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Not specific to poetry, but still way pertinent:
Julianna Baggott is, of course, an excellent poet, as well as a novelist in both the adult and young reader categories, essayist, person of letters.
Up next: Vrzhu Bullets of Love End of the Year/Beginning of the Year What's In And What's Out List in the small provincial town of Poetry. Stay Tuned.
I suspect the misappropriation of "Poetry makes nothing happen" (the mis- part well argued to be so here) is in part because the stakes are perceived to be so low. We can't define with any specificity what "something happening" would mean. This, taken seriously, might sober us up a bit:
As I've often told Ginsberg, you can't blame the President for the state of the country, it's always the poets' fault. You can't expect politicians to come up with a vision, they don't have it in them. Poets have to come up with the vision and they have to turn it on so it sparks and catches hold.
Tibetan monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery were here the last two weeks of January. They were here on a tour when the attacks on the WTC and Pentagon happened. The Dalai Lama asked them to make a prayer mandala for us, for the "healing and protection of America. So down in the bottom floor of Sackler Gallery of Asian Art they set up an 8'x8' foot platform where 20 monks worked for two weeks making a seven foot square manadala, with music and the prayers that go along with the construction.
I took my gang of five down into the Sackler Gallery to take a look at the nearly completed work on Saturday. The next day, Sunday, the mandala would be completed then swept up away in the concluding ceremony. The sand was sprinkled in the Tidal Basin and the Potomac out near the Jefferson Memorial. The idea is to have the prayers that inhere in the sand go out into the world through the river. Life changes and flows on; impermanence.
The monks were using powdered, colored marble, although powdered sand, flowers, herbs, grains, colored stones, and semiprecious and precious stones are also used. They filled a cone-shaped metal funnel, or chak-pur, with the sand and used the chak-pur to pour the sand onto the traced out manadala. Running a metal rod on the chak-pur's grated surface created vibrations that makes the sand flow like liquid. The monks bent very close to the mandala, arms close to their sides. The sound the chakpur made was rhythmic and intense and the monks are themselves concentrating so intensely, even the very large crowd in the packed room was utterly quiet.
I took a few notes. Nora, our 4-year old, up on my shoulders. So I didn't take a lot of notes. One of the monks gave a lecture about the mandala, how and why they came to construct it here, and some points of Tibetan Buddhism. When the monks asked what mandala should they make, the Dalai Lama told them the mandala of the Akshobhya Buddha. This is the "unshakable" Buddha. The monk speaking said that this Buddha could be called the Buddha of Conflict Resolution. Five colors used in the mandala represented the five emotions, and the mandala itself represents "emotions being turned into wisdom."
Akshobhya is one of the five transcendent (tathagata) buddhas, the primary lords of the five buddha-clans and is lord of the vajra clan. As a monk, Akshobhya took a vow before the buddha never to feel disgust or anger towards any being. His color is white or blue.
The name Akshobhya means "Immovable" or "Unshakable." Akshobhya represents the transmutation of delusion or hate into mirror-like wisdom (or reality wisdom), and the purity of the form or consciousness system. In Akhsobhya, emotion is transformed into wisdom. This Mirrorlike Wisdom reflects all things calmly and uncritically and--reveals their true nature. One text says,"Just as one sees one's own reflection in a mirror, so the Dharmakaya is seen in the Mirror of Wisdom." Mirrorlike Wisdom is an antidote to the poison of hatred and anger.
Akshobhya's symbol is the vajra, also called the thunderbolt or diamond scepter. The vajra denotes enlightenment, the indestructible, adamantine nature of pure consciousness- the essence of Reality. In some traditions the vajra signifies the union of man and the Buddha; one end of the vajra symbolizes the macrocosmic realm of the Buddha and the other end the microcosmic realm of man.
In portraits (thangka) of Akshobhya, the right hand is extended across the knee in the mudra of earth witness (the bhumisparsha or earth-touching mudra) with the fingers pressing against the ground. It denotes unshakability. This is the mudra Gautama Buddha used to summon the earth to witness to his right to attain enlightenment when he was challenged by the Evil One, Mara. The left hand placed palm upward in the lap performs the mudra of meditation.
At the center of the mandala, dark blue in colour, is buddha Akshobhya. He is represented by the vajra - the sign of the family. The Goddesses of the 8 Auspicious Emblems occupy the surrounding circle, represented by a parasol, vase, conch shell, fish, endless knot, wheel, lotus and victory banner. The floor of the palace mandala is white below (east), red at the top (west), yellow at the left (south), and green to the right (north). The square shape of the enclosure marks the extent of the palace walls and the 'T' shaped structures are the four doors topped with four lintels, red, blue, green and yellow, each crowned with a Dharma wheel. Surrounding those can be seen the tips of the large double vajra on which the entire palace stands. Outside of that is a ring of variously coloured lotus petals, a ring of gold vajras on a black background and the ring of the five-coloured flames of pristine awareness.
Akshobhya practice purifies any negative action tainted by such emotions as hatred, ignorance, or greed, and is especially beneficial for women who have undergone an abortion or for anyone who has either performed or encouraged someone to undergo an abortion. It is also effective for the removal of obstacles that arise in one's daily life or spiritual practice.
In addition, Akshobhya practice can be sponsored on behalf of the deceased - particularly aborted fetuses, those who have committed suicide, or those who have undergone an abrupt or violent death.
