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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mind 6

"Carson believes that thoughts themselves matter less than the routes one takes between them. 'I don't know that we really think any thoughts; we think connections between thoughts. That's where the mind moves, that's what's new, and the thoughts themselves have probably been there in my head or lots of other people's heads for a long time. But the jumps between them are entirely at that moment.' She says, 'It's magical.'"    ~an interview with Anne Carson in the U.K. Guardian, 12/30/06


"To Forget Its Creator Is One of the Functions of a Creation"
                                                                                          —E. M. Forster
(Poem by Gilbert Allen)

So memory is the absent
letting things slip
out of mind and sight
to make discovery

And God is no
which is the why
of these strange, awful creatures
whose creator would envy
their lost footprints, if He could. 


"A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it."

~Sir Rabindranath "Tagore" Thakur


"Choosing is the sickness of the mind." 6th century Chinese sage, according to Frederick Franck

"The perfect man uses his mind as a mirror. It grasps nothing, it refuses nothing. It receives but does not keep."  Chunag Tzu, 4th century B.C.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Mind 5

Saying It to Keep It from Happening                            John Ashbery

Some departure from the norm
Will occur as time grows more open about it.
The consensus gradually changed; nobody
Lies about it any more. Rust dark pouring
Over the body, changing it without decay—
People with too many things on their minds, but we live
In the interstices, between a vacant stare and the ceiling,
Our lives remind us. Finally this is consciousness
And the other livers of it get off at the same stop.
How careless. Yet in the end each of us
Is seen to have traveled the same distance—it’s time
That counts, and how deeply you have invested in it,
Crossing the street of any event, as though coming out of it were
The same as making it happen. You’re not sorry,
Of course, especially if this was the way it had to happen,
Yet would like an exacter share, something about time
That only a clock can tell you: how it feels, not what it means.
It is a long field, and we now only the far end of it,
Not the part we presumably had to go through to get here.
If it isn’t enough, take the idea
Inherent in the day, armloads of wheat and flowers
Lying around flat on handtrucks, if maybe it means more
In pertaining to you, yet what is is what happens in the end
As though you cared. The event combined with
Beams leading up to it for the look of force adapted to the wiser
Usages of age, but it’s both there
And not there, like washing or sawdust in the sunlight,

At the back of the mind, where we live now.


Postscript                              Jennifer Chang

We did not marry, cross, or fasten
forest with field. We split,

lightning-struck trees, splintered
raw, a natural Y,

two arms of wanting. Love,
we broke

and found the stones coreless,
gone wild with error,

gone. Tonight the field disentangles
the night's creature

concert, insect hymn. Holy shine
that webs the sky

unwebs our sight: I have a vision
you don't see,

a mind's pastoral, not secret
but unreachable

by road, sea, or thought: the lamps
sprout gorgeously,

the wheat is strange. You don't see
sorrow burrowing

in coupled roots, how the forest
finds its way

down here, bone-cold dirt, dendritic
tangle, my wish

to grow old in shadow—must I
die alone?

We did not unearth this rude radical,
we burst. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Mind 4

"What makes form adventurous is its unpredictable appetite for particulars. The truly creative mind is always ready for the operations of chance. It wants to sweep into the constellation of the artwork as much as it can of the loose, floating matter that it encounters. How much accident can the work incorporate? How much of the unconscious life can the mind dredge up from its depths?" ~Stanley Kunitz


"Your eyes are on your side, for you cannot see your eyes, and your eyes cannot see themselves. Eyes only see things outside, objective things. If you reflect on yourself, that self is not your true self any more. You cannot project yourself as some objective thing to think about. The mind which is always on your side is not just your mind, it is the universal mind, always the same, not different from another’s mind. It is Zen mind. It is big, big mind. The mind is whatever you see. Your true mind is always with whatever you see. Although you do not know your own mind, it is there—at the very moment you see something, it is there. This is very interesting. You mind is always with the things you observe. So you see, this mind is at the same time everything." ~Shunryu Suzuki, Zen’s Mind, Beginner’s Mind, p. 134

