the plan is in the body
I have come far enough
from where I was not before
to have seen the things
looking in at me through the open door
and have walked tonight
to see the moonlight
and see it as trees
and shapes more fearful
because I feared
what I did not know
but have wanted to know.
(from “A Form of Women”, Robert Creeley)
The psyche recalls circling its body, saying “I have walked tonight/ by myself/ to see the moonlight/ and see it as trees.” To walk by one’s self, past or around it, observing. And where one set of eyes sees the moonlight, the other sees only the moonlight in the eyes of the first, or more precisely the reflections of trees that bear in turn the reflected light of the moon, itself a reflection. How utterly complex is seeing any object by moonlight, how lovely the compacted testimony of so many mediums.
We do well to see, always, “shapes more fearful” than the ones met and actualized—always the “things looking in…through the open door”, informing, mediating present concern but not yet, in any definite sense, revealed to the self. I suppose we never really know where we are, what we are seeing, only that we are someplace removed from where we have been, what we have seen, places and people we know intimately by their disappearance.
A new place, its shape: a new body, literally, to live there. Where the old one has gone is for those who knew its specificities to wonder; it belongs to them now, however intangibly, launched upon a path separate from its successor. The living self, the evolving form, goes about inhabiting psychic terrain through and throughout the constant flux of knowing and forgetting. And yet another duality emerges, the idea of the self stepping away from its form, its container, observing, and still not knowing how to assuage the body’s losses.
Applied to poetry, we might say that there is writing poetry with particular attentions, and then there is writing attentive poetry. The subject, ever complex and elusive, resists being written about, and is not above changing itself into something else to avoid its own revelation. The subject is faster than the poet, more intelligent, and discovers the poet’s attention while the poem is being written, launching into a metamorphosis he can only pray to document. In this sense, a good poem evidences the chosen content’s avoidance of the form imposed upon it, the result being that the form reflects the natural dynamism, the uncontainable, chimerical quality of the content itself. “Form is never more than an extension of content.”
Creeley reiterates elsewhere, “the plan is in the body, the plan is in the body”. The particularities, the joints, of language, foregrounded as possible, are, in the poem’s case, that body. What will be said, and what will not be said. The idea that the language—English, yes, but not necessarily—possesses within it the wisdom, by where it will go and where not go, and how it will go there, to inform and direct the vary actions it also documents. Syntax itself is cardiovascular, distributing the energy that keeps the body vital.
As for the classroom itself: if one is to know the particular mind and body he or she has been given, it becomes always necessary to fight against the homogenizing force. We misunderstand ourselves most frequently and most gravely in thinking we hold things in common with others. That said, attention to the imperatives of ‘sense narrative’ is more than an interesting experiment. The one addressed is so often the lover, and therein the need to communicate directly sees finally its ultimate iteration. Irony that the lover is gone, must be, always, in the moment of the poem’s company.
The idea of faith, faith in the love of some thing not oneself. And knowing it will go away. To love poetry, for example, is a comfort—that such a love will exists amid the rest of life, happening, happening, regardless. To step away and say, even that may go, even the purest of faiths, because in the end there is only complexity, changes, endings. Even the faith in love, the love of faith—that these two may also die, and we live on without them. Our bodies of course remain, eating, fucking: and what fun are these without their respective faiths?
And yet there is also nothing sublime, to my knowledge, about relinquishing faith and care for all persons and objects. Tangible things, too, can have a sustaining, otherworldly mystery. Such mystery lies in our own habitation of an object outside our body, in our thinking that it might become us, or us it, and that one of the two would be improved by the alteration. Poems habitate. And there are always the two sets of muscle and bone living in the sad hut of a poem, the one that thinks to get rest and the one that wishes to journey on, to move past the exhaustion.
Learning is always a process of interpretation. In the classroom, Creeley spoke of whatever he wanted, whatever occupied his thoughts most immediately, which was rarely poetry as poetry. The first line of his syllabus always said, “all roads lead out of Rome, rather than into, in this instance”. And of course we all “fear what we did no know but have wanted to know.” Fear alone draws us into the black hallway, groping about anxiously for the light. We want to know nothing is there. And if something is there, better to confront it and get the macabre scene over with. Nothing is worse than awaiting the desperate terms of slow horror.
In short, there is a responsibility in saying anything at all, and it is the particular duty of the poet to accept and fulfill every obligation associated with saying, being the sayer. Elsewhere, of course, language is about deception, about disguising who is talking. High school essays and business memos and government reports—webs of passive syntax hiding the action and subject of every sentence. Inanimate, powerless, or dispensable objects are foregrounded, as if they were responsible for the confusion, for the new policies, for the fuck-ups and disasters. Language, as always, is in danger of losing the people that produce it, in danger of becoming self-generating, redundant, and dead. Words want us, need us, to come into being, and though they possess wisdom themselves, we have the bodies that say them, that write them, that are written upon.
