A Lighter Footfalling and New Dance
Blake’s Contrapuntal, Counterpontificating Hellfires
for Modern Poets to Live and Maybe Roast By
Speak poems when spoken to by poems. Put another way …
answer the world when the world speaks to you, acknowledging
your ancient, unknowing call first.
All things live in poems and poems live in all things; just
look for them and hear them all around you.
3. Make the world do your bidding through the body of the
poem; failing only makes you want to try again.
Feel the world blow in your ear; it’s a come hither
come on. Then take that signal and turn it up, even to 11
… fuck the world truly, madly, and always deeply …
longing for more with wet kisses and tongues in riot …
penetrating and spending lover and loved at once, exhausted
bodies polished by sweat after the vision has passed.
Don’t force words onto the page as though pushing the
world out your ass. Words aren’t turds, and grunting
to paint the page is never becoming.
6. Be brief before being beautiful. Although beauty is often
brief, briefs, even the skimpiest, aren’t always worn
by the beautiful. The truly beautiful know that beauty is
rare and bare, which makes trying to see through the sheer
fabric of unknowing, light just right, the pleasure of veiled
7. Accept, then write, what hasn't yet happened. Reject, then
write, what has. The rest that remains, uninvented and unheralded
worlds of expression, you can write into being later.
Be difficult and depraved, but never spank the poem into submission
because the poem can always return the favor. Leather and
burnished restraints bright with excitement, hearts beating
fast with anticipation, is game for two, eye to eye …
an original merciful act of gods and goddesses at play, endless
weather, both day and night. Somewhere in the middle of this
love feast, the poem abides and yearns for its and your release
with and through your interpretive readings and supple pleadings,
a mimic of your supine self, the moment's memento tied down,
about to burst, ready to come to table for reward.
Dream through the light of day; swim through the dark of night.
Peek; flash; protrude; reveal; excel.
Never revert; always convert.
Extrude all exclamations of explanation through the thin veil
of seeming to mean. Fire your rare reductions with focused
intent, then hone those honeyed alterations into fine crystal
keepsakes and jewels for the Queen. They will serve her better
than others and, when worn, casually reflect her wanton, over-flattered,
and artificial smile. But it will be the Queen's ladies who
see them first and as you truly made them, cherish and stroke
their almost creaturely contours, making that labile light
shining there their own eyes' beaming.
The Life of the Mind … live it, love it, or leave it.
A word in the hand is not worth a hand in the bush …
or, later that same or any other night … your word or,
more particularly, your bird in your hand is still not worth
your hand in her bush, or your bird for that matter. After
all, one sings, the other singes … and sometimes burns
with the Glory of God outright.
Poetry is the moving rock on which all worlds rest. It gives
us the beginning and it gives us the end, the newest alpha
and the oldest omega. Triangulating from this dualist duel
of unities, poetic thought presents the vagrant son, lascivious
mother, and oblivious father … that original weary threesome
of the Near East … peasantly living pre Daddy-O, Spiritus
Sancti, and the Lad-To-Soon-Be-God 2 … before Mary’s
moon-wracked caterwauling crushed the soft desert night, before
she spread and painted her labia with womb-seeking light,
before she conceived and bore the visionary truth-seeking
babe, before she had to believe anything at all.
There is a flow to be gone with, the wind will do nicely here,
blowing in at dusk or dawn to quiet or wake the world, but
not necessarily bringing with it evocations of discovery …
Arabian sands, Tibetan plateaus, or wide African plains firmly
tamped down for the long western journey over oceans of commerce
and home to a once-just America, arriving unroiled, placid,
cleansed, and as unreal as any untrammeled surface of lights
and shadows to be later imagined into mental immensities after
one long night’s sleep. Post this chiaroscuro sketch,
you will color all their gleamings and glomings and later
burrow down to drink the fresh spring water that runs there
in rich veins of sudden recognition, a pure quenching wetness
that weds sensual reflex to bright intellectual idea.
While out walking, wander. Wonder out loud.
If you do nothing else, read Rilke, distilled dilemma of the
poet in a modern age. If you do something else, read Holderlin
and Celan as well in German; Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Mallarme
in French; Shakespeare, Keats, and Yeats in English; Whitman,
Dickinson, Williams, and Stevens in American; Lorca and Vallejo
in Spanish; Akhmatova and Mandelstam in Russian. Sorry, I
haven’t read the modern Italians, but Dante holds up
well over time and easily takes the place of two. Go to Petrarch
for a good Italian sonnet. In Chinese, there’s always
Basho. And, of course, wrestle any old Greek to the ground
you can get your hands on. When challenged, and as you might
expect, they put up the best and first fight, light of the
West we still dress by and all that philosophic rot …
they can go for hours without a break and always prevail.
Of course, if you don’t like wrestling, take Sappho
to bed and come heartily. But if you want to fight me instead
because you think you can win, look at me with a Latin eye,
say Catullus sucks, and spit. I’ll take you down so
fast and back up again that the head that was once way up
your ass will have new eyes with which to see, and corrective
lenses stuck on your stinking schnozzle. And screw the academics
who tell you that translation is a lousy substitute for the
original. The poem is a substitute world anyway, and language
is its translation. So read or see if you can figure out how
to not be at least one step away (where all art lives) from
the clichéd here and now. I guarantee you that the
writer is already pissed at the page after trying to snag
the world and paper it from three down to two shrunken dimensions.
Original tongue or not, everything approximates, mates. But
if you do more than something else, read outside this simple,
reductionist list. And, as once in Blake’s backyard
Eden sitting and reading with the missus, do it naked.