My name’s Christopher Patton. I’m a poet, translator, critic, children’s writer. American born, Canadian grown, straddling domains as best I can, my roots for now in the greeny border town of Bellingham, Washington, City of Subdued Excitement, where I teach creative mischief at Western Washington University.
I’ve got four books in this world. Ox was my first book of poetry. Its opening section won the Paris Review‘s long poem prize. Jack Pine is a children’s story in verse that got made into an opera. As a PhD student at the University of Utah, I started translating Old English poems, and three of them found refuge as Curious Masonry with the artisans of type at Gaspereau Press. As I write, they’re printing a second volume of translations, Unlikeness Is Us, this one with commentaries & notes & a critical intro, my biases set down for all to see.
I’m a Zen practitioner. Here in Bellingham I sit with the Red Cedar Zen Community, studying with Nomon Tim Burnett and Zoketsu Norman Fischer of Everyday Zen. I received the Buddhist precepts in April, 2006 from John Daido Loori, who gave me the dharma name Kyushun, “ongoing spring.” All my creative work since then has been an inquiry into my name. Before that too actually.
You can read nearby about my recent and current projects. Dumuzi, a poetry manuscript just finished, ties itself w/ bands of grass to the myth cycle of a Sumerian shepherd god. Poems from it have been published in New American Writing, Asymptote, Colorado Review, FIELD, Kenyon Review, Versal, other places, and have received four Pushcart Prize nominations. Another, its companion, Inanna Scient, is near done – no pubs to brag of, I’ve sent hardly any out, am composing at a white heat. Inanna’s Dumuzi’s lover & frenemy eternal. They got issues that make for bad blood & good verse.
I have, being ADHD, two more on the go. (Four, plus a blog, ’s enough to keep me continuously entertained, and finishing is still practicable.) SCRO is an aasemic project – on the fence between semic, legible, and asemic, illegible. And like all Westerners it suffers a mind-body split. In its mind it is digital: 24 one-minute videos, following the sun, busy little meditations, sort of like makyō, the distortions you can get in zazen when your mind has quieted enough to watch the buzzy blurty work it does w/ a new & maybe amused half-clarity. I’ve done 12 one-minute poems of the 24.
Its other life is embodied, a scroll: 24 aasemic panels sewn together. I composed the whole thing in a 24-hour stretch, so the course of day and night recorded itself through my study window in lights and darks on the scanner, which the scroll retains. I’ve mocked it up but have yet to seek its publisher in a serious dogged way.
The other project underway, A Compost Commonplace, will be a furthering, in print, of this blog. It began when I realized the blog, as a form, isn’t new at all, or not as I practice it anyway, but a bricolage of older modes of bricolage. Second-order composting, if you like. It acts as a commonplace book, where you tend to a moving picture of your mind by gathering and arranging discoveries: quotations, letters, poems, bits of overheard conversation, stray buttons, bits of string, whatever’s your thing. It builds itself as a serial poem does – a long poem composed in sequence & making virtues of its heterogeneity. And its posts resemble the manuscript pages that preceded the advent of movable type in the West, inviting the eye to drift, plummet, meander & ascend somewhat under its own rule.
A Compost Commonplace makes these resemblances – serial poem, commonplace book, manuscript page – its formal proposition. I take a blog post and stick it into the shell of a fashioned page: an incipit from the Lindisfarne Gospels, say, or a page from an incunabula recording edicts of Carolus VII. Then we see what else enters the shell to accrete around the seed. This project’s just begun and it’ll take years. You can read more, and see a couple examples, here.
What else? A pic of me and some long grasses on Salt Spring Island, BC. Some years old but yes I am still that good looking.
Kidding, I was never that good looking. The image up top, branches of an old walnut tree on the same property, a home I had there once. The blog as a whole is indebted to this book. And, publications and awards and such here. And reviews of my work here. Enjoy! Or, better, go make your own demotic angelic word pics. Good, bad, who the eff cares. Give your loves away.