Thursday, March 27, 2014

The High Dollar Sonata

The high dollar sonata in the underground of meaning promotes kindness and truffles. The words jet daily out of my mind, out of my mouth like atoms, like toes, like the rumbling of a Bermuda tan on a slow wind in the early morning, before the moon has had time to bathe, and the sky is still tethered to night.  

The high dollar sonata is the sonata that is drawn by necessity into upright endearment. So that it’s a corollary to gaze, a hammer to idealize, to squeeze mightily with the hand as the hammer comes down on a nail, and hammers home the logic of conjuncture, conjecture, conjuration. 

The high dollar sonata justifies the existence of planks, the slow green calories of pleading polyphonic understanding, human understanding, which is the understanding of feeling, human feeling, mammalian feeling, simian feeling, and the movement of camels.  

The high dollar sonata feels sculptural because it is the occurrence of trolleys, this pudding of rails and sunlight, this pudding of steel and confusion, confusion amid order, order amid disorder, the hysterical wonder of disarray, which is an ecstasy of words, of writing and supposition when supposition goes wild and arrives at a meaning impregnated with algebra. 

Algebra is the uninterrupted soot of thought when thought turns abstract and ganglions of number anticipate the contributions of Italian. Habits follow the mind around, and the privacy of perception. Poetry is a jaw held together with green wire and yellow wings and is a form of algebra in which symbols call for popcorn and punctuation. Plot is obliterated and silken convolutions of thought sprawl in a geometry of talk and pepper.  

The high dollar sonata may seem at first like an understanding of dimes, and it is, when it comes to American currency the high dollar sonata is monetary and colors iron with arsenals of rust and red and spirals of mustard. This is how color enters the picture. It affords the semantics of rain the substance of anything resembling a bayou. This is where the opinions of water bubble into form and we find that there is a corollary to thought as the glow of neon in a comedy of pain.

The high dollar sonata is a joyful flinging of words with an accompanying sedation of hills. The treasures of civilization are in the shadows of reality. Language is such a shadow. Language is the shadow of the personal in a bar of soap. It is how words can convert to glass, or click into the jelly of the eye and honor the rhythms of thought with the watercolor and sawdust of a beautiful indiscretion, overtures of meaning in metal that sound like a road loosely organized as a musical of gas and elk, or the lens of a camera savoring opportunities of light, in which case the high dollar sonata is not so much a sonata as the flapping of nerves in a miracle of air.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Beautiful Deformity

Imagination is fluid. It rains metaphors. It is the current that swells, twists into python, hangs in the rainforest in a pact of scale and skin. The imagination is fugal, not frugal. Its luxuries are hands, the clay of our making, the steam and warmth of our existence. The auras of Vermeer. The golden browns of Rembrandt. I can feel language begin to stand in its meat and give me wings. Can you pull the rain out of a garden hose? There is tungsten in a tongue when the imagined world coheres in thunder, when the urge of a nerve creates a sound like morning. It is the force that shapes the air, puts a fire in the eyes, uproots an idea from the archeology of a moment and gives it acceleration and hats, fables of sand from an alphabet of blood.  

We always think of the imagination as the faculty that forms images. On the contrary, it deforms what we perceive; it is, above all, the faculty that frees us from immediate images and changes them. If there is no charge, or unexpected fusion of images, there is no imagination; there is no imaginative act. If the image that is present does not make us think of one that is absent, if an image does not determine an abundance  -  an explosion  -  of unusual images, then there is no imagination.  -  Gaston Bachelard, “Imagination and Mobility”  

Imagination is the snake we hallucinate in our pajamas. It is walking in wonder. It is a language that grows on the spin of an escalator. It is a brain that strains to lift a forge of molten emotion into dripping conjugation. It is sticky with perspective. It is a vapor tattooed with moonlight jerking a signal through the house of jelly that is the human eyeball. It is neither cynical nor scornful but ravenous for steel. It is the clarity we hold over a crumbling cod. It is a tree full of birds and what it does on a knife. It is the smell of confusion. It answers parliament with a kiss. It urges conference with the world. It deepens the universe with bubbly transformation. It flows through a dream flickering with synonyms. It worries an eye toward the transcendence of ink.  

