Tag Archives: Poetics

else where




between two poles

no defined place


when does the sun

reach the ground?


mirror evidence

tells the line is direct



a line of inquiry


the real work–

outside language


underground river

jet stream

blood stream



or are we

a minor state


where inter sect

the absorbing art


alternate truth

alternate truth



the road through concrete

canyon cannot hold



a voice yells in an alley

candy wrapper

in the grating

wet cardboard box






all erodes






find home

beneath asphalt








“things as they are”







less an antidote—










algebraic confrontations

clog perception



Thanks Ms. Kellyann Conway for giving us “alternate facts” this morning. What a vein of gold you’ve given us. To the rest of us: fiercely protect the freedom of the press at all costs.

after the procession

after the procession


snow covers the monument

the tree-punctured sky

does not speak


an engine grinds

through the heart

of every brick


ridiculed to the point

of treason—


an avenue is not for walking


the ancient city

heaves up its dead


in the fliers and posters

that cover concrete walls—


the weight–

our armor,

our weakness


messages in cursive


stare hard at the face

in front of you

to remember

yourself before—


the lines and creases

words writhing


someone left the door ajar

to instinctive cruelties


to get out from the wall—



once it breaks, it breaks.

states of being

states of being


how is it

with you–?



of midseason



in the elements,

attach to storied lineage

as true


others, too wild

to hold their features

in memory


a long walk

in cold air


the illusion


certainty con-



if a dream is real,

it’s below,

in the arroyo

after the minus-y


in the saddle

of the parabola,

where all ends meet


where there is only ever after






a trace drawn in the sand



move west, always

west where an edge





and sky


she speaks a word

just to hear it




in fare






at the reservoir

at a looped location

within the sky


whether fishing poles

or tuning forks

a hum even here

where the key



she tried to capture



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



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

this poem cannot be proven

this poem cannot be proven


as a proof,

as if mapping the ocean floor

in verse sky maps


the moment facts come forward,

line outline

with blank center—

leaves turn yellow

as a consequence of breathing


in/vertical dilation—

time slows down

when measured

by a fast moving observer


a sentence can’t be both true

and false,


and somnolent,

latinate and hand



certainty undoes

itself, in bark patterns


by bore beetles


event horizon

where time freezes,

hands fall

to our sides

Where does poetry come from?

This may seem like a silly question: poets write poetry. But there happen to be different philosophical perspectives about the source of poetry. One idea proposed (and embodied) by William Blake is that poetry is “dictation” from an outside source. Later (in the 1950’s and 60’s) poet Jack Spicer elaborated upon this idea in the following excerpt from his Vancouver Letters:

I think that the first kind of hint that one has as a poet, after having written poems for a while and struggled with them, a poem comes through in just about one-eighth the time that the poem usually does and you say “Well, gee, it’s going to be much easier if I can just have this happen very often.” And so then you write 17 or 18 different things which are just what you are thinking about at the particular moment and are lousy. It isn’t simply the matter of getting a fast take. Its something else. But the fast take is a good sign that you’re hooked up to some source of power, some source of energy.[1965]

I gather from Spicer a reverence for an unkown outside source from where he received “energy”, and at energized times the poetry flows unhindered. I think we’re back to the question of inspiration (and, for poets, it behooves us to wonder where inspiration comes from). Inspiration may feel like an outside entity. I feel cautious about placing my hopes on an outisde, objectified entity, because it places me at the mercy or whim of this outside force. Or, if I make a mistake and am not reverent enough . . . what then?

I do believe that as an artist or poet you learn more and more every day about the circumstances, states of mind, and general state of physiological comfort (or discomfort) during which the work flows. And ultimately, it comes down to doing the work. The more time you put in, the more likely you will have work you like, and the more naturally the work flows.

I take a point from Jack Spicer’s reflection on dictation about “hooking up to a source of energy”–I consider this source to be partly the energy that naturally exists in the universe (which is abundant and continually at work on us whether we know it) and partly energy that we free up within ourselves, however we find a way to do it.

For me, sticking to a routine in my daily life is helpful. Yoga in the morning, running in the woods on the weekends. Painting helps the poetry, poetry feeds the painting. Lots and lots of omnivorous reading, listening to Great Lectures series on a variety of topics during my commute. Peace and quiet when not at work (as much as possible). As much as possible to slow down, and become more aware of my surroundings, with a childlike sense of curiosity and wonder. The childlike sense of wonder is essential, and even subversive.


Much like this poem

Much like this poem


a child speaks in projective whisper

learned lessons from the clouds—


whereas, in high desert, projection laws

do not apply


blades of grass imply distinct edges;

to sever an edge is true

when held in memory


childhoods rove in waves—broken

toys and plastic chairs surface in the sand;

storybook territories continue to expand



unfinished lines hang there, threads

a line of thought paper thin, as a vacant

lot of known flowers in context

of what we don’t know


some lines calcify, locked in strata

where we put them and fill in sand

and sleep


when they find us

here, they’ll replace themselves

into the hollows left by these bones

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)


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
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.



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.