Let’s Begin

The thought never ends.

Chelsea calls and we bounce idea off of idea, talk backwards and forwards. Likewise, Joan calls from years before and tells me about her new project, how she is seeing it connect and cohere. I think that’s what we do–artists and people–we connect and cohere.

I’m back to Duncan, to how struck I am by an opening field and a poetics that relies on “composition by field.” All poetic parts are equal: the punctuation as important as the language, the thought that never made it to the work as much a part of the poem as the thought that did. All events: breathing, thinking, writing, punctuating, deleting, etc. are in the poem.  There’s more romance in this pursuit, more to keep me pushing past how utterly failed it seems sometimes.

As a teacher, when my students used words that “weren’t quite right” or reflected some thesaurus digging, I was pretty proud of them. There was a love of language, a real interest in finding the right word and seeing how far they could cast the net. The “disturbance” of an off word reminded me of Duncan and his own intentional disturbances–which intelligently challenged poetic boundaries.

The poem becomes a collection, a gathering of impulses, mistakes, voices, everything that’s overheard. I remember James saying, “If the dog is barking, put the dog in the work. If the door slams shut, open it in the work.” You can resist and include the world around you, you can react and ignore. The poem is a space of ATTENTION. The poem is a GATHERING where you can put in and take out.

How does this relate to the image that Chelsea sent me, the image of two Africans that worry me because they are “hand held,” documented, and we might make them ornate or beautiful because we’re afraid of making them anything else? It relates because–like all work–Chelsea, Duncan, and myself are listening to our connections, to our mind connecting the dots.

With Chelsea’s work, I’m thinking of multiple immediacies…I’m thinking about how that image is in my head when I’m washing the dishes, when I’m writing a poem, and my responsibility to that image is because of its echo. I am not echoing with the people in the image, but they are thinking about what they’ve never seen, who they’ve never met, and how the rest of the world might see them.

Let’s begin chasing these connections. Let’s see what happens if we pin it down and do a little study. The thought comes, flowers, goes to seed, and there are more thoughts to follow.



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