Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Done-ish, moving archives to another site

If you want to see what I'm blogging now, please visit Sisyphus Bound.

If you want to see older posts from this blog, please visit Sisyphus Bound: The Vault: A Poetry of the Impossible.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fear of Sucking

So I'm working on translating another piece of published juvenilia (modeled after, or derived from, or ripping off a Mark Halliday poem from Little Star). Twice removed from worth anything, except some poor deluded soul or committee of souls chose to publish it in a small journal, so I guess it's worth something. And it's actually OK, a little less image-heavy and more narrative than my usual crap.

Anyway, at the same time, I am studying an article called 25 Ways to Increase Blog Traffic and fighting a wave of headache and nausea and actively hiding from the day. As I contemplate making an honest effort to increase traffic, it seems to me that Not Bob's list of 25 omits perhaps the most essential: don't suck. How many people read blogs that suck? (How many people are reading and answering this question right now? The answers to those questions, says my sunken self-esteem, are identical.) The golden rule of "Don't Suck" does not make the list. Instead, perhaps its opposite: "Post Consistently." All in a panic, I think to myself, "I barely have anything to say twice a month on this blog ... What will I say if I post a few times a week?"

Of course, having developed (somewhat) my theory of the Poetry of the Impossible, which comprises these points:

  1. Poetry is not that serious
  2. Poetry does not affect Reality directly, only acts from the fringes to filter down into cultural understandings of Reality
  3. Reality is quite beyond our ability to understand
  4. Language is a terribly flawed means of communicating our understanding of Reality
  5. But still, Language is the best means of communication we have
  6. The limitations of Language create the tools and tricks of the Poetic trade
  7. Poetry is essentially a game using those tools and tricks to force Language to move closer to a true representation of Reality, bridging the Subjective and Objective
  8. Poetry is essentially a game we can never win, a game in which we can never be certain of the score
  9. Thus, all Poetry is Objectively equal because entirely dependent for value upon the Subjective
  10. Thus, there are no more or less legitimate forms of Poetry
  11. Thus, there is only Poetry I like better and Poetry I don't like so much 
  12. Thus, concerns about Am I a good poet? are best understood as more superficial concerns, such as Will my poetry be acceptable to these literary journals? or Will my poetry get me into that MFA program? or If I show my friends my poetry, will they laugh at me? or Does my poem rhyme good?
  13. Given the superficial Subjectivity of these "core" value concerns, every Poem will succeed in some contexts and fail in others; every Poem will simultaneously Suck and Not Suck (Like Schrodinger's cat, we put the Poem in a box and its value equals all probabilities at once until someone opens the box ... The Poem, however, either Sucks or Not depending upon the person opening the box, whereas the cat is either dead or alive, one or the other, regardless)
  14. Given the impossibility of winning the game, of forcing Language to represent True Reality (or of even knowing what True Reality is), there is also no possibility of losing the game, and so no limitations on--no rules (except for whatever rules the Poet chooses to provisionally adopt) of--the game.
(god, that was a long tangent to arrive at this point)I must concede that Fear of Sucking is entirely irrational, and should not even be considered when posting on a blog like this.

But then, as human beings are irrational, Fear of Sucking is a legitimate consideration. What shall I do now?

So, how about every Tuesday and Thursday, at least, I post here one of several different things:
  1. Revisions to an existing poem
  2. Draft of a new poem
  3. An old poem (Juvenilia)
  4. My thoughts about poetry and poetics
  5. A method of generating poetic matter and/or my results from using such a method
  6. My thoughts on things I see around the Poetosphere (what do you think of that label? I'm not sure ...)
  7. A critical appraisal and/or analysis of someone else's poetry, whether unknown or well-known
Think I'll try that. Echo echo echo ...

Friday, January 27, 2012

From the German.

I'm stuck. I should be working on "All Things Being Equal," (that is the agreement I made with myself) but I fear it may be completely unsalvageable. So, to fuck around and waste time productively, I took four texts translated from the German--Heidegger's "Letter on Humanism," Goethe's Faust, Rilke's Duino Elegies, and the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm--and plugged them into eGnoetry to try to make some interesting novel connections. What follows are the raw results, the turbulent flow. I may set straight quotes from the works to act as attractors, or I might build it around memories of a German girlfriend many years ago. Or I might just forget about it, because I already have too many unfinished long poems. Who knows? Anyway ...

This was morbidly anxious to know. I felt
this difficulty in silence. It's all,

I stepped leisurely
across the life -- or two who lifted a
capital -- normal from head was thinking of
having lost sight; this -- the
I had been planning to
his hands, and sealed his.

I proposed a singleness of nightmares. The manager,
wild and devil, almost
certain I had become a foolish
faces. I had nothing,
four pilgrims in a wonder. I saw
the passing away quick, nor I did not so.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Juvenilia: A Prayer

This poem, under the title "A Prayer From Hell," won me second prize in a contest put on by a minor literary journal in 1996. I was pretty proud of that. It has the same excesses and weaknesses you can see in my current work. More or less. When I was applying to graduate schools and considering attempting to gain entry into a creative writing program, I consulted with one of my undergrad professors about a stack of poems, this one included. He suggested lopping the last few lines off, and I think he was correct. I am including them here as they were published, but running the red line through them, just to let you know. With the whole of the poem, and the constituent parts, as with everything, I am ambivalent.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

All Things Being Equal, new revisions

It's been months since I touched this one. I'm not giving up on it yet. I won't show the changes as I have lately with the Ghosts poem, as it is too labor intensive and I am somewhat tired and depressed. Feel free to comment.

