[This scroll has no end in sight, with 2017 additions more or less on top, and older–e.g., Rolling On (2003) & Like Water (1995) albums—way down near the bottom. In between, more or less random bits & selections snagged from scribble-pads &/or freshly composed in passing.
The reader, like the writer, may be expected to make full use of the limited attention span most arts require–moving &/or skimming along as required. If this sorry excuse for a poem don’t do it, well, maybe the next one will. As with painters & photographers, it’s the moment at hand & the doing that count most, where the doing is making, & what’s made is an energy-construct, vessel of potential experience, vehicle of transmission, synaptic provocation.
Not that it need be earth-shattering, profound, ponderous or heavy to qualify. Even nonsense may qualify, though is not the requirement some contemporary practice might suggest. Grease up the cello, mama. One moment pondering, another pure fun, and then a train of thought leaving the station & the stationery behind. If poetry is musical thought, & music is, as Wallace Stevens claimed, not (just) sound but feeling, you still need to hear it to feel it–where all hearing ends up –in the Magic Theater of the Attentive Mind.]
Time linear & time cyclical
give rise together to our numbered years—
1438, 2017, 2560, 4349, 5117, 5777, 6766…
tzolkin, haab & long count, our lady of discord 3182
13.7 billion light-years, 7 days of post-creation—
countless systems & variants, ways of counting,
& accounting for time, time served, time imagined.
Even just accounting for age eludes me—
nipple-popping infant, toddler, child,
teen, young fool, striver, domestic adult,
elder, old fool—memory
whoever we were,
whatever we are
shifting as fast as
wind’s face on
the water’s surface
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
If gravity & curved space are one,
throw in time bent by entanglement,
love, mind, generation, regeneration.
We know gravity by the movement
& attraction of bodies–the arc of
the ball, arrow, head & heart.
Where is there an arc without time, which
we know (& space, too) only from movement,
change in position, condition, state substance or form,
–whether development, complication or decay;
emergence into, passage through, or last exit
before drop-off, ground giving way, clouds above.
Speaking of curved space, my love–
Where is there space between us?
600 miles? Ha! Gone in a flash,
the snap of a finger—
that mind in the heart
knows its own geography,
each in the other
far closer than 600 miles,
too deep to divide.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
600 miles? Is that all?—
so we’re 1/310th of
a light-second apart!
leaving a trail of clothes behind
to press bodies closer together,
we old folks leave words,
paintings, a clean floor,
new tires, grapefruits…
as we scatter,
seem to fly apart
at the seams,
stay stitched together
by connecting threads
finer than light.
the beauty of curved forms
the grace of lines that soar
like eagles on thermals,
air under our wings,
wind under our skirts–
the surprise shift of the ball,
planet’s journey, arc of each
galaxy around its black hole,
twist of double helix-shelix,
the tortoise shell calligraphy
of dancing cranes, snakes,
coiled together, waves rising
& falling into that infinite shore
of the self, that turbulent sea
harboring all life within its
exquisite immensity, still
not large enough to hold that
striving, that urge to breathe,
explore, & know a larger body
of becoming–shore, cloud,
snowpack, runoff, leaf & lover,
inner & outer space, where
aspiration comes from–
inspiration’s fount still sends
explorers forth after…nothing
in particular or already known,
as if anti-gravity had its own arc,
& we were born to gush, & go on gushing
even sometimes long after our expiration dates.
a case might be made for poetry as curved thought.
What mass does to space, & looped cycles to time,
maybe that condensed & concentrated attention
at the heart of poetry sometimes does to thought…
the black hole of the soul
swallowing light of the mind
at the life-event horizon,
no longer just sound & sense
centered in the head, or even
an image caught in a frame.
* * *
but blood that flows through my fingers
in words, the movement of my feet, as if
going somewhere–like a river drawn
ever downwards into the earth–
must have its own logic, half mad,
the rest drunk (“thanks, I needed that”).
made lighter by warmth, it’s lifted again
& again through living forms, carried into
the clouds once reflected in its depths.
* * *
Across the words, lines of language
look for their arc in the search for
where they’re going & what draws them–
where gravity doesn’t mean heaviness,
nor gravitas somberness, nor death
much of a grave, at least no casket hole,
but water & smoke & ashes
passed along generations,
giving earth back its dues,
its bubble of me-ness–…
As if that were all…
Like wave & particle, poetry may take
shape around its own inner light, if any,
or sizzle with its excited electro-magnetic field,
illuminated sky, aurora-borealis, northern lights.
