—If you are to be at all serious about poetry, you must realize that it is a continuous unbroken game of tag from the very first poet on.
—There is continuity, a spiritual thread connecting the generations of poets which is why it’s so thrilling to find a great poem because there is that immediate recognition when the connection is made. Poetry is the stream of consciousness never stepped in twice. Reading poetry, great poetry, ancient, classic, contemporary is like having an open line to a vast intellect, and by making that connection, joining in the subtle but harmonious flow of electrons. I consider myself fortunate to be bound by other writers. It saves me a lot of writing that I’m glad someone else is doing or has done. That way I’m free to do my own thing. Nevertheless, every time I write, I am writing the history of writing.
—But what about literary success? Does it even matter?
—When I told myself that poetry would be my calling, all else became a diversion. I realize that although there I am everyday doing what I do with impassioned consistency, it doesn’t automatically guarantee success. I have to decide whether or not I can take time for success. No matter how great I feel after a shower of attention, it’s always so much better to bask in the glow of concentrated continual achievement, the heat of the moment when lightning strikes the highpoint in the landscape of my thoughts.
— Alright, but what other advice, if any, would I offer myself?
— You should always be on the verge of literary suicide.
I can feel it all slipping away the way one side of the double drive gate sags the inexpressible overwhelming awe I feel in the presence of beautiful light now buries me in the shadow of my own gloom the heap of possessions somehow symbolic covered with the dust of my own making as I grind an existence out of thin air my romantic contribution to the century and apology for not dying younger I thought I had something to live for and it’s exactly that which is so confusing distinction has become petty my tiny squeaks someone else’s braying the facts cold hard nothing lifts the spirits like a new hairstyle (all work done by students) yellow light softens everything it touches even though it passes through evening’s chill and shadows too soon will turn it all a blue I try to assure my future by complicating my present if that sounds familiar it should the same formula is used in soap operas
As the poet of rain, I avoid the conformity of rain. I have solved the problem of rain, and make my home of rain in the real world of rain where almost anything of rain may happen and where almost nothing of rain repeats itself. As the poet of rain, I’m an anti-authoritarian of rain, an agoraphobic of rain, and an intuitive of rain rather than an intellectual of rain. A long experience of rain with the language of rain is needed before words of rain can fully collaborate of rain with one another of rain under the poetic trance of rain. A poet of rain should be inimitable of rain. I live of rain with my own language of rain, continually instructing myself of rain in the origins of rain, histories of rain, pronunciations of rain, and peculiar usage of rain of words of rain.21
12/2/95 “Give up poetry because I’m an old man? It’s always at the end of the race that you put on a burst of speed” or “Once I thought my art greater (larger) than my life—now my life and its inevitable burden of suffering dwarfs anything I might try.” thinking of you thinking of me thinking of you the list goes on until we’re together then no more thinking you do me I do you adding to the memories of each other to call on when we’re apart thinking of me thinking of you thinking of me 12/5/89 my picture of Walt Whitman still swathed in dried mud from the flood a few years ago 12/7/97 the more you know the more you know you know too long in exile 12/8/89 bare branches reveal themselves in the docile stream leaves scud along (there I wrote something with water in it) I listened to my tapes till my ears glowed as parents we have to learn to live with fear the ants have followed me in here midnight rains forecast
Atlas may have had it bad banished to hold up the vault of sky I think I may have inherited some of his luck trying to think back to a time when I lived in a place where the roof didn’t leak or some of the wet of outside didn’t somehow get inside the mere fact that water can seep in and nothing I can do about it right then is as heavy as the big ball of heaven the colossus had to heave on his back ‘tis the season to go crazy cabin fever heats the insignificant red hot burned by my own impatience confined by a state of mind “help me keep my feet back on the ground” feel manipulated by the very atmosphere warm and with a wind rain let up to a pale gray horizon of jagged dark shapes softened by a wreath of mist no idea one minute to the next a unison of child voices like the echo of my thoughts joy and mischief combined “put on your sailing shoes” the white synthetic beard kept slipping down off my chin red and white suit I get in and out of reveals its Byzantine origins a present to myself
HOME MOVIE III
Tufts of snow grace the shoulders of the big stone outdoor fireplace. Cushions of snow form on the bench by the fence, itself topped by a ridge of snow. The black cat steps gingerly across the pristine expanse of snow on the deck leaving a trail of tiny paw indentations. Gail poses with a broom by the stone steps swept of the snow that had fallen overnight. Her cheeks glow from the cold and a few months of pregnancy. Up on the road, a couple trudge through the ruts of snow, large flakes falling on their lightly clad shoulders. Seeing the camera, they stage a snowball fight. On the way to Andrei’s, the sky is white with large lush flakes of snow. The conifers accept the garlands of snow as if it’s their due, the long lanky boughs bending only slightly from the weight of the accumulating white stuff. How long have they been waiting for this day? How many years had it been since it snowed in Monte Rio? No one seems to know, but it has been a while. What doesn’t get on film is the noise. It’s a war zone. What sounds like gunshots are tree limbs cracking, snapping, and breaking. And then the thunderous crash of whole trees toppling over. The deciduous trees are not faring well and taking the power lines down as they fall. Once Andrei sees the camera, a scenario develops. He conjures the Transylvania of his childhood; the snow decked forests of the Carpathians. He has an outfit that he quickly dons, off camera. It’s a long black wool or serge cassock with the symbol of the spiral labyrinth on the chest area. He will play a vampire and flashes his plastic fangs. Alice has prepared large art boards with comments that will be interjected during the filming. Andrei appears at the top of the road against a backdrop of snow topped roofs as Nosferatu. Alice’s sign reads “The arrival.” A group of kids and a barking dog point at Andrei off camera. Alice’s sign says, “The meeting.” Andrei makes menacing claw hands. The kids respond with snowballs. The sign reads “The aftermath.” Andrei runs, pelted by missiles of snow, in an effort to avoid the onslaught. He slips and falls, hard. Now that’s acting! In the background, the snow falls, too, but slower, gently.
