All the lost pens suddenly all show up and I can’t think besides I’m using the computer this rainy weather makes me lose my mind a line not original with me nor the rain DJ managed to find yet another song about rain I had lost interest in the idea quite a few cuts ago it’s just me the rain and the radio (night wears on) the script of ego to be drafted naked id exposed (shown off at least) better yet lost in thought I have to unthink myself to get to the point wind up dizzy instead where am I (at the end of my rope?)
I awoke to the drone of rain. I’d been having a dream of rain that was a real nightmare. I was attending the theater of rain and had joined in the ovation of rain as the curtain of rain came down on the final act of rain. That was enough of rain for me. I noticed the sharp decline as I stood on the precipice of rain. A hiss of rain preceded the rush of rain. I was feeling hemmed in by the stitch of rain. All of a sudden, there was a flood of rain and the thunder of rain hit the roof. The wash of rain swept the horizon away. In the mist of rain, the pines disappeared.
1/6/92 then everything stopped pellets of light fall from the pale sky weather transforms vision (illusion) I know what I know all else I guess 1/7/89 a pair of shoes exploded by the bomb squad plume of ash shoots into the upper atmosphere “go ahead slap him” flying apart like a mannequin with rubber bands for joints I picked up the radio as the cymbal hissed 1/8/82 today’s a birthday for someone I know and love a day to remember and then forget heart-shaped sunrise at the breast of the ridge radiates my sentiment life is just one clever saying after another 1/9/95 time to stack everything up above the water line 1/13/90 The classicist believes he is passing on the flame of knowledge and learning while using a little to light his own candle. The romantic sees himself as the original and only bearer of the torch.1 1/16/84 days unravel as spiral strands of DNA more than enough information rides the airwaves the chances to throw away money are legion especially in Washington D.C. where skies are clear a face made up like it’s trying to think the sylphs are visiting again 1/18/90 the ice line creeps toward sea level “the world will always welcome lovers” talk about a phrase turning on its assumption we’ll go down in history as The Irony Age there’s no zone like home
—Who am I? *
–You are a famous unknown poet, or as Tom Clark once said, “an absolutely unknown unheard-of jack-off.” You should have been a painter, a house painter. Your history is a joke, one pratfall after another. That you have achieved any success at all is a fluke and a vindication of your belief in the purely arbitrary, beyond what is laughingly called logic. If there is a reason, you are not privy to it. The mythology of self puts you at the pinnacle of poetry. On the other hand, you don’t see yourself as someone who will gain fame by writing poetry. Again, you aren’t deterred by this fact. You hold, after all, to the principle that as long as you make claim to this oh too human form of existence, you must preserve the poetic in your life, and all your convoluted thinking and plotting must never disturb for you its magic, but rather enhance and beautify it.
—What’s my middle name?
—Why do I write?
–You write to reveal someone you wouldn’t suspect just from looking in the mirror. You certainly don’t have the air that anyone assumes when they think of who might be a poet. You’re from the Johnny Cash generation! You walk the line.
*After waiting almost a lifetime for the representative from The Paris Review to show up for the interview, he decided that he might as well interview himself. Even if he didn’t know all the questions, he certainly had all the answers.
Michael-Sean Lazarchuk was passed out on the couch and Gail and I were going to the movies so we pinned a note to his shirt telling him that we had. Next to Sean on the couch, his only companion, a jug of red wine, which was fine with him because, aside from writing poetry, his favorite pastime was sipping from the jug and then falling into a stupor and finally into a deep unshakable sleep. He never got violent, though maybe a little boisterous. “Chesty” he liked to say, especially when talking about poets he didn’t like or about unfair treatment meted out to people with long hair or those who looked plain weird especially out in the boonies like the Russian River. No argument there. And when Sean visited, things just fell into a methodical routine. First there was the ritual purchase of a gallon of burgundy, then there was what was called “drinking what’s in the neck” or more succinctly “drinking the neck” and since gallon jugs are not particularly known for their long necks, it was no time at all before we had progressed to “the old boy’s belly.” No music other than Bob Dylan was allowed to be played and to whose songs Sean would howl appropriate lines. One of his favorites was “it sits on your head like a mattress sits on a bottle of wine.” He also liked to croon “doo yoou Miss-terr Jo-nzzz.” By this time we were taking turns on the typewriter writing collaborations, a pile of the latest poetry magazines and books at hand from which to steal lines or riff off of.2 And then later in the evening, half a jug by his side, he would recline on the couch like a visiting dignitary and recite lines from his favorite poets and we had to guess whose line it was. Once you got to know Sean and his preferences, if you guessed Ted Berrigan (known as “Ted”) or Frank O’Hara (known as “Frank”) you would usually be right. That is unless he slipped one in by John Ashbery to throw you off.
