No Narcissus

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:

]
]
]
] thought
] barefoot
]
]
]

(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.

Opening the field

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,
          the Dump
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.

Butterfly & rock

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
              of matter

Nothing supra-rock
       about it
              simply

butterflies
       are quicker
              than rock

– Lorine Niedecker, “Wintergreen Ridge”

What I been areading. NiedeckerNorth Central.

Rock & flowers

That language is material, yes, but alongside it, that matter is a thinking.

earth is interesting:
ice is interesting
stone is interesting

flowers are
Carbon
Carbon is
Carboniferous
Pennsylvania

Age
under
Dogtown
the stone

the watered
rock Carbon
flowers, rills

– 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.

What I’ve been reading here. Jed Rasula, This Compost. Charles Olson, The Maximus Poems.