Spring and All and all

One week in, both my classes, and they’re so nice! In a life that feels, gonna just say it, a bit thin for human company, my teaching is textured, rugose. They go by fast, these students, even those I connect with beyond the usual. (They’ve got lives to get on with, yo?) But in their meteoric transits through, briefly they’re as if my kids – kids I never raised, but get to feel tender toward a spell, aren’t they.

Didn’t think to go there. (Even the ones who don’t remember my name. The ones whose names I have to reach for. Somehow, and more than formally, them too. What is that?) (A leopard makes a rhizome with a newborn baboon. Our instincts, drives, are endlessly various and flexible; are originally free; hence, maybe, art.*) (There’s a thesis for you – interspecies bonds and art happen by the same mechanisms.**)

My mind goes this way, these ways, thanks to William Carlos Williams’s Spring and All, first text of our rhizome workshop, whose motive is life and more life, life in nooks and crannies, life in standing water and sickbeds. Spring and yes are synonyms.

It’s late, Sunday tracking to Monday, so just this, second para:

There is a constant barrier between the reader and his consciousness of immediate contact with the world. If there is an ocean it is here. Or rather, the whole world is between:

Consider how odd that is. Intimacy with the world is intact. Consciousness of intimacy with the world is intact. There’s a barrier, and it’s constant, but it’s not anywhere you’d think to posit it. More than intact, maybe, inviolable, and yet, a barrier, a constant one.

And more – the barrier between you and your awareness of intimacy with the world – is the world. How are you not intimate with that?

Dharma of a red wheelbarrow. Why the participle glazed matters, why the prepositions, their stationing in mental space, matters.

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

And a key to Paterson. I think so. Williams is a shitkicker, but his question’s a loving one, why don’t we treat each other more tenderly as we might? That’s not rhetorical – if it were it’d be schlock. He’s really asking. He puts a life’s energy into asking.

He moved me to ask it too. I tend to ask in the first person singular, cuz the plural feels presumptuous, though as I’ve looked at my poetry this weekend, I’ve had fears of narcissism … I, I, I, the vowel in die, the vowel in live (adj.) …

In which vein, this little one came yesterday, out of crumpled disjecta, I see a bear cub, but that may be my pareidolia talking.


Disjecta scan 1.jpg

* Check out that link! See if you don’t think art is incipient there. In the leopard’s uncertainty – do I nurture or do I pounce. In its unfitness – how will it feed its new charge. And in its untowardness – it’s ventured where it should not have. Those are three of the uns of art, yes, no?

It’s broken, I mean, into a new space, which it, and the baby baboon, and the forest, and 2 million YouTube views all honour in their ways.

As I do you by tapping “Publish.” G’night.

** (Next morning.) Try this. Art is second-order play. Art is when play becomes the content of new play. Which could be why it feels to us both vital and inutile, and why its nature slips out of our grasp, and why we’re tempted to think of it as transcendent, when in fact it’s supervenient …

Down boy. You’re supposed to be lesson planning.


Marlise’s portfolio

Friends. (Oppen said something like, the poem that ends as it should, “ok,” the poem of the world. Tonight for me, it’s the post that begins as it should, “friends.”) I’ve meant to share with you a portfolio by one of my vis po students from this spring. She rides a badass wheelchair and her work is images of and round and beyond her condition, Friedreich’s Ataxia, a truly shitty degenerative neuro-muscular disorder.

I don’t mean to be sentimental here. That’s cheap to those who live with a disability. From here it seems, there are some who live with such visible cruelties, I’m using Marlise’s so apt word here, and others who bear cruelties invisible to all until they flame out horrible, and some who have the bad luck to be lucky till they’re not, and then they know not what the fuck to do.

Even all that considered though. This young woman has moved me no small measure with her guts and her mischievous gleam. So, here are, with her permission and a bit of anonymizing, some words and images of hers.

“One of my passions, my goals, and perhaps my purposes, is to help arts by and/or about the physically-disabled population to gain at least culturally standard recognition. This course has made me see visual poetry as a wonderful and effective forum to achieve this.

Portfolio-3“In creating my pieces, I was most inspired by our course text Nox, by Anne Carson. She delivers poignant messages about grief through photocopies of memorabilia about or featuring her late brother, while still leaving the concepts of familial love and loss open-ended and undefined.