Perspective is the angel of sense that we flex into wax. It is sister to the imagination. If an old harmonica fills with music there is a balloon that tugs at the end of a string. The story sizzles if it burns through a premise and makes reality bigger. Hamlet drops a skull and runs. There is exhilaration in pumping a bicycle to the top of a hill and gliding down like a prophet in black feathers.
The imagination awakes and unbinds the bitter heart from its cage of bone. It is a midnight cab in Glasgow. It is the trigger of a gun, the warmth of a lung, the juice of a plum. 

It is the light of the desert on a ring of Sonora gum.



Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dear Mr. Blake

The other night as I was watching Russel Crowe thrust his sword into Roman warriors and blood splattered the screen of our TV to the applause of an enthusiastic crowd in the coliseum the steam kettle began to whistle and I began to wonder what it is to be dead. I don’t expect an answer from you on this topic, since, being dead, you may not have pens and stationary much less a computer in the abode of the dead, if, indeed, there is an abode of the dead. But is there? Is there an abode of dead? Or when we lose consciousness and our body falls into its final abatement and the spirit is released from its mortal burden, do we merely disappear? Like the steam from the steam kettle? Do we rise as a vapor and disappear into nothingness?
I’m assuming, since you made a number of wonderful engravings on the subject of death, as the magnificent door of death with the old man hobbling on his stick for support, his back arched under the burden of life and the frailty of the body as it ages and decays while, simultaneously, a younger renovated man seated in light and glory just above the great stone framework of the door looks into the heavens with awe as beams of light emanate outward from behind his body in an éclat of golden transcendence, that you may have some things to say on the subject.
Naturally, it is a mystery to me what materials are available in the afterlife and what methods of mail transport are provided to the population of spirits in order to have communication with we beings still wrapped in our mortal coils. No one that I know of has received a letter or phone call from the dead, not so much as an email, or twitter. But I present these questions to you in a mania of optimism and hope that there is in fact a post office in heaven and angels acting in the capacity of clerks to attend to the matters of written communication.
Meanwhile, allow me to entertain you with a few facts pertaining to my existence on planet earth in the new millennium, which I will not call a shiny millennium, but a drab and mechanical millennium, fraught with snow blowers and sportscasters. People walk in trances glued to electronic toys. Algorithms and lawsuits convert the joy of energy to career tracks and steering committees. The imagination is deadened with video games and role playing. Life is defined by digital download codes. Pestilence flourishes in fogs and standing lakes. Urizen blinds the fires of youth with promises of secure employment and swimming pools. Compassion and pity are set aside for the accoutrements of success. Los and Enitharmon sit in discontent and scorn.
There are entertainments that fall on the mind in shape of poetry, which as you well know is an eternal force, and cannot be destroyed by the gears and pulleys of industry which darken the human spirit at the same time they afford the body pleasures, patio furniture and androids.
I see you with your pen. I see your hand move on a copper engraving. I see your eyes aglow the fire of creation. And I wonder what you imagined this world would be when the factories of England stuffed the sky with their billowing black smoke.
The world I live in is filled with cars and computers. I don’t know how to describe the computer. It’s a thing of buttons and numbers. That’s all I can say. Buttons and numbers. It is based on a binary code.
Do you remember Leibniz? It was Leibniz who designed the binary code. It is a system that uses 0 and 1, and is similar to the ancient Chinese figures of Fu Xi. Leibniz was introduced to the I-Ching by a French Jesuit named Joachim Bouvet and he observed with fascination how its hexagrams corresponded to the binary numbers from 0 to 111111 and concluded that this mapping was testimony of religious significance, a system that converted the verbal statements of logic into purely mathematical ones, and so substantiated the universality of creation ex nihilo, creation out of nothing. This confirmed his theory that life could be simplified into a series of straightforward propositions. And oh, how I can hear you howling as I write these words.
The result is a planet distracted by electronic toys. Toys that are eating books. The libraries are being hollowed out. The written word is becoming digitized. The written word is being killed.
I belong to a minority of men and women laboring alone to preserve the written word.
And yes, it is no small irony that I am doing this partly on a computer.
Fingers dance on keyboards as the rain outside pelts the leaves of trees and shrubs. And the written word is inscribed on a screen, a realm of pixels and bitmaps, halftones and ghosts, so that I might reach you in your library in heaven.  



Sunday, March 9, 2014

Capitalism Inflated and Asphalt

Capitalism what is capitalism capitalism is capital and capital is stink and indispensable and rascally. Capital is a way to grow money into power and gifts and metaphysics is for believing in driftwood and folds of dark and treasures of the mind such as algebra and glitter. Capital is a way to speculate and compound interest and generate fire. Capital sheds the gaze of simple parable and becomes a giant urge to linger in sweet angora and float insoluble flavors. Lips are the syntax that verge on pumpernickel. Capital means cutting is contrast and erosion is erotic and sunlight. 