Speaking of "Whale Fall"...
Come see me read (and some other people too).
For fun, here is a poem I will NOT be reading on Sunday:
MARKED ITS PROGRESS, DON'T KNOW WHY
Dry stone to lavender blossom to
Japanese Maple--a single fly comes
across the meadow, lands
on this pen. He stays for
years, like he's listening
to the secrets it can tell
from its sweet, black lung.
The Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld
Come see us
Now that Adam's Books has been open awhile, and opening wider each day, the time has come to celebrate. For example, this Sunday, November 12: THE ADAM'S BOOKS GRAND OPENING CELEBRATION PARTY.
If you haven't visited the store recently, you might be surprised at how grand it has become. The shelves are full. The books are sorted and alphabetized. There are soft, comfortable chairs. There are more and better and grander books than ever before.
So: SUNDAY NOVEMBER 12: all afternoon and evening, from 12 to 10 pm, the GRAND OPENING party to celebrate ADAM'S BOOKS. There will be balloons.
Also: short readings by several of the neighborhood's finest writers. (See below for schedule.)
You can dance if you want to. This will be a party.
ADAM'S BOOKS is located at 456 Bergen St., between 5th Avenue and Flatbush.
That's north Park Slope, Brooklyn, just around the corner from the Atlantic Yards landgrab.
Steps from the 2,3 Bergen St. subway; a short walk from the MNQBRW2345 Atlantic Ave subway hub.
12 pm – 3 pm: COFFEE & MUFFINS
12:00 – 1:00 : Rick Pernod, Andrea Baker, Bronwen Tate
1:00 – 2:00 : Jenn Guitart, Tisa Bryant, Lynn Xu
2:00 – 3:00 : Christopher Myers, Erika Howsare, Jackie Delamatre
3 pm – 6 pm: BEER & PRETZELS
3:00 – 4:00 : Will Hubbard, Jess DeCourcy Hinds, Amber West
4:00 – 5:00 : Eve Packer, Holly Tavel, Fred Schmalz
5:00 – 6:00 : Mac Wellman, Erin Courtney, Scott Adkins, Jonathan Ceniceroz
6 pm – 10 pm: WINE & CHEESE
6:00 – 7:00 : Anika Haynes, Gareth Lee, Brenda Iijima
7:00 – 8:00 : Luisa Giugliano, Jennifer Hayashida, Christopher Stackhouse
8:00 – 9:00 : Bonnie Emerick, Amy King, Adam Tobin
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Felt previously for you
what only in the moment knew
was a particular sort of fear.
What I held above was neither
your body nor any perception of it
but another woman you allowed
to sleep there, her physical force
such that I had neither strength
nor will to defend myself. Then
with a mere reversal of light
you return alone to a male form
now merely in attendance
as when from window nearest yours
I heard the sharp rises of breath
that meant you both knew
exactly what body you were in.
AAP Reading, CWP Emerging Writers Reading & A Whole Lotta Hillman
I'm going to this Academy of American Poets reading Thursday night, 10/26. Rita Dove is reading, as well as Phil Levine, Galway Kinnell, Nate Mackey and some other rock star-type poets. Anyone else want to go?http://www.poets.org/viewevent.php/prmEventID/4817
Also, the NYU CWP Emerging Writers reading series is this Sunday, 10/29 at 7 pm. Here's the link to the place where it's at: http://www.mopitkins.com/home.html I'm reading, as well as Ron V. & another poet and 3 fiction writers, all from the CWP.
Also also (for Howe classmates): if anyone needs Hillman's Death Tractates, I have a copy I can loan out. If anyone has a copy of the other Hilman book we were assigned tonight, I would love to borrow it.
Another etherized workshop poem. Comments much appreciated, thanks.
Another Night Terror
to my mother
You woke to me screaming, sprinting
back & forth in the hall, still caught
inside it, or nearly caught
by a monster you became
when you snatched me to you, I couldn't
unfuse the vision, writhed against
your clasp, the terror real now, no way out
until, slowly, you holding me, the bridge back
& I crossed it.
Do you remember, did you know
the night you died I fell asleep
holding your hand, & only woke
when your breath slowed
the gaps of quiet an alarm
I must have heard & run to
though I nearly refused, the terrible dream
preferable, & if I hadn't come
would I have met you leaving
through that other place, instead
of watching your empty body stop?
-Bryan Patrick Miller
Adam's Books Grand Opening, 11/12
The Grand Opening party will last all afternoon and evening on Sunday November 12. The main attraction of the party: a series of short readings/performances/cabaret acts. These will occur, in groups of 3 or 4,at various times throughout the day. Each will last 5-10 minutes.
