An Instruction Manual
for Kim Lyons
The details come from a certain kind of novel: day coaches, minor European landmarks, the relationship between guest and host; but these details have become unmoored.
The line is not about delivering the thing described. The line is about torquing the delivery of the thing described so that the reader looks at its being delivered.
Chatty, disconnected social situations. Not the image of what you see, but the feeling from the image being twisted, not fitting, but still connected.
It’s as if he went into that room where women come and go talking of Michelangelo but did not come out.
Could one couplet offer a lifetime of habitation?
Wayward and inattentive, but attentive to that. That is the method. Desnos half asleep.
Our experience is complete. What more is there to do except stay? And that we cannot do.
Poetry out of predicament. Predicament never stated. Predicament?
Make the connection casually ridiculous as compensation for an “unendurable age.”
The first time a poem mentions something, it does so brazenly, like a god building a world. The second time is different. There’s an assumed familiarity of movement in it and a heart behind it.
Rhetorical questions should therefore only have absurdist answers.
The postcard image at the end following the more truly felt image just before the end is cruel, but it makes us nostalgic for the true one, makes it more real and more odd.
The recurrence means it’s not one thing, but many, or any. Thus unfixed it can still move, has to, careening. YYIIIEEEE!!
Instead of building by accretion, a gradual reduction in the degree of fullness of each sentence so that the reader is thrown by the end entirely onto his own powers of invention. It is that that is satisfying, however narcissistically so.
It’s fun to follow the rules well. It’s really fun to break the rules. It’s really really fun to break the rules and then make up your own rules and follow them well.
Not to fulfill the familiar but to subvert it we now it invert.
High, difficult diction invariably followed by the flat. You can have too much of a good thing and there’s nothing more bathetic than an old hero gone to seed in a cheap 14th Street warm-up suit waiting for a villain, any villain, to arrive.
Everything is too late, long ago and unexplained.
“It is best to travel like a comet” and this is travel writing.
Don’t try to be liked, but to displease. In fact, try to find what is most unlikely and unappealing, what is most outrageous and unalike. This opens up room around each line. An army of unstated thoughts and feelings push against each line. Mute, they fall into formation while the lines fall out, disjunct.
For earnestly innocent is no longer innocent. This monstrous glibness is, allows it.
The set-up is the syntax. The things are interchangeable and need to be for the logic to be imperfect. If it were perfect the ducks would be frozen into place halfway across the lake.
Things become animate but not humanly so.
The reward is that you can have it both ways. Don’t cross out, but add so that the offender will have a context to live in. Having the deep emotion but not having to commit to it only.
You’re a traveler. Nothing can be familiar to you. This accounts for the spectacularly strange choices you make. You’re making it up. You have to. You’ve been sentenced and cannot stop. The stopover cannot last. Nothing to rest in.
Your way over another’s is not Chosen, but chosen.
Eventually the face of your mother, peeled back and worm-eaten, must be included.
The project of ranking and assigning place is cold and compulsive, full of lies, doesn’t exist. He is so thin, it’s not that people leave him, although he and his compulsions are unpleasant, it’s that he disappears from them.
Say the word milk over and over until it loses its milk-ness and sounds strange and a little threatening. This undefined ocean of pre-meaning is the primary arena of feeling. It is what is never mentioned (how could it be) but always aimed at, while we go on making lists of ordinary objects. So that when you say milk, a glass of pre-verbal overwhelming-ness might be there too, although no one will say so.
Base your work on error. Piece together a film from the cutting room floor. Only the rejects offer a path to wherever it is we want to go to. Where do we want to go to? Don’t say it, only begin to say it.
Rhyme brings two words together and so begins a story, The more unlikely the coming together, the more imaginative the structure to justify the story. Thus, meeting by chance is realer.
The inanimate is teaching us something. The rock wishes to speak. Let it speak. It will be a new speech: heavy, sedentary and silent, but a speech we need to hear.
Let the poem always take place in a hotel somewhere looking out a window. Let it be saturated in the sensation of the temporary and the provisional.
Cut out the usual consolations and escape back into the world. But the world is fabricated by a variety of voices, that are all solitary, all irrevocably yours.
