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Monday, December 3, 2018

Letter to a samurai poet

When it comes to the Way of Poetry there are generally three grades of people, as I see it. There are those who run around, trying day and night to make points, vying to win, with no attempt to see the Way. These may be called confused noise-makers in poetry. But because they help fill the stomachs of the wives and children of the judges and replenish the money-boxes of their landlords, what they do is better than doing evil things.

Then there are those who, though wealthy, refrain from engaging in ostentation pleasures. Looking upon haikai writing as better than gossiping about other people, they compose two or three sequences for winning points, day or night, but do not boast when they win, nor become angry even when they lose. Whatever may happen, they at once set out to work out a new sequence and try to come up with clever ideas during the brief space of time that a fifth of an incense stick takes to burn. When it’s finished they delight in the points given instantly, just like boys playing cards. These people nevertheless arrange food and provide adequate wine, thereby helping the poor and fattening judges. In that sense they, too, in some way contribute to the establishment of the Way.

Then, there are fellows who work hard for the goal of true poetry and soothe their hearts by doing so. These do not easily take to criticising others, and with the thought that poetry writing is another vehicle for entering the True Way, explore the spirit of Teika, trace the intent of Saigyō, examine the heart of Po Chu-i, and enter the mind of Tu Fu – all of the remote past. There are so few of these that, the ones in the capital and the ones in the countryside combined, you can readily count them with your ten fingers. You are to be one of those few. It is understandable that you should take great care and work hard at it.

- Bashō, 1692

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The whole concept of empire is based on fake news

Our history, especially the military-industrial complex – the whole concept of empire is based on fake news. All of colonization is based on fake news. I mean, really? You know, we’re invading other people and killing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people in order to free them? You don’t kill people by freeing them. The whole idea that we have the right to invade other countries, because we’re better, is based on mythology and based on – I mean, colonization doesn’t work unless you have this myth of being better. So whenever you find the massive military incursions justify, that clearly do terrible harm to other countries, you have done under the banner of, oh, we’re spreading democracy or spreading civilization or spreading Christianity, you’re going to have myth, you’re going to have fake news.

But I also want to emphasize in my work that, no, America has never been great. But the idea of America can be great. It’s a future thing, our greatness, not a past thing. The past is something we’re trying to overcome, and we’re trying to realize our greatness with certain ideals. But of course, our past is replete with fake news; we are an empire, we’re a military empire. Whenever you find a military empire, it’s going to justify its invasions on the basis of fake news. Think of the European invasion of the United States that resulted in the genocide of our native population. That was based on complete fakery, that the Native American population was somehow uncivilized, and the barbarian savages who were slaughtering them were civilized. When you have mass violence, it’s going to be based – because humans need this in order to justify mass violence – it’s going to be based on these deep myths and fake news. And so since we’re an empire, we have this long history of fake news.

And a particularly dangerous moment is when the empire starts to lose its status; when it starts to lose its status, then the myths are no longer so comforting, and a fascist leader can come and say, look how we used to be great, we used to be happy with our myths. So, that’s how the structure works. The structure wouldn’t work if you didn’t have an empire that was based on fake news. We had this past. And sometimes Trump shows his hand; so he said, you know, we’re not so great; look at the Iraq War. So he was very explicit about that. What you have happening with some of these figures is they want to say, well, let’s go back and not fake it; let’s just say we’ll invade people and take their oil, let’s not pretend. And so that’s seen as more authentic. Like any military empire, we’ve had a titanic amount of fake news. And what I’m hoping is that people can now recognize how dangerous that is. Because the danger is that then someone can come and say, the mainstream media? Really? Look at the Iraq War, look at all the lying we’ve done in the past. So insofar as elites care about even the simulacrum of democracy that we’ve had in the United States, even the sort of vague shadow of democracy that we’ve had in the United States, even keeping up the pretenses – they shouldn’t lie anymore.  

