Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sunday 22 October 2006


Can you do that? Do you know how nostalgia moves between people and place? Do you feel the same sense of it in Japan? The lost home? Something that won't be? A peace unmatched to a place? I would be honored if you would try, really very honored. Send a link when you've got something. I'm looking forward to it, but more especially to getting a copy of "Current," your new chapbook with Finishing Line Press. How happy I am for you. Congratulations! What a coup.

Allow me to introduce you, dear readers, to an important young poet, Kosuke Miyata. I met Kosuke in Harlem at City College. "Koast" was a young poet, first year MA student. In class, Kosuke bowed his head mostly and kept his voice folded away. When he had something to say, he raised a finger, nodded, paused and said his part. The poetry he shared in Marilyn Hacker's class was not so much clean as it was polished. Stones from the tumbler. I know they reached me that way.

I invited Koast to be a feature in my reading series almost immediately and he did read for City X-Posed, as early as the second month, December 2003. He came to be a regular then. He would position himself cross-legged on a stool at The Night Café in uptown Manhatan, turned away from the audience. Coil the cord, wrap his hands around the microphone, cover it to his mouth. Fling his head back and read out to some dark thing over the island. And there he was, riding the contours of Long Island on his motorcycle, through the rain, through the dark, leather-clad, a black streak in an empty night. If ever Koast broke a smile or laughed out loud, he quickly flattened his expression and began brooding again. He was a hungry ear. A poet who didn't care much about academics, content to be part of the New York scene, to do what poets do, stumble about investigating, drinking beer, lighting lights and shedding art.


Gary Grenell stopped by today. He listened as I gave him a sense of my project. Gary is a distinctly-edged man. Standing square, right there in front of you. Pure noun. Pure function. He offered something of his project. A fine arts photographer, Gary embarked on a Green Lake project 13 years ago. He's still at it, capturing spontaneous portraits around the lake. He calls them "environmental portraits." He calls them his hobby. I think they are more than that. He takes, as his inspiration, Diane Arbus and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Gary is mining Green Lake for humanity, for idiosyncrasy. Cracking stones, outlining flaws, fashioning grottos. Anointing the lake.

Gary's work was just last month on display in Seattle City Hall. Eventually, he will collect his work into a book. For now, he cycles around scoping out subjects, collecting work and exhibiting it every few years.

Gary tipped his bike over into the grass and sat loading his camera. I carried my desk to the edge of Sherwood to where the light was angling down in orange wedges. I had forgotten my folding stool. Four of my tiny nails had fallen out of my desk drawer. Three of my letters were dangling. Gary had me stand behind my desk, lean into it. Look straight into the camera. No smiling.


Joel brought news of the Mayor. Mayor Greg Nickels is just around the corner, at this very minute, attending Washington Cease-Fire's "Day of Remembrance," honoring those who lost their lives by firearms in WA state. We hurried to the Bathhouse. There was a small group gathered, planting bulbs. A pile of mulch, a box of bulbs. Joel approached the mayor. He introduced me with a lovely forward. I followed with a description of my project and handed Mr. Nickels a flyer. I nudged him about the e-mail I'd sent, asking for help in connecting my group of poets with an organization planting trees. After a short conversation, I joined the others in the flower bed and began digging. I planted five daffodils and introduced myself to the others.

By time I got back to my desk, there was a note from Travis who had brought his friends for some poetry. He was sad not to find me at my desk. I too was grieved to have let my reader down.


High in the Mountains I Fail to Find the Wise Man

. . . he's gone, they don't know where

I lean my grief
on two or three pines
and walk away.

by Li Bai (T'ang Dynasty, China)


Today was a Richard Siken day. I read his poem "Scheherezade" to the lake. To the deep reds of the sweetgums rouging on the western shore, to the bright yellows breezing in the black walnuts. Richard Siken is inviting you into the pool, "it's not like a tree where the roots have to end somewhere,/it's more like a song on a policeman's radio." He is sending out a wave which swells and covers a suburban sidewalk. He gives a never-ending poem. Scheherezade, woven into A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, breaking off with the light, doing what he can to save us from the King.

Narrative overlaps narrative, like a shell-pawed shore. Fertility floats past like a wind-blown seed on a helicopter spore. Siken's breaks off a crumb of complexity. From 9th Century Persian folktales to a 14th Century framework, and on to the French language and further still, to a symphonic suite by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Scheherezade now arrives in a post-modern poem by Richard Siken, who writes his own version of Persian history. Fragmented, but discernable.

It is the task of Scheherezade to "never get used to it," to provide "another apple to slice into pieces" every time they kiss. The golden apple, the apple of sin, Snow White, the ever-generating thing, the endless story.

From the many incarnations of Scheherezade, we become aware of how porous our boundaries are. Film, music, poetry, fable and fiction. Indeed, we grow conscious even of how our lives, histories and dreams communicate, how we bring past and present to the plate, unload our symbols into the new century, shine up our ancient loot, develop a context for the past. At the hand of the artist, for always the artist is involved, the past becomes a plastic thing.


"A poet's reach should exceed her grasp, and for Emily Dickinson, the word circumference, a word she used in seventeen of her poems, came to stand for the unreachable goal she was always questing toward – the goal of perfect perception and ideal comprehension." (Minding Emily Dickinson's Business, Scott Donaldson, New England Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 4 (Dec., 1968), pp. 574-582).


When Bells stop ringing—Church—begins
The Positive—of Bells—
When Cogs—stop—that's Circumference—
The Ultimate—of Wheels.

Emily Dickinson

The search for the perfect is plastic too. And has been taken up by many artists throughout time. Performance artist James Lee Byars, film maker Andzei Tarkovsky, poet Emily Dickinson...

The quest of art is understanding. Processing. Answering. Perfecting. Homecoming. But is there such a thing as The Perfect Search? Tarkovsky, in his film "Nostalghia," leads us to a room, a room where our questions, our deepest darkest wish, will be answered, and we have to assume these will be perfect answers to perfect searches. And what happens? No one can bring themselves to go into the room. Why not? We can't fathom the perfect answer. We don't even want the perfect answer. We don't have the perfect question. We'll never have the perfect question. We are light years from formulating it and farther still from embarking on the quest. We are too far removed from our true design, place, society, desire, needs, connections...

The Perfect Search must be the search we ourselves undertake. It is as individual as we are. It is how we deviate into new selves, that is if we intend to progress. It is how inventions are born. How collaborations form. The perfect search, the perfect question, the perfect answer, uniform and rigid, will end all variation, end all flaws, strip the dimensions of art. Just ask an artist. Ask James Lee Byars, who was "relentlessly pursuing perfection" with works such as The Perfect Silence and The Perfect Smile. Out of devotion to this search, he formed The World Question Center, whose goal it was to pose the most important questions about life.

But if all perfects are one. If there is but one truth. One common home. One light, one path. If all perfects are one, the search is the same as life, as dinner, as relationship, as night, as apple, as boat. All are one. The way we live our lives. The way we move. What we're moving towards.

