Walking toward Cape Disappointment

At the poetry festival I ran out of plans so I took a long walk on the beach thinking about what I’d say later at the ‘panel’ on independent publishing.

I walked south toward a large outcropping of earth and trees and wind, the opposite direction of the map I’d drawn up in my mind earlier of the path I’d taken in poetry from south to north—from Jeffers in Carmel to San Francisco to Portland to Seattle and William Witherup—should someone at the panel later ask me, “how did you come to be a publisher?”

I couldn’t say, “o, it just happened.”  

I thought as I walked along the big wide beach about what I would say, how what I would say might be helpful or encouraging or even interesting to the young people who would later sit before me and listen to what I said.

I walked and walked south toward the point. The point seemed to recede further in the distance the farther I walked toward it! How strange, how beautiful, for there was no other words for my walk, how unearthly in a way much like the logic of a poem I’d like someday to write.

Cape Disappointment, the point, was unreachable—I didn’t have the time to reach it, it was time to turn back and walk north toward the place where I was supposed to be next, at the panel on independent publishing.

 Long Beach, Seaview, Washington, with Cape Disappointment in the background. Author photo, October 20, 2018. 

Long Beach, Seaview, Washington, with Cape Disappointment in the background. Author photo, October 20, 2018. 

Art in the Time of Trump

Art as my only compensation, solace at the exact moment I need it (and Lea Ann’s, who’s spending more and more time in her studio making things out of clay). 

Art=making something of and from yourself and also standing by and looking at what you’ve made, taking responsibility for either keeping it the way it is, changing it so it’s the way you want it, or destroying it all together. Art=the only way I know (besides drinking and smoking) of negotiating this time that’s so terrible it seems to be lasting forever.

Re: Trump: I’ve never wanted time to be over so quickly. Time can’t go fast enough now. 

To escape the present, sometimes I turn to the past. But the past isn’t exactly flawless or even very friendly. So I leaf through photo books, searching for pictures of beautiful lakes and forests and mountains or pick up a copy of a book of an author I revere, in this case Chekhov...

Chekhov lived at a time when a person could still love/appreciate/revel in nature. Now nature seems somehow cruel, misguided, malicious. Somehow we have made nature our enemy.

I close my eyes and witness Trump’s heart. It’s pomaded with junk food and Diet Coke and sports a yellowish tinge.

It’s not a heart at all that I’m seeing, it’s a cellphone instead, making little liquid burps and beeps. The sound of it is so repellent that I don’t think I’ll ever stop hearing it.

 From the author’s sketchbook, ‘The Black Heart of Trump‘, October 10, 2018.

From the author’s sketchbook, ‘The Black Heart of Trump‘, October 10, 2018.

Francis Ponge, eternal mentor

Thinking about my ego, the more I think about it the more I see it disappear; conversely, the less I think about it the more it insists on operating in what I call, “my life.”

Thus I return to the poems of Francis Ponge and to Ponge’s methodology, becoming myself a Ponge-like creature who writes one poem and then quickly re-writes that poem so that it becomes another. 

Asked to explain my latest poetic project, in which I’m reassembling 30 or so years of poetic endeavor, sometimes throwing out the new in favor of the old and sometimes throwing out the old in favor of the new and sometimes reconstituting old and new in an attempt to make something different,  I say “I really don’t know what I’m doing but thank you for asking.”

 ‘MacBook Pro and Lea Ann’s Coinpurse’, a photographic composition in the author’s private collection, September, 2018. 

‘MacBook Pro and Lea Ann’s Coinpurse’, a photographic composition in the author’s private collection, September, 2018. 

Birth of the Poet

Less and less interested in things and more and more interested in things there are no words for. 

By things I mean events, happenings, sports scores, celebrities, fashion, restaurants, movies.

Now understanding at least the skeletal outlines of the past I can’t wait for the future, though I’m too old now, too set in my ways to return to a new life as a woman.

Advances in technology, transgender transformations, interstellar rocket ships to the moon, oceanic exploration, so on and so forth, pale in comparison to the silence I am lucky to sometimes experience and that I have no words for.

 ‘Succulent and Earbuds’: garden composition, September 20, 2018, San Francisco.

‘Succulent and Earbuds’: garden composition, September 20, 2018, San Francisco.

The Brushalist’s

Leaving off or picking up from the pointillist school.

Giving full reign to the brush and the brushstroke.

Aware of the bristles as individuals with the right to come together with other bristles to form a collective. 

True Believer in the separation of brush and paint—the sanctity of each—and their right to practice in a legal partnership known as an LLC.

Proponents of this movement, heretofore designated as The Brushalists, argue that the brush be regarded as the executive branch of Painting and the paint itself the Judicial.