– Jason Stanley

Monday, October 1, 2018

A way to experience the experience

I don’t think poetry is a particularly good form of expression. Photographs are more accurate. Theatre is more eloquent. But poetry is a superb, powerful and true form of experience. I don’t write a poem to express an experience. I write it to experience the experience. And the unforgettable poem I read, the one I remember, is the one that manages to convey the experience to me, which someone else once had – maybe hundreds of years ago – and, by a poise of music and language, convey it almost intact. 

– Eavan Boland

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

On the way to a spark of the divine tiny fish eye

     Jung discovered in his descent into the psyche that opposites comprise the unconscious. When neurosis unbalances us, consciousness carries some of these opposites in conflict with their counterparts in the unconscious. Treatment amounts to gathering into consciousness the opposites split between conscious and unconscious so that we suffer consciously what before warred interminably between our conscious reason and our unconsciously derived symptom, our conscious resolve and our unconscious compulsion…
     On the way to such expanded consciousness, moments arise in the field between analyst and analysand that illumine the reality that holds us in being. We are transplanted to a depth where we see the radical congress this reality conducts with us. We still keep mindful of the tasks of analysis…But alighting it, making an entry through this ego work is a spark of the divine come into the human, a tiny fish eye in the vast dark of the cosmos, that yields glimpses of unending light existing there in the depths and in the heights all the time. One is moved to act in surprising ways. – Ann Ulanov

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Poetry: a model or a theory of the person

When we describe a poem as having a “speaker,” or as giving “voice” to a person, we are not assuming anything about what a person is. Rather, we are taking the artifice of voice in the poem to offer something like a model or a theory of the person, or even a pedagogy of personhood. In its orchestrations of perception, conception, and affect, a poem elaborates upon or expands the possibilities of what a person can see, think, and feel. Through its constructive work with the sound and matter of language, the poem gives shape to the concept of the person who can think, say, and make these things. Likewise, it has often seemed intuitive to see poems as fostering recognition and solidarity between persons. As public objects, poems strive to make their ideas or conceptions of personhood perceptible and durable – if not always immediately legible – to others. In their scoring of the voice, or in their stretching of the word beyond or beneath the horizons of ordinary speech, they produce opportunities for readers and hearers to extend and expand their sympathies, and to identify even the most baroque utterance or repulsive sentiment as the testimony of a fellow mind. – Oren Izenberg

Monday, July 2, 2018

The giant in the window

I thought, on the train, how utterly we have forsaken the Earth, in the sense of excluding it from our thoughts. There are but few who consider its physical hugeness, its rough enormity. It is still a disparate monstrosity, full of solitudes + barrens + wilds. It still dwarfs + terrifies + crushes. The rivers still roar, the mountains still crash, the winds still shatter. Man is an affair of cities. His gardens + orchards + fields are mere scrapings. Somehow, however, he has managed to shut out the face of the giant from his windows. But the giant is there, nevertheless. – Wallace Stevens

Friday, June 1, 2018

Virtuosity with language is not enough

Virtuosity with language by itself is not enough for poetry. A poem has to sustain a strong connection to the suffered world, and any intelligence that dares call itself poetic needs to be penetrated and informed by the life of the emotions. The ego must be breached by the fire and flood damage of experience. At the same time, plaintive wailing will not suffice. Successful poems have grace and vivacity - sometimes even power - of language, mobility of mind, and I think not a straight­faced, deadpan earnestness, but a brave freedom of feeling. – Tony Hoagland