Is it too soon to ask, what about the imperfect requires destruction?

Is anyone searching for the perfect anymore? What perfect-seeking poets must we read and know? Richard Wilbur? Li-Young Lee? Tomas Transtromer? Wyslawa Szymborska? Glyn Maxwell? Marilyn Hacker? And who is getting the fruits, eating this pie? What part of the public is privy to this meal?

An excellent poet wrote a book
And an excellent book it was.
But nobody gave it a second look
as nobody often does.

James Broughton


"Allelopathy is a complex phenomenon which Pliny the Elder, a Roman natural science author, first wrote about in 77 A.D. In his writings he noted the toxic effects of black walnut on neighboring plants in the landscape. Allelopathy involves a plant's secretion of biochemical materials into the environment to inhibit germination or growth of surrounding vegetation. Allelopathy enhances tree survival and reproduction. Symptoms of "allelopathic effects" include leaf wilting and yellowing, or death of part or all of a plant." (Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech).

Consider Green Lake in lieu of Aurora. What is being secreted by our walnuts and sweetgums, the milfoil in the lake, what Green Lake Ooze inhibits Aurora? Can The Perfect Search counter the notions of allelopathy? Are allelopathy and perfection at odds or are they striving towards one end? If Aurora dies to save a grove of walnuts, well perhaps this is perfection being met?


10:48am. Bells. From the church that is falling to pieces. From the banished home of God. Banishment has taken a turn. Now the crowds are in the world and those in the box are suffering. The old mission is in a box. Living out "a banishment not seen in the centuries since lepers were belled" (Kenneth Fearing).


On standing by Green Lake verses watching telelvision, verses sitting at a computer, verses submitting work to a poetry magazine, verses attending a local reading--

Speaking for the old media, poem in hand, hand over desk, voice over poem, I can attest to the fact that my audience, call them old-fashioned, are most interested in how and why they receive their messages. My audience participates and demands.

"Basic differences between the new and the old media have not generally been understood, perhaps because the audience is no more interested in how or why it receives its public messages that it is in what drama, song, or guided tour is on the program of those messages" (Kenneth Fearing). This is not the Circler at the lake. This is the man behind the curtain. This is the tail of the dog.

Once released into a hand and read, once recited and remembered, the poem is forever planted and remains countless seasons, exhibiting multiple blooms, in quiet ways, through tortured days. They say the electronic message comes and goes and is soon forgotten, but the poem stays. "Once transmitted, the electronic message is gone forever, and for most of its audience, gone beyond recall" (Fearing).

What would you pay for a dream? For a poem? For salvation from a hundred days of disquietude. For your own release from the box? "All time and all space in every medium is merchandise" (Fearing). Are daydreams a valid medium? Can we count the dream in time and space? Reward the daydream merchant for her work?

"There is very little flow of simplified bulletins that would move anyone to second, longer thoughts. The artless messages are uniform. There can be no surprises in them, for they use the language of subtraction from which every discordant thought and detail has been skillfully oared and removed" (Kenneth Fearing). There is little flow indeed. No more than a trickle. And it's city water. Treated. Second thoughts are locked up behing the dam. Can poetry be the dam-breaker?

"The signs, the classic situations, the covering language designed for an adult kindergarten are too familiar" (Kenneth Fearing). Go ahead. Try your radio. Try your television. Your newspaper. Let's see your church, your classroom, your dinner table tried. Try your mantra. Joel says, Beware of words. I say, Hear hear! I say, Take off your language! Take off your cloak. How many layers are you now? I say, Be more and less than words. I say, resignify your words and then, then I say, Face the fear of words that mean.

"It is a world that does not really need a scale of values; money is better" (Kenneth Fearing). And the road home is paved with pennies.

"It should be apparent that creative writers, those not primarily moved to produce commercially acceptable copy, will find it paralyzing to work within the purposeful, voracious, medieval terms of the official code?" They will dwell in separate homelands within the common homeland. Their small homelands shall connect them with their tribe despite time and space, which we know here as common time.

"There can be a unique exhilaration in creative writing, and it can offer the surprise of final discovery. This excitement and surprise must be real, not counterfeit, and have in it the breath of those crises upon which most people feel their lives are poised" (Fearing). We are poised on a crisis. It is a crisis of that which must be done. I mean, discovering and facing just what it is ours to undertake. What it is enough to share in and what must be done for oneself. The drama, the fight, is not between good and evil, as we've so often been told. No, these are elements of the same tradition and stem from the same source. No, the true fight is between action and inaction. Knowledge is all around. Teachers are everywhere. Barricading oneself from the message helps, for a time, the decision for inaction, but what is common nags us into knowing, into absorbing what we swim in.

"In poetry, the tone establishes the rhythm, which is literally the sound of that conversation, and carries just about all the meaning of the poem." (Kenneth Fearing, From the preface to his 1956 New and Selected Poems). If we are able to connect with our rhythm by beginning to listen to the world around us, and that means to the poetry of our lives, I believe we can establish a connection with the crises of our lives and begin to fathom action towards a final discovery.


The golden apple, the apple of knowledge, Snow White, the ever-generating thing, the endless story. Christie and Cindy came offering the art of possibility. Sprawling on the lawn. And Clinton and Mark came, now a twosome triathlete team, biking, blading and swimming the sacred circle. Going into the center. Into themselves. They will center themselves all winter. Clad in full wet suits. Driving through the seasons. One day, when I find myself a wetsuit, I will swim with them, into the center.


Marty and Marsha came then telling me about free art classes for persons over 55 in Washington State. Seniors Making Art is an organization founded by Dale Chihuly, based out of Bellevue. The group offers visual art courses all over Seattle to seniors at no cost, includes tuition and materials. An artist for every age. Call 206-433-6900 (ext. 307) for a recorded message, updated every 2-3 weeks with new classes. They offer classes such as: Mosaic, Watercolor, Acrylic and Drawing.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sunday 15 October 2006


It is raining full on. No one is on the path. What is my usefulness here? Joel is sure to ask. Am I a contact point? An installation? A mark of surety? Or just a reminder?

Joel did come to ask, in his devilish way, "Is this fun? Are we having fun?" Smirking from under his golf umbrella. He put it to me, and not so gently, at some point I would be making a fool. Don't be a fool! Perhaps it was already too late?

After much fussing and wet-getting in my meadow, I took refuge in Sherwood Forest, desk and all. The rain comes in through the trees not quite so fiercely. My desk is covered with an olive poncho, a clamp-on umbrella. I am standing under another umbrella in a rain jacket. Pine needles on my desk. This week I must take care to weatherproof my desk somehow. Strip and varnish it.


Wonderfully wicked. Wonderfully severe. The rain and wind. For three hours, I paced my meadow reading Stafford. I have not paced like this since high school. Those nights in the family room, past midnight, with a history book, marching to the drum of the radio.