A painting made in the Brushalist style is judged as much by the paint that remains in the brush once the object is made as much as it is by the quality of the application of the paint by the brush to the object at hand.

 ‘The Age of Aquarius’, mixed media, paint on styrofoam, (work in progress) 2018, by Thomas Fuller, a superb example of Brushalism. 

‘The Age of Aquarius’, mixed media, paint on styrofoam, (work in progress) 2018, by Thomas Fuller, a superb example of Brushalism. 

Brett Kavanaugh molested me

Desperate to block the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh—who will become, if he gets the votes (and he will)—the newest member of The Trump Administration—I tell an outright lie: Kavanaugh made inappropriate contact with one of my staffers in the early 2000’s.

Furthermore, I am contacting Pope Francis and notifying His Holiness The Pontiff that Kavanaugh, a practicing Catholic who faithfully attends The Shrine of The Blessed Sacrament In Washington D.C., stands accused of indiscretions.

It’s also come to my attention that Kavanaugh, when officially appointed to Trump’s Cabinet, will be the fifth practicing Catholic on The Supreme Court, joining Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Sotomayor for a majority. 

 Froggy (D-Utah), attempting both camouflage and persiflage in a museum of natural history somewhere in this virulently ‘red’ state, remains noncommittal about the Kavanaugh confirmation but is on record as saying, “how could anyone be a Republican?”

Froggy (D-Utah), attempting both camouflage and persiflage in a museum of natural history somewhere in this virulently ‘red’ state, remains noncommittal about the Kavanaugh confirmation but is on record as saying, “how could anyone be a Republican?”

On the Idea of The Line in Poetry, and the strength of Sound

I’m trying to write poetry now in which almost all if not all of the punctuation is in the language. 

Having this in mind returns me to the line and the time when the line predominated, the counting out of syllables to produce a sound, the time before poetry became more the matter of sight it is now. Now it seems—that time between the time I began writing poems in 1972 and the present day—a poem has to look good: how the poem sounds is secondary.

My instinct, that noble antenna, says the change, as gradual as a glacier, is part of a larger change, an evolutionary phenomena in which sight, the mother of Appearance, is becoming the dominant sense. How a poem appears—does it appear to be a poem? Yes it does so it must be—is as or even more critical to the reception of the poem by the reader, should there be one, than the sound of it as the sound of it is constructed primarily by how the sound of it sounds line-by-line and secondarily by how the lines look.

Writing by sound and making sure the sound emerges in one line that leads to another is energizing and impossible—rather it’s me who is energized by the impossibility. It’s not that difficult to write poems, though it is very difficult to write poetry.

 Screenshot of the author’s poetry manuscript in process, in which the author attempts to simultaneously bring back the line as the dominant unit in a poem and to build the line by the quality of its sound. 

Screenshot of the author’s poetry manuscript in process, in which the author attempts to simultaneously bring back the line as the dominant unit in a poem and to build the line by the quality of its sound. 

Nelly Sachs: an appreciation

At last, either/or is official! A writer must either have no ego or the ego must be stripped away by the writing itself, as in the writing of Nelly Sachs or Paul Celan where the writing is the act of pressing against the act of being, and being is foremost an act of extreme humility.

For either/or writers writing is a means of survival.

 Truncated sign on window of a Thai restaurant, Geary Blvd., San Francisco, September 3, 2018 announcing a temporary closure with the kind of either/or language favored by serious writers.

Truncated sign on window of a Thai restaurant, Geary Blvd., San Francisco, September 3, 2018 announcing a temporary closure with the kind of either/or language favored by serious writers.

Dream aquarium

This morning I woke with the distinct sensation that everything in my life up until I woke was filled with sleep, that sleep is like a flood, a chemical dispensation, a kind of gas or other atmospheric condition that so pervades our environment that it becomes a consistent, dependable reality. Sleep is the world and the waking state something else, an alternate reality we are left with once we awake, to make of what we will.

It was such a vivid clear sensation that it had to be true—sleep is the most natural human condition.

 Waking, I realized I was still in a dream and not at the aquarium in Draper, Utah.

Waking, I realized I was still in a dream and not at the aquarium in Draper, Utah.

After reading a Biography of a famous American poet

1. Less and less interests me. 

2. Distraction is the devil.

3. Shaving: the act of sculpting myself. And so I shave less and less, having reached an age in which shaving doesn’t matter as much as it once did.

4. O the joy of seeking something that doesn’t exist! 

5. As a writer I hope to follow the example of those little birds that fly at ground zero, as if they were just born, and then suddenly elevate, born with the gift of being able to make sudden turns to the right or left and not lose their sense of destination.

6. Of all existing punctuation possibilities only the question mark is vital. 

 Painting, “Solar Palette”, 2018, (acrylic on canvas) as exhibited on the Wyoming property of the artist. All rights reserved.

