It's funny how all the pundits are talking now about the unsuspected role of religion in the election, because I've been reflecting on the election as religious experience. By which I may mean nothing more than the reverence and loss of ego I experienced by participating in a mass movement for a better world, something much bigger than me. For the first time in a public way I felt myself ecstatically disappearing the way "I" do when I'm writing a poem. And I felt such warmth and fraternity for all my fellow volunteers and the devoted Democrats I met going door to door in these little Pennsylvania townsdiscovering something like my own heart beating in old folks and Vietnam veterans and Teamsters. Writing for me is also a dream of such unity: when I'm writing well, when I've truly forgotten the petty desires and vanities of my everyday self, then I'm making contact with something that unites me to my fellow creatures. Call it, simply, a faith that something I'm feeling or thinking has been/will be felt or thought by others. No poem is so difficult or obscure that it's incapable of making contact, as long as it was made from a moment of obliterated intent. To believe that through writing you might move yourself is to believe in the deepest communication; it's the total opposite of solipsism.
So I'm sad and depressed and angry, but also energized, more engaged: a player, a participant.
Wonderful stuff in my contributor's copies of Fulcrum and 88. The latter has a chunk of Fourier Series in it and a remarkable "grant proposal" by Joe Amato that I'll be thinking about pretty closely. Here are a few propositions (it's got a Tractatus sort of arrangement) that struck me:
1.26 Being an artist does not make one a good human being, anymore than does reading a book or voting Democrat. I generally prefer the company of artists who read books and are Democrats.I'm increasingly enarmored of this kind of writing about the conditions of writing, tongue half-in-cheek. The Alan Davies book, Gary Sullivan's great How to Proceed in the Arts, Lytle Shaw's The Lobe. Writing that frames the conditions of authorship, thinking on the page off the page, writing into the margins not in the sense of marginality but in the sense of the frame, the experience driven by expectations and the situation of encounter. (Of course, I'm feeling pretty fucking marginal right now in the old-fashioned sense, confirmed in my minority status as 1 of the losing 55,384,497see Gary's map). Consider these key Amato propositions:
1.40 You can fake it for only so long before you become genuine. This is source of great consternation for those preoccupied with origins.
1.47 Upper limit craft, lower limit manufacturing = the range of ordinary constructions. Extraordinary constructions (such as art) require an additional integration. And please to note that the ordinary is a necessary part of the extraordinary.
2.26 Poets do a great disservice to themselves and to their publics when they pretend to have no obligation to one another and to their publics.
2.37 Making money remains a vital concern. No money, no eat. Me like eat.
2.38 If you don't believe me, write poetry.
2.42 Careerism can be defined, roughly, as stepping on someone else's head in order to get where you're going.
3.65 Always take your art more seriously than you take yourself. This way, if you put on weight, your art won't suffer the consequences.
3.67 All art should aspire to the condition of hootenanny.
1.52 The arts comprise highly ritualized practices. Though anything can be deemed a work of art, its success will ultimately be measured by its embodiment of those practices and the meaning and actions attending thereto.Is a keen attention to the context of one's ritualized practice form or content? And though one might write about that practice, to really practice practice requires metapoetry, whether through theory or collaboration or teaching or publishing or stunts. Careerism is malign metapoetry, but any poet's activity meant to enlarge her audience or transform the notion of audience or simply making herself heard constitutes metapoetry. Which can almost substitute for poetry in providing a glimmer of that vital connection (or connection to vitality) that I was talking about earlier. But it's TV on the radio, it's lower-limit speech/manufacturing; at some point we go penduluming back toward the musical heights or we cease to write poetry.
2.23 Those writers for whom I have the most resepct, as writers, are keenly aware of the ritualized nature of art, its deference to past forms and contents as well as its requisite nod toward future possibility. The written work of these writers exhibits equal measures of care and wild abandon. In the twentieth century, on the North American continent, most of these writers, but not all, have been poets. These poets have given equal attention to form and content, but for most, form and content are indistinguishable, finally.
A last last Severance Song: this would make 81 and then I could have nine sections of nine in the book, one for every muse:
November of the falls. Of the falls. Beer bottles,
plastic bags. Of the exilic tone. Rush to moan.
The garden fails as a zone, it's consumptive--water falls
without destination. Avoiding the oozy eye
of my countrymen's chosen martyr, pinned high.
Where none do hang, they hang. Voicing falls
into the chest, piece of earth that carries me--
that blooms and tightens breath, then buries.
Self loamed, the air kicking up white, frothed sky.
You are part of my solitude till I meet you again.
Leaves in the falls, writing finger in the stream--
parts parting, winter coming. We're alone with the unmade.
We made it. Of fire now gallowsing the leaves.
That fall, we'll say that fall, we parted. Sang.
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