This morning the conditions were right. The sky opened and a golden thread dangled from the sky. And now I am changed forever.

Robert Bly opens The Darkness Around Us Is Deep: Selected Poems of William Stafford with one of the most significant introductions to poetry I have read. "(Stafford) believes that whenever you set a detail down in language, it becomes the end of a thread … and every detail ― the sound of the lawn mower, the memory of your father's hands, a crack you heard in lake ice, the jogger hurtling herself past your window ― will lead you to amazing riches." Threads to riches. Threads to truth.

"If every detail can by careful handling, through association, sound, tone, language, lead us in, then we live in a sacred universe." We need only recognize them. Recognize this. Threads to morning. Threads to evening. Threads to the never-ending story.

"By following the tiny impulses through the meadow of language, the writer may find himself or herself closer to the self most centrally yours." Yet the art of living, the art of seeing, will not exalt you or change your fate, only make you more you. More pious, as he believes animals are, for obeying their limitations. "The hawk is always a hawk, even the moment before his death." But a woman, she is not always a woman? And a man not a man? A child not a child? A grandmother, a cousin…

When you know, when you hear a true thing, there is no question of its value, only recognition and embrace. Gratitude for the revelation. This is you being you. Humans being human.


Humans and their limitations, glorious or no. Disobeying. Sidestepping. Humans turning their back on what is human. Becoming birds. Boats. Stones. Rivers. Benches. Pavement.

What of the theatre? The performance? Is the stage immoral? Is their role-playing insulting? Is the parable always impious? The queen and the prince, the artiste, the teacher, writer, fool and mathematician.. is it all impious?

I am at the start of the journey, in a place more platform than search, wrapped in a Stafford blanket, sparks of light all around. I'm in a Yayoi Room, encircled by an ocean of lights.

Does being define being? By which I mean the width of my eyes. Does here define here? By which I mean colored. Does meaning define meaning? By which I mean this moment.

How should I worry? For whom? And what? Love. Communion. Surrender.

In the service of poets. In the service of readers. Reveling. Heralding. Directing us in, not in competition, not in herds, into those treasured rooms of art and truth. Thank you, Mr. Bly, for attending to Stafford. In poetry we trust. The vital dialogue. The clearest of noises. Vaster than the private discourse, to which we must one day return to spin our silks.


"I hadn't," responded the pastor, "been listening for them." Hadn't been listening? Hadn't been listening!

My bells. My opposite of quiet. My morning sheep. Afternoon sheep. Left to wander the woods alone. Where is the wolf? The darkness around us is deep.

Hadn't been listening... for the golden threads he himself was producing? Pastor, need I point out the danger in this, speaking without listening, calling without collecting, presenting with defining? This, in itself, might divide a congregation. This, alone, might shrink a doorframe.

When I turned into view of Zion Lutheran, it was 8:45am. There was a car wrapped around a light post not ten feet in front of the church. A sedan with its front end on the sidewalk, fender caved in. A police car with its curb door open, preserved the scene. Neither officer nor driver were anywhere to be seen. It looked like a stage, a set design. O, but it must have woken the congregation!


I will be late to the lake, late late for my poetry making, but I simply must go in and ask about the bells. The 8am bible study was assembled in the basement. A geriatric group at a faux wood table, hunched over their bibles before the pastor, a lanky powdered man.

The pastor greeted me, set me at a chair with a bible, introduced me to the group, Verona, Sharon, Wayne, asked me to share with them the details of my project. "I sit at the lake every Sunday, rain or shine. I bring a message of poetry." I registered no response in their faces. Distance. Blanks. Verona was not receiving my signals. Just a few feet away and out of range. No change in Wayne's face. Sharon, to my left, was also unmoved. And so I closed, "I came to ask about the bells because they ring out every Sunday over the lake and are such a part of the conscience of those who walk there, I wondered why they stopped and when they will be back."


The pastor added his account of my work to the group and suggested, to me, contrasting the serenity of the lake with the troubles being faced by the store owners north along aurora.

Then he brought the discussion into focus. Clerical focus. "Turn to page 7 in your leaflet (Theology for Mercy). We are discussing the term diakonia, or service of mercy." And so I tried to place myself. I am seated in a chair, I said to myself, in a vapid building with the dregs of the congregation, before a make-believe pastor, in a dying church on a smutty avenue, opposite a dying lake. Don't look away.

The conversation turned to the ways in which Zion Lutheran exhibits diakonia and where. "Tsunamis, earthquakes, tens of thousands dying in civil wars in Africa." Pardon, I thought, remembering the sermons of my youth, pardon, oh please please, pardon. He went on, "serving people in need, within the church entities… one-on-one, individually giving." Pardon, pastor, pardon. I thought, pardon.


If we are looking to build community, reach out to our neighbor… there's been a car accident today. Just outside our door. Perhaps we could help somehow? Extend ourselves in some real way… now, here, today… by means of, dare I suggest it, hot tea? Flowers? Pears? I presented this to the pastor. "Have we thought to…" He shrank and zip-locked my offer at once, "The police have it under control. I don't know if they are permitted to give out information. These days HIPAA prevents it." But, Sharon, I noticed a spark from her direction. Sharon, who every so often pointed to her book and tilted her flower head up, looking for her light, which the pastor sometimes permitted and other times shielded. Sharon spoke out, and not just once, on the issue. "But Pastor, maybe flowers are a good idea?"

No mention of the accident in the pastor's litany of giving. No mention of the poor, the homeless or the wayward, except to say that the church and community were vulnerable, one's valuables should be guarded.

"It's fine with me, pastor. They can have my bike. It only cost $50. I don’t even like it. I never lock that bike." They will take what you don't lock up. They ruined our sign and sprayed graffiti on our door. "That's fine pastor."

"Where the church loses sight of its activity in the community, it loses the very motivation for diakonic work (the gospel)!" The gospel has been lost here. Lost for fear of the criminal. For fear of the thief. Fear of the ubiquitous brown bottle. The spray paint can. Here the wrist has lost its strength. Here the hugging muscle's broke.

If not for a pastor, who will love the criminal? If not for the church, who will house the homeless? And who value the prostitute?

No, this here is a dwelling for the dust. These bells, they make an obsolete architecture, sound out an injured optimism, present not threads but residue of a compassion past.

In Topics for Discussion on the back of the leaflet, I read question 5: Describe some ways in which the Church's work of mercy "extends beyond its own borders." I would like to respond, please pastor, to question 5. I have something to say. I feel the most significant way in which Zion Lutheran reaches out to the community is through its bells, which ring in celebration of the seventh day and all that means and might mean and has meant and will never mean and can't mean and shouldn't mean. The bells that call out noon and 5pm, that justify a community, that defeat us and foretell our death.

But, sir, the bells have ceased, we have been four weeks silent… I am lost again.