We like capital if it comes in boilers and circulates books and justice sparkles in our hats. Capital plays above towers and includes postulation behind the paint which is loud and we like it like that because we use flour and sex to buy morals and exemplify deodorant. There is a rattle that carries the intention which is red and blue and stitched with myth and a coast I know whose rocks ascend beyond the impact of water and Picasso originates in zucchini the paint marks the place when the voyage begins to chronicle itself by meat and mathematics.  

The problem of capital licks a harm and attracts flipping and travel my theory widens we collect bananas for strength and what sparks can fly are there by my very own pushing. Incendiary pickles ache for hanging. Insistence and tangibility. Capitalism in a light is not teasing or friendly it is just expanding. A small smell is a personality. A fence is in the wilderness that needs a reason to ratify limestone. This is capitalism at its worse. When it bumps into perception and murders examination. Other than that it is metaphorical and coops. This is no sign of peculiarity it is merely evaluation and outline. By that I mean a social and economic system in which capital assets are controlled by private persons and labor is purchased by open enrollment and sea snakes. Crepuscular semen face value and intermediate prosceniums.  

It is malls and ensembles. A million is more than a thousand and there are some who grow rich in nutmeg. What is the exchange rate when a pump pumps impromptu and includes sleeves but not any mosaics or principles? Capitalism is neither nails nor parrots but if you press a button for juice in a storm at sea you may discover a dream across the gray is rags and creosote. This explains tungsten but not wine not so much as a punch in the belly that evolves into shouts and amusement.  

There are different variations of capitalism which have different relationships to markets and the state. In free-market and laissez-faire forms of capitalism, markets are utilized most extensively with minimal or no regulation over the pricing mechanism. This means that iguanas can weigh heavily on a planet so let us ride elephants. Thirst is separate from hunger because space is drugged with gravity and it is very easy to forget how a lasso can infuse your consciousness with spinning and loops. Words are a way to get at capitalism from another viewpoint and float it in someone’s head if they happen to be listening or reading in which case capitalism drops anchor in the bay and brings crowbars and civilization to the little town of pepperoni. Money drives debt debt drives money I drive a Subaru.  

Anger is taxation. Here is where the rubber meets the asphalt and infrastructure arises out of a hot day in Alabama. I am slowly building a music that will sell for thousands of dollars on the open market of poetry where value is conceived as a form of damask written in folds of fabrication and means it and a constant blue causes analogies to turn into crumbs. I am strings. I am happening to swim like a crowded deer. This is all because of capitalism.  

It is up to you the treasurer to decide what to do with chintz as it exists as an idea. It can attract crowds and make you some important money. I am not excusing capitalism all that I am saying is wasps with a buggy articulates interactions and elegant scenery is charming when it bleeds anticipation and coffee.  

The best way to use capitalism for your benefit is to own its electricity in patterns of ink. It is there that the words invent resemblances to things that you can taste and multiply into fat bags of money. 


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Drunken Boats and Permission Givers