1/19/90 “le lit est fait par la main de demain” time is entirely man made I lived a multitude of lives in the last few seconds
The pulse of rain was strong. It affirmed the life of rain on this morning of rain. According to the theory of rain, there should be about a week of rain. I watched for the leak of rain. Outside, a wave of rain charged through the shrubs. I had my nose pressed to the window of rain. I was beginning to bore of rain but there was more of rain. The refrain of rain overflowed into the afternoon of rain. I felt the slap of rain on my hand and saw the splash of rain on my glasses. Immersed in the sorrow of rain, I heaved a sigh of rain. The shadow of rain filled the sky of rain. I searched the references of rain for the origin of rain late into the evening of rain.
1/20/80 seriousness of purpose, humorous intent little miracles of insight “well, if I’m not the original hypocrite, at least a direct descendant.” it came off in my hand VIRGO: During an enlightening discussion, you express yourself very well. Do not be disturbed if someone disagrees with your conclusions. Time will prove you right. Donate to charity.
Energy flags at the mere mention of the legion of others how can there be so many and yet still original amazing isn’t it long meditation shuts out these annoyances a short cigarette and who could care less I won’t break my teeth on shadows pearls of rain strung on bare branches effective white mist hides all but the familiar days played away in a back room little by little like a paper tape unrolled slowly out a window radio provides sidewalk sounds I could be with friends in Paris
THE WRITERS CONFERENCE
One weekend when Michael-Sean was visiting, Keith and Lani Abbott, and Opal and Ellen Nations paid a visit, too. This had been planned ahead of time. Steve Kahn who was a park ranger, a writer, and friend of Keith’s from college had a big house in Monte Rio so the plan was to hold a “writers conference” and have a good time. Sean wasn’t too sure he wanted to participate but when the prospect of more wine was held out, he agreed. Soon the hours of talking, gesticulating, drinking, and carrying on began to wear on all of us and we were suddenly ravenously hungry; all except for Sean of course who had been drinking his sustenance all afternoon. Steve and I broke our brains trying to think of a local restaurant that would suit all of our tastes. Steve mentioned that someone had given him a couple of pounds of wild boar sausage but what could we make with them? “Bangers and mash,” as Opal suggested, just didn’t seem right so Gail said, “how about enchilada?” Everyone liked that idea though Opal was a little apprehensive that it might be too spicy for his palate. “Oh don’t worry we won’t make it hot.” Steve and I winked at each other. Gail said she had all the fixings at home so she drove off to fetch them. While the sausage was being browned, Steve suggested a game of cards to take our minds off our stomachs. “How about we play a couple hands of poker.” Steve opened a bottle of a private stock scotch that someone had given him (being a park ranger had some advantages) and the game began. Soon Opal and Steve had most of the chips in front of them and it looked like dinner would never come. But it wasn’t long before Gail returned with the brown paper bag of ingredients and more beer and wine. “Guess who I found!” she shouted cryptically as she rushed into the kitchen. Behind her at the door were Andrei and Alice Codrescu. Gail reemerged to explain. “When I got home I saw this yellow car parked out front and when I went in the house there they were! Andrei was reading your mail.” It was Andrei’s turn to explain. “We were just out for a ride in the country because we had to get out of the city quick and somebody told us about nude beaches on the Russian River and we wanted to check it out, you know, but we couldn’t find them and when we came to Guerneville I remembered you lived up here so we dropped by to visit but this is the amazing part because I didn’t have my address book with me so I didn’t know where you lived but we were in a gas station asking if anybody knew