In all fairness and to your credit, pastor, you do extend in compassion, beyond your borders in a way, for instance, by providing within the triangular church marquee, simple shelter for two stray cats that would otherwise have to crouch in the groundcover all night. In all fairness. But for the homeless individuals who happen along, there is a sign: "No Trespassing." There are two telephone numbers for civic organizations which may offer assistance. Translation: Not here, not now, not this.

Is this ample effort on behalf of those who call themselves, "corporate citizens of God's "left hand kingdom?" I propose, for this church and others that have lost their sheep, a door stretching ceremony, a resurrection and re-assignment of their spaces to multi-use community shares, so those in need might have the room and space they need. Aurora needs an open door, a listening place, a healing space. Perhaps The Zone on Aurora beneath Queen Anne, the greenbelt where the homeless sleep, is the real open door, the green church?

How do you begin to recognize the community beyond your borders, connect your organization to the public at large? You must think like a birch, bend away from your roots, refuse your limits, shiver and shed your coat. Mingle with the grass. You must shorten your mission as the days shorten. A day for "reaching out in love to Lutheran partner churches," must become a day for "reaching out in love." It might then become a solstice, an occasion for candlelight.

By failing to see real needs, we fail at the opportunity to connect. A fine mission is easily lost to the winds of oration. Preaching lost missions expresses the chasm. Perpetuating lost missions articulates the glass cage.

I cannot help but consider the alternative "corporate citizen" on Aurora, two blocks north. The natural food market at Green Lake begins their mission statement, "Everyone is welcome at PCC!" It goes on, "The only qualification is a love of fresh, naturally delicious foods. In addition, we're an organization you can feel good about. Here are some of our goals and beliefs." Belief, good, goals affirmed by love and nature.

One only need look into a store and talk to the congregation to sense the results of the PCC faith. Healthy people working towards healthy communities. Bright natural spaces. Committed consumers. Responsible marketing. Here is an organization engaging the community, providing employment and society, gifts, classes, healthy food for local food banks. Can there be any question as to which serves the community, which engages in dialog, which solves problems?

Were I not privy to the association of bells to clock and calendar, to order and ownership, I might propose a brass bell for PCC. But I suppose when wartime came, PCC would melt it down, not for a cannon but for thousands of hand bells so each citizens could ring out in protest. No, instead of bells, I propose a terribly long pennant on a pole, made of every hue of silk, from dusk to dawn, fluttering over the lake in honor of the community.


A bright flush. A storm.

A boy on his tricycle with a wide smile stomps his feet in a puddle, "I'm soaking!" His eyes meet my eyes, my only contact today. The others move in a hurry. Only the children, whom the rain somehow misses, wear no jackets, look around in wonder.

11:06 A bracelet of bells. Only this. And I was listening intensely. Nothing more. Nothing more.

until Joel came with chocolates
and Casey with tea
and Jenny with a thermos
and Kate with more tea

and the tea
and the tea
and the oranges and chocolates
and the warm pear pie

the porcelain filling with pine needles
forks quivering with raindrops
hats upon folding chairs
hats and pies

forks passing hands
Bev to Jenny
Casey to Kate
everyone ate some
of the warm little pies

Friday, October 13, 2006

Sunday 8 October 2006


9:12am. A quieter morning. Fewer feet. At a glance, seventeen people, one dog, four pigeons, a blackbird and a squirrel. The meadow daisies have closed their tiny white umbrellas. The peach on my desk has turned to a pear. It is a treetop day for the crows. Total cloud cover. Barely a breeze. Mild. Maybe 50F. I am prepared today with a hat, fingerless gloves, wool socks, stockings, a sweater, a jacket and corduroy pants. Mmmm, autumn.

Not a soul has bothered me. All the energies of autumn are fueling the search. Beneath the Aurora bridge this morning, dozens of sculls, a crew regatta, a collection of fans on the shore. One bright spirit on the bridge looking down. Usually I am the one. Rarely a walker, twice a bicyclist, across this half mile span. It is at my age that men and women make their break, free themselves. Soar. Yes, my age is the age to consider. But I cast only wishes from The Middle Place. And today I wished for… it is not what you wish, but what you desire that counts. And that cannot be named. But this doesn't keep me from wishing. No, today I wished for laughter.

The apple trees by the troll are under their full load, pathways lined with yellow and red globes. Leaf litter most of the way. Even my tulip meadow is scattered with willow blades.

Song and music from the east. Light from the east. Harmonica and voice. And now it is sprinkling. Pinpoints freckle my pear. My half-sheet handouts begin to wave.


"Truth is a progressive conquest" (Colette Gaudin, On Poetic Imagination and Reverie: Selections from the Works of Gaston Bachelard). Truth and conquest come of facing fear. What do you fear? Do you fear being alone? Becoming dependent? Do you fear meaninglessness? Stasis? Certainly you don't fear struggle or pain, and yet you fear death. You don't fear bad relationships, but rejection you fear. What tangibles frighten you? Being buried alive, forgotten, drowning, freezing to death? Spiders? Stray dogs? Disease? Something.

The Zone, does that frighten you? The Zone, the cordoned off acreage in Tarkovsky's film Stalker, the forbidden place, impacted by a meteor, suspected of alien encounters. The place where myth is born. Rumors of A Room . A Room which, when entered, fulfills your darkest wish.

Terrifying, the prospect of the supernatural. But terrifying, the resignation to what is carnal. But the shackles of association, are they more or less terrifying than threats of excommunication? Of questions or answers, which confuse more? Do you know either? Have you access to your desire?

I feel neutral today about the Circlers. They have a job to do. Their work is a cause of their lifestyle. They are here to balance their lives. They have no choice. They have slept badly, eaten poorly, or too richly, have taken their worries too far, let themselves be upset by what is out of their control. And so they run or jog or walk in circles until their lives are plumb. They think and gaze and inhale in circles until their paths are rhumb. Until they can set their eyes back on the treasure, the end and final treasure, without doubt of mistaking good for bad, filthy for fine or wrong for right.

This Circling Place, it doesn't frighten me. What frightens me is The Zone. It was a passive moment when I mistook The Zone for a child's game, Chutes & Ladders, the tamped down trails, the dirt beds leading up the ivied hill. They aren't what I took them to be. A young man sleeps at a fork in the path within view of the walk, his head on a pack. Beyond this, nothing of the field is visible. What do you imagine? Not a game or a camp, but a zone of refugees, a web of desperation. We have learned, when comfortable, to fear this desperation. What is desperate shoots us to the core. When our eyes meet such eyes, the desperate greets the desperate. However dormant, the desperate muscle awakens to its purpose and flexes in revolt.

I walk four miles along Aurora to Green Lake every Sunday. It would mark my greatest challenge to turn off Aurora between the pedestrian overpass and Aloha Inn and head into The Zone, to navigate that greenway, walk up the ivy table and out of sight into the dark above, covered with soaring trees, still leafy in October. Crawl up to the million dollar homes on Taylor Avenue. Yes, this would awaken my fear. My fear of the desperate, lecherous, drunken, preying one, the one waiting out of sight. The zone of my imagination.