On the other hand, not unlike Dick or Richard,
calling something poetry is just another name
people give to whatever they want,
more or less randomly bestowed,
no law define sit, in other words.
Fair enough. Call it Dick for all I care. Or diction.
Or the Earl of Oxford’s nose. I make no special claim
to having figured it out; after more than 50- years
on the case, as much a beginner as ever.
Or if I did figure it out, I’ve forgotten,
however many times as necessary;
with memory as short as attention span,
every discovery’s fresh, however obvious–
The secret is there is no secret.
The secret is there is, hidden
in plain sight, obvious once seen,
just not subject to explanations,
from the twang of the bowstring
to the thwack of the arrow,
no words can keep up, like
the face of the water in motion:
full of fresh surprise, voila!
the suchness of things that aren’t things,
known only in passing—never quite grasped:
caught on the fly, songs beyond us,
between us, sax, trumpet & bass,
that ocean the ear hears in its shell,
any arrangement of
~~~ (dis)-ordered words
may do, even these in a pinch.
* * *
Poetry, whether twisted or not (tongue twithters
tied in a bow with or slip knot thoughts), may be
no more or less than thoughts feeling in a circle,
elliptical arcs of what mind & mouth are striving
for–that sense still just out ahead that can’t wait
to be said, like dancers moving together,
where the dance is a sensational experience
with language & meaning, pleasures of knowing
& more, in seeking together, attentive to
sensitive details along the way, hairs standing on end,
little nubbins of aromatically beautifully exuding skin,
each excursion on an old path fully new, never lived before.
Not to be an old blowhard, but–
Inspiration must be exercised before its expiration date,
while perspiration eventually grows stale, & must then
be replaced with fresh sweat.
Hold to high standards of sound & light,
my sweet girls & lively boys, & vice versa,
clarity, honesty, botany–whichever comes first,
or, where the first shall be last, last,
with a good shot of laughing gas between,
(in some areas, known also as laughing grass).
* * *
Knowing what it’s like to be ignorant,
I haven’t been big on intentional allusions
my more ignorant readers won’t get (without help).
Otherwise, I might recall William Shakespeare’s
Polonius, loosely based on the Earl of Oxford’s lick
in the Polonius Monk Keyboard Quartet’s “Generic Advice.”
“It don’t mean a thang if it ain’t got that twang.”
Soul-touching, foot-tapping, heart rending…,
music of the spheres, the spears, the squares.
~~~~~~~~~~* * *
It’s bluegrass cosmos, with vibrating string-thongs,
beating heart percussion, breaking wind gasses,
big bang background radiation, moon & sun blues
if you’d like. Or play the clown-fool on a high wire,
Ferlinghetti-wise, e.e. cummings-ish, George-like
(whether Carlin or Burns, Forman or Bush).
“It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that:
a) string; b) swing; c) string thong thread;
d) cord that binds us [that] also sets us free:
practice makes perfect (nonsense)
Bound to our forms, we learn from use,
(&/or mis-use), develop what we exercise,
contemplate the even & odd perfections
of nature, thought & art; movement,
sound, & shape; practice, ways of
being & relating, doing & not doing.
I used to practice sweeping the path,
but now I leave that to the wind,
picking up just wrappers for the bin.
~~~~~~~~~~* * *
One life leads to another
just by starting over from scratch,
following that moving itch wherever
it takes us, following the nose in circular reasoning
spiraling out in frontal; cortex time like a stretched spring,
but never returning to where it was, always stretching further.
however many perfect poems there are, have been,
unfolding like daisies, orchids, apple blossoms,
venus fly traps baited with rotting-meat stink–
elegant Grecian urns & Japanese teapots
fashioned from maker’s hands the color of the clay,
brushed glazes, with serendipitous drips in the firing—
we go on striving with the lump of clay at hand,
turned on the wheel that shapes us, imperfections
turned beautiful in the attentive heat—
manic canvasses splashed from gallon cans,
delicately blown glass, sun-room tropics with
gardens of mosses & ferns, rocks & raked sand…
~~~~~~~~~~* * *
…pearls built up slowly around grains,
strung on lines of a necklace, still warm
from the bodies that formed & wore it,
maps of the trails explorers took
following the rough maps others had
drawn of this or some other country.
Even here, tomorrow is already
somewhere else, & we, too, trails
no less perfect, no less irregular.