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

French Pleasure & American Pain

     Both Barthes and Derrida understand the great seriousness of pleasure, the profundity of pleasure. We generally think of pleasure as being Q.E.D. superficial or transitory. They understand that pleasure is the most profound of human experiences. If literature is to be profound, then the text must be a kind of pleasure – just as the flesh of your beloved is profound. That’s what makes marriage, or any kind of friendship, sacred. Because there is pleasure. Auden had that great line, “My friends, people I like, I like for different reasons, but everyone I love, I love for the same reason – they make me laugh.”
     We have to re-adjust our understanding of pleasure. I admire and revere Barthes and Derrida for the seriousness with which they treat pleasure. Their understanding of the pleasure of the text is nothing flippant or irreverent, but really a form of reverence. We should approach our pleasure with reverence, which we seldom do in this country. We approach our pain with reverence. We revere our suffering. A lot of people think contemporary French writers are flip. That’s because the French are revering something we perhaps haven’t the maturity to revere. – Donald Revell

Monday, April 2, 2018

“They Knew What They Wanted” by John Ashbery

They all kissed the bride. 
They all laughed. 
They came from beyond space. 
They came by night.

They came to a city. 
They came to blow up America. 
They came to rob Las Vegas. 
They dare not love.

They died with their boots on. 
They shoot horses, don't they? 
They go boom. 
They got me covered.

They flew alone. 
They gave him a gun. 
They just had to get married. 
They live. They loved life.

They live by night. 
They drive by night. 
They knew Mr Knight. 
They were expendable.

They met in Argentina. 
They met in Bombay. 
They met in the dark. 
They might be giants.

They made me a fugitive. 
They made me a criminal. 
They only kill their masters. 
They shall have music.

They were sisters. 
They still call me Bruce. 
They won't believe me. 
They won't forget.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The experience of contact

Poetry is most deeply a way of doing philosophy – not as mere juggling of abstractions, but as lived and felt experience. This is how the twentieth century avant-garde used it, as a way to construct and inhabit a worldview. Ancient Chinese thought is a crucial influence driving the innovations of that tradition – and it makes perfect sense, for the Taoist/Ch’an conceptual framework represented a fuller and more coherent account of the radical insights that were ripe for realization in the West. And like China’s ancient artist-intellectuals, that avant-garde took contact as its central concern, certain that only in empirical immediacy was it possible to achieve authenticity in living, and clarity in who and where we are.

Contact, the primacy of the immediate: it is not such a difficult idea, but in terms of actual experience, the stuff of life and poetry, it is a difficult lesson we must learn over and over. Contact itself is unsayable precisely because it lies outside all concepts, but…poets, each in their own way, guide us to the experience of contact. They show us new ways of being alive to the world in the tangible here and now. And from that beginning point, they explore the implications of that elemental experience, most importantly a different sense of self-identity: Thoreau’s who we are. This line of poetic thought represents a lived form of deep ecology, the “rewilding” of consciousness. It involves ways of knowing ourselves outside of received Western assumptions; and so, not surprisingly, it is often informed by other cultures, especially ancient Chinese and primal cultures. Hence, the poets in this innovative tradition establish consciousness as wild each in their own way, together creating their own wilderness: “the wilds of poetry.”

Central to this for most poets is the way they push language into wild forms in various ways: organic and open-field, breath-driven, text-interspersed with fields of open space/silence, fragmentation and collage. Language is the medium of thought, essence of self-identity, so by rewilding language they rewild identity. And it makes sense this rewilding often takes place in the context of wilderness, where the cocoon of human culture is absent and the vastness of the Cosmos is most dramatically and immediately present. As a philosophical instrument, poetry is especially powerful because it can operate in that wilderness, open experience to the silent depths outside of language and thought, reveal areas of consciousness outside our language-centered day-to-day identity. Prose can talk about this, but poetry can enact it through its reshaping of language. It can create wild mind as immediate experience for the reader. 