Portfolio-5“Being physically disabled myself, I often think of myself and my as audience members, just insignificant observers of my disease’s progression, effects, and affects. This ‘outsider’ perspective is what I interpret as Carson’s purpose and message behind Nox, and it’s what I have striven to elicit for disability in this project.

Portfolio-2“I’ve explored the photocopy technique, implementing forms of handwritten pieces and material objects. Attempting to play with my method of choice in new ways, I photocopied in the ‘negative’ setting a couple of times to convey the stark labels put in visibly-disabled people, Another way I twisted the work via the photocopier was selection of reflective objects to photocopy.

“The first artifact displays the title of my disorder, Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA), through a bag that has one transparent side and one opaque, turquoise side. I chose this to hold the piece because I knew the photocopier because I knew the photocopier would reflect off the bag, and the resulting glare I wanted to evoke the unapologetic cruelty of my handicap.

Portfolio-1“Also, I thought the bright turquoise backing worked as representation of the crippling sadness or unashamed joy underlying nearly every part of disabled life. The writing is done in charcoal, and then smudged, translated to be the destruction of effort. Where I placed the artifact in the photocopier cut off the top fails-at-drawing-a-straight-line of th F, leaving a single, straggling line reminiscent of lives cut short by means of physical disability, including mine. Finally, I inserted the page into its sleeve upside-down to distance and simultaneously inconvenience the viewer, like disability effects everyone involved in the victim’s life.

Portfolio-4“As a visual element, I will steer the viewer’s attention to the cover art. There I have my prescription-medication bottles, showcasing the nameplate-labels. Not only do I associate paid-for treatment with disability, but I see this photocopy of personal and yet widely recognizable objects as the prime subject to introduce this portfolio, too. It compartmentalizes disability, and also starts the project’s accessible journey of disabled interpretation.”


POSTSCRIPT. The cellophane technique I’ve been playing with BTW is thanks to Marlise, who on a handwritten poem assignment took my encouragement to view her handwriting as differently beautiful and handed this in –

Handwriting 3a

– but because the charcoal was bleary handed it in, considerately, in a plastic bag, which gave me an idea, so when I scanned it I scanned it in said plastic, with all those unanticipable opacities –

Handwriting 3b

Whoever says teaching creative writing sucks from their creative work needs to check what they’re teaching.

One more for Elise Partridge

Hello friends. A three-way conversation between Barbara Nickel, Stephanie Bolster, and myself on the life and work of our loved friend Elise Partridge has now gone live at the Winnipeg Review. It’s to be found here.

And, if you’re curious, I wrote a bit about the challenge and wonderment of the conversation itself here. You can read some more about Elise herself here. And Barb’s wonderful blog is here. Steph doesn’t have a blog but here’s her publisher’s page here. Enjoy, please, do.

I hope Elise’s spirit won’t mind me appending this.

I was invited to a celebration of Rosh Hashanah tonight and we were asked as part of our lovely evening to express an intention for the year to come. Mine was, to be more patient with others and myself. What’s this have to do with Elise? She wasn’t especially patient with herself or others. In fact I loved her impatience, it was was wise, it was holy! At least when she was skewering someone’s pretensions it was, very.

But my impatience is most often crap. (And that, that’s impatience with impatience. Yeah baby gotcha.) And I’ve just now started sitting zazen again, after years off the cushion, and I’m feeling what a difference it makes to be okay with not getting it exactly right all the time. And a little bit more patient with me, I’m a little more so with some other, too. Does seem to go that way.

Came as this a few ago

TD 90V - imageKshanti paramita = the perfection of patience, or patience beyond patience. Patience so sunk in itself you might not recognize it as patience. That was Elise, too. Barb, Steph, tell me, wasn’t it?

Death’s a dog w/ dragonbreath

Okay, still working away at erasures and illuminations of that minor poem in The Exeter Book, and I think I nailed something, check these moves out, yo.

90V SI 5
Click on me & sibs for bigs.

Source text for this one, you’ve seen before (along w/ a short account of how these images get made):


Moving among the company,
everywhere always, house throughout,
greeting her lord, she pours his cup first;
in greatness gives and keeps counsel,
they make a house, two
of one mind.

