A digital version of Robert Grenier’s seminal Sentences. My students have a great time with it and the questions it raises—what’s part and what’s whole? what’s the function in a poem of silence and empty space? how does dispersal of the poem as a digital edition affect its prior existence as a pricey handmade edition? when he writes “bird,” does he mean a bird, or does he mean “bird”?—keep us happy and hopping a long time.
Whalecloth’s home page, with a bit of context for the poem.
From If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, trans. Anne Carson
Drove down to Samish Island this morning for a dharma talk by Norman Fischer. A bit remains with me from the life of Dongshan. He was walking up in the mountains, newly a teacher, chewing on the question of suchness, his teacher Yunyan’s “just this,” came to fastmoving stream and was startled by his fastmoving reflection in the water.
“Wherever I go,” he wrote in the poem the moment gave him, “there he is, with me. He’s me. But I’m not him.” Norman, I hope I have that right.
Drove away with a feeling for the dreamlike spaciousness of the country around—green fields, tidal flats, starlings in the road, hawk on a powerline. If I could amend it, it would be to say, “He’s me. And I’m not him.”
A few points of contact. Narcissus staring at his reflection in the water. Chuangtzu’s butterfly. (Was I Chuangtzu dreaming I was a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming I’m Chuangtzu?) And the spacious light of Sappho’s fragments (rereading them for my compost course) in Carson’s translation:
(She won the Griffin Prize this year, as did Brenda Hillman, on the international side. Wonderful.) More to come on Carson’s Sappho, how it seems to me compost might be a way to speak of them.
This by Robert Duncan, in Rasula’s This Compost, out of the body of which many of my thoughts here take sprout.
It is only the midden heap, Beauty: shards,
scraps of leftover food, rottings,
where we read history, larvae of all dead things,
mixd seeds, waste, off-castings, despised
treasure, vegetable putrefactions
– Robert Duncan, “Nor is the Past Pure”
Speaking of the opened field. I’ve found a good prompt for working a way into Olson’s “Projective Verse” with students is to ask them just what that “field” in “composition by field” might be. Last time I did it I was way taken by the breadth of their answers. The page. The sensuous surround at a given perceptive moment. The expanse of possible questions.
I’m paraphrasing here, but my gist is, they helped me see how “composition by field” is itself composed by field, meaning at multiple vectors fruitfully.
Poetry is biodegradable
Here’s a similar thought to Olson’s (below) but somehow delicater. Olson’s bears down, you can feel the weight of the town crouched on the stone. Niedecker’s comes up through the butterfly and with its lightness.
Life is natural
in the evolution
– Lorine Niedecker, “Wintergreen Ridge”
That language is material, yes, but alongside it, that matter is a thinking.
earth is interesting:
ice is interesting
stone is interesting
– Charles Olson, “Maximus—from Dogtown, II”
Brings to mind Issa, that we walk on the roof of hell, gazing at flowers. And Ronald Johnson’s thought that light evolved the eye in order to see itself.
Now I am terrified at the earth …
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions.
This is a big fat post because wordpress doesn’t wish to import my very first early tumblr posts. So I’m piling ’em in here. Maybe I should just let it go but I’m not good at that. This blog, and rotting things generally, cuz I’m not, here come to teach me.
Archaeologists unearthing clay tablets (Gilgamesh) and mummies wrapped in strips of recycled papyrus (Sappho) have developed a robust minor vocabulary for what’s gone missing.
Ellipses. Italics. Round brackets, square brackets, curly brackets, angle brackets, half square brackets. Each to mark a different sort of goneness.
Armand Schwerner had some fun with that vocabulary and in the process turned marks of absences to presences in their own right. This page from his Tablets takes it to one extreme.
And, at that extreme, beyond the last palm of the mind, something winks at Stevens, his “Man on the Dump”: “The the.” Hee hee. Schwerner probably also had in mind Pound’s “Papyrus”:
Spring . . . . . . .
Too long . . . . . .
Gongula . . . . . .
What I’ve been reading here. Armand Schwerner, The Tablets. Sappho, If Not, Winter (Anne Carson trans.). James B. Pritchard (ed.), The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures.
Here’s a bit of Gilgamesh for ya. G’night.
The Bible is a huge gorgeous reeking compost pile. Take Genesis. Three or more authors have their hands in it. The earliest is known as J, the Yahwist, and his God is fierce, dangerous, fallible, embodied. He likes to walk in the shade on a hot day. Then there’s P, the Priestly writer, his God’s detached and magisterial, his words are pure act, no dirtying of the hands, just let there be light. And E, the Elohist, his name for God Elohim, inconveniently plural.
Drawing it all together, somewhat skilled and somewhat hapless, R, the Redactor, trying to get a coherent account out of it all. He could cut and paste but couldn’t alter much the texts he received as sacred.
He succeeded insofar as we have a single thing called “The Bible.” He failed gorgeously insofar as we have two overlapping Creation accounts, glaring contradictions in the story of the Flood, and not one, not two, but three iterations of the “Hey, Pharaoh, that’s no sister, that’s my wife” gag.
Writings are readings. Readings are restlessly multiple. Thank God for which.
Lastly, the beauty, to this atheist, of two thoughts in Genesis. That the created is good. And that even omnipotent beings come to rest.
So I’m starting to think about a course called “The Art of Compost” I’m set to teach this summer. And I thought, why not a blog, work out some ideas there.
The recovery of the compost library extends in all directions.
– Jed Rasula, This Compost