Avail yourself of metaphysics. Use it as if it were a collection of blocks with words on them. Words like other words. Butter and automobile. However, do not be a metaphysical poet. After you build an airy vertical structure with your blocks, knock it down and build another. It’s not the permanence of the thing made (all sorts of crimes have been committed in the name of permanence), but the making of it and the always implied need for freedom that is addressed. Remember, you are a child of Liberty.
And all the names of places we wish to visit. These pull on our hearts, make a place for poetry to go into
The continuousness of it depends entirely on the specificity of the unlikely being territorialized constantly.
The drop door unto the drop door unto another drop door. The whole poem as tricky scenery. There is no player upon the stage.
To fashion a line that couldn’t have been written by anyone else becomes a kind of cottage industry across the country. The practitioners all wear thick I.M. Pei glasses.
Real boats turn into toy boats.
Indignation turns into a mockery of indignation. The poem keeps emptying itself of its world, its procedures and precedents, its establishment of facts. Trees torn up to be trees in our heads.
“Important” words messed with. “Handsome rocks.”
Getting an idea together and calling a meeting and setting an agenda and promulgating useful discussion according to accepted rules and recording minutes and sending out memos, won’t get at truth.
Write all your poems from books lying around, from that one, lying on the coffee table.
The sacrifice. If you want to make a line better give up what you want to say and make it veer into its opposite.
Really look at it in such an abstract way that it no longer has anything to do with its former function. It’s something else.
Begin your move, but finish it, say 95% of it, in your head. You do this by sitting on your hands so that you can’t use them and waiting until it’s over and the next move comes. You write a fraction of that. Your poem will move quickly and relentlessly like a car driving through the night. Only the occasional sign looming into headlights.
The joke is that it is a line taken from another narrative and stated here with such verve that we go along with it, the argument, and stay on track into the next line. This is a move, and you should announce its artificiality to the world with pomp and circumstance, as pomp and circumstance are now paper. They have run through their earnest and natural inheritance, and you, kind soul, are giving them a new and most unnatural home.
An unbelievable word, one that refers to something unbelievable, keeps on obtruding into the text, the inevitable roll of the text, so that we know that it is unbelievable, so that the title really is a clue or key, without which you’d have no idea what is going on. Oh, I thought you were something else at first, an ordinary knowable something else; but now that I desperately need your help, I see your width and depth.
If you are writing a poem about a country where the populace by and large only reads a tabloid newspaper whose form is columns of ordinary words that recur and re-combinate in the most regularly sinister and seemingly random ways, then your poem might have this form too. Thus they will hate your poem in the ways they hate themselves and call it gibberish, for that is what their lives are.
If I speak another scripted word I will die.
You’ve just put the finishing touches on a poem. Now rearrange the letters of the title and write a new one right away, because what wants to kill you is your only friend.
The mockery of your feelings of triumph and separation is a lifejacket you consider taking off.
Inversion not as a means of fitting in but as a back-handed way of showing how the poem is getting it backwards. Hello! It’s opposite day! The one who knows is an idiot.
Hyperbolize the novelistic aspects of any situation. This is expected. They aestheticize the whole thing with the addition of an astringent, something clean and slightly nasty. This is not expected.
“But fatal laxity undoes”
Be a flower poet. Don’t write about them. Mention the name of one or two every few stanzas, without elaboration, so that the flowers are everywhere, but invisible and forgotten, amid passages full of other, more complicated and discursive, matters.
Held together by the slightest syntactical rhyming so that justification is no longer organic or the result of argument but depends on a mere gesture or dare.
Putting two things together which cannot go together is an act of impossible generosity. But you know how prophets are re-paid.
When one line is straight and the next line is straight, put them together with a comma and it’s curved. Everything must curve. And what is a curve but a straight line whose destination is constantly being altered.
To get the inflection wrong, to get the subject and verb to disagree and cause a scene, may be preferable to having everyone shut up and get in line.
Rhyme not with the sound of the word, but with the type or tone of the word. They are words of the same hue, or slightly off, clashing.
The drink controls the tooth. Underline drink and tooth and know that they somehow go together. But how? Don’t feel compelled to answer. Don’t feel compelled. Don’t feel.