Next up (I thought for a while, these could fall in any order, but they seem to want the order of their first making):

90V SI 6

You’ve seen that one before too, as well as this one:

90V SI 7

Haven’t posted this one yet tho –

90V SI 8

– for whom the source text is:


When the time’s right,

he comes home whole—unless
the wave swell bears him elsewhere;
sea has him in hand, desire’s terror’s pleasure.

(I’m sure that last line’s a mistranslation – the Old English, very obscure, the translator, me, very shaky.) And one more also new to the blog –

90V SI 9

Source text for this one is:


A man his goods, king in castle,
they both sell you crap.
                                                Summer comes,
you take to the home woods and waters offer
and find food, before you’re too weak to.

You can sit in the sun and still starve to death.

To get the streakies I photocopied the drawing on the lightest setting through four layers of cellophane.

I owe the move to one Marlise, a student in my vis po course this spring, whose portfolio made me cry and the whole of which I mean to post soon.

Till then, wishing you joys in your labours.

Shadow w/o the slick

Okay, trying to get that shadow effect, without the slicky quality. Good people (or bad people, I like bad people, too) tell what you think.

SI 6 (90V)

The diff? Paled it with the photocopier, instead of by MSWord’s “wash out” filter. More imprecision, gets more imperfection, gets more texture. Mistah Plato, he dead.

Why the poem’s so affirming, the main face so scary, I dunno. Am not in charge of the contradictions. Source text, for those to whom such matters:


Ship is nailed, shield bound
in staves of light linden wood –
her love comes to the Frisian
wife, keel draws near,
breadwinner home
                                        she cries
out to him
                       rinses the sea
from his shirt, finds him clean clothes,
offers on land what his love asks of her.

Have not, as yet, taken up Theresa’s totally solid suggestion to free the shadow man (or free the shadow, man?) and am curious as to my resistance. Am I yet beholden to M. Plateau after all?

But there’s something persistent in this project about doublings. All the characters are made, e.g., by filling in the gap between a letterform and an imperfect iteration of it. And something compels me about one of these glyphs, broadcast large and pale, being the landscape the mind that thought it gets to wander a while.

Maybe the shadow ain’t ready to be quite that free just yet. Interesting. As I believe Wile E. Coyote said to the air rushing up below him.


First of three sections of Overject, very roughed out, on my dining room table.
Overject draftFifty pages give or take. This baby’s going to be a monster. Next is to feed it some foliage. The little leaf impresses you can see there are oceanspray red osier dogwood and vine maple from my back garden. Quaking aspen to come (for some scary bits).

Student blog: Copy Cat

Another student blog for you this fine summery morning: photocopier collages of various and sundries. Laundry unfolded or undone, mix tapes unspooled, unstrung. Like the blog just before this, a sort of love song to the overlooked, our detritus.

Brief my remarks, this time round, as I’ve to go teach in a few. Just go check it out, you’ll have a blast.

Oh but I can’t help connecting to Oppen, his “Of Being Numerous“:


There are things
We live among ‘and to see them
Is to know ourselves’.

Occurrence, a part
Of an infinite series,
The sad marvels;

Of this was told
A tale of our wickedness.
It is not our wickedness.

‘You remember that old town we went to, and we sat in the ruined window, and we tried to imagine that we belonged to those times—It is dead and it is not dead, and you cannot imagine either its life or its death; the earth speaks and the salamander speaks, the Spring comes and only obscures it—’

I’d speak for the connections but why speak for connections that speak of themselves.


Funny how one thing connects to another. The mind’s a rhizome. In the mix right now for me so many. My friend Elise’s memorial yesterday. (What’s that you ask. Drafted this the day after never finished and come back to it now.) Voices of twins I woke to on NPR a few mornings ago and couldn’t shake from my head and bought the CD on iTunes (I never do that) and now listen to twice daily entracedly. The intertitles of a sweet fond symbolist early silent filmic confection called The Blue Bird by Maurice Tourneur.

A phrase underlined won’t suffice. Must embed them. My friend:

Read this poet's poems! Click to get to some.
Elise Partridge (click and go to her website)

And these amazing haunting singers, somehow right at the core of a cross where sensual & spiritual & naive & old soul meet (okay little crush):

Ibeyi (click and go to their river)

And the only intertitle I can find online from The Blue Bird:

(The sentiment — gah. But — the elegance with which the H curls to encase the quotation mark and the terminal r stretches out to offer shelter to the ellipses. Decadence, sure, but guileless.)