Like the rest of us, a poem, too,
contains its own demise, a time
for the fool & a time for the wise,
a last bit a’ light between the eyes,
a last bit of rhythm between the thighs,
a last bit of nonsense through the keys,
a last bit of easy sure to please,
a last bit of tease, a final squeeze—
&–not taking itself too seriously,
just all that there is, whatever that is,
the non-sense-seer sucker of a poem
or a life at the end–
writing its own epitaph in damp sand
along the shore, in words attesting to
the ocean’s roar—now here, now nowhere.
“LAST EXIT” —a good day to die,
if that should be, or a good day to live
till the bye-&-bye (like e.e.’s “little you-I”).
Roll over, Chuck Berry, one more lick,
mano a mano with the Ludwig shtick,
a multiple climax that just won’t quit,
rimshot, skim-shot, scrimshaw on
the hoof, the run, the fly–
this poem won’t end until I die.
[Yes it will. Call poetry whatever we define it as;
define it by whatever we claim it does:
its effects, its power to move, to lead,
reveal, explore, open, rise & fall, reach
& accept, aspire & yield, change lanes
& merge in good time (a safe distance
from other vehicles) before exiting
my noonish jazz riff of the day,
excuse for putting off work & errands,
what this jerk was supposed to have gotten done
before the next storm arrives. — rb, 1/4/17]
Sorry about that. got carried away….
How easy to think one has something to say,
when really just asking the tongue out to play.
The same thing happened today; though didn’t
put it up, the muse didn’t shut up either. –1/5/2017
I hardly write poetry any longer these days, or if I do, usually don’t remember by the next day. The group above was an exception, perhaps for having been put up on-line, meaning I’d eventually come back to re-read it, meaning re-doing parts that seemed to end in gibberish, or nowheresville, re-tweaking the lines, shapes of the stanzas, shapes of the attention within–where is this going? where has it been?
The same impulse that attracted me to poetry probably attracted my mouth to kissing, my fingers to caressing, my nose to the delicate scents of spring…. There is more that keeps bringing me back, however, as if to a healing tea–but not of one kind only. The cabinet contains countless varieties of herbs & dried leaves available for steeping.
The ability to shift metaphors, shapes, subjects, focus of the excursion appeals to my short attention span. I know as little as the reader where we are heading, if anywhere, starting out, what routes, cul-de-sacs, detours we might encounter, sometimes know as little at the end, like a sculptor still feeling out the form (if any) emerging from inside the block.
From there, however, one doesn’t want to waste anyone’s time. Not everything worth doing is worth offering. The great writer Walter van Tilburg Clark was known to have tossed many drafts & burned many pieces, offering for publication only those he felt sufficiently deserving. He once said that the writing would have been worth it to him had he thrown it all away, for what he’d experienced, noticed, discovered & realized in the process. He used different standards for readers.
Not all offerings need have such high standards. I’m listening as I type to a rip-roaring live jazz quartet, trombone, bass, drums, keyboard–a fully pleasing play at the heart of the energy. No masterpiece, perhaps, nothing to stand itself out from a thousand other riffs & groups, just fine music &, at this moment, preferred over any well-known classic I remember. Consider my little riff here another instrument playing along, kooky karaoke.
Actually, the most kooky stuff isn’t up yet. As discussed on the Hai! Snaps!! page, my natural history of poetry more or less arbitrarily divides the realm into 3 domains: Snaps; Poetry; & Verse (3rd, 2nd, & 1st domain, respectively). Deep enough, the 3 share a branching root, and exchange genes. This page is for Poetry & Music. One still to come will be for Verse & Ditty….
2016 (with selections from points back):
Maureen O’Hara died today, young Irish beauty,
eyes shining, as bright as her red hair,
feisty bride, young mother, grand-mother,
flickering images of beauty hardly here,
& now gone already, at barely 95—
so many changes, connected by memory,
& beyond, whatever it is that seems
to stay the same person—caterpillar,
chrysalis, butterfly…across stages, forms,
Such a strange thing for those who live
on in films, unchanging, so that the actual
person seems like a shadow, but also for those
who live on apart from films, in breath & memory,
their own or ours–
An arctic tree frog freezes for half a year,
melts awake with the next spring thaw,
presumably feeling like the same one
who went to sleep, whatever its memory
whatever its dreams–
The caterpillar wakes up as a butterfly–
or a monk, imagining it’s a nun, or a nymph
dancing with angels on the head of a pen,
wakes with a deep memory of where to go,
forward, forward, only forward–
Welcome to Land of Enchantment Poetry Theater’s
Virtual Stacks, Archives, & Program Auditorium.
