Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Language has an ability to create an unreal sense of reality. But language is part still of that reality it can sometimes unattach our consciousness from, and will be part of that reality returned to once the 'delusional set' is resolved (look to King Lear to see what I mean. Or anywhere, really, you want.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Here's a poem of mine:

Means of Production, and Behind the Stove is my Heart

and why not as easy as if these words
were tea leaves curled in a tea box, and time
were all it took, and some fire, and a kettle
for form, to give the water heat
but not the heat water, just a little
form, an old pyrex one, say, the one
your grandfather threw out
his bubbe’s copper samovar for, and then
a porcelain knockoff beauty, round and high, a little
more form, just enough
to hold a scalding and then
the dry leaves as your readied sea of boil
drowns them young again, floating open, easy
as you once were, thinking words were

I used part of the qigong I practice to structure this poem: that is, to begin the (sitting) form, one warms up the lower belly first. This serves a sort of 'alchemical' function, allowing the energy/qi one gathers from the universe to be properly cultivated/'cooked'/melded with one's own personal energy. The lower abdomen is seen as the residence of 'water', and the heart-region of 'fire' and bringing fire to the lower is akin to heating water. 'Yi' (intention) is the bringer of the fire: and a clear semiconscious mind is best, easy, focussed gently on the lower abdomen in conjunction with certain imagery and breathing. (In the Dao De Ching, there is a passage which states, roughly, that 'softness' is the quality of life, 'brittleness' of death.)

Further, one of the processes of qigong is to attain a qi-state akin to that one was born with. So somehow I was trying to bring this wonderfully optimistic and self-sustaining practice to an American history, one where one's past has been overturned and trashed for generations, and words are convolutions not even reliable origins. Untangling one's own physio-psycho-energetic history is, as poesis, in line with untangling one's own linguistic-historical-ethnic history (i reference Ulysses for a fine example).

This is just a bare outline, but I hope it makes the point. I think I've been coherent. Anyway, the people who have read this poem seem to appreciate/like it, even without knowing what gives it its structure. It is a 'vital' (note to self: write out some on your use of this word 'vital' in the future) structure, so I don't think a reader would need to to feel the poem as alive, if it works.

Anyway, I thought it might be worth noting what I have, as a way for me to start talking about qigong and daoism, inre: health and poetry, in the blog.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Having a child is such an amazingly lot of work, you can’t imagine. But for all the books I haven’t read, I remember the feeling—awful, really—of when Jonah was born and our eyes met—in the process of his birth actually, he half in and half out, stuck for several seconds by his broad shoulders—so, the feeling of eternity split, a vision of it, around our met gaze, the tunnel of it—and he still tethered, unbreathing—and that moment the precise sensation and conviction that, whatever novel I was of, I was the protagonist no longer. And our gaze still!—then he was born, and I dropped to blubbering for some good minutes on the couch. Of course I didn’t know my illness was already well-advanced.
So anyway, the books I haven’t read read like a litany of quietness in my mind, chapters of a book I no longer occupy. I can’t call it exile, and maybe not homecoming and, I bet eventually, I will see, not even as decisive as all that. There is no continuity like breathing, and I still am. Not that I ever was the protagonist of a novel, so the revelation that I no longer was was only a truth, no change; but terrible nonetheless. Eternity and all that. I guess what I’m saying is it made me feel real, which I don’t know if I’d ever felt before.

As for Spicer: he's wild. Everyone has those poets they know they should have read but haven't yet, and he's one of mine. Or was. The 'Imaginary Elegies' really open up--well, a lot. They float from one thing to another, the same thing. Love, eternity, poetry, always on the verge of collapsing into mundane mumbling but so truly sublime, and drawn from somewhere deep. And floating from one thing to another but always the same thing, like watching a soul reincarnated into different body/ideas. It's the feeling I get from certain real poetries--the most clear was watching Hamlet at the rebuilt Globe in London, in 2000 (on the lam from the Joyce conference)--the sensation was of watching a soul scintillant in a flame, talking out of it its truest essence as had exposed itself on earth once perhaps or perhaps never. Shakespeare's soul? Something uncanny, Mark Rylance played an exquisite prince. Anyway, the feeling of permanent transmutation was piercing--and while Spicer is so different in temperament and tone from the prince, the quiddity of existence is at home in these lines. And in such a familiar way.

And ^Moby-Dick^, now half-way through (the shark frenzy just passed) and it feels more like Dante's thief-level (the one with the legged serpent wrapping itself around a man, and they switch bodies etc) and Macbeth than I remember. The fear of the spheres is manifest in a zero-sum world, where something else must die for another to exist. Sublime as Plotinus (or was it Longinus? my mind is so unreliable when I get tired) meant it, unheimlich more perfect than Freud envisioned--this is an American home, and something to do with what I began on in an earlier post, regarding mechanization, I will tie into this explicitly one of these days.

Saturday, June 26, 2004


Petitio Principii

“Leading Idea 4: Good Reasons
Ordinarily we keep our beliefs in our minds without worrying as to whether or not they are supported by good reasons. Nor is there anything wrong with this.
The need for reasons arises when something happens to cause us to doubt our beliefs. This occurs, often, when we make our beliefs public. To affirm or to state or to assert our views is to make claims for them. Whenever we make a claim for one of our opinions, we should be prepared to back up that claim with a reason or reasons.”

