16 June 2014

#13: Sepulveda

"The lyrics are mostly recitation of Los Angeles-area street names"
('Pico & Sepulveda')

Alive to change

#14: Generate Content

I woke up poorly after going to sleep irritably. Coffee and the paper were waiting for me in the kitchen, but I took them to my bedroom and scanned and drank there, still feeling bad. My body hurt - first couple levels' hurt, e.g. down to the mantle, the muscles and skin and nerves botched and knotted - but most mornings fail to disturb the core (obviously - it's the core). Rising to stretch only triggers the grit of teeth and tensing of neck. The neck is an extensive complement tightly interlaced. There are a few things that need to be done outside of the house today but I do not want to leave the house and have decided it is because I should not be outside of the house. Listen to oneself as people say. My body feels bad and does not want to leave the house - brain buzzes its natural daily vibrations - for what then can I need to stay at home? It may be to write something down, the me offers, and there's your reason. Here I sit. I sit here. Looking up rock layers to provide visual context. Not remembering what's in the earth? A new ocean, tripled, under 'news' section of the search.

I am waiting for the essay(s) on the understanding and teaching of poetry. I should just write a few.* The articles and books on the program are interesting insofar as I am a reader of fiction and generally a member of a workshop; but where are the poet-teachers? Nothing in MFA vs NYC nor any of its offshoots or predecessors DFW included can use poetry's examples. Perhaps this is a very good sign of its continued slipperiness - to make Keats proud - and to suggest by omission that to read write and teach poetry-making is still a one-off enterprise, stubbornly case-by-case. Or just that there is no way to make sense of the minuscule market, readership, publication numbers/reach of poets. Is it that fiction does 'do something' or that prosists have not yet proferred their work's own inability to 'make [some]thing happen,' and that poetry laid itself out as part of its act (a responsibility or instinct that does not reside in fiction)? Or have I not yet located the writer, essay, or article that provides fiction's out. Or is it obvious? Is it that fiction is fictive and poetry is in-between? Is there an analogy with the visual arts - representationality? Representableness.
Then HOW DO YOU TEACH IT? The firm (not necessarily firmly, but firm as in a good hard teacher (teacher: listener responder and suggestion-maker) Established Poet sits at head of table as sounding board - as tennis half-court practice wall, as Buddha, sending everything flying back? The difficulties and prevalence of 'the workshop model' make it hard to separate from a more general (does this exist?) theory of teaching creative writing - or of teaching craft. Can it be done, and what is teaching the craft of fiction, and what is teaching the craft of poetry? Do these differ, and how? I can't imagine it after a series of 'forms' lectures and a (nowadays risky/expensive) get-out-of-'normal'-speech-free card. But then I have never taken a creative prose workshop. The standard seems (in poetry workshops) to be: Bring in your poems, and I will see what you have already done and/or tried to do in them, and your peers will evaluate on the same shaky ground, and you will observe their poems and offer perspectives, and next week will be the same. Varying levels of restraints are imposed (Cecil: "write a ghazal"; Geoffrey: "write two poems of equal length using language from a literary text, splice, and combine"; Lyn: "write ten 'table' poems"; Bob: "bring in a poem"). (How is a prose workshop any different?)
Presumably I will have more to say on this come December, after a semester with Lorna Goodison, in a workshop of five poets total (six including Goodison). I can speak to my personal preferences of teaching tones and styles - which again means who I felt and could consciously perceive made me better - to do a more comprehensive analysis classwide of what percentage of students seemed to fall through the cracks throughout the semester, or (whether this is possible) to determine the overall improvement in student writing. Cecil seemed best at saving all our souls. Geoffrey's individual tiny attentions in office hour muscled my technique. Lyn was my favorite alone-time poet to scan for help. Bob rounded out a class regardless of student distractibility and levitated truth-gems for those paying attention to snatch and bind to themselves - making poetry life and life poetry perhaps more actively and consciously than anyone else at Berkeley (i.e. for being so well-read, critically/philosophically, it was his living that looked and felt like his poetry most congruously). What was for me most stimulating and galvanizing about my poetry professors was their being live examples. That was also why I attended as many visiting-poet events as I could - to watch them, alive and existing and moving around as themselves, to make myself an ever-expanding network of live writing workers in my consciousness. It's useful to keep such a network to increase pressures (working regularly, submitting and revising meaningfully, etc) but also to keep heartened in what is not a mass-media enterprise (and what media have evaded that? Classical & jazz music? Certain visual arts? One can perhaps argue that great fiction is incapable of being mass-produced, but that "good fiction" is - look to publishers - but does poetry have such an analogue?) Maybe the question (large and not for this essay) is: are we coterie? To what extent and with what perks and repercussions? How much ought one to care (about those pros/cons)? 

09 June 2014

#12: Working back in: direct,

simple, brief, vigorous, and lucid.
*Garcia Lorca, "Your Childhood in Menton" (Poet in New York)
'Prefer the Saxon word to the Romance.'


Your waist of restless sand*
is in the dark, decided like cuts of shadow.
At the side of the ocean, for instance,
black salt fizzing and spumed. You go in
and had been away and get beat down.
Healthily gold, you are an example.
Return to a healing plant by your bed and
pink salt for family cooking.

But I can't get there to "blue horse of my insanity,"
which is ridiculous.
He seems into horses, dogs, and plazas. I almost spelled that
'horces,' which would be nice.

"Spuma" went from "foam" to "sparkling" from Latin to Italian. (sea-->wine)


"The eyes are suspended
on stalks with heavy crystals
on one end, acting like
a gyroscope
to orient the eyes skyward.
They look upward
to navigate
from roots
in mangrove swamps
to the open lagoon
and back, watching for
the mangrove canopy, where
they feed-"

I too employ my nerve net.


on the green surface

and a load of minerals
ebbing patterns


Last night the long dream
got caught between panels
of boardwalk flooring
This morning
sent shimmers of dry heat
from the other coast


You prefer anything I perform here
to what had been going on


making lines into strangers
set well in yellow


'there are bodies
that shouldn't
repeat themselves in the dawn'
- cf. "I'm a Greedy Man,"
James Brown.