In honor of the new year (2016), this space is being given a major renovation, starting with tracks from cd/radio broadcasts of 2003 & 1994. Scrolling below these leads to the Poetry Stacks–what’s there at the time, whether featured, archival, or scribbled temporarily on the fly….
In the physical world, our “stacks” are non-organized using the ripsob (random-intuitive-pile-shelve-shove-stack-&/or-box) method, mostly unmapped, with boxes as unlabelled as piles.
Our virtual world-map is far more organized, starting with an architecture of websites (wings) & pages (rooms).
Other POETRY-related pages on THIS site, for example, include:
Gifts from everywhere: with timeless offerings from near & far, some from Basho, Tagore, Rumi, plus dedication to Kitty Houghton, an Afterword on the gift of great poetry, text of a favorite Zapotec blessing-poem from Oaxaca, & original material.
Hai!: mostly little word snaps, i-camera pops from the log-book at Inspiration ~~snapped on the trail/ tracks in dust, snow, & water/ light in words–with photos.
“Translations” still has mostly “coming attractions,” descriptions of old projects not yet uploaded. These include our newest completely revised translation of Basho’s oku-no-hosomichi, Backcountry Ways, with companion’s guide, and essays on key aspects, parts of which are being made available on their own site (www.bodlibrary.info); and our inter-active story, This Dewdrop World, based on the poet Issa’s life & work, with full kit.
The rest of THIS PAGE may speak for itself, being what Mishugunah Peninsula physicists call a Mix-in-flux (shifting mishmash of bits’n pieces from here’n there)—including scribbles by Yours Crudely, passing reflections on poetry, excerpts from old notebooks (e.g., Down the Spine…Rain Songs, 1990), with no particular rhyme, reason, order, or odor–one minute compost with flies, the next a whiff of sweet plum …treats for the eye, ear, nose & throat, tricks for acrobats, fruit bats & bridge partners for baseball & card players.
Eureka! Tracks from two prior recording projects are up & playable on at least some platforms. [May not work on iPads, but seems to on MacBooks & PC. Please inform if it does/ doesn’t on your device.]
Rolling On: the wagon years was produced by KUNM in 2003, and Like Water, suites for poetry & guitar by Leaky Buckets Music in 1994. Let us know what works or doesn’t–or if you’d like more of either type up.
# Rolling On: the wagon years, radio broadcast & cd, stitched from trail journals, songs of the era, & an original ballad; brought to life by a cast & crew of about 50; first performed March 19, 2003, at the South Broadway Cultural Center, Albuquerque, NM; recorded live, edited to fit subsequent radio/cd format; all by KUNM public radio.
[Track 1: Prelude Medley, 8:19, is up as Track 17, a postscript. It can be played either way. It’s at the end here so you can get more quickly to the heart of the trail. Those who want the core feel without getting so much into the historical ruts & weeds can stick to the 7 starred (*) tracks in the brighter blue!]
Track 2: Introduction
*Track 3: Connecting
Track 4: Map & Territory
*Track 5: Prairie Life
*Track 6: Fandango!
Track 7: Annexation
Track 8: Sometimes a hard trail
*Track 9: Night on the prairie
*Track 10: Loose Beads
Track 11: Intersections & Forks, Exchanges & Collisions
Track 12: Jornada Storms
*Track 13: Enchanted Land
*Track 14: At journey’s end
Track 15: Trail’s Tale
Track 16: Credits
Track 1/ 17: Prelude Medley (Shenandoah, la llorona, etc.)
[Considering the limited rehearsal time & shoestring budget, we sure had a variety of talented contributors–musicians, Chautauquans, storytellers, actors, scholars, pre-teen to post-elder, plus the radio pros, directed by Rachel Kaub, KUNM’s operations manager, who not only conducted, but also edited the original live show to fit in the broadcast slot.
When one of our chief voices missed the live performance from illness, Rachel picked up the role–& then edited the original voice back in, in the studio! With all its rough edges, bumpy energy, & horizon-crossing spirit, it has many artful moments & thought-provoking excerpts–a tapestry with many threads, words & songs reflecting land, people & cultures.
The script was woven mostly from words & music of the times represented, but also tied together with an original ballad and an ensemble of narrators, a function shared to dramatize the variety of perspectives present in each broad “culture” of the history. It was chosen for production in a competition funded by the Urban Enhancement Trust Fund.
