in Word For/Word #4

Superficial tremors in historic flux characterise the field relations between thought and image. That which stills the wordscape and at the same time re-enchants the wand that blurs it, is negated to neutral by the same illusionist in the Faraday cage who blends into the intense blue-background sky. You know who I mean, the fellow wearing the cerulean spotted hyena skin in the epic True Story of the Electric Wind, the one you can see no matter how hard you try.

Then, consider mental lattices. They knit together the air and belong to a different partitive order. Have you ever peeked through one at “the realm which freeth us from an imagined poverty”? Well, I have. Many times over. Ink spattered and sincere realms I’ve seen, oh my goodness, again and again, filled with sunsets and birds and otherwise transient sparks radiating from semi-mechanical fixed-point disciplines. Realms that, were you to stack them up, would suggest the shapes of modest hills.

This is so simple that it is confusing, as to a terrestrial observer the phenomenon of the birth of aeroplanes out of clouds is. You will recall that this confusion creates the turbulence at the very core of poetic thought, turbulence composed of those tremulous wattages suggestively called images.


in Word For/Word #9

Poets wish for their poems a certain life. But what of a poem’s own skies?

For its domestic circumstance, for happiness or misery, a poem does not of course depend on its poet. Not necessarily being mere marks on paper, poems have their extra-literary existence and may manifest as hearing loss or a birthday party. There was once a naked, terrible poem that thought it wanted to be a war and so now it is.

Of the pretty life, the not quite glowy but not too hideous life, what can I say? Poems, on the other hand, lead lives which, because we are not the sentient ophthalmoscopes we think we are, remain invisible to us, or camouflaged, or else common and plain like when the Polish Pope would speak Polish and “even” a dog named Rico knows 200 words. The poem might say, “Because I failed in even the most extraordinary things, the future aims complete abstraction at me and imposes a desert.” If the poem thinks this, it is because it’s a general principle. One need only look at the unfortunate people on the moon to know it’s true.

There are some poems too simple to paraphrase, but they feel miserable nevertheless because, having been rendered witless by them, we think they’re conceited. Some poems seem happier, but to this happiness a poem only arrives geometrically or on foot through the city of knowledge. It is possible that the real life of a poem may be worked out most reliably by engineers and night watchmen because a poem’s “irresponsible pretension to genius” is a pretension to which engineers and night watchmen seem quite blind.

Being as it is that poems insist on their own life—for example they say things like le rêve fraîchit—it’s only natural that they would want their own little corner where they can take stock of the forces that “cool their dreams.” Is the rose-tangle of poetic forms a diagram of these forces? I ask because poems are not stupid in the way that poets can be stupid.

Poems disappear, become influential like those men who go to the corner store to buy cigarettes and are never heard from again. A poem wants (or needs!) so little—certainly not aboutness—rather, some small boon and a cat, a deck of cards, air and dregless color, sleep that is a weathervane. Its life accrues in the uptilt of time, at once incomplete and completely absorbed in balloonery.


also: a lyrical essay on “visual poetry” in Word For/Word #16


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