The Romantics, by prizing one area of experience, cordoned it off, separated it from life, and prepared it for annihilation. To save experience, the mundane is casually alongside the brutal, so that the connections are no longer paranoid and invisible, but plain and true.
The real message of the invention of the study of the soul is that this is an age of segmentation and denial. Surrealism is merely naturalism of a higher order, only we are blinded and don’t see how we know it to be so.
Not line paper, but pulp. Paper that’s been shredded and massed with other shredded paper in a vat, ready to be re-made. Potential paper. Paper of the future.
If it’s a choice between something human and something else, choose the something else. This is what Neitzche means by the “all-too-human”.
Power structures as over-the-top buffoonery, history as joke. From its great height the piano is the one thing that can destroy us.
Poetry means to make. Life is not natural, but made.
Write the cliché “snow white breast” on the blackboard. Erase “snow” and put in “chalk”. Now remove the redundant “white” as redundancy wants us asleep, so that it’s denatured but awake, truer to life as we make it.
Mean-spirited lines plainly delivered, so that the unbelievably bad idea is seen baldly and takes your breath away. Because you actually have to have your breath taken away to empathize with the dead. Because the bad idea has landed us in a graveyard. We are writing from a graveyard. The malls and McMansions are tombstones. Because one of the bad ideas is that the poem has a voice that we can close our eyes and follow. Because he wants us to be repelled from the poem, to keep our eyes open and keep bumping into the limbs sticking out of the mud.
If he isn’t the poem, is he behind the poem, pulling levers and raising curtains? Poet as Oz?
Improvisation require a little bit of starting out, of repetition and trying on and taking off, of repetition, of showing your cogs and wheels, of repetition and restarting, while rhyme means no time has elapsed.
Re-appearance hungers for a third place, one of pure potential, of vapory presence, a phantom place that is always ready for rhyme but is outside time.
You can give in to a poeticism like “lissome” but only if you make an example of it. The witch doesn’t care about being two-faced when she lures Hansel and Gretel into her house with sweets so that she can shove them in her oven.
A brightly colored icing, a sugary and hidden guilt, is what holds this doubleness together. Do not mistake it for humility.
The usual is required because writing goes on, has to go on. But it doesn’t have to be going on about its own business. We want it to go about ours. That’s why we have to continually interrupt it. That is why it starts and stops, starts and stops.
“The tree of liberty must be watered by the blood of patriots every 20 years.”
If Samson can be the person who told you about the girl and then gets behind the wheel of a Chevrolet, then the subject of the poem is not a proper noun, which might give it a fixed thing-ness, a body. The subject of the poem is the subject. A constantly shifting, dis-embodied subject. Since the nouns are interchangeable, the things of the poem multiply, while the poem is conversely emptied of things.
What is a line? A linguistic unit, one that says enough to itself, one that speaks and then is quiet. The quiet is the break. The enough is variable. It could depend on the thing being said, or on how it is being said, whether it has enough of one element to balance out another one, or of one that applies torque and upsets the cart. It could depend on a pun, as in “Enough already!”
And it sounds like the poem is winding down, or up, into a kind of deep sonorous resolution. But no, the last line is spoiled outlandishly! Hurray!
If all the “things” are from the same middle distance of specificity, they will go together. Also they are faceless.
The drum-roll of expectation and then intentional disappointment and then high-hat rim-shot, keeps victory, and it impossible odor, at arm’s length. This is your only hope.
Your title must undo itself. Your poem must be an impossibility.
Talking about the time or the weather or what route to take is so un-poetic it is an excellent way to return to the present, or the ever-present.
Let a dumb word like “the’ be the important word.
Don’t find words that sound what they are. Find ones that sound what they aren’t. The difference creates space and that space is mysterious, unfilled.
“The barn of his personal loss”
It’s all from your notebook, but from different parts, cut and pasted, and then annotated as if it wasn’t yours.
There’s an add in adjective. There’s also a throw, but not into tension or relief. Like a single drop of dye dropped into a puddle that is reflecting the sky, etc.
Ink. If you like a word why not repeat it. Tie a rope around it. Wherever you go he goes. Trot him out at a party. Suspension of disbelief, this is word. Yes, I know he’s wearing nothing but a rope. Yes, I know that it’s highly inappropriate to be tied up. But that’s part of his charm. I like him. And that’ll have to be good enough for you.