Track #9: Night on the Prairie i son of my favorites, with Walt Whitman’s experience under the stars. Although it can resonate for anyone, it may do so most tangibly for those who have had the experience described first hand.
With that as premise, I’d set out seven or eight years before to get to know the trail itself, as well as its words & music. Long a lover of trails, on the ground & in literature, I was invited to get to know this one well enough to write about it by guitarist Carl Bernstein, with whom I’d toured as half of the Leaky Buckets duo (as per Like Water, below). Carl then lived in Ocate and wanted to do something for the local chapter of the Santa Fe Trail Association in honor of the 175th anniversary of Becknell’s 1821 journey (in 1996).
Carl & I arranged to meet up in St. Louis in 1995, while I was heading homeward after doing programs in New England, and from there we camped our way west, stopping in historic little towns to meet & record local musicians. Funded by the state humanities council & other organizations, we put together two half-hour radio broadcasts that aired on public radio in the area, but we’d bitten off much more than would fit, going back to true origins, so these only took us up to 1821, the start of the classic Santa Fe Trail period.
The resulting broadcasts, Worlds in Motion & Streams Running Together, can be considered prequels. They have some moments, but don’t work well enough over-all to be worth putting up. Stitched together in Jack Loeffler’s studio in Eldorado, they lack the energy of live performance, and rely too much on “poetic text.”
Rolling On took an entirely different approach, from script (working mostly with scissors) to production (live performance; cast, directed & edited by KUNM’s Rachel Kaub). It picked the story up in 1821, starting with Mexican independence & Becknell’s first expedition from Missouri, ending about 1880 with arrival of the railroad. With cast & crew of almost 50 (including musicians, actors & foley-artists), the creative energy & fun we had still comes through, so even rougher spots seem appropriate.
I’ve sometimes imagined two sequels–one entirely musical, the other in print. The musical sequel would feature contemporary performers, some, like Allison Moorer, already recorded by us; others, like Arlo Guthrie, for pieces discussed in passing; others still, licensed from recordings previously produced. This is no longer on anyone’s bucket list, however, least of all mine. I’m somewhat less unlikely (sic) to get back to the notes for Of Dust & Dreams, a booklet that could along with the recording, a more or less personal take on the trail, its history, and my experience along it, with photos, journal entries & time-layered reflections. The streams flow on, yet times overlap.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve headed out and/or back along branches of the trail over all, before & since. Traveling far less now, I feel like Marian Russell in her old age, with so many trail memories weaving together, there’s no straight thread.]
# Like Water: suites for poetry & guitar, a collaboration of guitarist Carl Bernstein & poet Richard Bodger; features original compositions stitched from varied threads, local & global. In Spring Runoff (side a) was named “Best Original Classical Composition of the Year” by MicLine Magazine in 1995. Gifts from Everywhere (side b) includes offerings from Basho, Tagore, Rumi, & Rilke–bringing the far near, even to Dragon Mountain.
Sound of the Mountain
Sound of the River
~~~In spring runoff
~~~Dragon Mountain Suite (side b)
[Let us know if you want more of either, c/o firstname.lastname@example.org]
~~~Personal (Poetry) Archives
For a dramatic change of pace, here’s a short tribute to & about Abel Meeropol, that passionately good-hearted fellow who wrote the song Billie Holliday made famous, “Strange Fruit,” as well as the script for the film “The House I Live In” (available on You-tube), & much more, mostly under the pen-name Lewis Allen, stitched from the names of his two dead sons. His two later sons (who appear in the poem) have a fine book out, I hear, presumably with a far more detailed version of what’s summarized here.)
[My cousin Jami read this tribute to one whose art & life took stands against injustice at a gathering in Door County, Wisconsin, after which it appeared in Justice, an illustrated chapbook of work shared at that occasion, Caravaggio Press, 2014.]
[I suggest waiting on the following, until I havea chance to give it a look-over.[
The following excerpts are from stages along a journey down the spine of the continent, northern New Mexico to Mayan pilgrimage sites in the Chiapas rainforest, January 1990. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since carrying the raw notes back in a knapsack of journals. On the one hand, it felt important to share the pilgrimage; on the other, time carries us further & further downstream, with more & more “raw notes” to contend with, while attending to everything else.
from The Way In (“A Long Drive Down“)
Chac Songs-Detours (Preface: “The Spirit of Place”)
[I see this last needs work–for typos & more, e.g., last “as” should be “a.” Worse still was what has been up as a pdf. here,”Chac Songs I-III,” a garbled draft for which I apologize.]