I don't know what time I'm reading yet, but when I do I'll let you know.
He also said he's looking for more performers, so if you're interested, contact Adam and tell him I sent you...
Adam Tobin, Owner
456 Bergen St.
718 789 1534
The Blue Planet
Once upon a horse
I rode through the Sabbath
So far the land seemed London,
But the bars still played Hank Williams
And in the air narcolepsy
Had the electricity of a poem.
I sat to a poem
As if breaking a horse
With a history of narcolepsy.
On some honky-tonk Sabbath
I imagined seeing Hank Williams
At a peep show in London.
Where but in London
Can you write a decent poem
about Hank Williams?
The drunks in the White Horse
Are equating the Sabbath
With a savage narcolepsy.
O! The bliss of narcolepsy,
The sensation that London
Is heavy beneath a great sabbath
Of light, the Queen reading a poem
That will be branded onto the horse
Given to Hank Williams
For a photo-shoot entitled “Hank Williams,
Singer, diplomat, victim of narcolepsy,
Cowboy poet.” Every horse
In every formal square of London
Is reading a desperate poem
Lamenting the eternal Sabbath
Of marble and bronze. ‘Sabbath’
Meant very little to Hank Williams,
Who once wrote a poem
That implicated the narcolepsy
Of God himself in London’s
Burning, and worshipped a horse.
In the sense that a poem is also a sabbath,
So too is a horse the ghost of Hank Williams’
Narcolepsy dragging itself around London.
Sestina Inviting My Sister to Become a Pirate
by Sandra Beasley
We wake to breakfast in a burning house,
Mom cussing. Our eggs have embers in them.
Fly the black flag on this family again.
I'll wear the eye patch, you will thread a ring
through your ear. Now, let us head out to sea.
Let all the Atlantic try to douse us.
You have to remember that they love us.
Burying a hatchet's harder than razing a house,
and raising a child is hardest. The sea
can lift bottle, barrel, ship. But for them
to keep this marriage afloat will take ring
and pulley that could raise Atlantis again,
with God shouldering the rope. Once again,
pegleg life is better balanced for us.
Parents? We'll take parrots. Choose a skull ring
set with rubies, grog-soaked night-jigging, house
boys to swab the deck. Fellow mates. To them,
it's clear we were always meant for the sea.
Monsoons, I know. We could go down at sea.
Captains blue- and black-bearded, drunk again,
might mutter that we're just wenches to them,
prod us with swords. But I'd rather see us
walk a plank than back into this damn house.
So what if Dad has lost his wedding ring?
So what that his story has a familiar ring?
Oh, my darling buccaneer, don't you see?
Burying a hatchet's easier than burying a house,
burying a treasure easier again—
all the same day's worth of digging to us.
If their smiles glitter like doubloons, let them.
But then lock the chest tight. We can love them
in the leaving, as galleons love moorings
of harbors they may yet come home to. But for us,
for now, no X can compete with the sea,
cross-stitching white caps again and again.
I believe a dank cabin beats a house
ablaze. I believe we can beat them, that the sea
offers vows sacred as rings. I won't ask again.
Join us. I'll wait in a rowboat, by the lighthouse
Here is my poem that flew into the workshop ether tonight. This is Bryan Miller by the way (Miniver Cheevy is a somewhat regrettable alias).
ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT IT FELL
All through the night it fell, the green
from the leaves, & the leaves themselves.
We woke to wind pushing piles into
different piles, didn't know it could happen
so fast, the quick coming of autumn
like an early death. Shivering
in robes, we leaned into double panes
of glass while the sky, the pale alders,
the mountain far off, the blackened bay,
the delivery trucks on Elliott Avenue grumbled
for the summer we'd grown to love.
Stars drew in their light to build the morning.
We put water to boil, slid
the blinds, & warmed our hands.
-Bryan Patrick Miller
For Marie Howe's Workshop: Enjoy:)
by James Wright
It is all right. All they do
Is go in by dividing
One rib from another. I wouldn't
Lie to you. It hurts
Like nothing I know. All they do
Is burn their way in with a wire.
It forks in and out a little like the tongue
Of that frightened garter snake we caught
At Cloverfield, you and me, Jenny
So long ago.
I would lie to you
If I could.
But the only way I can get you to come up
Out of the suckhole, the south face
Of the Powhatan pit, is to tell you
What you know:
You come up after dark, you poise alone
With me on the shore.
I lead you back to this world.
Three lady doctors in Wheeling open
Their offices at night.
I don't have to call them, they are always there.
But they only have to put the knife once
Under your breast.
Then they hang their contraption.
And you bear it.
