in Niedecker’s style and sense, her world.

I am particularly intrigued by the deep rootedness of Niedecker in her lifelong place, her cabin in the marsh lands of Wisconsin, and the pull toward “abstractionism” as she called it. Daive’s creation of unembodies spaces in his experimental poetry, is unrooted in any particular place or earthly space. Niedecker uniquely and obliquely is a poet of place, while venturing on original adventures into abstractions of her own creation. A poem from the early 1960’s, pre-Daive, but a lovely pre-echo of an indirect correspondence to come:

In Leonardo’s light
we questioned

the sun does not love
My hat

attained
the weight falls

I am at rest
You too

hold a doctorate
in Warmth

You are my friend—
you bring me peaches
and the high bush cranberry
you carry
my fishpole

you water my worms
you patch my boot
with your mending kit
nothing in it
but my hand

Niedecker, Lorine. Lorine Niedecker: Collected Works (p. 189). University of California Press. Kindle Edition.

Excerpts from Daive:

trans. Norma Cole. a woman with several lives, Jean Daive. La Presse, 2012.

trans. Norma Cole. White Decimal, Jean Daive. Oakland, CA: Omnidawn Publishing, 2016.