– David Hinton

Thursday, February 1, 2018

"Chicken Bucket" by Jennifer Knox

Today I turn thirteen and quit the 4-H club for good.
I smoke way too much pot for that shit.
Besides, Mama lost the rabbit and both legs
from the hip down in Vegas.
What am I supposed to do? Pretend to have a rabbit?
Bring an empty cage to the fair and say,
His name's REO Speedwagon and he weighs eight pounds?
My teacher, Mr. Ortiz says, I'll miss you, Cassie,
then he gives me a dime of free crank and we have sex.
I do up the crank with Mama and her boyfriend, Rick.
She throws me the keys to her wheelchair and says,
Baby, go get us a chicken bucket.
So I go and get us a chicken bucket.
On the way back to the trailer, I stop at Hardy's liquor store.
I don't want to look like a dork
carrying a chicken bucket into the store —
and even though Mama always says
Never leave chicken where someone could steal it —
I wrap my jacket around it and hide it
under the wheelchair in the parking lot.
I've got a fake ID says my name's Sherry and I'm 22,
so I pick up a gallon of Montezuma Tequila,
a box of Whip-Its and four pornos.
Mama says, That Jerry Butler's got a real wide dick.
But the whole time I'm in line, I'm thinking,
Please God let the chicken bucket be OK.
Please God let the chicken bucket be OK.
Please God let the chicken bucket be OK.
The guy behind me's wearing a T-shirt
that says, Mustache Rides 10¢.
So I say, All I got's a nickel.
He says, You're cute,
so we go out to his van and have sex.
His dick's OK, but I've seen wider.
We drink most of the tequila and I ask him,
Want a Whip-It?
He says, Fuck no — that shit rots your brain.
And when he says that, I feel kind of stupid
doing another one. But then I remember
what mama always told me:
Baby — be your own person.
Well fuck yes.
So I do another Whip-It,
all by myself and it is great.
Suddenly it hits me — 
Oh shit! the chicken bucket!
Sure enough, it's gone.
Mama's going to kill me.
Those motherfuckers even took my jacket.
I can't buy a new chicken bucket
because I spent all the money at Hardy's.
So I go back to the trailer, crouch outside
behind a bush, do all the Whip-Its,
puke on myself, roll in the dirt,
and throw open the screen door like a big empty wind.
Mama! Some Mexicans jumped me!
They got the chicken bucket,
plus the rest of the money!

I look around the trailer.
Someone's taken all my old stuffed animals
and Barbies and torn them to pieces.
Fluff and arms and heads are all over the place.
I say someone did it,
but the only person around is Rick.
Mama is nowhere to be seen.
He cracks open another beer and says,
What chicken bucket?

Well, that was a long a time ago.
Rick and I got married
and we live in a trailer in Boron.
We don't live in a trailer park though —
in fact there's not another house around
for miles. But the baby keeps me
company. Rick says I'm becoming
quite a woman, and he's going to let Mama know that
if we ever see her again.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A family example of coming to peace

The Coming to Peace process provided a forum for the siblings to explore their relationship to their father’s death and the effect that not being allowed to speak about it had on them. Over several weeks, the roots of their animosity toward each other were unearthed. Each person was not only dealing with their own grief and anger over the situation, they were also trying to push the others into seeing things their way.

The storm of anger and willfulness that occurred as the siblings tried to distribute their mother’s possessions was masking the anger and confusion each had experienced as a result of her addiction. It turned out that her addiction was likely in response to her husband’s death. Unfortunately, her children were forced to deal with that along with the loss of their father and the taboo of speaking about him.

Until all the layers of suppressed and repressed experience and the misalignment of will through anger and grief were brought to light, there was no hope of reaching a resolution of their mother’s estate. Over several sessions, the family worked hard to resolve these issues and came away with a level of peace about their father’s death and their mother’s alcoholism that they had not believed, or even understood, was possible.

What began as a simple mediation session to help five siblings distribute their deceased mother’s possessions turned into an unexpected exploration and release of long-held hurts and misunderstandings. This layering of experience is not unusual and is often underlying disagreements. That’s why it is so important to engage in a process like Coming to Peace where participants are given the space and structure needed to dissect disagreements completely. It’s also worth noting the vital role that taking personal responsibility for examining ourselves has on the resolution process. Once the Martinellis began objectively reviewing their intentions and underlying motivations, their resolution and healing processes gained momentum.

