2021-05-08 08:00

who tells these
stories to
make

me feel almost
like myself
my

persona has a
sense of
fable

(2004-03-07)

cutup haynaku persona poem
2021-05-01 08:00

and
so I
leave no mark

(2005-01-30)

haynaku poem
2021-05-01 07:00

13/ Week of 29 Mar

  • Amanda Earl, a field guide to fanciful bugs (above/ground 2021)
  • James Hawes, The Hot Dog Variations (above/ground 2021)

14/ Week of 5 Apr

  • Don Paterson, Orpheus: A Version of Rilke’s Die Sonette an Orpheus (Faber & Faber 2006)
  • Aase Berg (Göransson trns), Remainland: Selected Poems (Action Books 2005)

15/ Week of 12 Apr

  • Rainer Maria Rilke (M.D. Herder Norton trns) Letters to a Young Poet (Norton 1954)
  • Joseph Mosconi Occupational Elegies (above/ground 2021)

16/ Week of 19 Apr

17/ Week of 26 Apr

  • Natalie Goldberg Writing Down the Bones (Shambhala 1986, 2016) (First reread in maybe 33 years)
  • Rainer Maria Rilke (Pike trns) The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (Dalkey Archive 2008)

Notes

  1. Evening’s Empire was a long time coming. I checked it out of the library in the spring of 2013, and read maybe the first quarter. I bought a copy a year later, starting over from the beginning. I set it down repeatedly over the next six years, and finally finished the last three chapters in a big push over several days. An absolutely excellent book.

  2. All this Rilke over the last month or so is because of a correspondence course called Rilke by Mail offered by the poet Mark Wunderlich. Rilke was an early and, I see now, extremely strong influence on me when I was a young poet starting out in college.

finished
2021-04-27 06:45

John Ruskin:

The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion, all in one.

commonplace
2021-04-25 09:00

In the months since writing my response to this interview question, I’ve seen several references to extremely similar writing prompts — a typically synchronistic example of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

In the Kenyon Review (from 3/2021), Michael Montlack speaks of Dorianne Laux & Joe Millar’s method of “making a list of words, throwing in a quote or fact or phrase, and taking an hour to write a draft.”

And in the Ottawa Poetry Newsletter (from 10/2020), Valerie Coulton describes Edward Smallfield’s process that “consists of a personalized postcard with four words and a quote. He used to pass these out in workshops, and then everyone would write for 15 minutes.”

I’m not surprised to see randomness and chance being integrated into writing prompts, but now I’m curious to find out what the provenance is of Rita Dove’s exercise, which I’ve been using on and off for about twenty years.

process writing
2021-04-24 09:00

(Note: This is a repost from October. The poems originally appeared haphazardly from October to March before I pulled them. I am republishing this series on Saturday mornings starting next week.)

A long time ago, for several years, I maintained a poetry blog under a pseudonym. As I’ve said elsewhere, I chose to blog pseudonymously partly because I’m an introvert, but mostly because I originally intended the whole blogging thing to be a lark: a pseudonym allowed me take it exactly as seriously as it deserved — namely, not at all.

The blog was a workbook for random scraps from my notebooks, experiments in cut-up techniques, and so forth. I’ve long since taken the blog down, but some curious and not entirely terrible pieces appeared there, and I’ve decided to republish them here. I’m taking the opportunity to lightly edit some of them, but mostly they’re unretouched. I will post them every Saturday morning until I’ve run out, beginning next week.

They are all tagged with “poem,” and some also are tagged as “cutup” or “hay(na)ku,” a form I find deeply appealing, and which was invented by Eileen Tabios in 2003. (More on the history of the hay(na)ku here.)

Many are also tagged “persona,” to signify that they were written as I was exploring esthetic and stylistic choices that I felt at the time to be foreign to my own habitual preferences. This, in fact, was one of the core attractions of blogging for me: to give me the freedom to explore concerns and approaches that were ordinarily marginalized or even submerged, to let me play. More on this at a later date.

meta poem
2021-04-23 09:05

The last post is up in my mini interview.

It’s the shocking season finale!

To save our gang’s favorite hang-out from foreclosure, I must perform a thrilling leap on water skis over a shark tank. And in the audio commentary, I talk about what I’m currently working on.

process poetry
2021-04-17 11:00

General George C. Marshall:

There is no limit to the good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.

commonplace
2021-04-16 09:15

The fourth post in my poetry mini interview is up.

In this week’s musical episode, Hal Holbrook — fresh off his Tony award-winning run as the Mysterious Stranger — joins the cast to sing about adjectives. Performed and broadcast live!

process poetry
2021-04-15 07:45

(This reply was part of a conversation on Micro.blog in January 2019. I’m re-posting it here as a matter of storing it on my own server. See also this post, from October 2020. And also this interview.)

The drive to write can be due to the need to express oneself, but I’ve found that over-reliance on “expression” as a motivator plays into the mystical idea that poets are supposed to be “inspired,” which all too often leads to stasis and frustration.

If you wait to be inspired, you’ll be waiting a long time. And when you finally are inspired, you’ll have had no practice, and the product will fall far short of the ideal in your head. No one thinks they can simply be inspired to write a song and, never having played before, just pick up a guitar and boom: a song. So why would writing be any different? Well, I believe it’s because we think we’re practicing all the time, by virtue of using language to, well, talk.

That is, many of us think that writing is the same as talking — and, even more so, that writing is the same as communicating. But poetry isn’t exclusively about communication or expression. (Of course, neither is speech, but that’s a discussion for another time.)

A poem is an event made out of sounds — sounds which just happen to be human language. A writer makes words do things beyond their usual scope, and this takes practice. It also takes a lot of research — that is, reading — to see what other writers have managed to do with words.

If you learn to work the raw materials, you’ll be better prepared for when you are inspired. And you may eventually discover that the joy of working the raw materials is enough.

process writing