Sunday 4 February 2007
Drizzly, misty, mild, windless. Super Bowl Sunday.
She says my glittery sign reminds her of Denise Duhamel's sign, a neon sign, "POET," which used to flash on and off outside her Lower East Side apartment. Sharon Cumberland, an accomplished poet and professor at Seattle University, visited today. She told me to check into the Poetry Festival at the Hugo House. It's very good, she says, I should go. I should let people know.
Piles of hay and waste thaw and send up their scent. After a stretch of cold temps, the piles of waste leap forth. I haven't smelled the zoo since autumn. Here, behind the eucalyptus, the scent of exotic dung is a milestone, a marker indicating my distance from the meadow. Reassuring and indicative. Smelling the elephants means I have 20 minutes more to walk before I reach my meadow.
Along Aurora, as I walk to the lake, there is a house north of the bridge with a small fountain in a ledge in the porch. A wall fountain with a female figure pouring water. It used to spill green water from a vase into a half moon basin. After it broke, someone put an oversized glass vase into the basin. A brutal embrace, it seemed, of glass and stone.
A glass vase holds the contents of the fountain now, two gallons of brown-green liquid. The basin too is full of brown-green liquid. The glass vase is itself in a pool of water held by the basin. A container within a container. What used to spill forth is held still. Not exactly barren of mystery, but without an alternate story. One life as opposed to many. Two separate environments. Interior and exterior.
North of the fountain, a heavy concrete footbridge arches over Aurora. It connects the neighborhoods of Fremont and Wallingford. As I pass under it, I have time to say just one word if I want it to echo well. A two syllable word would be too much in such a small cavity. I call this the atrium. The ventricle. As if I were going into a heart. Into the atrium of Aurora.
As children in Pennsylvania, we visited the Franklin Institute. There is a giant model of a human heart in the Franklin Institute that you can walk through.
As the moment approaches, I force myself to relax, try to keep from formulating the word, so that when I pass underneath, when I come to the heart of the artery, the word simply erupts. I have uttered such words as yes and blue and mine. These words feel good, like a stroke of paint or flash in the dark.
Between Green Lake North, the road behind my meadow, and my spot in the meadow, there under three Hawthorn trees where the meadow slopes, a drain is set. The gates to the drain are not stamped in the ground like a coin, but stand vertical, spanning a 1½ foot section of hillock. A circular pipe drain is framed with a square concrete arch and cap, like a miniature smokehouse in a vast farmland. A tiny door to the underworld. I imagine tiny figures clutching the gate, tortured souls at the gates of Hell. I have commissioned Chloe to sculpt a figure to place at the gate. Chloe, who teaches clay sculpture for a Girls & Boys Club. "The wood from the Hawthorn provides the hottest fire known" [Sacred Woods and the Lore of Trees].
LET ME ASK
A little boy bicycles right up to my desk. His wheel touches the wood. I sense him there. I look up. "Hello. What's going on?" I ask. "I'm just riding my bike." "Would you like a poem?" "Hold on, let me ask… Mom!!" "My Mom says no?" "Too bad," I answer, "I had the Quangle Wangle's Hat for you." I look up and smile to his mother on the path. The little boy bicycles on.
Imperfect bells, not clear, but sharp and lively. A human hand on the organ keys at the close of mass. Their notes stumble across Aurora.
A new gull is visiting my meadow. It has a soft gray back, black-tipped tail feathers, a beige/heather hood and a black-tipped, down-turned beak. Perhaps it is a Ring-billed gull? Ring-billed gulls account for only 2% of the gulls in the NW.
Ours not to experience, but to invent the world. Real history is the history you create, the way you include the real, the remembered and the imagined. Myth is a most potent drink.
My meadow is strewn with pinecones. They lay in a ragged radius around my tulip trees. I look about and see the history of things I myself have named. These pinecones have known two seasons, have risen, fallen and been resurrected. They have scurried through my lawn as critters, hung as bangles from my tulip trees. Everything I see, I have created.
The day's first breeze is coming off the lake. It has a fishy smell. It smells of oil and guts, dried blood. Perhaps they've stocked the lake? It reminds me of a certain concrete pier, broken, and a filet knife, fish buckets and cut garden hose.