Sometimes we resist taking responsibility and properly aligning our will because we fear we will be rendered powerless, particularly when we are sourcing our power from a negative emotion like anger. Janet, Mark, and Lucas had aligned themselves with their anger, and this caused them to lose sight of what was really going on at the core of the family conflict. To remain clear sighted, we much fight the urge to run from our fear. And when we engage in the process of realigning our will, we effect peace both within our relationships and ourselves. The stark truth is there can be no peace for anyone – individuals, couples, families, or communities – if those who are in conflict refuse to look at themselves honestly, take personal responsibility, and realign their will in a way that is positive and invites peace.

To fully understand our experience as humans, we much understand all the negative emotions housed within us, because they have something very important to tell us about the ways we have separated from our essential nature.

- Isa Gucciardi

from http://amzn.to/2lEgLTa

Friday, December 1, 2017

Books that read us

A real book reads us. I have been read by Eliot's poems and by Ulysses and by Remembrance of Things Past and by The Castle for a good many years now, since early youth. Some of these books at first rejected me; I bored them. But as I grew older and they knew me better, they came to have more sympathy with me and to understand my hidden meanings. Their nature is such that our relationship has been very intimate. 
- Lionel Trilling

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Outside authority no longer means anything to me.

Small and hidden is the door that leads inward, and the entrance is barred by countless prejudices, mistaken assumptions, and fears. Always one wishes to hear of grand political and economic schemes, the very things that have landed every nation in a morass. Therefore it sounds grotesque when anyone speaks of hidden doors, dreams, and a world within. What has this vapid idealism got to do with gigantic economic programs, with the so-called problems of reality?

But I speak not to nations, only to the individual few, for whom it goes without saying that cultural values do not drop down like manna from heaven, but are created by the hands of individuals. If things go wrong in the world, this is because something is wrong with the individual, because something is wrong with me. Therefore, if I am sensible, I shall put myself right first. For this I need – because outside authority no longer means anything to me – a knowledge of the innermost foundations of my being, in order that I may base myself firmly on the eternal facts of the human psyche. - Carl Jung

Monday, October 2, 2017

It's the drama of the scene that excited Yeats

‘Cuchulain Comforted’, written a matter of weeks before Yeats died in January of 1939, is his only use of Dantescan terza rima: it began life as a folktale-ish prose narrative of the kind collected by Lady Gregory. The draft, dictated by Yeats to his wife on 7 January, opens:

“A shade recently arrived went through a valley in the Country of the Dead; he had six mortal wounds, but he had been a tall, strong, handsome man. Other shades looked at him from the trees. Sometimes they went near to him and then went away quickly. At last he sat down, he seemed very tired.”

A week later this became:

A man that had six mortal wounds, a man
Violent and famous, strode among the dead;
Eyes stared out of the branches and were gone.

Then certain Shrouds that muttered head to head
Came and were gone. He leant upon a tree
As though to meditate on wounds and blood.

While the language of the prose sketch verges on the simple, even primitive, that of the poem is laconic and theatrical. Cuchulain is no longer a conventional good-looking hero, ‘tall, strong, handsome’, but a Yeatsian one, ‘Violent and famous’; conventional ‘shades’ become unsettling ‘Shrounds’, as if the dead were so many winding sheets, their weirdness making them fit choric witnesses, as they confer ‘head to head’, of the mortally wounded hero’s singularity. It is the drama of the scene that excites Yeats, and although the poem is about Cuchulain’s loss of agency and individuality, in these opening stanzas he is still enacting his purposefulness, striding among the muttering dead; when he rests it is not because he is ‘very tired’, but ‘to meditate on wounds and blood’.

The narratives dramatized in Yeats’s oeuvre nearly all involve some decisive act of transformation that is in many ways analogous to the process of transforming prose into poetry.

– Mark Ford