All linking and clicking and clinking in unexpected ways. I have, e.g., and am sure of it, been trying to rescue Elise from the grave by making Inanna of her and bearing her through hell and out the other side. I spoke at the memorial about my propensity for magical thinking but didn’t get into the thick and gristle of it.

I don’t think it’s going to work, I think she’s gone from matter, already metamorphic-indestructible otherwise, but it’s a rite I seem to need to go through. So when I post, in weeks to come, comic book panels collaged out of junk mail depicting Inanna’s trip underearth and back, you can know it’s her, too, my friend, too.

Here are the first two. A bit of opening narration:

1. When they tire

And her setting out:

2. Hell (tattoos)

All the visual elements, script aside, are derived from junk mail, mine or friends’. (Sorry about the crud on the right side, my damn scanner.) Galla: demons come to claim their due.

Going in the script for something a bit like cuneiform and a bit like the scribal hand in medieval Old English manuscripts and a bit like graffiti and with a bit of the energy moving my hand through ascenders and descenders and cross-strokes in the moment of marking. A bit of embodiment that’s been a long time coming and I find me greedy for it increasingly.

So that’s what Elise has been up to in here. The intertitles? Ibeyi? Together they suggested a possible elegance —

5. Sister is - title

— about which I’ll hope to have more to say later. For now a link to my friend Kaveh Askari’s book on early cinema including Tourneau’s The Blue Bird:

Read this book!

Paperwhites, for Elise

An exercise I give my poetry students: “Write a flower. Don’t write about a flower. Just write a flower.” Heh heh. Evil sumbitch I am. But I think I might have done that this morning. I had vaguely in mind to cut some paperwhites (narcissus) I had growing indoors from bulbs when they first began to falter and bring them to the photocopier and see what they had by way of elegy in them.

So I did. This one’s I think the best to stand alone. If I keep thinking so it’ll end Dumuzi as Paperwhites, for Elise.

Paperwhites, for Elise

Elise was always a bit scandalized (and skeptical and intrigued and mortified and drawn) by my drift in this direction (“Chris, you’re not going to abandon MUSIC, are you?!?!?”) and I offer her this elegy in the cheerful teasing spirit in which our overlapping divergent aesthetics met. I’ve rarely loved disagreeing, being disagreed with, so much.

(Really. That many ?s and !s and more. Of how many people can you expect to say you’ll miss their e-mails acutely?)

Of the two dozen or so scans I made, quick quick, little thinking, the latter half come together as a tableau I think, and elegy. And something about ones and twos and threes, and how when you’re close to yourself there are more and fewer than one there, just as when you’re close to a friend there are more and fewer than two there.

Junk mail bricolage (I)

A few weeks ago I took Dumuzi – a manuscript I had thought pretty much done – back into the shop for an overhaul. Started incorporating handwritten bits, pages of journal writing, fragments of the myth stroked out on scraps torn from junk mail envelopes, and’ve been pretty pumped about where it seems to be headed.

And my feelings in the wake of Elise’s passing, which have surprised me in their intensity, though why should they really, I loved her as a true friend, far from derailing the work seem to have thrown themselves into it for fuel. (I showed her one of them, not posted here today, and true to generous form, she flared, though it was far outside her taste, gladness on my behalf.)

Here’s one. I should say, this is the part of the book that tells the story of Dumuzi’s consort’s, Inanna’s, journey to the underworld, i.e., death and metamorphosis. As she readies for her journey (as if anyone chose such a journey) she gathers her me, her powers, which are all the powers of culture, our being as civilized beings.


And the other.


You’ll see some anger in it. Okay so yeah I’m pissed. Some of it’s, I’m pissed at the world, it took my friend. Even, let’s say it, pissed at my friend, she got took. And, some of it’s anger at, well, junk mail, and a life among and as commodity, even as it’s also an effort to subvert commodification. Sounding like a lit prof now shutting up.

What am I doing here. I don’t know. Something about an elegy in motion. If blog (I first typed glob) as form lets me do something my private journal nor a public statement won’t, too, it’s to do with catching the gist of the feel of the thought on the fly.