Tag Archives: Literature

Antipodes

Antipodes

 

Dark water gives light

layers—lives a clouded root,

signal instant of the mudborn

minnow. Laughter in the level

below–

 

what say,

synapse, of

nothing, a some-break

 

in the onrush of knowing?

 

*

 

 

In the velvet fabric

of bone-matters,

lines continue

on the bone

 

that once infused a lively

love, long word, primal fear

of knowing

 

 

*

 

desperate to prove the

antipodes–

 

root, the childhood

heart,

 

nonsense understanding

of trees beneath

the canopy,

 

of distant conversations

 

 

*

 

nervine maps along a lost

edge,

 

lost luck

in a clouded root–

 

Networks continue

to infiltrate.

 

A map mirrors

cloud ligations.

 

 

*

 

 

There are no right

angles beneath the skin.

 

Reach into the stream—

the current

reorders itself,

 

engulfs the line.

 

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Thoughts on the Dynamic Image in Poetry

Thoughts on the Dynamic Image in Poetry

I think it is necessary to learn about poetry in high school. As a developing poet, it is an essential period of safe exploration.
But we must unlearn what we have learned in school, in order to fully participate in the dynamism of living poetry.

It’s true that as members of the human race, we need poems that can be memorized and shared, that connect directly with our own memories and emotions. Canonized poems are the ones we tend to read in school because they are repeated, repeatable; some were subversive at some point but now they are subject to analysis by teachers and students, and thus they become conventional and further from their origins with each reading.

I can think of many “conventional” poems that sing in my heart over many years. Poems I enjoyed for their cleverness, their mastery of form and device. Poems that contain a continuous narrative. Poems that speak to me. Sylvia Plath’s “Black Rook in Rainy Weather”, William Butler Yeats’ “Second Coming”. Theodore Roethke’s “The Waking”. John Donne’s “Daybreak”. These are only a few.

To fully understand the power and purpose of poetry, the poet must evolve over time. The alternative is to stay suspended as if in a clear gel, to relive the same patterns over again. To replay a greatest hits album. To live in a museum of sorts.

I’m no longer infatuated with derangement of the senses—a seemingly dynamic method of poetry–though I love Jack Kerouac, Arthur Rimbaud, my old party friends. Although there is dynamism when tapping into the subconscious, in this method and lifestyle, the experience is too random. If fueled by drugs, is tied up in the ego and is, ultimately, damaging. (Sure love Jack’s “Bowery Blues” . . .).

Some poems have a thesis, a persuasive point they are trying to make. I feel a little sad reading a poem that has the soul of a persuasive essay. I’d much rather read a poetic essay than an essay masquerading as a poem.

Ancient poetry is narrative, formal, memorizable. The most innovative, energetic poetry today is not.

Now, the image is everything. With an image, a poet creates a world. Creates the world.

The dynamic image does not come from a set of stock cultural photos one pulls down from a shelf.

The experience of accessing the image is a channeling—a tunneling—to make room, and then walls slowly peel away from the room leaving only the indifferent universe. And there lives and breathes the Image.

The dynamic image is not recycled or manipulated. The dynamic image is born.

 

 

Future topics: entropy in poetry; insight

 

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.

borrowed language

borrowed language

 

a glimpse from the week’s

epilogue

 

commute sentences

under dusk cloud’s

motion

 

we’ve lost some words

while we prepare for saturdays’ sleep—

 

welkin, wellaway,

where- and forthwith

 

between breaths, unsaid

 

we know future

as “up”, due to

heightened field

in which objects

we approach

grow

 

while we half-talk half-

eat at the table,

the light outside changes—

honeyed light rises

through the roots of grass blades, up

through the trunks of weed

trees, and in distant heights,

the orchard’s unripe fruit

floats

 

an evolution among words

displace above our heads,

move at their own will,

seek rogue poems

Concurrent proofs

Concurrent proofs

 

“Each life is an encyclopedia, a library, an inventory of objects, a series of styles, and everything can be constantly shuffled and reordered in every way conceivable.”

“Natural languages always involve a certain amount of noise that impinges upon the essentiality of the information.”

–Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millenium (“Multiplicity”, “Exactitude”)

 

“. . . Here we are, without a doubt, still having doubts!”

–Wang An-Shih (1021-1086)

 

I.

 

External messages complicate woven patterns—trade routes change

as people change, as substance moves outward to peripherals

 

II.

Hands steady

on the trembling,

ongoing attempts

to find the

word

 

as route

 

III.

 

Growth circles expand,

synthetic threads

looped loosely

around sign posts

 

Hands reach

through interior

net, the shape

and texture

of Deep Space

 

IV.