The “Chac Songs” are also called “Howler Songs,” & “Rainforest Hymns.” They’ve played a role in various experiments and in selections of different lengths & formats. The first three are: I. “Song of the Great Wonder”; II. “Surrenders”; III. “Bird Jaguar’s Song.”
As touched on in “Detours: The Spirit of Place,” one personal aim was simply to “listen to the earth,” as Gita had advised. It turns out, this meant listening to where within & without join, without set border. Meanwhile, the idea of listening quickly embraces that of reporting, as efforts to record drive a more finely tuned observing–& vice versa. The act of observing changes both the observed & the observer, part of the point of the exercise.
With no way to separate even the most receptive observer from the equation, the attempt to report involves both response & interpretation, observation &–where languages are involved–translation, putting things in human terms that can travel between us. This is a particular challenge when observing mind & heart open to unconventional experience, in the overlap zone of nature & culture, animal sensation & language on the page.
To take just two of the sensory ranges open to the observer-responder-reporter by way of examples, visual & auditory, each subject to a trans-personal range of fine-tuning. The observer can become a camera with a considerable range of lenses, filters & exposures, simply receiving, focusing, reframing, not getting one’s thumb in the way. If a camera has some distinct advantages over the pen, there are also limits to what the outside eye can see directly, dimensions of experience where the word may still reach to share the sense of showing, experience as seen, framed, & represented.
The fact that the representation is not the thing itself, as a photograph of a tree is not itself a tree, is simply part of the territory, giving the inner life of the art its own form, in which subject & treatment contribute to meaning together, differences made, impacts felt. Under some conditions, the finely tuned eye may register single photons, or be blinded by the sun. What we see, then, are impressions in the self shaped by conditions of various sorts.
We don’t observe with eye alone, but also by breath & by listening. Becoming quiet within, we may hear below & beyond our normally narrowed range of vibrations, where “music is feeling, then, not sound,” at least not sound alone, to tweak Wallace Stevens. When it comes to reporting what Plants, Animals, Rainforests, Rivers &/or Planets Have to Say, some humility is called for. The same may be said for interpreting the source of our feelings, when we feel most intensely receptive.
However seemingly close to the heart, the subtle impressions remain subject to many confusions, projections, and culturally conditioned misinterpretations. Cultures may provide instruments for the music to be played through, but the music itself transcends the instruments….
To put this in more familiar terms, consider the feeling of exaltation experienced in a place of great natural beauty, with the power to move the human spirit. Then consider the language one may or may not find (i.e., hear) for reporting & expressing the sense of that exalted landscape. It’s easy to get sidetracked by jargon, or recycled religious terminology. More successful attempts seem to strike a kindred resonance of exaltation, as in much writing inspired by wild places, as if a simple & honest vibration passed through from land into language, through the medium of the line.
“Too much talk, not enough poetry…”
said one too fond of quoting himself.
Okay, here are a few fresh from the pad, not even typed before…
Exile at Home; Not Necessarily Poetry; Whitman at Harvard; Site & Network News….
The landscape below has been changing fast lately on two fronts–coming back to basics & keeping up with tomorrow. One involves a fresh look at the old life, in old &/or new poems, the other that same old fresh gaze from the lip of forever.
Exile at Home
Soon leaving again,
old trees with fresh buds,
old poets with new pages,
that un-fillable blank space
ink no longer reaches.
No bags to pack,
only emptying to do,
traveling light–with nothing.
This old exile, despite the sense of having set roots, soon sets out again–as if returning home after a long excursion through this dreamed life. Despite his ignorance, or perhaps as just another sign of it, he has not given up trying to understand what anything’s about in this crazy journey of ours. Having learned so much, hard ways & easy ways both, as well as so little, is there any way to hold on to what’s gained beside the word?
“We go out as dumb as we came in.” –Ricardo Neftali
Even so, he tries to pack in as much of the essence of what’s learned as he can, in case, if reincarnation should make it possible, he might find & unpack it again that time around, however unlikely. To confuse matters more, he’s felt that same sense of recognition many times in this life with late authors, for example with Tagore & Basho, but hard to distinguish from identification with others he could not have been, overlapping lifespans.
Not Necessarily Poetry
“Poetry is” exercises throw up an endless supply of analogues, “singing & dancing with the mind,” as a 9-year-old I knew (now 50) put it. I take up that theme yet again in response to a web video on which many different poets each offered a brief, yet unsatisfying take. I consider the following no more than unfinished riffing on what’s most central to something so inherently various, changeable, becoming something else….