When asked to explain your writing you say, “It seemed there was no more steering wheel oil or something - you had better ask them about it – I don’t know.”
Peek-a-boo is a game of going away and coming back with safety. The braver you are the further you go out before you come back, the longer you write with your hands over your eyes.
We like it when the ordinary is compared to some other ordinary thing and yet the comparison is extraordinary. Thus the language is buyable.
Similes could be 99% ludicrous and 1% telling and clear. Either way they need to be bite-size.
The poem is made up of episodes or little performances but each episode is not part of the poem. Each episode is a glimpsed part of its own other world, and each other world is much larger than the poem. This is how the poem has that weird heft and alien conviction.
On the lam is interrupted by flower talk and flower talk is interrupted by an ambulance and its catastrophe and dust and the dust is interrupted by stars and the impossible image of an iceberg.
The suddenness of an avalanche as directive, but first you build what you suddenly and unexpectedly destroy.
The way language wants to take itself seriously, the way it lives on an energy that is undead and inanimate. You have to let it have its zombie walk across the page, but then interrupt it with laughter (zombies hate laughter), because unfortunately you are not dead yet. You have yet to join “the ranks of the immortals”.
Give a poem an impressive place name as a joke, reference history because that’s what poets do and that’s what you want to be free from.
Why not stop?
You have a choice. Either you write the most anonymous rhymed verse that does not yell or kick or grandstand but simply points at the few truths that are everywhere screechingly ignored on an everyday basis, or you can try to move the program of startling forward: disrupt, mock, jeer, holler, all with regular dipping into and stepping away from the sublime, so that the reader is drawn in and will look to the point of actually waking. In the latter, the rules of your game must be various, shifting and jealously private, so that it doesn’t devolve into a game of “your intent” or a simple “how to.”
You can disrupt when you get enough color or sound, when the rest is only going to be more. More is decidedly not our highest value. This prevents the mallification of the mind.
Working with junk is promising. It hardly needs recycling. Just pick it up and feel its exhilarating lack of pretensions, its innocence. You can be innocent too. Use it.
A heavenly body is taken out of the sky and becomes a trinket, a pleasant memory. All writing, even the darkest, is the pleasant memory of a kiss. How to fit in the now, hold on to the non-writing now. Accelerate. Leave stuff out.
Inversion, not to fit but to misfit.
.“All was a bright black void”
A doomsday machine whose purpose is to degrade the proper topics of poetry. Flocks of birds, frosty grass, darkness, treetops, valentines, they all turn into machine parts, into inanimate dust.
Grimy, unidentified kids from the turn of the century in an abandoned lot on the Lower East Side. Language’s playground. But an old photo of it.
Write as if the letterforms coming out of your pen tip were “these strange symbols.”
Your poem is a set, built of wood and cloth inside a larger room. The larger room is . . .
Take an overly written novel from a time removed down from the shelf and let the book open randomly to a passage and look. The terrible effort required to commit and describe truly will be lifted and your heart will overflow with details, any details.
The stairs come out of the hollyhocks.
Poetry, novels, words, they are bad for you. Their deeds, their precise mechanisms love us, yes, but they love us automatically and we mistake, in the heat of metallic embrace, these clockwork machinations for home and stay.
This line puts the emotive force of the previous line in a box. You return it to its owner. You put an address on it. It is . . .
The postcard sent. The blurb, the acclaim, the review in The Times. The hope for these things is something you must awaken from. Rise Lazarus!
Use an “or” between two things, as if they are interchangeable, that hate each other. This is funny and freeing.
Puns, misunderstandings of the dumbest kind, make the reader’s mind stir and say, “No. That’s wrong.” That’s the effect. The mind is awake.
A little open sentence finished off with a thick a-syntactic finality. One noun after another glued together with downer adjectives. Just things, description of things. No room for action.
The sound is good, flows. That’s enough. The sense stops. It would be too much.
Definite articles removed, tightened, to bring the two strangers in the room into contact. What a good host!
Phony, operatic ending. Trying to communicate with lights.