208. If you change your mind, you are free. Or you were.

From Vectors: Aphorisms & Ten-Second Essays by James Richardson


The Woman Who Is Early        Nin Andrews
The Woman Who Is Early is always at least one step ahead of
time. She is always rushing and rushing. Where-ever she goes,
she is already there long before she arrives. Whatever she is
saying, she has already said it before the words leave her lips.
Whatever song she is singing she is already so sick of it, and she
wishes she could get it out of her mind. Whatever meal she is
preparing, she has eaten it before taking the first bite. Whatever
man she desires, she had made love to him a thousand times
before he ever undresses her. A man can never make love to her
the way he did once upon a time, before he made love to her. Of
course therapists tell her she should slow down and rest a spell.
Relax. She has heard those words long before she ever sees
therapists. Does she have to explain it to them again? How a
great wave is chasing her? It is rising above her head even as she
thinks of it. If she looks back, just once, it will wash over her.
She will instantly drown. Of course, she is right. That's why she
has already drowned. 

The Storm                                                                                Jennifer Moss
Where one mind stops,
another begins.

Where cutlery shines on plates,
a voice lowers.

One length of forgiveness,
round and round like a child's game
in the dust.

Outside, the rain formalizing.

When we leave we are replaced.

Shaky clouds in lightning,
my shadow alive on the floor.

Then the small passage for sleep.

How green and spidery the sky.

In its net, the dead bees of memory. 

"The mind wants to live forever, or to learn a very good reason why not. The mind wants the world to return its love, or its awareness; the mind wants to know all the world, and all eternity, and God. The mind’s sidekick, however, will settle for two eggs over easy.

The dear, stupid body is as easily satisfied as a spaniel. And, incredibly, the simple spaniel can lure the brawling mind to its dish. It is everlastingly funny that the proud, metaphysically ambitious, clamoring mind will hush if you give it an egg.

Further: while the mind reels in deep space, while the mind grieves or fears or exults, the workaday senses, in ignorance or idiocy, like so many computer terminals printing out market prices while the world blows, up, still transcribe their little data and transmit them to the warehouse in the skull."

~Annie Dillard, in Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters, p. 99

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mind 3

"The true contemplative is not the one who prepares his mind for a particular message that he wants or expects to hear, but who remains empty because he knows that he can never expect or anticipate the word that will transform his darkness into light. He does not even anticipate a special kind of transformation. He does not demand light instead of darkness. He waits on the Word of God in silence, and when is “answered,” it is not so much by a word that bursts into his silence. It is by his silence itself suddenly, inexplicably revealing itself to him as a word of great power, full of the voice of God."

~Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer, p. 112-3


"Writing fiction is like remembering what never happens. It mimics memory without being memory. Images appear as textual ground, because this is how the brain works. I am convinced that the processes of memory and invention are linked in the mind."
~Siri Hustvedt, from 'Yonder', an essay in A Plea for Eros


The Plan is the Body               Robert Creeley

The plan is the body.
There is each moment a pattern.
There is each time something
for everyone.

The plan is the body.
The mind is in the head.
It’s a moment in time,
an instant, second.

The rhythm of one
and one, and one, and one.
The two, the three.
The plan is in the body.

Hold it an instant,
in the mind—hold it.
What was say you
said. The two, the three,

times in the body,
hands, feet, you remember—
I, I remember, I
speak it, speak it.

The plan is the body.
Times you didn’t want to,
times you can’t think
you want to, you.

Me, me, remember, me
here, me wants to, me
am thinking of you.
The plan is the body.

The plan is the body.
The sky is the sky.
The mother, the father—
The plan is the body.

Who can read it.
Plan is the body. The mind
is the plan. I
speaking. The memory

gathers like memory, plan,
I thought to remember,
thinking again, thinking.
The mind is the plan of the mind.

The plan is the body.
The plan is the body.
The plan is the body.
The plan is the body.