12/9/90 what every man must know: there is no distance separating father from son clear skies forecast the dark sheen of wet asphalt the rain comes and goes 12/10/85 tonight there is only tea daughter and friend laugh aloud it’s cold out here tonight there is only tea no wine no heat out here exiled for passing gas tonight there is only tea cold seeps through the cracks turn to another page tonight there is only tea beard of rising steam frost touched temples
It was good seeing you again even if the circumstances were a tad hectic—it’s always good talking with you and renewing our “immigrant” loyalties. It strengthens my resolve to visit you in your “new” home in “New” Orleans — now that “travel” is in my blood, I’ve got a hankering for wider horizons. . .or maybe it’s just to avoid what needs to be done in Monte Rio. . . . Of course, resolve and the time/money continuum often flow contrary to each other, so says the first law of the “cop-out.” I should have tarried longer with you in SF but my instincts were correct: I woke up the next morning with the flu! You didn’t need that to take home with you. Anyway, congrats on your good fortune in ‘90, may it increase by at least a factor of 10 in ‘91. And of course, whose chutzpa is more deserving?
Hope your meeting with the documentary producers (Simon and Garfunkel) went well—I think what they were missing and the word that we were trying to think of that night in the cab is “audacity.” They did seem like somber young technocrats whose silence is golden (to them, at least)—the technicians of the sacred meet the technicians of the profane.
Thanks for the manuscript offer, and I’ll get it to you as well as the extra Miller books and a copy of Gary Lenhart’s magazine, Transfer, with Dick’s poems as soon as the holiday rush is behind us. I also want you to take a look at another manuscript entitled Made In The Shade which is poems and prose and is more of a “piece” in a poetry journal kind of way. The prose sections are mini narratives about Jeff, Hunce, Sean, you, me, and my take on the scene up here in the late ‘70’s. I’ll be able to send you about half of it in a couple of months.
Again, best wishes in the New Year. And yes, the memory of Hunce you have is probably the one where he was the healthiest (relatively speaking); he went downhill soon after that. One of these days I should relate to you the Book of the Dead/Bardo plane/rebirth number that Gail figured out after Hunce passed away (the guy played all the angles).
Days weeks months run together hours of light less the weather that fills them more oppressive the rock (resolve) of Sisyphus wet with rain slips from his grasp with it the hopes of another year time to start over “put another nickel in” this dance is done or almost the beat goes on accomplishments accumulate like dust on furniture they come out of the air and settle on my shoulders I hardly ever notice anonymous even to myself in the dark lights strung color the season more than any other time do I think here I am again one step forward two back (now we’re getting somewhere!) trip pratfall face down ahead nonetheless and the bump suddenly makes it all clear sky falling raises a fine pale vapor in the atmosphere pearls gather and drip from the gate’s arch sentiment’s overflow washed away
The fall of rain was announced by the horizon of rain. I stepped into the stream of rain in the Monte Rio of rain out of sheer boredom of rain and converted a glimpse of rain into words of rain. The shape of rain traveled among the trees of rain and feathered the shrubs of rain. It was a clumsy attempt of rain but it was also a revelation of rain. I recognized what I had written of rain as a poem of rain. I enjoyed the sleep of rain as the hypnotism of rain played the soft music of rain in my dream of rain.