You should make the reader ask do I read it in columns or across. You should not give him any indication which is right. Aside from that, no directives.
Vaudeville numbers, deliberate and routine disruptions of the high by the low (and then the low by the high), the most repulsive images. Anything to stop the flow. But never mention what is so horrible about “the flow,” what it is and how it threatens us.
A Beowulf where Beowulf goes forth and does battle and dies, but there is no mention of Grendel. Not a glimpse.
Wasn’t that a two-toned, vinyl-roofed American Motors car from the mid 70’s?
The sound of one word suggests another, one that’s somehow inappropriate and ugly. That’s a perfect reason to choose it. The joy of the un-suppressed. The nothing of the un-touched up.
They imagine something different from what is. What is is not imagined but dictated. By what? Whom?
His speciality is multiple exclamation marks after non-sensical interjections. As usual, the important event – the howl of laughter – happens off the page.
Now the build up is more tongue-in-cheek and controlled, the disruption less obvious and wild.
The disruption keeps you from getting to the heart of the matter. This is a matter of good manners; for if you get to its heart you kill it. It’s a matter of extreme delicacy that you get close enough to keep up interest but never arrive. You’re building a mountain, but never more specific than a mountain of something. Otherwise it ceases to be mountainous and there.
Give the title of your poem a modifier that is so difficult the reader has to look it up. When he does he realizes a joke is being played. The adjective is inappropriate for the noun it’s modifying. Give an “important’ sounding word the most prominent position in the poem, but make it ridiculous at the same time. Then write an “important” sounding poem and the reader will never know whether you mean it or not. Is it important or is it a joke? Is it both?
“But the past is already here and you are nursing some private project”
You don’t need the period. You need to begin again. Now. There is no time to finish what you are doing. It’s not about your doing something “important” anyway.
Fan the flame of contrarianism. Pick the least attractive and flattest line from someone else’s poem and make it the title of your collection as if to say “Why can’t I?”
The “vast mass” requires a radical departure to get through. That is why, line after line, you are always leaving.
Put an “un” in front of a modifier that usually doesn’t get it and then the thing modified is suddenly in a state of pure potential energy. Something terrible always almost but not quite happening to it. An innocent word surrounded by invisible, malignant angels.
You will become a master at bravura introductions, sallying forth and beating a retreat, sallying forth and beating a retreat. That is how it seems to others, but you know that your beating a retreat is really another sallying forth in a necessarily new direction, as there is no place to retreat to, no camp or castle. This is what is meant by knight errant.
Coats become animate and swamps become lapdogs. We are in the basement standing in front of the electrical box. We know nothing of electricity. We are simply criss-crossing wires to see if they’ll give off sparks.
The collapse rhyme occurs when a polysyllabic word near the end of a sublime assertion movement is rhymed with a monosyllabic word at the end of a line that denies that assertion.
If you are going to use a modifier to make an experience more real and intense, don’t use one of the usual ones. They’ve been used before. They make the eyelids blink. Use something inappropriate or wrong. Most writers are afraid of being wrong; yet the wrong choice freely chosen will set you apart and immunize you from critics.
“Devotion to immaculate danger”
You could write a whole poem full of place names, so that the local ones would first appear strange, unrecognized as yours. The little “Oh, that’s right,” is the pay-off.
Take one simple experience, like looking out your window. Describe it as many times as you can. “Look out” as many “other windows” as you can and describe them too. The weight and the accumulation is the trope.
Anyone can use enjamment. Make yours not only sudden and emphatic but somehow deny the three previous lines in a way that’s not fruitless, but freeing and airy.
That is close to going with that but it doesn’t. Like shades of pink clashing. That is not bad design. That is effect.
The universe is a machine with axles and gears. The picture book is grass, and that is a natural disaster.
Orchestrate the absurdity so that it starts to spell itself into something, but that something is a word shooting out of the mouth of a sideshow barker.
The circumstances are sharp and dramatic. The episodes serial, without destination.
Name all the things that go with that other thing and leave that other thing unstated.
From being “in” the text, its verve and story, to being “out” and about the text. Don’t want anyone to think you take it too seriously. Even into her 70’s she kept insisting on the truth of her betrothal.