Stalker, the guide for clients who would venture into The Zone in search of The Room, throws nuts in tied cloth squares to test his way, to guide them through. I would take another kind of offering to make my passage. I do not mean a defense, I mean a gift, a token, something with which to buy passage. What gift? Meat, I think. Dried meat and poetry books. It would be too simple to suggest a male counterpart, a guide. You might as well brace my legs, crutch me. Send another to face my fear. No, this is something I must do alone. And will.

"I see it as my duty", Tarkovsky writes, "to stimulate reflection on what is essentially human and eternal in each human soul, and which all too often a person will pass by, even though his fate lies in his own hands. In the end everything can be reduced to the one simple element which is all a person can count upon in his existence: the capacity to love. That element can grow within the soul to become the supreme factor which determines the meaning of a person’s life" (Andrei Tarkovsky, 'Sculpting in Time').


Gaston Bachelard says "the poetic act has no past" (Bachelard, The Poetics of Space). The poet has no past.

Proust's definition of the past is "real without being actual, ideal without being abstract" (Proust, Le Temps Retrouvé, ch. III). Regaining childhood requires losing childhood.

Toru Takemitsu composed, for solo violin and string orchestra, an inspired piece performed here by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, "Nostalghia, In memory of Andrei Tarkovsky" (1987).

Memory is what we dreamt, the signifiers we attached to the world we were wrapped in. The sort of fabricated super-significance that can never be found again or re-achieved, which accounts for the disheartening trips we take to our past locales. There is no going back to a fiction. Memory isn't a place, but a dream. Just as today's experiences are being made into dreams, so yesterday's were all fabricated. All we have is the present and what we're willing to make of the future.

This ought to offer memory enough for a week.


"The end is not a resolution. You fall back to the beginning. It's a way to resist an equation" (Pierre Huyghe, Issue 85 Contemporary 21).

If I were to resist the equation or "reject the notion of finite meaning," as artist Carsten Holler does, I would have to admit that every day I am disappointed and every day astounded again. Every day I make new meaning and every day drop it into a well. I suffer disappointment all of the time. I cry and laugh and they mean nothing. You cannot describe a state of happiness without seizing a moment of laugher. Nor sadness without cutting out an instant. Growth and destruction rumble daily. It is not necessary to outweigh one with the other, fight destruction with growth. "For Deleuze, the one substance is an always-differentiating process, an origami cosmos, always folding, unfolding, refolding" [Wikipedia, Gilles Deleuze].
Substance with no meaning.

"Everything that ever happened is still happening. Past, present and future keep happening in the eternity which is Here and Now. Everything is Song. Everything is silence. Since it all turns out to be illusion, perfectly being what it is, having nothing to do with good or bad, you are free to die laughing" (James Broughton, "Free to Die Laughing," from an interview with Martin Goodman, 1997).

Artist Dan Graham's Video Projection Outside Home (1978) consists of a projection screen on the front lawn of a family home displaying whatever TV program is currently being watched inside. Maybe this helps us understand? Meaning is like this. The image of the image of our life conveys so little. Not only art, but our understanding of the world, is a viewing experience. Sometimes, oftentimes, our view is a distant with moving images. If this is what we know of the world, what can we say of knowing?

Signifiers have to be looked at together and alongside our works and systems if we are to locate meaning. Compare an eating habit with a religion. Compare a hobby with a hair style. Compare a stance on war with a stance on physical education. Piece together a dimension. Compare eye-level with body-induced information. What a person is willing to wear, say, and work at, says who they are as much as the image on their screen, the color of their walls and the name on their towels.

If I am to make meaning of the bells I hear, or do not hear, from the Zion Lutheran Church on Aurora Avenue, I must search for these bells. I must bring these bells into my dreams, build upon them, attach them to signifiers, make them more than they are, dissolve them into air again. They had to construct a French valley of red clay roofs with sandal-shod monks pulling an octopus of chords. They had to be melted down into bronze guns, shooting red cakes across Aurora, which needed to burst into mesmerizing crumbs. Crumbs capable of stunning the Circlers. Of breaking their measured feet, their rhythm. For a velvet crumb of time. The crumbs were exquisite. The sort of red you see nowhere else. Policemen and women stop by, on duty, to savor them. Lines of workmen form. No one outside Murano sees this kind of red.

"What is fashionably known as the 'postmodern condition' is really the condition of people who, having given up on their fundamental anxieties, find it easier to conceal them. Such people no longer know what to hope for or how. […]the goal of all art […] is to explain to the artist himself and to those around him what man lives for, what is the meaning of his existence." (Sapna Anu B. George, Author's Den, 2003).


"It doesn't look like you have anything for sale." --Unnamed visitor
"If there's a language of the gods, it has to be poetry." --Unnamed visitor
"The nature of life is the ambiguity of everything." --J. Tufel
"Thank you for the inspiration." --Unnamed runner

Green Lake artist, Faith Van De Putte, granted permission to reprint her poem here.

Crow Poet by Faith Van De Putte

If I were a crow with a clever eye
I would swoop down and steal the
sparkle "P", tinsel "O", glitter "E"
and your dragged in from Vegas "T"
but would leave the shabby brown desk.

If I were a crow in the morning
I would take inventory
feather by feather and choose
a single plume to leave fallen in the dew.
Then watching from my crooked branch
for the Sunday woman (a woman so full of words)
to find my gift left in the grass
I would wonder- what will she do.

I found your feather, kept for a spell, let blow to the ground once more before pinning to the tulip tree.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sunday 1 October 2006


A fairy alighted from the woods today to tell me about the art in a nearby forest. Woodland art in Woodland Park, faerie houses with knothole altars, twigs and leaves, she says. Arian happened upon some of these while walking home one day and started making her own. "How can I find this art, this place?" I asked. She drew me a map with a rose garden, a hill with birds, a tunnel, three pine trees, rabbits, a path and tennis courts. At the end of a dashed line, an egg full of arrows where she says there are faerie forts, high and low. Look here, here.

Tom says something similar evolved on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts not long ago. Art in an urban wood. But there, it drew in tourists who trampled the woods. The locals were called out with their big black boots to crush the faerie art. A bit severe, a double destruction it seems, but perhaps justice was served? After all, art needs to be born and reborn.

The same boots that crushed the woodland art, crushed McDonald's when it tried to root. And Subway. And a host of others. Martha's Vineyard is still largely franchise-free. The same boots that hover over woodsy art, lift to the corporate mart. Those boots keep appearing and appearing, swaying over heedless ventures whose business would destroy the long-held mystique of the island, the lore, the natural beauty and community of the place. Perhaps they are a mechanical defence, a battery-run wheel of boots, tripped by the sound of a cash register... off they roll, pound pounding down whatever made the sound.

And they have been largely successful over all but one single Dairy Queen near Edgartown. Is it so strange? I mean, wouldn't a dairy queen, and who's to say there isn't one, inhabit a woods, in a house made of twigs?