12/11/91 writing is the progenitor of the technology of self-consciousness count the days on one hand time passes as I look at my fingers brain froth—all that electrical activity like a blue spark shampoo fizzling over pink mush. at this point not much separates the disease from the cure vital aisle 12/12/91 blank misery afflictions trees are works of magic stones possess power the moment writes me I am its source and reference the photos lie those are not the people I am Virgo: This week that magical, creative, even psychic, side of you comes to the fore. Sometimes it’s enough to know something; you don’t have to prove it. The upcoming year holds special promise. 12/19/92 words describe the psychology of objects end of a shorter gray day sun peeks through just as it sets thinking: air craft 12/20/87 my horoscope keeps telling me how well I’m doing while real life hands me my head on a platter as day darkens rain lightens up I used to care who appeared in anthologies can the universe be this untidy —my desk 12/21/91 that wildness the primitive in us right there not more than an arm’s length away where it’s kept at bay rain all shortest day long the aesthetic of the awkward how you answer a phone call from someone you barely knew a long time ago whatever you say unknown one moment to the next stutter you were just then caught off guard 12/22/89 it will rain again soon ants parade up the wall
What’s coincidence this very same song was on the radio last time I couldn’t think of a thing to say was it this very hour of the morning I guess it could be the very paper white blank a kind of self-portrait just as I sat down the door opened and a head popped in to ask if I was busy “not yet” I re-examine my turmoil can’t make anything out of it the medium is the message when it comes to the hippocampus a jolt of ‘lectricty relayed in a flash of white light to every last neuron the condition also known as “zap” at which point the imagined becomes real I’ve been here before but forgot morning always starts this way lanky barbed silhouette pressed against pale frosted sky at this end of the year
12/23/94 groveling before sheer fact I don’t write everything down it just seems that way benevolent used car salesman like a friendly obstetrician birthed our anxieties into an offer acceptable to all or nine miles down the road slips it to us like a backdoor bandit you choose the severe look of a seminarian or sorcerer’s apprentice I learn to dream with a broom in my hand 12/26/88 tender tenor solo 12/29/86 against the background of a steady pouring rain someone takes a shower the ants come from afar 12/31/92 I have not progressed beyond what is normally here poetry is also very importantly self-documentation who knows from consciousness22 The rains came and didn’t stop coming. Sorting through the chaos of my papers in a hasty triage in advance of the rising waters. Every scrap contains a gem. I can’t throw any of it away.
A true poem of rain is regarded of rain as already existing of rain before it has been composed of rain—composing of rain being the act of rain deducing of rain its entirety of rain from a single key phrase of rain that swims of rain into the poet’s mind of rain. It is also necessary of rain to have read of rain a great many poems of rain by other writers of rain, good of rain and bad of rain, before a poet of rain can realize his powers of rain and the limitations of rain.
The primordial consciousness, like a landscape of images available for the mind’s eye or to be made into intellectual lumber, surrounds us at every turn. Informed or uninformed, it is a life in the thicket. For this, a miracle a day is needed. That holy glow that encompasses everything, even in the darkest circumstances, is the original idea for the light bulb; that bright orb of star we think we are. The realization of spirituality is one thing, trying to grasp it for keeps is like trying to tune in far off radio stations at the mercy, in this case, of our own frequency shift, at the mercy of an inhibition called boredom, at the mercy of our subtle animal oscillations although we thrill to the ride no matter how brief.
“ . . .Orpheus was taught by the triple Muse not only to enchant men and wild beasts with his lyre, but to make rocks and tree move and follow him in dance. . . Eurydice, his wife, assaulted by the pastoral god, Aristaeus, trod on a serpent as she fled, and died of its venomous bite. . . then Orpheus boldly followed her to hell, intent on fetching her back. . .with his lyre, he charmed the three headed dog Cerberus, the ferryman Charon, and the three judges of the dead, temporarily suspended the tortures of the damned, and even persuaded Hades to set Eurydice free. . .Hades agreed, on one condition. . . he must not look behind him until Eurydice was back safely home under the light of the sun. . .following him up through the dark passages guided by the sound of his lyre. . .on reaching the sunlight Orpheus turned to reassure himself of her presence and lost her forever. . .Orpheus is said to have denounced human sacrifice and preached that the Sun was a nobler deity than the Moon (an idea he picked up while travelling in Egypt) for which blasphemy a group of moon-worshipping Maenads tore him to pieces. . .the triple Muse collected his mangled limbs and buried them. . .his head. . . attacked by a jealous serpent. . .continued to sing and was placed in a cave sacred to Dionysus. . .Eurydice (Encompassing Rule) was not Orpheus’ wife, but in fact, the Triple Muse, herself. . .Orpheus recognized and glorified the Muse. . .in gratitude, she lent him her magical powers so that he could make the trees dance. . .he learned a new solar perfectionism in Egypt that she rejected as foreign to her nature. . .how could Orpheus hope to keep her always beside him in the bright upper air of love and truth (abstraction). . .had she not a secret passion for serpents, a delight in murder, a secret craving for corpse flesh, a need to spend several months of the year consorting with the sly, the barren, the damned. . .Eurydice never accidentally trod on the serpent. . .she actually chose to couple with the serpent as her mother, Eurynome (Encompassing Order) herself had coupled with the world snake, Ophion. . . Orpheus’ home was in the North, in Thrace. . .he combined the professions of poet, magician, religious teacher, and oracle giver. . .like certain legendary shamans in Siberia. . . by his music, he could, summon birds and beasts to listen to him. . . he paid a visit to the underworld, like shamans everywhere, and his motive was very common among shamans. . .to recover stolen souls. . .his magical self lived on as a singing head that continued to give oracles for many years after his death. . .this suggests the North also. . . such mantic heads appear in Norse mythology and in Irish tradition. . . Orpheus, therefore, mythical shaman or archetype of shamans. . . .”