From Why I Write, by Joan Didion

Of course I stole the title for this talk, from George Orwell. One reason I stole it was that I like the sound of the words: Why I Write. There you have three short unambiguous words that share a sound, and the sound they share is this:
In many ways writing is the act of saying I, or imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its aggressiveness all you want with veils of subordinate clauses and qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasion—with  the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating—but there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, and imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Mind 2

"My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it. (The famous example of Kekule working out the structure of benzene in his sleep is well-known.) Creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.”  ~Isaac Asimov


"Inspiration is there all the time. For everyone whose mind is not clouded over with thoughts whether they realize it or not." ~Agnes Martin


"When you look in your mind you find it covered with a lot of rubbishy thoughts. You have to penetrate these and hear what your mind is telling you to do. Such work is original work."  ~Agnes Martin


Pantoum Quilted from Agnes Martin's Writings by Carol Moldaw
Composition is an absolute mystery.
To penetrate the night is one thing
(you get light enough and you levitate),
to be penetrated by the night, another.
To penetrate the night is one thing, 
the mind knows what the eye has not seen;
to be penetrated by the night, another.
Overtaken, we feel a certain devotion.
The mind knows what the eye has not seen.
Perfection, of course, cannot be represented.
Overtaken, we feel a certain devotion.
Think of a shibori-dyed silk organza quilt.
Perfection, of course, cannot be represented
pieced and layered, a little bit off the square.
Think of a shibori-dyed silk organza quilt
but without batting, transparent, floating,
pieced and layered, a little bit off the square,
the layers hand-tied together with horsehair
(but without batting, transparent, floating).
Try to understand, court misunderstanding.
The layers hand-tied together with horsehair,
the grids of the layers overlap like voices.
Try to understand, court misunderstanding.
The seams, like leading, show through.
The grids of the layers overlap like voices.
One thing I've got a good grip on is remorse.
The seams, like leading, show through.
Before it's put on paper, it exists in the mind.
One thing I've got a good grip on is remorse.
Technique a hazard, interruptions a disaster,
before it's put on paper, it exists in the mind.
Rectangles lighten the square's weight.
Technique a hazard, interruptions a disaster,
composition is an absolute mystery.
Rectangles lighten the square's weight.
You get light enough and you levitate.


"To progress in life you must give up the things you do not like. Give up doing the things that you do not like to do. You must find the things that you do like. The things that are acceptable to your mind." -~Agnes Martin


"There are two parts of the mind. The outer mind that records facts and the inner mind that says "yes" and "no." When you think of something that you should do, the inner mind says "yes" and you feel elated. We call this inspiration."  ~Agnes Martin


“The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
~Wendell Berry

"Two is the rhythm of the body. Three is the rhythm of the mind." ~Leonard Bernstein

"My mind is a church." ~Thomas Jefferson

Logic               Richard Siken

A clock is a machine. A gear is a tool. There is rarely
any joy in a frictionless place, so find your inner viscosity.
The mind says viscosity is resistance to flow. The body
puts glue on a twig and catches a bird. Glue is a tool,
unless you are a bird. If you are a bird, then glue is
an inconvenience. A tool does work. A bird flies away
from danger and lands where it can. All thinking is
comparison. A bear is a weapon, a bear claw is a pastry.
A bear trap, if you are a bear, is an inconvenience.
Logic is boring because it works. Being unreasonable is
exciting. Machines have knobs you can turn if you
want to. A hammer is a hammer when it hits the nail.
A hammer is not a hammer when it is sleeping. I woke
up tired of being the hammer. There's a dream in the
space between the hammer and the nail: the dream of
about-to-be-hit, which is a bad dream, but the nail will
take the hit if it gets to sleep inside the wood forever.
I taped a sword to my hand when I was younger. This
is an argument about goals.