And now considering Andy Goldsworthy and his forest art? Why is no one hunting his sculptures down? Crushing his river rock eggs? Trampling the meadow to get to his serpentine walls? Andy Goldsworthy is not making guerilla art in a tourist town. Andy Goldsworthy is a part of the geography he alters. Andy Goldsworthy attended art school. Andy was, in many instances, commissioned. Andy makes art out of icicles and sand, art that destroys itself. Andy collects his work into coffee table books. Andy is better at keeping secrets. Andy prefers to be alone.

Why does Edgartown not approach their forest artists and offer them an urban space? Bring them to the tourists, so the tourists won't have to go to them? And then educate the artists and tourists together about environmental concerns? Seems a small triumph waiting to happen, with the community at stake, with art and progress at stake.

Art, I feel certain, does not need crushing.


It is 11:03. No bells again this week. Cracked. Shattered. Swept away. Rusted, frozen. Clangers glued to their hoods Chewing at the insides of their mouths. Domes packed with clay and clumps of wool.


11:08am. I spoke too soon. The after-mass chimes are playing now. A bit awkwardly, perhaps the pastor himself at the bench, but chimes none-the-less. A string of notes like a daisy chain. The air is holding them, ringing them out in dog tags, chains around necks, in clink clanks, scripscrapes underfoot.

But the flower strand was not followed at noon or anytime after with the usual longer hymns. No, we are down to a trickle. I barely remember my red roofed village.


I was reminded by a visitor, this afternoon, about a poem by Ted Kooser. A poem in which the speaker sits lingering by his window with a book in his lap, waiting for day to grow into night. Unable to see the print any more, he prefers to ride into night. The poem is "A Happy Birthday" from Kooser's Delights and Shadows. The last line of the poem, "with the pale gray ghost of my hand," suggests the disappearance of the reader, a foreshadowing of his death, brought upon yearly by a celebration of birthdays. In contrast to our celebration of birth is a progress toward death.

Is this what we are doing? Fading? Riding into night? Are we content to ride off? Is this what seems beautiful, to watch day destructing?

A few weeks ago, the Fremont Arts Council sponsored their annual festival, Luminata, at the lake. Paper lanterns in the shapes of fish, seahorses, moons and such, illuminated with candles and LEDs, carried around the lake, just as the darkness set in. Not everyone sits idly by watching night descend. Some blaze. Carry a light. Some build a fire. Fall through the heavens.

An attorney stopped by to mention the Theatre of the Trial, designed by Paul N. Luvera, a well-known Washington trial lawyer. A lawyer offering seminars on law and the theater. Some fall through heaven.

And Russ, who with his chromatic harmonica, warming the air with "I'm Dangerous" from Midnight Cowboy, for which he was applauded and photographed in a small act of audienceship. Some through heavens blaze.


On local living poets. If I fail to emphasize the local poet, if I do not sing her worth, how will my community learn her songs? I suppose I had wanted to enchant my visitors with those poems that inspired me long ago. Their distant voices, the ones that sprouted in a prison cell, behind an artillary line, in an assylum.

But what of our voice? The present voice? What of our own local prisons and wards? What of our depressions and joys? We must access these if we are to connect to the land.

I have brought some of our poets here to my desk. I have brought Rebecca Loudon and Carlos Martinez. From the library, I have borrowed Linda Bierds and Sherman Alexie. Already, a visitor has asked to borrow one of the living. Already someone has taken Carlos home. And off they go!

I make certain not to fail them now, not to let them leave without poetry. I take every opportunity to make poetry live. It is not enough to talk about it. I must offer and share it, read and listen. There is nothing more exciting than a visitor reading to me. Some take my papers hungrily and, with honor, recite. Some are too shy to read. Some read before a crowd. Some form circles. Some read to themselves. Be it is a line or a stanza, from memory or the page, we must practice it. Regain the vocabulary. I have a 4-page printout of poems at the ready for those without waders. The water is not so very deep.

Reading and listening. Signaling. Handling, back and forth, our poetry. This is our exchange. Today really isn't too soon.

I realized I hadn't anything specific to children. My task this week is to collect and print a sampling of children's verse. I've wasted too many opportunities. Too many small ears have gone unplanted.

Bruce brought his son Erin today, walking around the lake with one of his teachers. I suggested, to this teacher, that poetry, as a language and subject, is dropped too early from our schools. As we go about our lives, as we grow, we find that soon we've lost the language for poetry, the room and keys for it. Erin, not yet in high school, was certainly still knee-deep in poetry. Surely, he would disagree. He's too young. But when his teacher questioned, "What do you think about this?" he responded, to my amazement, "I think it's true. We studied poetry in the second grade, but we don't study it anymore."


And on and on, they visited, the young poets of Seattle.

A couple of Lakeside students stopped by. One had published a poem on a King County Bus in 2003. Morgan was able to remember and recite every word of her four-year old poem, "Lost Tranquility," about the war in Afghanistan. Lines like "I remember peace–" and "I remember when I lived in a house" attest to the fact that nostalgia is rooted in the next generation. In those fleeing poverty, war, religion, country, state, suburb, in the lowly "starter home" whose inhabitants were always destined for a long arc out of a cannon's mouth.

There are many ways to lose a home.
Lose a country. Lose a peace.
Lose love. Time. Wonder. Hope.
Day into night.

"The signifier must be detached from the signified. The new real is produced and marketed." (Marc W. Herold, "In Afghanistan, Selling War as Peace" Cursor). Poets are born to attach the signifier to the signified. Some are born to re-attach the severed signifier to the free floating signified. All are born to unearth the real. Past reals and future reals. Born to expose the present real.


River of Words
Each year, in affiliation with The Library of Congress Center for the Book, River of Words conducts a free international poetry and art contest for youth on the theme of watersheds. The contest is designed to help youth explore the natural and cultural history of the place they live, and to express, through poetry and art, what they discover. The contest is open to any child in the world, from 5-19 years of age. The deadline is in February.

If you are an educator, consider a lesson on poetry and prepare your students to submit. If you are a parent, talk to your son or daughter. If you are a child who fits the guidelines, why not submit?


And then Jane, a Lakeside librarian, on Joel's arm, came wandering along. Joel, the messenger of many, hinge to the lake. Jane was married for 47 years to a scholar at the University of Washington. When asked how she survived 47 years in a relationship, what was her secret, she responded, "respect and communication." Ah, what the poet offers. Oh, what a poet demands.


A child on a tricycle, with an awkward helmet on his forehead, stopped his wheels and looked at my desk. "Dad, what does pee-oh-eee-tee mean?"

Good question.

Sunday 24 September 2006

24 September


If you are counting down, this makes week 41. 40 weeks to go. I have been bringing poetry to Green Lake 8 hours each Sunday since early July, by way of an 8 mile walk. I have put in 96 hours and walked 96 miles. By next July, I will have traveled 416 miles in Sundays.