Danielle and Daniella of The New School interview me for a school radio project. Daniella lets me listen to her recording device. Green Lake amplified: the gravel underfoot, the wigeons, the lap of water on the shore. A breath, a seashell to the ear.
Leigh read a poem aloud to Clinton. She read from Rebecca Loudon's Tarantella, "Music for Piano, 4 Hands." "This is the broken window / This is the air rushing in."
Peter, an oversized man, a Bunyan, sits with me then. I ask him, "What moves you?" His answer is "light." How do you go about capturing the light? What is your medium? Are you a photographer?" Peter doesn't believe in capturing the light. Doesn't believe in capturing moments. He lets the images move past, experiences them as a spectator. A purveyor of life. He has been reading Leonard Cohen. Perhaps it is Cohen who is guiding him into knowing?
From "The Window"
Come forth from the cloud of unknowing and kiss the cheek of the moon; the code of solitude broken, why tarry confused and alone? And leave no word of discomfort,and leave no observer to mourn, but climb on your tears and be silent like the rose on its ladder of horn.
-- Leonard Cohen
Azart. Art from A to Z. A flower. Bad luck. Hazard. Chance. A venture. The passion to put everything at stake. Andre Breton, in his manifesto of Surrealism (1924), suggests that Christopher Columbus should have set out to discover America with a boatload of madmen. Well... didn't he?
If I could set my desk asail, I would. Azart.
What I most admire about Azart (the multi-cultural floating carnival which sailed 2000-2005) was their unwillingness to work within the realm of the commonplace, common practice, with what Breton calls "the realistic attitude," crediting observation over dream. A Ship of Fools, they crossed oceans, followed ancient Dutch merchant ship routes. The crew met both with dignitaries and the dispossessed. They visited town hall and the prison and mental institution. "Promoting artistic cooperation" was their intention.
One of the clearest signs that their intentions were true was their willingness to decommodify art and stress alternative methods for assigning value to the experience of art. "Entrance-tickets are gauged by the weight of the spectator, about ten pesetas a kilo or a tuppence a pound. This is inspired by mediaeval allegories, depicted by, among others, Breughel, in which the age-old fight between the poor and the rich is represented as a fight between the thin and the fat. Experience shows that this odd and discriminatory way of entrance makes it a popular theatre with the advantage that children pay next to nothing and that public participation is assured before the show has even started."
GERALDINE R. DODGE POETRY FESTIVAL
A bearded man and his wife stop to tell me about their friend, a poet, Carolyn Wright. They ask, have I been to the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in Stanhope, New Jersey? Have I been to the largest poetry event in North America, a four-day event held every other year? Bill Moyers attends. Moyers even discusses it in a PBS series called "Sounds of Poetry" and "Language of Life."
They bring to me the work of Charles Alexander. So much to explore.
She stood square before me, "It is my birthday. Do you have a poem for me?" I flipped through an anthology and stopped upon "Fragrant Hands" by Faiz. She smiled when I was through, "That's perfect." She walked away. I read that same poem throughout the day to my visitors. "Fragrant Hands" begins with a note: "For the Anonymous Woman Who Sent Me a Bouquet of Flowers in Prison." This line lingers, "fidelity will always be in bloom." Everyone is moved by this poem. Faiz was both imprisoned and praised by his government. Faiz is able to communicate beyond walls and bars.
Tom brings a morsel today, Eric Rohmer's "Six Moral Tales." The experiment, says Rohmer, is as much about how to live as how to see and think.
Bruce Taylor (aka Mr. Magic Realism) and Roberta Gregory, who writes comics for Seattle Weekly, visited last week. They host an artist share & potluck at their house on the first Sunday of the month. FOKUS is an art share & potluck/support group. Artists are invited to share their work or just enjoy the others. Roberta and Bruce have been doing this for 20 years. What community, real and nurturing, is spread before me. Perhaps there are 9 or 19 poets competing for honors in the NW and then far below, there are 5,000 others who dream of writing lines that make an audience fall to their knees, and in between are the family of artists who live and share their lives, who give and receive.