Aerial perspective: air,

water, smoke, millions

of molecules crowd the skyline

of light, agitative

illusion

 

What truth, what proof,

travels deep in molecular

wavering

 

George Oppen: The Pursuit of Clarity

George Oppen: The Pursuit of Clarity
“Truth is also the pursuit of it.”–George Oppen

More than anything, the best advice there is for aspiring poets is to read. Read, read, read. Read poetry dissimilar to your own, pick up one end of a daisy chain of poets and follow the links to poetry movements, poets whose work will eventually influence your own.

George Oppen (1908-1984) is generally known for his association with the Objectivist group, Modernist poets who collaborated starting in the 1930’s and were influenced by Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams.

Williams’ effort to write in an “American” vernacular is significant, and created openings for poets like Oppen to express ideas that prior to 1920 would not have been expressed. Williams (as contrasted with T.S. Eliot) preferred a colloquial voice and spare, open style with a natural rhythm, with the intention to take poetry “out of the classroom”. Oppen and his contemporaries like Luis Zukofsky and, later, Lorine Niedecker share the philosophy of “looking clearly at the world”. Their work is sincere, intelligent, approachable, honest, but also demonstrates inventiveness that inspired later groups of poets.

(As a parallel in visual art, I suggest studying  Cy Twombly’s work; though he was not a contemporary of these poets the philosophy, style, and approach is similar, as is his allusion to ancient history, expressed with modern sensibility; analogies such as this lead to deeper understanding.)

Oppen’s published work (written between 1934 and 1978) is fiercely individual, human, and skeptical of the values and structures in place during his time. My interpretation of his work is that he is constantly aware and accepting of an overarching unity or “original state of being” while “present in the immediate world”. I see a tension in his work between collaboration and solitary reflection, individual and political/communal, and above all a meta-cognitive awareness (and critique—including self-critique) of conventional reality.

From: Of Being Numerous (1968):

1

There are things

We live among ‘and to see them

Is to know ourselves’.

 

Occurrence, a part

Of an infinite series,

 

The sad marvels;

Of this was told

A tale of our wickedness.

It is not our wickedness.

 

‘You remember that old town we went to, and we sat in the

ruined window, and we tried to imagine that we belonged to

those times—It is dead and it is not dead, and you cannot

imagine either its life or its death; the earth speaks and the sala-

mander speaks, the Spring comes and only obscures it—‘

 

7

 

Obsessed, bewildered

 

By the shipwreck

Of the singular

 

We have chosen the meaning

Of being numerous.

 

17

 

The roots of words

Dim in the subways

 

There is madness in the number

Of the living

‘A state of matter’

There is nobody here but us chickens

 

Anti-ontology—

 

He wants to say

His life is real,

No one can say why

 

It is not easy to speak

 

A ferocious mumbling, in public

Of rootless speech

 

32

 

Only that it should be beautiful,

Only that it should be beautiful,

 

O, beautiful

 

Red green blue—the wet lips

Laughing

 

Or the curl of the white shell

 

And the beauty of women, the perfect tendons

Under the skin, the perfect life

 

That can twist in a flood

Of desire

 

Not truth but each other

 

The bright, bright skin, her hands wavering

In her incredible need

 

(and on, there are 40 sections total)

From George Oppen: New Collected Poems, 2008; ed. Michael Davidson.

In short, read! Find the poets who opened new paths, so that now you can write freely. Write in context of the poets who came before, and write Yourself. Oppen’s sincerity, humility, and intelligence is personally inspiring to me. I hope that you will read his work. Coming soon, I will write about a very different poet, Federico Garcia Lorca, one of my uber-inspiring influences.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Allotrope

Allotrope

 

“we thus discover within ourselves an immobile childhood,

a childhood without becoming. . . “

 

Air vibrates through a stone wall. A living object is in the wall.

Dreaming fixed, you dream a fissure, but what fissure

“never opened to a wellspring?” (I imagine the waters hung

with nazars against malefice.)

 

Vaulted retina and nerve, this origin opens. Canticles of illusion

palpate at the shoreline out of reach. Or recedes. For some,

this shimmering is all. Or an in-hand deficit.

See: notes on permanence.

 

The bare opening of a levered window. “What’s next,

what’s next” he said. “In a nameless hour, the world is affirmed

for what it is” she said. “Shameless–!” he said. I had been dreaming up

reasons from patterns in this stone, this refraction

as the plumb line up from water’s dire utility.

 

Notes:

Count of Villiers de L’Isle-Adam, Isis (1862).

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Reverie (1971) originally published as La Poetique de la Reverie (1960).