Where else might I have gone… in 416 miles? I might have walked off south to Mount Washington in Oregon. Or traveled east to west across Germany. I might have whistled over the shores of Rhode Island with the king eider. Or skated across Saskatchewan. Taken the Dalton Highway from Fairbanks to Deadhorse. Or traced the length of the Sacramento River, all the way from Mt. Shasta. I might even have walked from Rome to Milan. Or through the thicket of dialects in all the parkways of New York City.

Instead, I will walk Seattle's "corridor of neglect and crime" [Sandeep Kaushik, The Stranger]. Sweep the Aurora Bridge. Play a sleepy game of get-to-know-me.


This is one method of gaining access. Walking, pacing, measuring a place. Traveling on foot. Unlike a book or a conversation, walking involves you with just about every thing. If you are willing to take your hat off and lift your eyes, if you are willing to converse with yourself, walking will give you access to the land, light, distance, color, birds, weather, and music, as well as your own mind, skeleton, breath, and dreams. It can involve you with me and me with you. Involve us in a seen, tasted, felt and worn document of history.

Timelines are graphs of our movement through space.

Here grew the blackberry in August, plump and puzzled. By early September, the half were beheaded. In October, the berries were teddy bear eyes, dangling by threads. Their jackets, a wicked warp upon the hill.

Over here once snorted the wooly pup. All day, he'd sit, alone, absent of praise, awaiting a hand in through his fence. By December, he paced a line as you hurried past. It's March now, he has a place on the porch where he tracks you with his eyes.

And here stood three frightened geraniums, while up went their reflections in a storefront rising, up, up, all the way to the lake. Gulp. Now the schoolboy must dream the lake, rely on memory to bring it "back into the little system of his care" (Ted Kooser, "Flying at Night"). A generation and no one will yearn for the lake. Not even the residents with the costly views infrequently occurred.

No telling what the path will offer. A memory, desire, an aspect of home? Tragedy? Loss? A tunnel of sparrows? Who knows what sky and twilight give? Perhaps they will take you, with yellow and blue, to your source?

Wear a path. Study change. Learn the pace of your place. When you are able to claim a place, perceive it as home, you will claim life. And that means you live.

Wendell Berry talks about "the knowledge of place that comes from working in it in all weathers, making a living from it, suffering from its catastrophes, loving its mornings or evenings or hot noons, valuing it for the profound investment of labor and feeling that you, your parents and grandparents, your all-but-unknown ancestors have put into it. He is talking about the knowing that poets specialize in” [Wallace Stegner, "The Sense of Place"].

Tell me, poets, what you know? Change or difference? Place or movement? The spot on your wall, that trance-inspiring thing, is it the green chamber where black willows grow? Or a plum in a bowl? Or yet still another life? No matter, time goes on dividing, diving. Dying.

Wear a path. Study change. Hold onto place.


"The Asclepieion contains a theatre, rooms where patients were cured by the sound of water and music, the Temple of Asklepios, thermal baths and a library" [Wikipedia]. We needn't go to Greece. We've got all of that. We've got that here at Green Lake. The sounds of water. A library on the lake. A Bath House Theatre. We've even music, if you want. In the bellies of the birds, the traffic's throat, the green and yellow sequins. Squirming. Gurgling. Paddling in the wind.


Dennis sauntered up behind me while I was lugging my desk to the lake. He smelled of liquor. I had only 200 feet to go, but I asked anyway, did he want to help? He said yes, so I gave him an end. A rag of gray beard, square photo grey lenses, a trucker’s cap and baggy jeans. He asked where I was going. "To the lake," I said. "Where are you going?" "Texas." We rested at the edge of the park. "Dislocated arm," he explained, "I got jumped last week." We rested and carried on.

When we finally set the desk down, I offered him my book of William Stafford poetry. Without question, he began to read, as if directed to. He was still standing, nose in the book, long after Bev had come and gone. Ever-merry Bev-er berry, bearing a bushel of plums. Not in a paper bag, a worn brown bag, but in a blue foam tray. The soft frost of each suede nose, upright and carefully displayed. I showed them to whoever would look. Would you look at these gems! Can I offer you a plum?

I wandered around making my meadow beautiful, de-littering, while Dennis made himself at home on the wet lawn, stretched out, buried in Stafford. In the last 20 minutes, he has uttered just six words, "I’m just a horny old bastard." But something in Stafford is quieting him. I sit sensing his nourishment; can almost hear the drip from the i.v. bag. Hear poetry wriggling its way over the border.

Poetry will take any two hands strong enough to hold it.

I offered Dennis a plum. And out came a number. "1970." Then a whole line, "I got shot in the heart." Magic plums. He went on and told me about his screen play, a detective story, the last case for his hero Chan, the death of his father. Dennis has 8K squirreled away from the 25K advance. He’s holding out until he needs it. He is 60-something, proud and curious. Whether the money exists or no is irrelevant. He believes it does. Either way it is helpful. He’s mentioned, several times now, he was born on the same day as Walt Disney. December the 5th. He has a way of parenthesizing everything, as if there were a story behind not only the story, but each word of the story. He is a study in language. A self-commentating show.


Tom and Lucy came for a visit. Lucy put her front paws on my desk. Hello Lucy! Tom is, for me, the image of Tristan Jones. The Tristan Jones I have read and imagined. Tristan, the solo ocean voyager, a storyteller, author of twenty books. A wayward sailor. The scruffy and calloused, they all look alike. They have a splinter in common. They know humor through work and humility through fortune. They are both large and small on this earth.


Again today, their time has come and gone and they've not sung. They did not sing last week. Has my imagined village washed away? Has its sea of red roofs sunk in the mud? The ringers, do they sleep now in buried towers?

Wake, wake! I have flowers for you. I will not open. An eternity! To what vulgar existence shall I turn? What daydream? Wake pastor, wake! Call upon our passions.

"Cannons and bells have always had a curious relationship— bells are melted down to make cannons in times of war, and cannons are melted town to make bells in times of peace" (Blagovest Bells).

They're imagined, yes. Copied on magnetic tapes, air and song, played on the roof through a speaker. No chance to melt them into cannons. They are impotent. But that doesn't stop me from dreaming them into a line of bronze cannons on the Aurora embankment. And what are they shooting? What ammunition do they gift? Something red. Over the roadway and onto the path. Red velvet cakes perhaps. Soaring in burgundy streaks across the roadway. Breaking and scattering in reckless crumbs. The passersby stare in disbelief at the arresting morsels of impulsive red. Colorist bring cases of pigments to match their red. Cellists dramatize their grief with waving bows. And children do what children do, collect them into tins.


In 1966, Marshall Sahlins proposed a theory suggesting the hunter-gatherers as the original affluent society. Sahlins argues that "hunter-gatherer and western societies take separate roads to affluence, the former by desiring little, the latter by producing much" (Sahlins, Man, 85).

