On Vocation (16 Jan. 2018)

I am concerned—perpetually—that under the constraints of our financial system (or treatment of finance, in general), identifying as a “poet” is increasingly a matter of supplementing other, more readily capitalistic pursuits. Is “poet” becoming more title than role? The question disturbs me. I find it urgently important to celebrate (honor, uplift) those who are willing to risk the poet's vocation, to heed the call as fully as possible. (By risk, I mean make at all costs, which is to say refuse any valuation that places a clause of limitation upon something that is essentially free, boundless: meaning.) Read more →


The Poet in the World (18 Nov. 2017)

How full of grace the child-self becomes, for it is in feeling — a biological reality that predominates youth — that one experiences "Power" as a force "toward wholeness." With practice (an alignment with aging?) we are capable of balancing the "Power" of collection with the "power" of individuation. Or such is my hope, and the art of the poets to whom I look for guidance. Poetry as an act of faith. Dillard, again: "Distinctions blur. Quit your tents. Pray without ceasing." Read more →


Dream Children (13 May 2017)

In shape and color we come to exist. With no more than these we can attest to our very deepest ideas and experiences. There certainly is much to worry about: an immortal violence churns under the surface of all that we produce and consume: foods, jobs, medicines, buildings, books. Left unchecked — unacknowledged — this violence can direct our every gesture, and I worry about addressing the disturbances in myself. But the worries that underscore the difficulty of living dissolve in nothing so readily as they do in the affirming gaze or speech of another human. Read more →


Native to the Mind (17 Apr. 2017)

I am wondering about the idea of saying more about things — issues, events, feelings — and about how seemingly insatiable the internet is. I allow myself to hope for something beyond (or between) the tug and pull of more or less, the switch and sway of pixels and images. Bearing this in mind, I wonder about language, the way that the news cycle, at least, calls longer pieces of writing "in-depth." Do we go with it all to the end? What does the end feel like? Do we peruse, graze for facts? Do we levitate in love? What remains in us? Are we awake? Read more →


Sacred Work (5 Mar. 2017)

I remember witnessing two Tibetan monks creating a sand mandala on the floor of a monastery in Tibet. It just so happened that this labor-intensive creation/meditation — probably seventy-something square feet of magnificently detailed imagery, composed entirely of dyed sands — was "completed" while my friend and I were being ushered through the space with dozens of other tourists/travelers. People gasped and scrambled for their cameras as the two monks moved seamlessly from pouring the final grains into place to sweeping away the entire image with large brooms. Many visitors were convinced the lack of a record was tragic. The monks, it seemed, were convinced of absolutely nothing. Read more →


A Vast Goodness (14 Feb. 2017)

The blessing of writing, it seems, is that one becomes many. This, given the fact that a word exists only in the company of other words. (What is a word without another? A cry in the dark. More on this forever.) This, given the fact that the written word is comprised of letters. Flesh begotten of clay. What are we before we are? // Divergent beyond belief, explosions in the night, scars in time. We can believe anything (see: the news). It's not effortless. What sort of effort underlies the will to unity, the standing-under, the great waking clamor of light, the frothing clash of thought and silence? What makes sense? // A heroic effort, simple growth. Do you breathe easy? Who breathes? How can you be sure? Read more →


Between Two Times (4 Feb. 2017)

Permit me the following rapture: For the music within the word. For the necessary sound in speech, the fitting sound, the one that carries meaning like a swaddled baby. For the sound in speech that is breathing for song. Here, living a life rich in detail, there is more to do than count. If counting is the best we can do, there will ever be too much to accomplish. A dear friend and I used to discuss the phenomenon of the list that grows each time an item is crossed off. An apt analogy for the human spirit: It grows, boundlessly, like a tree shedding fruit. Read more →


Trust What You Love (1 Jan. 2017)

There is such a thing as becoming desperate about the ephemeral aspect of this trustingness. Is the moment trustworthy? That depends on whether we ourselves are trustworthy, I think. And I feel this desperation now, in wanting to get on with it: in the local sense, wanting to get on with this attempt at a meaningful gesture in language, and in the global sense, wanting to get on with the year and its impending challenges, political and otherwise (always otherwise). But this desperation cannot rule the day. Scholar-poets like Anne Carson, Michael Schmidt, Pearl London, Louis Glück, Derek Walcott, and so many more have shown (and continue to show) us the basically immaculate result of staying with a thought, topic, movement, despite the invariable concern over the world's whirling... Read more →


