Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sunday 11 February 2007


My morning begins with applause. A group of ducks rise together and move towards shore. They set down again, with applause and spray.

And then the messenger of haiku, Pam, brings her husband's verse. A page of haiku. And I see. And I hear. And further, I sense. "The bamboo shoot whispers now / and spring can begin." Thank you, David.

And here, in echo, is the haiku of Geert Verbeke from Kokoro 53:

frightened ducks
and circles on the water
the splash of one stone


I sit at my desk with my head in my book, writing the day. With my eyes closed, I let the sounds affect me. At 9:46am, there is a swell in the gravel. I force myself to experience the sound without looking up. I sense an army, a hundred bodies assembling and flowing past. One whisper moving towards one thing.

This is what spring must sound like to the earthworm, with robins performing balestras in the grass, starlings and flickers cracking the black shells of insects, poking their swords into the soil, with root-clutches sucking at the water pan and green nuns breaking the surface with a crumbling. And then, chingk, the shovel of the sky.

I later learn this was The Valentine's Run. Beth Coyote, poet and friend and a runner too, I did not know, drops off to say hello with a grin before racing on. Friend, do what you are here to do. With a kiss, she marks me.


I have a long-held belief in communication-- in language, music, dance and art. I have faith that the fact of our communication provides the underlying meaning, the purpose and goal of life.

When you strip humankind of matter, when you shake off desire and peel back image, what remains is communication, or the lack of communication. These two things. At the base level, there is nothing less. Our interactions with real things provide the content from which we construct meaning. Self, family, friends, strangers, the rain, the trees, rocks. All we have communicated, all that's been communicated, this is the peachpit that rolls on, after we step out of the world. This is the seed that travels through history.

Author Stephen Dobyns suggests that not only does the possibility of communication offer meaning to and exhibit the highest form of art, but that "great art, by showing us our common feeling, shows us our common responsibility. It shows us how to live" (Best Words, Best Order, p306). How to live. Not only the purpose, but instruction.

If you should ever forget, turn to art. If you should lose your way, run into a poem. Open the doors of a painting. Find yourself where life is rich.


We must come full circle, spin the kingpin one full turn, past perfect, past imperfect, back to perfect again. Beyond our carefully developed taxonomy lies the rhizome, the connected thing. If we succeed in integrating our lists and languages, our duties and values, we may approach what Wayne Roberts calls "art-language." Language, Roberts says, must explore the whole if we are to understand our part. Our part, together with his and her part, through dialogue and effort, make the whole. This is the reason that upon making a connection one feels so perfect, so satisfied. The perfect alone can trump dialogue .

"As science progressed, the superficial colourings/markings of a particular bird (analagous to a particular style in art) became less-important, and gave way to a more sophisticated study of the covert connections that exist between and among living things and their environment (which itself came to be considered something which is alive viz. Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis.) A new powerful art-language may then emerge when various 'parts' are connected to form 'wholes'" [Beyond Style in Art, © 2000-2003 Wayne Roberts].


Let nobody tell us what two parts fit together. Let us scrape together that which was on two plates. Let us find new solutions and then new questions. Let us find our moment and stand back-to-back with it and regard the whole of the day.

Poetry & performance
Science & art
Medicine & music
Art & eyesight
Dancing & physics


Play in culture and the competition for resources will, if unchecked, shut down our creative sources. And then what, work? A fritter of time? A meaningless meal? And then, at last, sleep?

Why not turn instead to play? "Play has the ability to distract us and insruct us about our fate, yet as civilization gets more serious, the distraction comes to take precedence over the intruction. Spectacle replaces thought" [Stephen Dobyns, Best Words, Best Order, p 329].
Spectacle. The group, gathered and dispersed, yet unmoved. This is nothing like the scroll you handed me in the candlelight of your study. This is nothing like the way your finger traced the line, explaining the history between events, his having painted it, your having acquired it.

How can we halt this progression, turn it around? Whose job is it to conjure play? The artist, can we agree, is tasked with the work of seeing, pushing, testing and playing? It has always been the artist's work - to play.

How, as a culture, can we support the artist?
  • grants
  • housing
  • press
  • participation
  • sponsorship
  • events
  • purchase art
But most of all participation.