An indulgence in the pleasures of language,
the attraction of exploring, the kick of surprise,
a dance the tongue does to indulge the body’s mind,
express its variety in motion, dimensions, suggestions.
Pleasures of language include (but aren’t limited to)–
its capacities to evoke music, idea, & understanding,
perception & image with a surprising range of emotions,
insights, sensational experience, attention, energy, play, pattern,
surprise, laughter, guffaw, twist & turn, nod & aha!, re-cognition, twist
& return, suddenly shifting sounds resounding within layered tones–
resonance—sense—nonsense—incantation & mumbo jumbo,
prayer & confession, intimate confidence, each with its truth—
ways of being, not in but through language, the felt line,
navigating the page, giving & receiving,
form with meaning, meaning with form—
death left behind while breath moves on,
or vice versa, breath left on the mirror,
death moving on with the breather–
whose finger draws hearts & arrows on the glass.
Poetry can be anything you want, it seems,
rant, rave & riff, lovesong, dirge & laundry list,
cute little ditty full of spit, sizzle, thunder, & light,
messages sent bobbing in a sea-borne bottle,
carried out & thrown beyond the breaking waves,
plaintive cry of anguish, balm for the wounded,
chamber pot music with lofty updrafts,
the clown’s bidet worn like a beret,
wings of the glider worn jumping off the cliff —
its fate shaped by the rock-face, currents,
gusts, distance to the irregularly rolling ground,
way the wings feel as we twist….
~~~”The point is not to be obscure, speak plainly,
~~~let the muse speak through simple words & lines
~~~as music speaks through simple sound & time,
~~~dance through simple shape in motion,
~~~however elegantly twisted, bodies & wits,
~~~with two-fisted metaphors & mists intertwined–
~~~life entangled with land roots reach through,
~~~a mind that knows by more than feeling.
~~~The point is (if there were one) not to be
~~~too pure or too impure. (Take your pick–& shovel.)
~~~“Something that can be anything
~~~bears a striking resemblance to nothing,”
~~~As if one key might fit all locks,
~~~shazam, kabam, & thank you ma’am,
~~~while any lock that opens to all keys
~~~is either not a lock, or sure a poor one.
Above all, the bottom line: (this i know first hand)
poetry is–the refuge, indulgence & perogative
of those with a short attention span. Seriously.
Either that or that bird called a Sure-a-poor-one.
(Thanks to recent blessing by an ecumenical gathering
of Holy Mackerel Scholars, multi-metaphysical representatives,
& the Sisters of Perpetual Incompletion,
The unfinished Short Attention Span Suspension Bridge
is now open to non-through traffic–
~~~~~~~No Last Poem
No last poems for friends–
having worn out their welcome–
words return to air
like ink smearing in the rain,
memories in pool of dreams [3-23-15]
~~~~~~~ Going to sleep
Going to sleep as if I might never wake up.
It is what it is. It was what it was.
Hard to turn all those years around
in a blink, an hour or a day–
Surprised to be here
at noon– [3-24-15]
[Roughly at this point in time, the ceiling fell in on my personal life, bringing quite a bit of sky in with it. I’m not inclined to revisit the details now, or look for the tracks left in words of the time. When the chance comes around, & can’t be avoided, I’ll put up bits written during that time. For now, the following seem to be bits & pieces from earlier, more or less out of context & not yet in any meaningful order.]
Never mind the old fool’s dabbling at the young fool’s game. The “Assignment” below explains a little more about the experience of taking a HarvardX on-line poetry course!
POETRY IN AMERICA/ WALT WHITMAN
Assignment: Take the HarvardX course offered by Professor New & her EdX Poetry Team–for its own sake, Uncle Walt’s, & the joy of poetry–& see what might be learned toward better serving Bod Library’s own poetic mission. This may be considered an under-cover, but non-subversive assignment, so Groucho glasses & wig are optional.
[The full Under Cover Report can be found in posts on the Home page at www.bodlibrary.org. For here, suffice to say that Walt was his usual, eclectic self, a cosmos, an endless source of fresh observation, revelation, inter-galactic radiation & inspiring blather, & that the most interesting part of the experiment came from the sense of the diverse participants brought together by interest in poetry, along with the good will of the freshly creative “Poetry Team” in good old Cambridge. Thus “Birds of the Flock.”