Painting, “Solar Palette”, 2018, (acrylic on canvas) as exhibited on the Wyoming property of the artist. All rights reserved.

Listen while I play my green tambourine

So intriguing, the insatiable desire of some people to be on TV! Yet another thing I don’t understand. I suppose it’s an economic need at first and then, once that need is met, transitions into something else...

I kind of wish I knew what drives people— children, men and women—to want to be on TV. TV’s the very last place I’d want to be. I’d rather be dead, or playing basketball in the 6ft and under league in a high school gym with no one watching.

Listen while I play my green tambourine...

 David Letterman, tv personality, retired to grow a beard and return as a tv personality with a beard, from a full pg. ad in The New York Times promoting a new David Letterman television show, August 8, 2018. 

David Letterman, tv personality, retired to grow a beard and return as a tv personality with a beard, from a full pg. ad in The New York Times promoting a new David Letterman television show, August 8, 2018. 

Politics Wyoming

Two campaign slogans for candidates running for public office, as seen in Park County—

1) Vote for Our Daddy

2) Fresh thinking, traditional values 

As to No.1: yes, of course, absolutely, why hadn’t anyone thought of that before, brilliant messaging, strategically savvy, broad demographic appeal...

As to No.2: no, I don’t think so, the impossibility of mixed metaphor, overpromising and no doubt underdelivering, fresh and traditional or traditionally fresh or freshly traditional...?

 

 ‘Salt’, poem from forthcoming book, “In Order to Hear a Bare Sound”, manuscript, author’s personal collection, August 6, 2018. 

‘Salt’, poem from forthcoming book, “In Order to Hear a Bare Sound”, manuscript, author’s personal collection, August 6, 2018. 

Two paintings, zero writing

There’s something about painting I just can’t wait to get to, and something about writing I just can’t wait to get away from.

Painting, I don’t know what I’m doing, I have no master and so I’m no slave. Writing is a different story.

Finishing up two paintings today, free handing them both, not worrying whether or not I was staying between the lines, as there were no lines, I could feel myself lifting up out of myself and into the realm of a creative act. 

Toward the end of the making of each painting I started talking to myself, liking what I was hearing enough to begin to write it down, crawling back to the writing table in service to words.

 Two paintings, ‘Rattlesnake’ (standing) and ‘Ant Hill‘ (laying flat) drying in the writer’s studio, Wyoming, August 4, 2028

Two paintings, ‘Rattlesnake’ (standing) and ‘Ant Hill‘ (laying flat) drying in the writer’s studio, Wyoming, August 4, 2028

Big Mountain, Bigger Fool

I guess I made a mistake climbing Heart Mountain yesterday. 

I hadn’t given any real thought to where a real mountain begins and ends. 

I began the climb too late and completed it much later than I thought I would at the beginning.

After achieving the summit I signed the log, sat on a rock for 12 minutes, drank water, and marveled at the views—the entire Big Horn Basin, including three other mountain ranges, and the parking lot of Walmart, 12 miles away in the town of Cody. 

 Heart Mountain, Cody, Wyoming, elevation 8,123 ft. after the 2 1/2 hour descent. The descent was much more grueling than the ascent, a fact that will never be forgotten by this descender.

Heart Mountain, Cody, Wyoming, elevation 8,123 ft. after the 2 1/2 hour descent. The descent was much more grueling than the ascent, a fact that will never be forgotten by this descender.

Near the end of Wood River Road

Meeteetse, Wy—surely one of the most beautiful roads in the world, beginning on ranchland and farmland, paved for the first five miles or so then unpaved, progressively so as it climbs up the mountain more or less following the river which is progressively down below, steeply so, as in the word ‘gorge’, the road now rutted and finitely narrow until it becomes the mother of all impasse, available only to packhorses and ATV’s, the ghost town of Kirwin, elevation 11,000 ft. still 7 miles away...

...it’s here we stop and take pictures, she of the top of a specific mountain worn away by ancient glacial movement, me of the many mountains in the far distance.

 View near the end of Wood River Road, the ghost town of Kirwin still 7 miles away, July 28, 2018. Photograph by author.

View near the end of Wood River Road, the ghost town of Kirwin still 7 miles away, July 28, 2018. Photograph by author.

Silicon Valley, Wyoming

I just had an idea, sitting in the studio this evening, that I’m calling The Big Idea:

To call upon Silicon Valley, California to create a system able to determine the truth or falsehood of any communication transmitted by social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.) as well as any communication transmitted by the print and broadcast media (CNN and FOX News, The New York Times and so forth) that would determine the truth or the falsity of the communication transmitted. 

Surely some impartial, scrupulous, righteous, quietly efficient algorithm could be developed to identify falsehoods, show how the falsehoods differentiate from the truth—the facts—identify within the communication when and where context plays a part, provide examples, and/or: issue a statement of correction or give a clean bill of health to the communication as is.