Take a place name. What are its design qualities? Use it as your title. It needn’t have anything to do with your poem.
At first, taking his cue from other ascetics, Siddartha sought release from the cycle of karma by refraining from all action, thereby doing no harm. This was not the middle way.
Record the experience of the poem in the poem and then it is in quotation marks.
Pieces of your consciousness, or pieces as if they were your consciousness, arranged. And this is what takes conviction, as if it goes.
The most prosaic observation takes on mystery by its position. And tonight will be cloudy with a chance of rain.
My voice is not a real voice because it tells on itself. A real voice is blind and deaf. It cannot see or hear itself. Only “you” can and there is the tragedy.
To be a poet is to prefer “you” in the plural, is to be an “I” for every “you”, is a madcap act, a kind of voluntary madness you put on. A put on. You put on your hat and walk into the party. They are playing a game and you don’t want to leave, so you play too.
Ask a not fully formed question. Follow up with a series of interrupted statements that do not provide an answer but are en-jammed by the simple and transparent “You go.”
The ride is not in an automobile through a slowly evolving and continuous landscape. It is in a car on the track in the fun house. From one discrete excitement to the next. What the chain is that is jerking the vehicle on its inexorable path we are too absorbed to look down and see.
The argument keeps pulling in descriptions of landscapes and snippets of narratives as it goes. The absurdist pieces of bureaucratic speech are little vaudeville numbers.
Bedtime stories in a mad house.
He holds each word up with a pair of tweezers and says, “Look at that!”
“The miserable totality”
Keep a list of lines from other people’s work you can use as titles in your own.
Take the time to write one line a day so that that one line is layered and de-natured, contributes but stands on its own.
Intentional serial distraction. The monkey mind, not controlled and rejected, but revealed and accepted. This is how it goes. Wrap your mind gently around that. The first step. Compost for other poetries.
The medium distance of abstraction where you could be talking about anything, forever and ever.
This effort, the constant twisting and maneuvering of every phrase to give it depth and weight, to make it imply something offstage and mysterious, wearies and one wishes for a simple emptiness, for silence. This is another color. Include it in your work and keep moving.
Also include the stray accompanying images that are on the periphery of what you’re talking about, what you’d see and include if you had two or three chances to see, instead of one.
Become a kid. It is raining. Get in the backseat and look, not out the window, not out at actual things out there, but at the things here. The window itself, the beads forming and breaking off and re-forming and forking off and branching and moving down jaggedly from left to right.
Ends with an impossible crescendo that is sweet and hopeful but knowingly unlikely.
Use the names of “other” places as jokes. Give your reader a break and your poem “color.”
Who is this you? This we? I’m not included. I’m buried in the fourth wall, overhearing a drawing room comedy. Someone is dressed up as an author part of the time. The costume is untrustworthy.
The poem should mirror the movement of other processes. You could base poems on the rivulets along a curb, on the labyrinthine work flow of a specific bureaucratic arm, on the mass transit system, on a group of skaters or dancers, on a quartet, on something, anything other than writing.
Pick words that are both nouns and verbs. Manipulate the syntax so that the ambiguity of their functions is clarified and the reader says, “Oh!”
Let’s play exquisite corpse. By yourself. You’re alone. You like it that way. You can pretend each time you’re someone else and not the one before or the one before that, which is, of course, you folded under and impossible to see. While you’re playing I’ll go out and get a sandwich and a coke, okay?
To correct pre-existing into pre-seeming is, in a way, a programmatic move. Take a second look and consider that what just happened you can’t trust enough to move on from. That is because it was all arranged that way from some time before. Why?
It’s not one thing transforming into another. It’s one thing falling apart into another thing that falls apart into a third thing and so on. Blow the world into bits, one line at a time, as a pre-condition for movement.
The passage sustains, does not give. Power is the removal of any motive or intent. No good to agree on or talk about. No good to be lost to laughter.
Instead of coming to a conclusion, living. Instead of moving on from there, misunderstand there, and start again.
So much has passed through my mind since this morning that I can give but a dim account of it. Things passing through.
Like a snow storm, cumulative.
He’s going on, can’t help us, good-bye.
Idle balloon drifting above the countryside does not risk rejection or misunderstanding.