Hold Fast to the Promise (18 Dec. 2016)

I never know where I'm going in this language, these marks and sounds, this flex and breath. It would seem a dangerous uncertainty; it can be terrifying, beautiful, frustrating, overwhelming. Quite obviously, this essay doesn't properly address the profound variety of contributions by poets and artists and scientists to our awareness—perception and communication—of violence, of the work (on and beyond this planet) that is left to be done and undone. (Stars also live and die.) However, it is some consolation to say that poets, artists, and scientists make works available to our hearts and minds that we might somehow embrace the catastrophic (in)sides of ourselves. Read more →


Winter, Future, Freedom (15 Nov. 2016)

What is it about artists that empower the wonderers and discoverers in us? It's true that art can obfuscate hope and willingness as easily as it emboldens such things. But it is not the artist's job to justify or otherwise explain her makings, which must be allowed to speak for themselves as autonomous creations. Yet the line drawn between an artist and her work is as illusory as the distinction between voice and body. What's going on? Something about the very human capacity to choose, and when and where that encounters resistance. Read more →


Aubade for America (7 Nov. 2016)

What factors contribute to our engagement of space? Who, in today's society, exemplifies a healthy engagement? Politicians? Artists? Mothers and fathers? Who are we watching? Who can we see? // Poetry is so important because of the quality of space it activates when it is shared — a deep, sometimes terrifyingly vast field of meanings real, perfect, possible, and indeterminate. This depth and its quality speaks at once to the simultaneous revelation of the apparent and the hidden, what Stéphane Mallarmé might call a "pure notion"... Read more →


Spells & Blindness (26 Sep. 2016)

The bittersweet reality, I think, is that poetry's perceived weakness as a vocation — its failure as a commodity — is exactly that which "levels the playing field" (to use another pseudo-agrarian expression), subsequently rendering it a more powerful yet disaffected cultural practice. Why more powerful? Because language is the root-cause of our connectedness as a species. (I could see an argument made on behalf of sex, rhetorically, but I'm not prepared to go there.) Why more disaffected? Because language, despite all its prosaic concretion, procedural logic and formative entities, belongs more to the body than we are currently capable of accepting. Read more →


The Yawning Void (17 Sep. 2016)

Earlier I suggested the sanctity of space to the speaker; here Dillard urges us (directly) to honor the sanctity of silence. What is the difference between space and silence, after all? Perhaps it would be helpful to think about the difference between poet and saint — speaker and believer, respectively (so, to think about what speaking has to do with believing, and what they both have to do with truth). In a forthcoming manuscript of philosophical etudes, the poet David Mutschlecner questions the distinction this way: "The saint's will is to be simple, but is it the poet's will as well?" Read more →


The Dark Labyrinth (11 Sep. 2016)

The "pure style" of love and the "evening of life" pertain to something I have been struggling with: The sheer availability of "light," all that which makes life "apparent," literally and figuratively. Why struggle against this? Because strangely enough it can obscure the more personal (more interior and deeply resonant) calls to action: the heart's call, the gut's call, the lungs' call: rhythm, hunger, breath. I am not trying to make fancy thoughts about judging a book by its cover. Nor am I trying to romanticize what's vague and nebulous. The heart, the gut, and the lungs issue ineluctable, specific commands. They have a lot to do with where language comes from. Read more →


On Poetry & the Inner Ear (28 Aug. 2016)

Connections abound to the labyrinth as maze, trap, deity, pilgrimage, metaphor, and so on. A wikipedia segment mentions the mystic's relationship to labyrinths: "Walking among the turnings, one loses track of direction and of the outside world, and thus quiets the mind." Before a recent reading, Indigo and I walked the labyrinth outside St. John's Episcopal Church in Boulder. There are entire organizations dedicated to the labyrinth as a spiritual tool. And there's this: "Incline the ear of your heart" (Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict, ~529 C.E.). Read more →


On Poetry & Friendship (14 Aug. 2016)

"All I currently feel like doing is reading the work of my friends." I wrote those words to a lifelong friend back in March of this year. The feeling seems to exist at the center of a whirling variety of professional and institutional expectations. And I wonder: Why wouldn't it be valuable to admire and encourage the work of one's friends? What makes competition better than play? What separates the two processes in the first place? Read more →