By the year 2004 I had done a series of poetry readings around Northern California, some were recorded on C.D.'s which I get out and listen to, periodically. I record myself reading at home, often, I listen for the tempo of the imagery, and I attempt to unify the tempo and the imagery into a kind of 3 dimensionality, I look for sparks to fly off when the two flints of original thought collide. When I can do this successfully, the piece goes into the Reading pile.
What I did notice was that my latest piece CONTINENT of GHOSTS began showing up in various disconnected and various forms around 2004. On one of the CDs from that time I start talking about continents and geography, sense of place, and how to handle loneliness without getting thumbprints on the page. Over the years I wrote many pieces and stacked them up in boxes, got them out periodically, just to see what I was about during that period of time. Then, in one blink, I knew what they were about, I saw the armature, the ghost of my mother. I then took out all 100 or so pieces studied each one, “are you ready for prime time“ I asked. I work as a sculptor does, I slap on the clay tablets of my work and I begin to carve off bits and loose ends, then I stand back and I am able to see how the Ghosts pieces should link up, forming a whole and disguisable conformity.
I do a kind of acupuncture on words, producing ordinary objects; A horse by a fence, looking down the dirt road, waiting for the mail-lady to drive up in her old rattler and her apple. This kind of stuff.
FIVE RIDERS WEARING CARDINAL RED
Five riders came from the North,
There were two women, one holding a small child.
Cardinal red was their color and
there were leaves everywhere.
They all seemed to be warriors.
When they came to the town well,
the women drank first.
It was only later that the silence was noted.
There were no birds.
And it had gotten very cold.
It is like this with you,
forever riding from town to town
through leaves, waiting to drink.
When I studied this particular painting for awhile, what I came away with was a feeling of loss. What gave me this feeling was looking at the distance between the horses, the negative area. a feeling of loss
I pressed in on the word loss and this image appeared to me
I use paintings for investigation if my well is a little dry. Paintings are better than photos ,photos are very dictatorial, each image insists on its correct verification, whereas paintings begin as an impression of some sort, ergo you can feel quite comfortable slapping your own interpretation on it.
Let's try an example, Van Gogh STARRY NIGHT. Study it for awhile, Begin to sink into it,
There are sparks,
Pieces of suns
Father, son and the Holy Ghost.
When I die
I wish to stand with you in the fiery sky.
This is not a great anything other than, by using the magical mysticism method of vision, as you press in, sink thru the language, images appear and they are capturable, legit, and they give the work three dimensionality.
This is just an idea for when the water in your well has become tainted by the mud of previous ruts.
The interesting thing about teaching yourself writing is that you look under every item of input, be it architecture, sculpting, the tonality of color, film making or weaving for clues. I study the armature of it, the essential, core thought. I seek out some base truth and see if that could apply to the writing act.
First it was John Cage, the between the notes thinker. I developed gaps in my thinking, there was substance in the silence between words, and juxtapositions infiltrated my understanding of process.
At some point Charles Olson, (poet / teacher at/Black Mountain) asked about “measure“ re poetry. “What did happen to measure when rigidity subsides“.
For me, the measures are in the breath patterns, basically, how you are breathing when you are writing. The reader of poetry, to fully understand the work, the reader will be forced to read it using the same breath patterns as the writer. This is very true in the rigid, formatted poetry, its called line breaks, and when I was teaching school kids about poetry, we read the poems aloud, changing gears at each line break. This is why the plain language of rhetoric lends itself to already well established breath patterns of everyday life. The poet's job, as I see it, is to make sure the reader has a chance to be fully cocooned.
If you write standing, ala Hemingway, you're breathing changes, as does your poetry. You're allowed to wander about the room between lines, look out the window, see the egret, add balance to your piece without thinking about it, capture this image, type standing for while. Your imagery will be defined by this new air from another altitude, free from the constrictions of the boiler.
photo credit - Marian Schiavo
I am not a writer, per se, I'm a talker. I see interesting things and I talk about them by writing it down as I see it. It's sort of like taking dictation from yourself.
My intuition guides me. It is intuition that I seek to direct and temper with disciplined intelligence. It is the moment of being simultaneously in control and out of control from which my images spring.
I can empathize with the homegrown poet's impulse to evolve a set of approaches to the medium through which they might generate energy reflecting more authentically nature, even indigenous cultural understandings. The characters that you create must be smarter than you, the writer. They have all the inside-dark -of -the mind thoughts, images, overheard conversations and odd feelings that can be recalled safely into the darkness of the quiet disguise of the mind. In this place they can be trusted to be allowed to be seen because the writer is not smart enough to encapsulate it all, able to package up any damn thing they've ever seen, heard or rode on. Your people have all the hidden info in your brain. They can just go and get it, while the writer is stymied by human limitations. I can barely recall any of the mud puddles in my life, but any of my characters can bring many of them into focus.
I always thought good writing came from the inside out, towards the surface of the paper, as in Faulkner's speech at the Nobel Prize ceremony, "...from the heart." Now I truly understand what he meant. Press inwards on some words, the difficult ones anger loss, the sore spots, enter here, press through the words defenses, images will appear. Corral these images, this is the real writing from the heart. They will be wild and painful, and beautiful. Press in, write it down, you are making Art.
All writers know that you can become trapped by your own language. I present to you, "loosening-up oil", breath patterns Between breaths is where you use the Press-in on-the -moment, writing device. See it as a kind of exploration. Pause between breaths, sometimes, as you press in, you sink into the word, like on an elevator in a mine shaft, veins of solid ore appear, powerful energy with new images, a three dimensionality will develop in n your work, which will be unexplainable. Some would even call it magic. I call upon the secret forces to help me navigate, bound-up, such as we are.
I'm not very complicated I build an armature, some idea that has festered away in the brain pan of braised clichés that constitutes normal thought. I then begin, like the zombie hunter, I look for the blood-memory, and bingo, a light of understanding will come on. The trail is clear and my work becomes highway beacons, leading to the Outskirts Motel.
I speak of my poems, pieces if you will, I speak of them as slabs of clay, because words are malable, Tillie the Toiler means one thing to you, another completely different thing to me.
Why madness? Because I am relying on an arrangement of images that interlock in some organized but slightly incoherent picture if the light is not right, to communicate my cockeyed vision.
There is just one Beware in the hands of the lazy practioner, the work can become stagey. If asked, how they do it, the magician might be able to respond, this is not by accident. I practiced by holding my tongue. I let the imagery settle down on a pond, disguised as Koi many colors to be fished out later.
“Wanna Buy A Poem”
photo credit - Marian Schiavo