I read Jack Gilbert's "Recovering Amid the Farms" to my visitors today. "She turned twelve last year and it was legal/for the father to take her out of school. She knows/her life is over." One of my visitors, also named Gilbert, responded, "I wonder if people living in Seattle can relate to that poem? I am from the South. My father also left school at the age of twelve and was put to labor."


Miriam read a poem by Antonio Machado. "Las Moscas." She giggled as she read the Spanish. Dirk and I waited. "I never knew you could think of a fly like this." Machado's speaker is remembering his past and there, in that past, in all those remembered scenes, is the common household fly. It is what connects the events of his life. A friendly creature, it lands at last on his closed eyes in the coffin.


Franco and Gitte read poems to me in Italian and German, from The Poem Itself by Burnshaw. Franco is a psychoanalysist who works with dreams. He is visiting from Oxford. I ask him about flying dreams. I have always wanted to fly in my dream, I tell him. He discourages me. I am surprised by this. He says those who fly are not rooted. They are always glad to be safely down on the earth again. "You do not want to fly." He talked about the dreamer who, in his dreams, flew several feet above his group of friends. The ego. When one of the dreamer's friends hit the wrong button, they all started to descend. The dreamer alone stayed in the air. Here, Franco said, is someone avoiding his growing responsibilities as a wage-earner and new father. "No, you do not want to fly." But Franco, I think I do.


Jim Page visited today. If you know folk music, if you live in the Northwest, you know Jim Page. He happened by with a friend today and visited me at my desk. He was just back from a tour of London and, before that, Taiwan.

He likened my work to the work of Chris Chandler, who brings poetry to the people with music. Chandler has shared the stage with artists such as Pete Seeger, Ani Difranco, David Wilcox...

Jim told me about the Taiwanese poet and political activist, Zhong Yongfeng, with whom he shared a stage at last year's Trees, Music & Art. He talked about the farmers in Taiwan. Yongfeng is speaking out on behalf of farmers. On behalf of the farmers and villagers in Taiwan who are losing their livelihood to dams. Oliver, who sits with me,who is visiting, talks of the farmers in China who are being killed for protesting unfair land deals, land seizures and dams, for trying to preserve their way of life. No discussion, just a silencing. At least in Taiwan there is the ability to sing about it, to talk about it. But our markets are too closely linked not to think one will affect the other.

Jim raised the subject of China's new carbon-neutral zones. An incongruity, perhaps a sign of hope, a sign of despair. Chongming Island, an island the size of Manhattan will serve as an experiment. A green city. An eco-city. "The main grid of the city will be for walking and cycling, not cars. There will be public transport within (550 yards) of each home," says Peter Head, director of Arup, the British firm designing Dongtan. "With no (gasoline) or diesel engines, Dongtan will be a quiet place. So you can open windows and ventilate buildings."

We need fewer experiments and more full-on commitment. Such places, such zones, should be the basis. An eco-world.


Julia Donc approaches then and interviews me for a possible story on KBCS 91.3FM, Bellevue Community Radio. As we talk, Oliver listens. Two young men on skateboards come to listen. There are 5 people now, listening.

Poet, speak.


Anonymous get zapped said...

I was delighted to find you written about in the Times! I honor you for bringing poetry to everyday folks. This is great. I'll be sure to stop by the next Sunday I walk the lake. Peace...

2:51 PM  
Blogger Glenn Ingersoll said...

Good for you. I think about doing something like this now & then. Maybe when the weather gets better.

Ron Silliman had a link to the Seattle Times article. Intrigued, I searched the web for the blog.

4:08 PM  
Blogger apprentice said...

I agree with your outlook on the way to live.

Warm wishes from drizzly Scotland

9:45 AM  
Blogger Writer on Board said...

I just found your blog. Bravo! Thank you.

10:15 PM  
Blogger caro said...

You are confusing some issues here. Taiwan is not China; farmers dont get kicked off their land to make way for a state run project. Thats not to say life isnt a struggle for Zhong Yong-feng and Lin Sheng Xiang describe in their fantastic CD, Planting Trees.

Its hauntingly beautiful; and the lyrics are translated into English, Chinese and Japanese (its mainly sung in Hakka dialect).

The biggest problem for farmers as many others around the world, is trying to compete under fierce global competition with WTO rules forcing goverments to open up local markets

12:58 AM  

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