There’s big money in this idea, and I’d like at least half of it.

 Author’s residence in Wyoming, view of the main cabin to which he ran uphill from his studio screaming Eureka, to record the Big Idea, 9 p.m. July 26, 2018. All Rights Reserved, Brooks Roddan, 2018.   

Author’s residence in Wyoming, view of the main cabin to which he ran uphill from his studio screaming Eureka, to record the Big Idea, 9 p.m. July 26, 2018. All Rights Reserved, Brooks Roddan, 2018.

 

Self defense without a firearm

Technology is smarter than most people, but technology can’t outsmart Nature or man’s natural voice, Poetry.

In Wyoming, I’m able to build natural little dams around my consciousness to protect myself against the seemingly unending flood of consciously unconscious mischief and malfeasance emanating from the nations’ Capitol. 

In the morning I walk down to the creek below the studio and wash my ears in the clear water there, leaving my iPhone up in the cabin so I won’t be distracted by man-made current events. Then I enter the studio to write, my writing consisting these days wading through writing I want to get rid of.

For hours upon hours I take dead aim at all the bad writing I’ve written, mostly poems,  with a pen and not a gun. Then I pick up the novel I’ve started and stopped writing and started again for the last two years, picking through the wreckage in the quiet morning, knowing it’s not as bad as it looks, that it’s worse than that,

Finally it’s late evening, time to go fishing, fishing being a contemplative sport, the fish themselves being natural non-aggressive sorts, smart enough to hide themselves in the waters of Wyoming.

 Spencer and his son Trayvion fishing, north fork of the Shoshone River, Wapiti, Wyoming, 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 17, 2018.

Spencer and his son Trayvion fishing, north fork of the Shoshone River, Wapiti, Wyoming, 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 17, 2018.

Rereading an old notebook

It once was 2008. 

I was traveling in Turkey, from Istanbul to Izmir by train. 

The train stopped in a small town. I don’t know why it stopped but it stopped and I had the sense that it would be stopped there for some time.

The conductor said it was ok to get off the train and walk around the town for awhile, so I did.

It was a small town. I walked down the main street and kept walking, making a right and then a left, keeping the train station in mind. 

I’ve never felt so out of place, so foreign in my life. The muezzin sounded and everything stopped. I can still hear the sound of it. 

Today at the cabin in Wyoming I found a notebook I’d kept of my travels that year.

It was 2008. I’d packed light, allowing myself only one book and two changes of clothes. It turned out to be the trip in which I started to write my first novel.

 From the found notebook of Thomas Fuller, author of “Monsieur Ambivalence”, traveling at the time under the passport , ‘Brooks Roddan’.

From the found notebook of Thomas Fuller, author of “Monsieur Ambivalence”, traveling at the time under the passport , ‘Brooks Roddan’.

Careers in Advertising

The first sip of Perrier sounds like a Porsche pulling up in front of your house. You let it idle there for a few moments before your houseboy opens the front door for you and hands you the keys... 

...no, that’s a touch too elitist I’m afraid, The Creative Director says. I’m looking for a slightly less moneyed demographic, equally discerning of course, predominantly urban, a single man or woman who’ve chosen to live without an automobile and who use Uber or Lyft...

...I see, The Copywriter says, dejected, having followed The Marketing Position to a fault, knowing now he’ll have to burn the midnight oil before he’s allowed to go home to a disappointed wife and two small children who haven’t seen him in days. 

 Perrier, now available in convenient 10 oz. cans, poses atop a stone on the Wyoming property of a former copywriter and creative director, Wapiti, Wyoming, 8:50 pm, July 19, 2018. 

Perrier, now available in convenient 10 oz. cans, poses atop a stone on the Wyoming property of a former copywriter and creative director, Wapiti, Wyoming, 8:50 pm, July 19, 2018. 

Breathing in air, breathing in water

What I admire about birds is that I can’t be sure of what they’re saying, though I know it’s some sort of truth. Fish on the other hand belong to the community of silence, the complete opposite of birds; fish know when to keep their mouths shut.

As well as being a person, a poet is half bird and half fish. Which half is which, which half predominates, for one half always wins against the other, can be heard in the poets’ song and seen in the poets’ silence.

The poet who endeavors to write the smallest poem possible and the poet who endeavors to write an epic have ambitions that are commensurately large and small: neither ambition is greater or lesser than the other, though each is ambitious.

Both bird and fish, the real poet, were he or she a poet, takes the time necessary not to write, and instead sits completely still looking up at the sky and down through the water.

 North fork, Shoshone River, Wyoming, Tuesday evening, July 17, 2018. 

North fork, Shoshone River, Wyoming, Tuesday evening, July 17, 2018.