Most blogs have noted by now the death of J. G. Ballard, the British writer best known for his novel, The Empire of the Sun. Coming across Ballard's writing in the early 70's was a revelation. His power to make visual images that were intensely real, his obsessed and enervated protagonists, and his vivisectionist's touch with our modern culture and relationships was and is unlike any other writer. Would that I had some excerpts from The Crystal World, Crash, Concrete Island, High Rise, or Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan handy. I owe him an unpayable debt.
I believe in the power of the imagination to remake the world, to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madmen.
I believe in the next five minutes.
I believe in maps, diagrams, codes, chess-games, puzzles, airline timetables, airport indicator signs. I believe all excuses.
I believe all reasons.
I believe all hallucinations.
I believe all anger.
I believe all mythologies, memories, lies, fantasies, evasions.
I believe in the mystery and melancholy of a hand, in the kindness of trees, in the wisdom of light.
--Ballard, J.G. “What I Believe.” J.G. Ballard. Eds. V. Vale and Andrea Juno. San Francisco: RE/Search, 1984.
A complete discontinuity existed between Reagan's manner and body language, on the one hand, and his scarily simplistic far-right message on the other. Above all, it struck me that Reagan was the first politician to exploit the fact that his TV audience would not be listening too closely, if at all, to what he was saying, and indeed might well assume from his manner and presentation that he was saying the exact opposite of the words actually emerging from his mouth.
Annotation & Commentary by the author, J.G. Ballard, to "Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan", published in The Atrocity Exhibition, 1990
In praise of JS
Which makes me think about James Schuyler.
There are similarities.
Quoting portions of Spicer, while coherent, misrepresents how disturbing and disjunctive his poetry read whole is. But with Schuyler, anything less than the whole poem conveys almost nothing of what that poem does. It’s a very odd effect, as if there were no parts to the whole, but just the whole itself, which dissolves when taken apart. His poems are monads, though monads with one window to look out of.
All the basal New York poets (O’Hara, Koch, Ashbery, Schuyler) share an aesthetic of casualness, even when writing sestinas, or poems as long as your arm. But they were not casual about their casualness, it isn’t there by accident. It’s a deliberate counter to the prevailing kind of poem being written in America at the time. Schuyler even anticipates the designation du jour—School of Quietude—by pointing out where these non-casual poems’ loyalties are:
“The campus dry-heads who wishfully descend tum-ti-tumming from Yeats out of Graves with a big kiss for Mother England…The big thing happening at home is a nuisance, a publicity plot, a cabal; and please don’t track the carpet.” [emphasis added]
I don’t want to take anything away from Spicer. I’m a big fan, and he more than deserves the accolades and attention he’s getting. And it's about time. But I want to make some room for Schuyler. Let’s have a big Schuyler boost this year, what say?
It won't be easy. He's not going to be subject to [re]discovery. There won’t be any substantial lectures of his being collected and issued. All of his poems seem to be available (unlike, for years, Spicer). Most of his non-poem writing is already out (with the exception, I believe, of his letters to O’Hara) and able to be had.
Here are some tags that might be helpful for the Schuyler push:
He’s the Elizabeth Bishop of the New York School.
He’s the Jack Spicer of the New York School (on lithium instead of brandy).
I think that covers the two main encampments of poetry we find ourselves in these days.
It’s too easy to divide poetry in half, with one side having attributes like irony (of which camp is a subspecies) and the other sincerity (mispronounced “confessional”). It’s like dividing the animal world into domesticated and feral. It’s based on a classification system that is less than robust. Don’t look too closely. I doubt that kinds of poetry can be designated by a mononomial classification. A real taxonomy of poems, poetry and poetics still awaits its Carl Linnaeus.
Working my ticket
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
Let us go, through cetacean half-designed strepthroats,
The mystifying retrogressions
Of resupinate nightdresses in one-nightdress cheesy hotbeds
And sawmill retainers with ozone-shelters:
Strepthroats that follow like a teenage argyle
Of insipid intercom
Late as gal, thrash caftan half-desalted straits,
That maturing retracts
Alf rustles knights an anal naught champ hatless
And sawdust restaurants wash daystar shawls:
Striates that fallow lava a toadies armament
Alf insidious ant ant
Let see ghee, thresh cretin shelf-deserted streets,
The metering retreats
Elf restless knights in gene knight cheep heels
End seediest restatements wet yester shells:
Streets theft fallow leeks or teepees enragement
Elf unsteadies extent
Life is gin, thigh citrine hilt dispirited striates,
Thai metering ritziest
If rustle nights in any night chimp hotlist
Find sadist restaurants with astir shills:
Striates twit filly lice in tidiest orpiment
If insidious in tint
Lox is go, through cartoon hoof doorstop struts,
Thom motoring redroots
Of frostless knights on noon naught chomp hoots
Nod sawdust octoroons wroth oyster shoals:
Struts toot follow loco of hoodoos rodomont
Of insidious onion
Lutz us gum, through curium huff desuetude struts,
The maturing rotguts
Ulf rustles knights an ulna naught chump hatfuls
Und sawdust restaurants with oyster skulls:
Struts thud flow luau u studious argument
Ulf insidious unguent.
What is this all about? Stay tuned as blogreport on a possible future project.....
THE LIST for 2009