This from “Getting Our Thoughts Together, Manual to Accompany ELFIE.” Dara & I are beginning our homeschooling of Jonah, not to replace but to supplement kindergarten. We are using the Great Books Academy Homeschooling curriculum; and ELFIE is the philosophy text. It basically makes the principal questionings of Philosophy accessible via the story and voice of Elfie, a curious and shy little girl. I see now that this is the precursor to what I, in 5th grade (the one year our district had a g & t program), read for class called Harry Stottlemeyer (Aristotle, get it?). I loved it then, and still do, and remember it and still use lessons I learned then now. This speaks both to its efficacy as an educational tool and to the paucity of the education I received following.
One of the thoughts “Elfie” will introduce soon to our kindergarten-philosopher is “everything has a name. You have a name. Does that mean your name has a name?” Now this book will introduce the most basic of the basics of Western philosophy and it is incredible to me how these veriest basics speak to any part of life you look at with them in mind. And so, I am back where I started, with my opening quote from the teacher’s manual, which describes how I feel so far about this blog. It’s very difficult to state anything with certainty about almost anything (except our current political situation, of course!), and that goes ten for poetry. And it’s easy to try to compensate for the fact that stated definitions exclude, by function, by generalizing. But, as your statements get more general, two things happen: 1, they become farther away from their original intent and potential power; and 2, they become more vapid and cloud-orous, meaning little. So there, and I’m going to do my best to support a certain kind of statement without worrying overly about their air-tightedness; that is, accept them for what they are, opinions, and variable even within myself. So I beg your, my reader(s)'s, indulgence, as I try out my web-legs, for I'm bound to say not only things which make little sense, but things which are wrong and even contradictory.

p.s. Somehow, this is four posts now and very little touching on actual poetry! In the next couple days I'll try and rest a few of my ideas concerning Jack Spicer in their beds. Words, I mean, in their words.

Update, Chapter 1: This Elfie is a pretty depressed little girl. I think the people at the Great Books Academy have gotten the whole legacy-of-western-civ thing down better than they knew, even. I mean, she asks great questions and all, but is a poster child (so to speak) for why the separation of mind and body is NOT a healthy thing, holistically speaking. More on this at some point down the road. & Maybe in later chapters, as she becomes friends with Sophie, she'll cheer up and come into her own.



Last night I spent a little time on my grandfather’s piano. I was never able to understand how to play such a thing, confused from the beginning by any instruction at all. But now that he is gone and it is ours, I sit at it, alone, and peck out simple songs, using the insertional ‘sheet music’ from my son’s zither as a guide. Playing music is really something, last night after half an hour at “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore” I was able to sustain certain emotions which I think would be difficult to with poetry. But I remember how happy I used to be with what now would seem only a bathetic & disjointed scribble, so this feeling might be due to the blessed ignorance of beginning. All the same, I'm excited to finally be learning to play an instrument. It's nice to be satisfied with plinking out a simple tune.
Now that my grandfather is no longer here, I have his piano and no audience (beyond memory and its attendant emotions), and that has made it easier to try my hand. I have always had an awful fear of offending, both with ill-talent as well as opinion. So why a blog from me? In addition to the reasons I started describing below, I have one more. That is, I am recovering interminably from an interminably chronic illness, and really have much less of a community than I think I ever have before. I can’t work, and conversation even is taxing, and I have not been able to maintain any but the closest and most indulgent friendships over these past four years. So this medium seems ideal, because there are lots of intelligent and talented people to potentially converse with concerning a topic I love and need to maintain a self-ness in, and I can do so at my own pace, as my energies dictate; that is, here is a high-level discourse I can give a go at. Besides, I’ve always found the epistolary model attractive, and this, as an extra-dimensional manifestation of that model, feels potentially vital.

Friday, June 25, 2004



As for the generalizations I made in my last (& first) post, I know they can be disputed, I like though the way the contrasts as I defined them rub against each other. For as long as this blog lasts, I am trying for at least two things: to make sense, and to try out for what I am doing with my poetry. This is as far from 'confessional' as I can imagine (does anyone read those poets anymore?) and also as far from mechanical as I can. Mechanical being, as it seems to me now, the curse and direction of 'American' poetry.


First Post

My first post, I of course don't know who might read such a thing (how would any find it?), but one for one--why not Pound? He's a popular guy in these parts. Besides, his "In a Station at the Metro," "The River-Merchant's Wife" and the one about the sardines which ends "at that I was slightly abashed" were, along with Auden's "Law Like Love" (though the Auden more than the Pounds) the poems which first made me want poems, in seventh grade english class. Of course, five minutes into Mike S--'s class presentation on EP he read some examples of his radio broadcasts and I thought that that meant his poems were lies. But I still liked the Auden. (They are an interesting pair, aren't they, each self-exiled in the other's land?)
How's that for an "American" experience of poetry? There is the full-press Americanness of Pound in his crackpot ear for people and silver ear for words. I still don't like much of him, I think it has something to do not only with his fascism, antisemitism, willingness to see people as ideas, but also with Mike S--, who himself seemed a little unsavory. But that wildness, the American unfixedness-in-self which allowed Pound his peculiar profundities, is ^so^ anti-Auden, and a turn to the Old World ahiding itself in the New World from, really, itself in a way, on my part, is American too. I don't think it, as a reflex, has helped my poetry much, and I start this blog starting a serious rethink of not my poetic but my implementation of it as such. That is, to quote from the "Interzone" of last night, "I reserve the right to replace the legs and arms, legs and arms. The legs and arms, not lunacy--that is, method, not motivation."

Other titles I was thinking of for this site, are "Whisper'd Me," "Vales of Har," "Like Love," and "Standing before some Stalagtites of Time."

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