With our loss of time then, perhaps the desire for less?
Less listing. Fewer slabs. Not so much chatter.

"Hunter-gatherers consume less energy per capita per year than any other group of human beings[…] All the people's material wants were easily satisfied. To accept that hunters are affluent is therefore to recognise that the present human condition of man slaving to bridge the gap between his unlimited wants and his insufficient means is a tragedy of modern times" (Sahlins, "The Original Affluent Society").

What to want? A dream. A story. Crumbs.

First to realize our affluence,
an act of beauty overtakes an act of speed.
A race becomes a quiet parade.
A feather outweighs a leather case.

Dennis has been with me for five hours. After finishing Stafford, he fell asleep in the grass. Dennis is rich in time. When he awoke he rolled over, stood up and walked away.


I ask myself, week upon week, I ask, "What are you doing out here?" I ask, is this a performance? People come by, "I just had to see what kind of theatre you were making." Is it art? They turn their heads. Stop and think. Photograph me. Participate. Or is it a search? It is too late in our history to search? Has everything been found? Been measured, catalogued and tasted? Or is there something still unknown? Is it possible to search? Or has the exercise of searching, itself, lolled into the realm of art? Become a subject for an indy film?

If we display our search, no matter how true, how real to us, does it become, by default, a parody? An act? An embossed event?

No. Do you remember those Brooklyn nights? Those endless nights? That poetry desk, those forty poems, those forty nights? For whom then, this quiet life of discontent? For whom? You? This life? This search? Your passion? First you must find your poetry, then search for a home. The persons, places, lives you wish to honor. Until then, words can only define a fiction.


And then we have artist Clayton Campbell offers his idea of generativity whereby "the individual gives back more to the community than s/he takes out of it." Well, it's nothing new. This is how we were taught to share, to love. How we were taught to be happy. Give. Lend a hand. Volunteer. Just look at Plymouth House. Look at the Wintonia. Look at Ski-for-All. We're still helping one another. Navigating traffic. Still offering spokes for the wheel.

And anyway, generativity, if practiced, would yield such a terrible excess. More good than we need. Heaps and bins and landfills of good. A good ghetto! In the end, we would need to recycle some of the good to rebalance earth. We'd need to ingest some good ourselves.

And i ask, are pain and deformity not also generative? Is silence not generative? Buttering bread, is that generative?

Degenerative, that is night following night. That is when the rose petal blows into the Grand Canyon.


A verb flung into any art conversation - to inform, to profoundly inform. A verb I intend to appropriate. For the poets. I'd like to lodge it between the poet and her public. I’m here to inform you… And now to inform the conversation, let's turn to a poem... This is poetry to inform the way we live and die. Informing requires a wish to connect. Recognition of two bodies in space.

Dennis laughed once and went on reading.

Later, he read a line aloud and held up the book to me. I looked at the line with him. We marveled into it together. Poetry wiggling.

Instigation: Poetry for the homeless.

The world will not stop to bend a knee. The poet, through persistent involvement in the world, makes life happen, makes time, art, space, event and nature happen. The poet facilitates life. Connects us in a substantive way.


I have issue 85 of Contemporary 21, a glossy art magazine, with me today. There are images on pages 20 and 21, dark entangling shapes stretched on white walls. Baseboard mouldings catch and carry their art. The images make a perfect match when the pages shut. One might be a blot of the other. The one on the left is an installation by conceptual artist William Anastasi, called Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (1965). The other is a work, in paint, by the same artist.

It was the Metaphor Man who suggested, last week, I take Beethoven’s "Fifth" and set it to language. Here is it now, draped on the wall. A bundle of kelp, a long strip of acetate gathered and hung from two nails. It stretches and drapes and tangles and falls in a heap on the floor. And on the facing page, evidence of a gallon of black paint thrown on a wall. A shocked head. A betendriled heart. Another kind of symphony. A rendition. I would have preferred this too to be called Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. It is titled One gallon thrown (1966).

Beyond the poured and thrown items are Anastasi's subway drawings from his Blind Drawing Series. Yes, others were being guided by forces, exploring surrealism, automatism. Others were splattering. Dripping. Throwing. Others were doodling. Perhaps it is the image of Anastasi, realized in a line by critic Thomas McEvilley, that makes me love him so, "Sometimes the paper would be in his pocket, folded small, the artist drawing away in the private dark with his stub of pencil while the performance went on." There’s something luscious about such an image and it isn’t only Anastasi the human, but the way Anastasi is presented, the language he is awarded. In the private dark. Doors are closed on the world. His stub of pencil. A tiny door, in a pocket, opens. While the performance went on. Two worlds collide.

While the performance went on. Such a line could be stickered to any event, a birth, a death, a haircut, the harvest of one grape. I plucked a grape from an idle bunch on a platter while the performance went on… The performance is always marching on, or dancing, or sometimes racing. Then it will surprise you, out on the pier, dangling a foot in the water, about to slip in. And the performance goes on.


When art acts outside of the market, fights our demands, grates against accepted styles, we call it defiant. Defiant art. Like a ruffian, a school boy. Defiant. We call it complex, personal, not easy. His art is highly personal. But still we engage it. Still we work towards it. Attempt to hook it, barb it. Give it a taste.

How is it, then, that defiance overlooks our language? Is poetry no more when it fails to conform? Is there no such thing as a defiant poetry? We are told there is not. We are told this is nonsense, incomprehensible. No sense in trying to understand a thing, if it’s a thing without language. It’s stillborn. Empty! Leave it be. It will blow away with the autumn wind.

If I were to set Beethoven’s "Fifth" to words, you wouldn’t want it. You wouldn’t want the thing I could offer. But I will. I will prepare this meal for you. Hunt it, toss it, set it before you. Serve you this little mouse. Do with it what you will. Let it wilt. When it begins to blacken, before it is autumn dry, you will smell its carcass and know of me. And then, once crushed and dusted on your children's feet, you will forget me again.


I am still fielding this question and answering stupidly, instead of gazing quizzically into the distance to point out a harbor light. A visitor asked, "What is the practical purpose of your project?" I jumped for my book, "I have to write that down. Add that to my list of things to do. (Scribbling) B-e m-o-r-e p-r-a-c-t-i-c-a-l." And laugh. A laugh. Here follows a line of questions begun on day one, "What do you hope to gain?" I thought I had iterated. I thought I had driven it home. You're here, now get out. Go home, I said. Week after week, they ask, "How will you measure the success of your project?"

Dear Circler,
We have already succeeded. We succeeded on day one, when you approached, when you spoke to me. And I listened. When you rolled by and puckered: p-o-e-t. This is an ungraphable gain.

Might I now return the question? How do you know your life has begun? How will you know when it is through? How do you know life at all? Do you grasp it? And how? Do you see it? In what? What do you hear? When it is too much, do you write it down? Do you ever write it down? What part of your life is not practical? Are these the best or the worst parts? Answer me this, what helps the most? Whimsy or Prose?