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
A Man's Unfinished Dream in 4 parts
In the land of the Northern snows is a fish they call the Gar.
Trapped under the ice are air bubbles, air, trapped released from the lake bottom by a dislodgement, mud and air escape towards the surface, clouds the light green is the colour of ice on the bottom, air reaches for small caves, where stories are released. It was not uncommon for drunken fishermen to dive down their hole, to swim under the ice over to the next ice-hut and come up through their hole, surprise, and begin to spout out some story picked up from the lake bottom. It was like this with my uncle Dud he. played this trick many times, told strange stories, had dreams. I once asked Dud if he ever saw anyone else under there, like some other adventurer, or crazy person. Dud said nope, but once, when he came up and had dried off, he thought of our ancient aunt Enid.
I am divided right down the center, half of me is quite crazy, stepping from one moving thought to another, always hurrying to keep up, my crazy world is filled with three dimensionality, the doorknob toast the queen I was born and rehearsed to be a joyful little god, Loki, ,Omega the blue crow, a sliding trickster with my pillbox of assorted annoyances, it comes easily, I was born for it I had no mother to recall me back, I invented my character, borrowed the sinus of my family story, slyness came from my aunt Enid. My mind works as a kind of searchlight, beaming through the archival information, long periods of darkness, then a quick flash of light, the shape of information verifies an idea .during the dark patches, I dream.
Under the ice, the gar fish, copper line under the ice, at a great depth, gar fish, copper line, it needs to sink, gar fish, under the ice.
Under the ice green light, gar fish, copper line, pale green, the copper line under the ice it is green, there are fish. Under the ice Enid swims past the fish into the green air pocket , gar fish, copper line, Enid at an air pocket, copper line, gar fish under the ice, gar fish ,green light, under the ice green sun, air pockets, a woman on the move.
Under the ice baited traps, gar fish, copper line, hooks galore, the policeman comes, haul up your line ,gar fish, green light, bodies moving, traps illegal ,take'em away, copper line, green sun ,Enid on the move, gar fish, under the ice, copper line. Under the ice the highway calls, green light, green fish, air pockets, copper line, fishhook traps, green light ,Enid takes what's offered, moves to the next exit, green sun under the ice, many stories, copper line, I saw you're head burst through the water, gar fish.
Sailors don't want to cut the cord , they want to bite it, they want to bite it through, that's what you did, I shudder at you're remembrance, and drowning under the ice is part of the sailors world, trans-terrestrial navigators, sailing in the perverse world of upside diddly-down, when we went to Australia, mother, the sailor man. From under the ice the moon is drunk, can't keep its orbit, seems hesitant about which phase, is fidgety, St Vitas dance, grandpa called it, attributed it to me, the drunken moon, fidgety under the ice.
The sailor will not cut the cord or the line, or the rope, the string, nor scissor the wool, or break, for any malevolent reason a spider web. The sailor will unravel it and it will be part of the process of time.
If death comes as a slow bubble from the bottom, a movement, some ancient air escapes, many lost formulas, pathetic endings, lonely old shoes, this slow bubble leaves the lake floor and begins to rise through the green, Enid sees crystal clear, there is an opening in the torn garment, just ahead, copper line, gar fish, it takes a while for the air of trapped death is in no rush. death can live in the air pocket caves under the ice for centuries