Thank you, birds of the flock,
each with your own feathers,
each with your own voices,
throats, lives, longings, losses,
songs of celebration & healing,
play, therapy & re-orientation,
ways of drawing forth & giving back,
relocating the self in words crossing
worlds, minds, parts of the mind of
that one flocking self behind all
our throats–prior to & after
words offered as if our own.
Thank you, birds of the flock,
not just carrying old songs on
across the generations, but
that original singing that rises
as if unbidden out of the heart
to proclaim unseen connections,
essence of those binding threads
sewing root, branch, leaf, fruit pulp
& seed together in the confluence of
soil & sky, yesterday & tomorrow,
poets of the past & those still coming,
giving voice & falling silent.
Can anyone do old Uncle Walt justice,
his irresistible call to future generations?
If so, it will be in the street first, the bistro,
buskers outside the café, closed shop & saloon,
& on the water from one island to another,
walking the fields & shore lines, riding
the long distances between words, torrents,
cascades, universes, sun & the night sky,
American cities, valleys, plains, coasts,
the badlands, the desert & the prairie.
If so, it may not sound much like old Uncle Walt at all,
yet feel just as new, as true to what remains beyond saying.
[Can’t help riffing a bit on my personal journeys through Cambridge & worlds beyond, an education from the soles of my shoes to far horizons, the feel of those streets & proximity to the ages. The on-line course had an especially fine segment on Crossing Brooklyn Ferry. Or must we save that for RIFFS TO COME…?]
~~~RIFFS TO COME~~~WORKS IN PROGRESS~~~
# We Interrupt This Broadcast–
# Poems for a Short Attention Spa–
# Last Worms & Testaments–
singularities go on singing:
We are each singularities, not just the masters like Whitman, Emerson, Thoreau & Dickinson, whose legacy we draw from. What these teach us most is how fast it all passes for everyone, us as well as them. Look how long they’ve been dead already, while their words go on speaking & breathing. Now our time comes just as fast–& goes just as fast.
What do we know of billions of years, lives of planets, stars, galaxies, black holes, or even the hundred thousand star-systems like ours out on a spiraling limb? Centuries leave us more blank than we realize, blanks we fill with inherited history, whatever & wherever we were then, as in this question on the Zen SAT: What face did you wear before your parents were born?
The first realization of history is that time passes, & the next how quickly…. As youngsters, even as we sprout, the essence of change-on-steroids, we assume a set world–old people, parents & children in their respective places. Of course we read & watch stories that cross whole lifetimes & more–historical & fictional accounts. The old & wise (not necessarily the same folks) tell us they were once just as young as us a blink of the eye ago, an abstraction until we experience the changes for ourselves, seeing how quickly time in one form passes, even as that form changes, infant & kid to bent & brittle, as in the riddle of the Sphinx.
Warned or not, we discover again for ourselves—if we live long enough. And if we don’t, the same truth is emphasized by the extra shortness. Having lived so long, I can testify that the ideas of age & immanent passing lose none of their strangeness for being lived out longer in calendar time. They remain different animals considered in the abstract & experienced in the concrete.
An apology to those who’d prefer more meat & potatoes (or carrots & cabbages), less Pure MENU (with an occasional anonymous food sample left behind by a messy diner). It’s riff time, after all. And the Short Attention Span Bridge to–,
Bodliography: a collection of stained menus, splotched bibliographies & dribbled on slam bibs….
Notes towards an ecology of poetry…. What it is & does, in the dynamic of personal, inter-personal, social, aesthetic, philosophical, & metaphysical lives…, when & why to dislike & distrust it, etc.
For more poetry in motion, see also…
www.bodlibrary.info should soon have a brand new translation of Basho’s ageless masterpiece, the oku-no-hosomichi, along with our Trail Companion Guide, introductory pages, and in-depth essays on translation, the work’s inner aspects, the haikai spirit, & other core aspects of Basho’s teachings.
[Two earlier versions of the translation appeared in successive editions of The Bedford Anthology of World Literature as “Narrow Road through the Backcountry.” These were always considered “works in progress,” & are no longer recommended.
Our current (more or less final) version, “Backcountry Ways,” is currently available either at www.bodlibrary.info or from us via email c/o email@example.com. (Email us for entry if password is needed.) It is now part of Basho’s Backcountry Ways–& Beyond, with supplementary & interpretive materials.]
“This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life… Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill…”
—Gitanjali, Rabindranath Tagore