I find it interesting that we need permission for certain things. We all carry within us a set of borders, a sense of boundaries, limits of what is acceptable and what is unacceptable, and a frontier, a terra incognita. The borders are for decorum, for social acceptance. The frontier  -  the wilderness, the open sea, the uncharted and unnamed  -  is for exploration, for artistic endeavor, for crossing our internal, cognitive borders and arriving in the open, in a mental domain where knowledge and reason are less empirical, less certain, less established and the aperture of our consciousness dilates to allow more exotic feelings and perceptions to illumine our nerves and open our eyes and ears. For me, that wilderness, that realm of the exotic, has always been poetry.
My first attempts to write poetry were hesitant and timid, tethered to a solid body of fixed ideas concerning the world, encompassing the parameters of reality, and adhering to what institutionally was considered admirable and good. This pertained especially to poetry. Carl Sandburg and Robert Frost were the literary giants on American shores at the time, the early 60s. But they didn’t interest me much. Their poetry was full of saws and precepts and the imagery was tame and rural, all about goats and apples and building stone walls and accruing wisdom. I did not want to accrue wisdom. I wanted a passport for places unknown. I wanted permission to leave the walls of the city and enter the forest of words with nothing but a song and a sandwich.
That permission came from Bob Dylan. He was primordial. He was my first exposure to the kind of wild imagery and weird associations that inspired my deep interest in writing to begin with. Bob Dylan, however, was a rock star. The medium of rock and the medium of the written word, be it poetry or prose, were two separate worlds. Separate, but not far apart. Evidence that the two worlds had conjoined, at least for a brief time, was found in Larry Keenan’s series of photographs of Bob Dylan, Michael McClure, Allen Ginsberg and Robbie Robertson standing in front of the legendary City Lights bookstore. This fusion of pop music and poetry testified to a time when the audience for both  -  for the world of rock and the world of poetry  -  was far more literate than it is today. In the early days of Greenwich Village, the musicians were brought on stage to clear the room for the poets. It was the poets who were the real draw.
It would be a few years after I’d begun writing before I discovered Larry Keenan’s photographs. In the meantime, at about age 18, when I boarded a train for the University of North Dakota in the winter of 1966, poetry was a feeling for which I had not yet found the words.
Like most discoveries, my progress was slow. I didn’t know where to begin. Where would I find a correlative to Bob Dylan’s wild lyrics in books? I didn’t play a guitar. I didn’t play the drums. I had no musical talent whatever. I knew from a very early age (I began my first novel at age nine) that I wanted to be a writer. Deep down, I also knew what kind of writing appealed to me. I sensed a capacity in language for endless invention, for creating worlds of extraordinary dimension whose flora and fauna did not correlate with the so-called real world. There was great freedom there, great exhilaration. But I needed sanction. I needed permission. I had permission to visit these places, but if I brought back treasures, would the world recognize their value? Did that matter? Yes, absolutely. Recognition was as vital to me then as it is now.
Gertrude Stein simplified matters greatly when she said “I write for myself and strangers.” But I seemed to crave the kind of sanction that Miss Stein gleefully dismissed. Perhaps because I was young. Perhaps because I had hopes that my writing might earn an income. Whatever impediments, primarily social, inhibited my progress as an artist, craved the blessing of an established author. They didn’t need to be a stadium-filling name like T.S. Eliot. They didn’t need to be a white-haired dignitary reading their poetry at a presidential inauguration à la Robert Frost. They just needed to have one or two books out. Words in print. A spine and a title.
I envy poets who write purely for the joy of writing and for whom publication and recognition are of no importance. Bill Knotts, for instance, has stated (wisely, I think) that anyone looking for fame in poetry is crazy. It’s a waste of time, and not at all what poetry is all about.
Fame, recognition, acceptance, are all chimeras. They don’t exist. Poetry is entirely subjective. Language is universal. Poetry is universal. But everyone needs language. No one can function without language. Poetry, which is language on steroids, is utterly unnecessary. Who can say what the true value of any particular poem happens to be? If language is a living body, then poetry is the virus inhabiting that body and driving a fever that results in parables and ghosts.
Which means that the permission I was seeking was the permission to not require permission.
In the summer of 1966, I hit pay dirt. A friend took me to visit a professor at San José City College at his home. I’d taken one of his classes the previous spring, a composition course which he’d kicked off by playing Bob Dylan’s “Hey Tambourine Man” and the Beatles’s “Eleanor Rigby.” He was a graduate of Harvard and his knowledge of literature was extensive and global. He was the man to ask. I expressed my frustration at not being able to find poetry written in the manner of Dylan’s songs. Ginsberg’s “Howl” was as close as I’d come, and as much as I loved “Howl,” it remained heavily rooted in empirical reality. The imagery was sometimes wild, but referred to the recognizable squalor and ugly beauty of planet earth, its terrors and ecstasies, its dreary unemployment offices and hotel rooms full of steamheat and opium, people desperate and passionate and raw who enacted “suicidal dramas on the cliffbanks of the Hudson,” flashed “buttocks under barns and naked in the lake,” rocked “cunt and come eluding the last gyzm of consciousness,” “danced on broken wineglasses barefoot smashed phonograph records of nostalgic 1930’s German jazz finished the whiskey and threw up groaning into the dirty toilet,” “or were run down by the drunken taxicabs of reality.” The poem is earthy, at times rapturous amid the madness and squalor, and unflinchingly honest, full of the wreckage and recreant agitations of an alienated world. There is a boundless exhilaration to its splenetic, exquisitely detailed representation of the bleakness of modern urban life. It came close to what I was looking for, but was not quite it. What I was looking for was an even greater intensity, a language so hot and molten it flamed new worlds into existence, bizarre hybrids of syllable and skin, clairvoyance and chrome.
My literary satori was a boat, not a taxicab. My professor friend handed me a heavy Norton anthology of world poetry with the book open at Arthur Rimbaud’s “Le bateau ivre,” “The Drunken Boat.” This was it: the answer to my question. Here was a poem that had it all: passion, ecstasy, wild phantasmagoric imagery, attitude, scorn, delirium.
The poem begins on a violent note: the haulers of barges, men who labored hard to pull barges of coal and lumber up and down the rivers, are tied to poles by North American Indians and shot full of arrows. What Europe knew of the Native Americans in 1871 was the stereotype of savages utterly misconceived and presented on TV in the 50s and 60s. Rimbaud uses this violence as a symbol for ruptured daily reality. After the haulers are savagely murdered, the narrator, who is aboard the barge freighted with Flemish wheat and English cotton (a symbol for European industrialism), is abruptly set loose from the asphyxiating workaday world in which people are numbed by fatigue and boredom and set adrift on the open sea, where the poet is awakened by tempest. “Lighter than a cork I danced on the waves / That one calls eternal rollers of victims / Ten nights, without regretting the stupid eye of the lanterns!”
The quotidian becomes delirium. Delirium frees the poet of the restraints of logic and permits excesses of all variety, a taste of the ineffable, experiences that cannot be tagged or named or catalogued. Language, which is a naming machine, is disrupted and goes haywire. The imagery becomes gloriously chaotic:
Plus douce qu’aux enfants la chair des pommes sures,
L’eau verte pénétra ma coque de sapin
Et des taches de vins bleus et des vomissures
Me lava, dispersant gourvernail et grappin. 