Let x = x 1
Locked in observation
with laceless shoes and
flesh turning color in
a mangled ring. As in

the circus. You lay across
the hall, or lie across the lake
of fire bridged by roads cut
straight into the mountain.
You, me, the elephant in the ring.

The baby in the car, my bottle
in the sink. The girl left an impression,
barbed wire handstanding on my back, the ass-end
of a circus pony with wobble knees, sinking,
sinking, and the finalé spills
clowns from the car like cockroaches, midgets and stilt-
legged giants, or hoop-waisted buffoons begging
the rain with wing-spread finches,
skeletons, held close
on their heads.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reckoning the Impossible, Part III

I continue to write, despite the absence of clear encouragement. This is strange, as I am far too depressed to play my guitar or read (which require far too much effort and concentration). Even this, this semi-personal expository prose, is accomplished with more time and labor than it should require. I had reached out to a few people, asking for assessment and critique, but I have not heard back, after a month or two. My interpretation is that my writing is mediocre at most, which is fine. I am a poor judge of my own work, so I wouldn't necessarily know. And the world has plenty of mediocre poets. My (perceived) mediocrity won't drive me to suicide, as it did poor Hart Crane (not that I'm comparing myself). My suicidal impulses come from other places.

So, why write? Poetry has no objective value, in my opinion. Presumably, I'm not talented enough to make a career of it--not without an effort the size of which I haven't the energy to make. I lack my youthful outsize ego and desire for fame that might veil my eyes to the disappointing reality. It's not clear to me, but I seem to be writing for the only legitimate reason to write poetry: I have certain perceptions, memories, emotions, thoughts, energies inside me that I feel compelled to understand better, that resist embodiment, topography, translation into the structure of language. This internal compulsion, I believe, is what drives poetry, regardless of whatever other filters it passes on the way out of the poet.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Robert Lowell and What To Do with My Hypomanic-Depression (Bipolar II)?

I have thus proved that it is absolutely possible to write bad poetry quickly. I really don't know what else I'm doing here. I suppose I should be working on my longer works, doing some research into coroner's reports for Murder-Suicide in Loveland, into the mathematical equations I use in All Things Being Equal (so I can possibly make that jumbled mess cohere and maybe find some inspiration to craft metaphors that don't suck). But I feel drained, depressed, and, honestly, not at all impressed with what I've written so far. Thinking of going back to my novel. But I'd run into the same problems there.

This is the problematic cycle that, in my better moments, I work to overcome: the grand idea exploded into millions of axons and neurons and glial cells, trunk and limbs and fingers, arteries and veins and capillaries, feverishly begun, feverishly overworked, until half constructed and half polished, then abandoned for greener, spore-infested, algae-ridden ponds. The confusion that follows, the dull and heavy head that fails to understand the hypomanic trajectory. The resignation to the overwhelming feeling of inadequacy. The stasis and stagnation.

Lowell after lithium
Robert Lowell supposedly found his depression useful for editing, crawling through each line, each word, from a dirt-level realism that can be the gift of depression. He balanced his manic explosions (during which he wrote, if he was not off on some drunken binge in South America or wherever) with diligent and exacting work, pushing through the lower moods to finish the grand mess he had started. That's self-discipline.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Untitled poem on a photo of ex-wife #2

I'm not much for myself as a poet today. Feeling even more mediocre than usual. And this poem doesn't disprove that, certainly. But I feel the need to write, even if it is shit, and even if I'm still fixated on ex-wife #2 and her online photo and my failures as a husband. But I have a poetry blog, and what the hell am I supposed to do with it? So, I post my crappy poem.

Forgive me. I'm staring at your
photograph, the coarse, fluid lines of auburn

or ruby, the seas turned more
coffee than blood and breaking on the killing

shore. I have had my lips on
that ear. She hides her age and imperfections,

the weight of her heart, a base
called drained, and sunless. My lips have touched

that cold cheek. Windows to
windows, we look upon and see nearly reflected,

more deflected, eyes half opened
and askance, never the whole story. You should

know. The eyes have told me what
I never wanted to know. The lips, the thin lines,

as between love and apathy, stopped
to reset the clocks. Before she left.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Random Lines

Here's a game:

  1. Choose a set of books, magazines, or whatever discrete pieces of text you wish.
  2. Assign a random number to each, and then arrange by random number, smallest to largest.
  3. Generate a series of random numbers from 1 to the number of pages in the biggest book. Apply these random numbers to the list of books. (These are the page numbers, so of course you may have to adjust for the shorter books.)
  4. Generate a final set of random numbers between 1 and 40 or 50, or based on how many lines are on a typical page of text. (This is the line number, and may need to be adjusted.)
  5. For each book, find the page and the line corresponding to the random numbers assigned.
  6. Put 'em all together. Or connect them with text of your own, or whatever you want to do!
Here's how some of mine turned out:

Random Lines #1: Poetry
And in these virtues of delight
digested, shat out, growing again and eaten
My lord—' said Barlyng, 'I! Your friend!
A warmth within the breast would melt
And a pleasant fire, our souls to regale;
fold out the lungs and a jungle of bronchiols
From pent-up aching rivers,
[blank line]
one she'd rather forget.
[redacted line]
I will change trees though I am almost eighty
What is the matter with Mary Jane?
And glutton-like she feeds, yet never filleth
tied like a noose to my belt.
oh god it's wonderful
                    searching the punk-dry rot
Have understood what love can do.
and the rose bobs to the surface
one of the many pink and white blossoms,
Touch me into light