where the nude beach was when out of the blue like a flash of memory I remembered your address but you weren’t home and the radio was on so we thought you’d be coming back soon nice letter from Lewis Warsh by the way.” Andrei was introduced around and invited to try a sip of scotch and join in a hand or two. Everyone knew Andrei had just been awarded an NEA grant so here was a pigeon ripe for the plucking. “Ah yes poker” he said as he straddled a chair, “Ah used to play this game back in the bunkhouse on the ranch in south Transylvania.” “What kind of ranch was that, Andrei?” Keith asked as innocently as he could manage. “A cabbage ranch.” After the guffaws had subsided, Andrei explained that cabbage ranching is practically the oldest form of agriculture there is, and it’s the world’s oldest profession next to prostitution and the priesthood, and that cabbage ranching was a well-respected occupation in Romania where the men who worked in the cabbage fields wore an outfit similar to the gauchos in Argentina though in actual point of fact the gauchos got their style of dress from an immigrant Romanian who had at one time worked on a cabbage ranch but finding no such opportunities in South America was forced to take up herding cattle, a lowlier form of work, so to remind himself of his dignified heritage he wore his cabbage ranch outfit which soon was adopted by the other herders and even the American word “cowboy” had its etymological roots in the name for the men who worked on the cabbage ranch which was “cabboy” short for cabbage boy and even today you will find in parts of the Southwest people who still pronounce it that way! Andrei certainly brought the level of entertainment up a notch but he wasn’t a very good poker player and soon all the chips were in front of me. Enchiladas were served and true to the aroma, they were delicious though we weren’t able to keep our promise to Opal. Sean even nibbled some. Later on that night with a few exceptions drunk and barely sensible we stumbled over large boulders to a beach on the Pacific to watch the carpets of phosphorescence roll out at our feet.
1/21/79 smoked a dead bug (by accident) my habits are getting old 1/22/88 no one really knows the questions to these answers3 1/24/90 there are things deeply felt deeply cared about that find no voice but through artifice
Comes another day of rain with its accumulation of rain. The measure of rain has nothing to do with the beauty of rain. From the sky comes a spurt of rain. It’s not the fault of rain. I just have no use for the rite of rain. There is no remedy for the carelessness of rain. The umbrella in the corner awaits the return of rain.
Thanks for taking the review, glad you liked it. Interestingly enough I wanted to add a note with the review that said, “No Artificially Quoted Material Was Used In This Review.” And I almost got away with it. For one, I’m lazy, and I hate running down those passages that elicited a particular superlative because invariably (if I like the poet) I’ll get sidetracked. Other times I don’t like to read the book until after I’ve written the review. . . . And I dislike quoting parts of poems because even if they do “support some of (my) conclusions” (something I hope I will never be accused of doing), they undermine the integrity of the work for the sake of some frivolous impression, and I particularly dislike it when line breaks are denoted with a slash and made to serve the paragraph to save space—when you review an artist’s work you don’t only show a corner of the painting. Even so, I have gone through and noted the poems and where I would place them in the review were I to use them. And I’ve quoted passages from poems that would seem to serve the point . . . whatever that might be. Also fixed that sentence, and thanks for catching that because, believe it or not, it was haunting me—I happened to look through that review after I sent it off and thought “that has to be changed.” At any rate, use what you can of what I’ve indicated where quoted in full. Maybe you could add a note at the end: “Contains Artificially Inserted Quoted Material From The Work Under Review.”