Et dès lors, je me suis baigné dans le Poème
De la Mer, infuse d’astres, et lactescent,
Dévorant les azurs verts; où, flottaison blême
Et ravie, un noyé pensif parfois descend; 

Où, teignant tout à coup les bleuités, délires
Et rhythmes lents sous les rutilements du jour,
Plus fortes que l’alcool, plus vastes que nos lyres,
Fermentent les rousseurs amères de l’amour! 

 *  *  *  * *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Sweeter than the bitter flesh of apples to children,
The green water penetrated my hull of pine
And blue wine stains and vomitings
Washed over me, dispersing rudder and grappling hook. 

And from then on, I was bathed in The Poem
Of the Sea, infused with stars, and lactescent,
All-consuming greenish azures; where, pale with buoyancy
And enraptured, a pensive drowned man descends; 

Where, staining all at once the bluishnesses, delirous
And slowly rhythmic under the resplendence of the day,
Stronger than alcohol, more vast than our lyres,
Ferment the bitter freckles of love! 

The power of “The Drunken Boat” carried me further out to sea. It gave me permission to write as crazily, as nuttily, as eccentrically as I wanted. There was a precedent. I had license. I had my papers. I was now a first class seaman.  

Of course, no one really requires permission to write however and whatever they want.  A poem, irresponsibly set loose on the world, is not going to injure anyone. But deep down, admit it or not, we all want recognition. We all want validation. And if “The Drunken Boat” had found its way into a Norton anthology, than there was the possibility of acceptance among the institutions that conferred degrees and awards and respect. 

When Rimbaud first read his poem publically at a little café on La Rue Férou, near Saint Sulpice, he set literary Paris on fire. He rose meteorically among the ranks of serious writers and, still an adolescent, acquired legendary status as a rebellious, swashbuckling delinquent. And, still in his early twenties, disillusioned by the corruptions and vanities of the literary world, he would stop writing altogether and find himself working for an import/export company in Ethiopia and Yemen. He experimented with photography briefly, but for the most part, wrote letters home complaining about the miserable conditions he had to endure, and requesting books on metallurgy and candle-making and mining. Still intellectually restless, he craved books, so long as there was nothing remotely literary about them. And he craved acceptance by the world, by the standards, such as they existed, in nineteenth century Europe. Ironically, that would not happen. His fame would rest entirely on his success as a flamboyant, outlaw poet. He would become an icon for artists such as Bob Dylan, Michael McClure, and Jim Morrison.  

All one hundred lines of his poem “Le Bateau ivre” now encompass the entire wall on La rue Férou. I would pass it on my way to go running in Le Jardin du Luxembourg, “Le bateau ivre” towering over me in the Paris morning air like a continuing sanction, a final permission to live as fully as possible.