"The human mind always makes progress but it is a progress in spirals."  ~Madame de Stl

"The rational mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master." ~Ram Dass
"The man who never alters his opinions is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind." ~William Blake

Unveiling, Wakefield                                          Gail Mazur

I say to the named granite stone, to the brown grass,
to the dead chrysanthemums, Mother, I still have a
body, what else could receive my mind’s transmissions,
its dots and dashes of pain? I expect and get no answer,
no loamy scent of her coral geraniums. She who is now
immaterial, for better or worse, no longer needs to speak
for me to hear, as in a continuous loop, classic messages
of wisdom, love and fury. MAKE! DO! a note on our fridge
commanded. Here I am making, unmaking, doing, undoing.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Going Formal

Quarterday Review, out of Scotland, publishes formal poetry. Their latest issue is out, and it includes a haibun by Sharon Suzuki-Martinez, a poem in rhymed stanza by Marcus Bales, a ghazal by Catherine Wald, prose poems by Lisa Mangini, and a pantoum by me, among other works. You can download it here, and next month hard copies will be available.

Thanks to editor Lucy Johnson for providing such a beautiful home for formal poems.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Meerkat Press is sponsoring a Goodreads Giveaway of My Cruel Invention, the poetry anthology about inventions of all kinds, edited by Bernadette Geyer. This anthology includes two poems by me, as well as work by Karen Skolfield, Kelly Cherry, Holly Karapetkova, Joel Allegretti, Kristine Ong Muslim, Marjorie Maddox, Mia Leonin, Shelley Puhak, Julie E. Bloemeke, and more.

Clink on the link above to enter and win a copy of your own.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


I signed up for a great writing prompt, to come weekly to my inbox. It's called This is Not a Literary Journal, and you can sign up too.

This week's prompt  (from James Brush) introduced me to Robert Peake's online prompt generator. I suggest you read James Brush's brief article before you rush off to play with the generator (he'll reveal the parameters he prefers to set on the generator), and Brush will recommend in his piece that that you read Peake's article In Praise of Randomness.

And you should do all that, if you haven't already hurried off to play with the new toy. Also I recommend you sign up for the weekly prompt. But probably no one is reading this, as you've all probably long since clicked on a link and disappeared. Which is as it should be. And now I'll disappear too.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Cleaning Up

In January I gave myself the project to look over all 20 of the poems in my manuscript that hadn't yet found homes in journals, and to decide if they needed revision, needed to be cut from the manuscript entirely, or just needed a different location in the manuscript. I gave myself 20 days, planning to do one per day, which is pretty much how it worked out, though one weekend day I did two, which was great because later there was a day I couldn't get anything done poetry-wise.

I expected this project to be quite painful, but in fact it wasn't so bad. There were a few poems that got major revisions, and two got new titles, but in general I just tightened up sloppy lines, lazy jumps in logic, uninspired line breaks, cases of over-explaining, and poor word choices. And even when the changes amounted to only a few words, I felt in all cases like the poems came more into focus and were sharper and stronger.

I ended up not cutting any poems. And in the case of a poem that I had meant to be a companion poem but had not ever gotten around to writing the companion piece, instead of cutting that poem I wrote the companion piece. And felt very good about it too. And I moved a few poems to new locations in the manuscript.

Then I decided to send out many of these new versions of my poems to journals. Some I decided didn't work out of context of the manuscript, which is telling a story after all, but the others I packaged up and sent out, and within a few days, four of those poems were accepted at three different literary magazines. These are poems I had been sending out without success for some months, but they also weren't those poems--they were the revised versions.

Such small revisions in many cases too. But it's all a testament to how much every word counts, how fine-tuning a poem can make it so much better. And in all cases I knew what the problem was with the poem as soon as I read it last month--had always known it wasn't really finished but hadn't wanted to know that in the past. I could feel my shoulders tense when I approached the lines that I knew had problems--it wasn't news to me; I just had wanted to be done with these poems too early, and now I was ready to admit my haste.

How great it is to put poems aside and to revise them later, after the emotional attachment has waned. Then you can be honest with yourself about the poem's weaknesses, and it doesn't hurt the way it does when that particular thing is the last thing you've written and your ego is tied up in its success.

It was a very useful project, so I wanted to share my experience.