1/29/91 blinded -- peppering rage of desert storm where are we going radio tuned all the time to the news
I’m about as prepared as mustard to start the day trying to sort through the mud slide of dreams sedentary ancient unconscious mass undermined by the ceaseless sleet of sleep light winds forecast the weight of hair pulls on the skin of my face the jowls of perception’s dog whose bark is fatal I have to endure the growls of reality everybody out of the gene pool I guess that means me too enough infinite variety I’m hungry
I felt the hunger of rain. I was brought down by the gravity of rain. It seemed as though I lived in a world of rain. I made my way through the jungle of rain. The history of rain begins with the vision of rain. I fear the revenge of rain and the destruction of rain. I curse the invention of rain as the machine of rain sputters to life. I watch the play of rain on the windshield. The work of rain digs furrows in the ground. I read the book of rain in the solitude of rain. I pick through the anthology of rain for a poem of rain. I see through the transparence of rain. A sprinkle of rain waters the new flowers. The shower of rain bathes the bare branches. The edge of rain falls from the eaves. I find a picture of rain that gives a good idea of rain. I leaf through the dictionary of rain for the definition of rain. The dog of rain barks at the god of rain. At this time last year we had received only a fraction of rain. In the arithmetic of rain, every little drop counts.
1/30/83 absorbed by the page night and day detour around a weary man at work failing to get the point confused by headache fever the flu takes over temperature above normal sore throat headache eye pain I can’t even see what I see old and faithful tom his own tanning salon a square patch of sunlight overfed the robins bend the bare limbs dropping before flight pink neon -- pale knot of light behind the barred store window
The poem is not created in isolation even though the poet much of the time accomplishes the task under these circumstances. Surrounding its shape on the page is a mass of inference, reference, deference, etc., which creates the atmosphere of its understanding. The poem today is the bride stripped bare of her bachelors, a cunning statement by Duchamp, and, as he himself discovered, a node on the organic nervous system of creativity. A creation has to be touched by the artist to live, it cannot be made or expressed by remote control. Art’s built-in imperfections are its signature. Consequently, does the poem stand alone out of necessity or literary convention? Also, why must it stand alone, out of context, i.e., prose, without environment (subsequently “environmentalism” becomes a new literary label)? Poets have been reconciling poetry and prose forever. The poems, the songs, are usually what the story is woven around. Every poet has a story, even if short, that surrounds the creation of his song. Sometimes up, sometimes down, the lives of poets accomplish a cycle.
”Salting the mine”: There are a few respected poets you steal from respectfully, everyone else is grist for the mill.
Poetry has no context except for the page — a sad state of affairs. Removed and isolated by its wide blank margins, it acts as a relic of what once was a living tradition, a word of mouth.
“. . . in woman is the female principle, the muses represent aspects of that principle, one of which is creativity and identified as Calliope, the mother of Orpheus. From her, Orpheus derives his creative power. Eurydice, his wife/mother/female principle is bitten by a snake and taken to the underground — writer’s block, winter of the intellect? i.e., Orpheus loses it/her and is audacious enough to go down to the dead after her. He regains the promise of Eurydice on condition of self-control. Pride of course foils him. Is it out of revenge then or simply sorrow that he personifies nature in his song or is he, male-like, tampering with the source? Then along comes a goon squad of wood nymphs (alarmed at his power over their realm) (driven to passion by his song) (following their wild instincts) (none of the above) and rip him to shreds and eat his flesh. Of course in this instance everyone knows that Orpheus is the sacred mushroom indulged in by a prehistoric goddess cult. His decapitated head, thrown into the river, floats downstream (through time?) where ape-like inhabitants fish it out. Orpheus’s head still speaks and the natives use it as an oracle that for the most part just pops, hisses, sputters in languages yet unknown, but once in a while there’s a clear and distinct message like ‘render to reality that which is real, and to fantasy, that which is fantastic.’ Fortunately no one was listening when the head spoke those words. The oracular brazen head of the Knights Templars is derived from this tradition . . . Dead, he becomes the hollow skull and then the bronze head, the bell, and the oracle, the entrance to the unconscious in the guise of an instrument, and eventually in the twentieth century, he is a saxophone . . . on the other hand, the Orpheus syndrome is when you allow yourself to be taken down by the feminine side and are consequently torn asunder (apart) by a cross current of opinion and indecision (i.e.: the prerogatives of survival gone awry). . .”