The issue might not be intention, but overbearing fore-bearers. Look to a totalizing presence to explain the son. Will he ever speak straightforwardly and not out of the side of his mouth? Think of that amount of fear, now think of the father.
Fakery and naturalness are equal. Open the door and let the animals back into your living room. Of course, things won’t be so controlled and centralized, and you won’t be able to attend to all the impulses.
Too much like everything’s alive.
There is a play. A player breaks character and makes an aside to the audience. But instead of going back into character, he makes another aside about the first aside, and then a third one about the second, and a fourth about the third, so that each one is different in tone and pitch and feeling, and no identity is settled upon as real. Thus without making a point or taking a position to defend, movement is fostered. To where?
Practice the art of talking back. Make a habit of collecting pronouncements, opinions, and modes of thought that are half-true. If you feel the need to say something, to contradict and disrupt, you may be in the jungle of everyday thought, the natural mind. Your job is to denature this automatism, make the reader look at, not through, the glasses.
The setting is usually bourgeois. The tone is usually bored. The perspective omniscient. The earth is shrieking in your palm. Now go, you know the rules.
Again, we are traveling. As if by choice – but actually we cannot stop in one place for too long. We have been sentenced. Hey fella, keep a move on.
Poetry as the climbing vine that hides the bars.
Parody results from unanswered prayer. Make camp and pastiche your religion. Never give an answer. Silent as a statue. Now that is power!
While you wait in line you watch what the others are doing. Finally, you are next. It’s your turn. You laugh under your breath. What a joke you would play on everyone. You step up and do your staged moves and staged maneuvers. At first they seem perfectly appropriate, just another turn that pushes the tradition forward a little. To where? Slowly, as your turn drags on and the audience grows restless and starts to cough, we see your true innovation – your turn will never end! It is designed to end turn-.taking, a practice you see as loathsome. You see yourself as a liberator and we sit on the sidelines and watch our hands meet in applause.
The constant avoidance and the constant skating over the surface beautifully, such surprising turns of thought and phrase, such spontaneous loomings of gesture, achieves its ultimate expression in accumulation. For it is when you can barely follow the zig-zagging any longer, when you too begin to skate over the surface, that the words begin to seem in another language, one that is startling and languorous, but one that you have begun to no longer understand. Perhaps yours will be the first poetry to be translated back into the same language.
The feeling when you are buckled in and the stewardess on the screen, red lips over-enunciating for the hearing impaired, tells you to remain seated for a life time of accumulation.
Things recur, but the second time they come out smaller and less warm. This is the function of the poetry mill. The machine shears the image of its beauty so that it appears more immediate and objective. Thus it survives as “real”, the object of laughter and scorn.
It starts in the middle. It feels more real than real. It puts together things that don’t seem to go together swiftly, without explanation. It changes scenes and ambience without a hitch. It stops before the end. You wake up and say, “What was that?”
The poem does not know itself in a way other than what it is. The dream, as you dreamed it, already told you what it is.
Not expression and suppression of something not there. Only the dream, only the skating.
Evening, that is, it is getting dark, is the favorite time of the poem.
Winter as real. If the obliterator is great, then any action you do take is heroic.
A title’s main purpose is to make you want to read on. It might be outrageous, promising action and high drama. It might be understated and plain, promising familiar identification and possibly a laugh.
You know all the words here. Come listen to how I use them.
Be sure to imply but not state that you, as a spectator, are powerless and small, and that action is out of the question. Then, with the bar low, with all these implicit forces against you, let each line be a way of putting off disaster, so that your poetic of digression can seem heroic, a memory of a dream of freedom.
Inspiration is a state of inebriation, and actual writing is the sobering up afterwards. You have a headache and it doesn’t seem so likely or possible anymore. It’s untranslatable anyway.
Make the worst case scenario acceptable to you. Wrap your heart around failure, disease and death and start from there. There is clarity in that.
Be a nature poet, but an honest one. Let the man-made world of plastics and taboos be between you and the forests, between you and the seasons. For it to be difficult and compromised and impure.
Make fun of people that go to work. Make fun of people that have to pay bills. This will give your poetry a sense of grandeur that these same people can dream of.