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.
If the blog’s to be companion to the course, the course can be companion to the blog also, and I hope they’ll be buds, swapping gists and piths. Here’s what the syllabus will say to our brave company at the opening.
When you make compost you break down old forms to make new forms. From banana peels and lawn clippings you grow a lemon tree. From street signs and Twitter feeds you grow a poem or a flash essay. In this class you’ll turn a fairytale inside-out. You’ll burrow wormwise through your own prose in search of the secret text it holds. You’ll build a poem out of physical objects. What you won’t do is stare at a blank page or screen trying to figure out “what on earth to say.” In other words, your life’s already a perfect poem, a perfect story, a perfect meditation, you just need to compose it a bit.
I’m new to bloggery but already very struck by how form and process extend the content and back again. I’ve long loved the thought and the fact of the serial poem (e.g., Spicer’s Language, Blaser’s Moth Poem) but haven’t till now come close to composing one …
(There’s a thought in me half-formed about Black Mountain prose style, its relentless parataxis, and how like that the serial poem is in its play ethic. Something about going on your nerve, not resorting to a supervisory intelligence, the mind that knows as the sentence begins what the whole of it will say. A dead form, nature mort. Gonna mull this one a bit more.)
John Taggart reading the whole of his “Rothko Chapel Poem.” Each line composts itself as a bright trace.
I came upon it a couple years ago in his selected poems, Is Music
. My students struggle with it but oh my it is wow.
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”
What I been areading. Niedecker, North Central.
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.
What I’ve been reading here. Jed Rasula, This Compost. Charles Olson, The Maximus Poems.
Now I am terrified at the earth …
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions.
Walt Whitman, “This Compost”