From a job application. This one asked for a whole lot of materials up front. I feel like I’ve composed a series of densely linked (in) short stories, me the protagonist, pedagogy the plot. I’m glad for the time put in tho – not just because I’m keen about the job, also that it got me reflecting on how teaching, writing, making forms, feeling & thinking the world around, inweave for me.
Here it be. In demonstration of my notion that nothing’s really new, equals everything always is, it repurposes something I wrote before – as I’m doing here! – and comes round in a loopy circle to this blog.
Statement of creative writing
and poetics commitments
I work in what Charles Altieri calls, after Louis Zukofsky, an “objectivist” mode, which seeks the meaning inherent in complex acts of perception, sole or juxtaposed, not through metaphors and symbols that refer to a transcendental realm outside the poem. Object refers here both to the object of perception, which is granted a value and a dignity equal to the perceiving subject’s, and to the object the text itself is. So the work cares for its materiality, even if it’s digital, and it abrades, by its very activity, the “constant barrier between the reader and his consciousness of immediate contact with the world” (Williams). And for me, objectivist work isn’t separable from meditation practice, so in the prose below you watch attention pay attention to attention (ugh). A further impulse on show is my wish to find, in the Western tradition, gists of immanent critique, counters to the hegemonic structures and values this very moment laying waste communities, peoples, the earth. As I wrote in another context, alluding to now widely accepted critiques of cultural borrowing, “it turns out the concrete abstraction Western artists have pilfered other cultures for in search of alternatives to our deranged Platonism has been with us all along in our own works.” My Zen practice, which I hope is not more such pilfering, may be where the note of dispossession at the end comes from. You give your loves away.
So here is the preface to a new nonfiction project, A Compost Commonplace. It’s a transform of my blog, The Art of Compost, into a book that exploits similarities between the blog as a form and other, older forms: serial poem, commonplace book, medieval illuminated page. This preface conveys my artistic commitments fairly well, and more concretely than I might otherwise. Concreteness is for me an ur-commitment.
This book began as a blog you can find at theartofcompost.com.
I’m transposing it here to a chimeric form. Chimera as in hybrid – bricolage – a robe of patches.
The Chimaera of Lycia in Asia Minor was a lion in front, a goat in the middle, a snake at the rear, said Homer, and breathed fire.
“This old plum tree is boundless. It forms spring; it forms winter. It arouses wind and wild rain. It is the head of a patch-robed monk; it is the eyeball of an ancient buddha. It becomes grass and trees; it becomes pure fragrance. Its whirling, miraculous transformation has no limit.” Dōgen.
The lion here is the serial poem, as described by poets Jack Spicer, Robin Blaser. The book is going down in sequence, that of the blog before it, with little or no looking back – Orpheus but rampant, headlong.
The goat of it, eating everything, is the commonplace book, where one tends to a moving picture of one’s mind by gathering and arranging discoveries – quotations, letters, poems, recipes, tables of weights and measures, &c. It tends to miscellany, scrapbookhood; very like a blog.
And the serpent, its mind the onset of the idea of form, a marriage of line and curve, so it moves forward by twisting side to side, is the page composed. The history of which I mean to ransack. Each page to be loosely set in homage to or hesitant mimicry of a published surface, its visible arrangement, i.e., its deployment of attention.
So the page becomes Reason’s bound on Energy’s tumult (Blake). The struggle between those 2 is one I feel at the bone. I make their war formal here.
Mostly on European fields of action – medieval manuscript folios and early modern typeset pages; gloss columns, scuds and banks of notes. Like blog posts, with their frames & hyperlinks, such surfaces continuously draw the eye off its chosen plummet downward, that it may move laterally towards a periphery, or through a door behind which the unseen.
Nothing says you have to read it in order. Nothing says you have anything.
5 stray threads
More about A Compost Commonplace here.
The image above is a detail from a 1958 volume by Zukofsky, 5 Statements for Poetry.
It’s one of only three copies in US libraries – find it here.
Or, if Kansas is too far, travel up the Amazon in search of Prepositions +.
Good night friends.