It's awkward a while. Still it lets you
Walk about on tiptoe if you don't
Jiggle the needle.
It might stab your heart, you see.
The blade hangs in your lung and the tube
Keeps it draining.
That way they only have to stab you
Once. Oh Jenny.
I wish to God I had made this world, this scurvy
And disastrous place. I
Didn't, I can't bear it
Either, I don't blame you, sleeping down there
Face down in the unbelievable silk of spring,
Muse of the black sand,
I don't blame you, I know
The place where you lie.
I admit everything. But look at me.
How can I live without you?
Come up to me, love,
Out of the river, or I will
Come down to you.
Projective Verse: Charles Olson (1950)
(projective (percussive (prospective
(or what a French critic calls “closed” verse, that verse which print bred and which is pretty much what we have had, in English & American, and have still got, despite the work of Pound & Williams:
it led Keats, already a hundred years ago, to see it (Wordsworth’s, Milton’s) in the light of “the Egotistical Sublime”; and it persists, at this latter day, as what you might call the private-soul-at-any-public-wall)
Verse now, 1950, if it is to go ahead, if it is to be of essential use, must, I take it, catch up and put into itself certain laws and possibilities of breath, of the breathing of the man who writes as well as of his listenings. (The revolution of the ear, 1910, the trochee’s heave, asks it of the younger poets.)
I want to do two things: first, try to show what projective or OPEN verse is, what it involves, in its act of composition, how, in distinction from the non-projective, it is accomplished; and II, suggest a few ideas about what that stance does, both to the poet and to his reader. (The stance involves, for example, a change beyond, and larger than, the technical, and may, the way things look, lead to new poetics and to new concepts from which some sort of drama, say, or of epic, pehaps, may emerge.)
First, some simplicities that a man learns, if he works in OPEN, or what can also be called COMPOSITION BY FIELD, as opposed to inherited line, stanza, over-all form, what is the “old” base of the non-projective.
(1) the kinetics of the thing. A poem is energy transferred from where the poet got it (he will have some several causations), by way of the poem itself to, all the way over to, the reader. Okay. Then the poem itself must, at all points, be a high energy-construct and, at all points, an energy-discharge. So: how is the poet to accomplish same energy, how is he, what is the process by which a poet gets in, at all points energy at least the equivalent of the energy which propelled him in the first place, yet an energy which is peculiar to verse alone and which will be, obviously, also different from the energy which the reader, because he is a third term, will take away.
This is the problem which any poet who departs from closed form is specially confronted by. And it involves a whole series of new recognitions. From the moment he ventures into FIELD COMPOSITION— put himself in the open— he can go by no track other than the one the poem under hand declares, for itself. Thus he has to behave, and be, instant by instant, aware of some several forces just now beginning to be examined. (It is much more, for example, this push, than simply such a one as Pound put, so wisely, to get us started: “the musical phrase,” go by it, boys, rather than by, the metronome.)
(2) is the principle, the law which presides conspicuously over the composition, and, when obeyed, is the reason why a projective poem can come into being. It is this: FORM IS NEVER MORE THAN AN EXTENSION OF CONTENT. (Or so it got phrased by one, R. Creeley, and it makes absolute sense to me, with this possible corollary, that right form, in any given poem, is the only and exclusively possible extension of content under hand.) There it is, brothers, sitting there, for USE.
Now (3) the process of the thing, how the principle can be made so to shape the energies that the form is accomplished. And I think it can be boiled down to one statement (first pounded into my head by Edward Dahlberg): ONE PERCEPTION MUST IMMEDIATELY AND DIRECTLY LEAD TO A FURTHER PERCEPTION. It means exactly what it says, is a matter of, at all points (even, I should say, of our management of daily reality as of the daily work) get on with it, keep moving, keep in, speed, the nerves, their speed, the perceptions, theirs, the acts, the split second acts, the whole business, keep it moving as fast as you can, citizen. And if you also set up as a poet, USE USE USE the process at all points, in any given poem always, always one perception must must must MOVE, INSTANTER, ON ANOTHER! So there we are, fast, there’s the dogma. And its excuse, its usableness, in practice. Which gets us, it ought to get us, inside the machinery, now, 1950, of how projective verse is made.If I hammer, if I recall in, and keep calling in, the breath, the breathing as distinguished from the hearing, it is for cause, it is to insist upon a part that breath plays in verse which has not (due, I think, to the smothering of the power of the line by too set a concept of foot) has not been sufficiently observed or practiced, but which has to be if verse is to advance to its proper force and place in the day, now, ahead. I take it that PROJECTIVE VERSE teaches, is, this lesson, that the verse will only do in which a poet manages to register both the acquisitions of his ear and the pressures of his breath.
Read the rest of "Projective Verse" here.