A story doesn't have to tell a story if it’s well written; this is true today as it wasn’t true in the days before what is now known as literature existed, when everything written and passed down to others as worth reading had to have a story at its heart, e.g. Ancient Greek literature, biblical lore, Aesop’s fables. Many pre-literature stories aren’t particularly well-written and, furthermore, might not or would not be published today, i.e. would not pass muster as being publishable to those in control of the literate media who now determine what is literature, regardless of the merits of the story being told. In fact the quality of the story might be held against it, or held in equal contradistinction to the quality of the writing, the writing itself having more weight, more heft than the quality of the story. Therefore an intelligent, even a moderately well-read reader, may claim to admire writing that has little or no story, or a story that relies solely on the writing itself, or even a story that has no story, only simulates a story by having a beginning and an end. Because this newer reader is mostly offered, by those more intelligent than he and much better read, things that are so well-written that they don’t need a story, a story might only detract from the writing, the writing being paramount; he reads them for the writing, as devotedly as those in the past read what they read mostly for the story,
Have I become someone beyond caring?
Someone who doesn’t care, who’s let it all go out the window without knowing what he’s let go?
I can’t see a future without it, what I can’t see that is, what I don’t care about.
I make the slightest excuse to visit even if it requires a detour.
Only place in town where I wish I had a dog.
Reading Hannah Arendt’s foreword to the Walter Benjamin book, “Illuminations” and for the first time understanding why Arendt is held in such esteem by so many good thinkers.
Understanding, as I read Arendt, the full meaning of the word ‘flaneur’, and how the meaning is embodied in the life of Benjamin, the time he spent in Paris, and the urban planning imposed on the city that made it possible for a flaneur to persevere.
Not looking at my iPhone and therefore granting myself my very own 15 minutes of complete privacy, which I imagine to be far better than fame,
Tasting the sun as I would a cup of coffee.
I wonder who lives in the grand tower building across the street, and if there is a doorman.
Not having to go anywhere I don’t want to go or to see anyone I don’t want to see.
Where am I?
Thomas Fuller, the writer of whom I’m so fond, told me the last time I saw him that he was painting as much or more than he was writing That was some time ago, about the time of the publication of his latest novel, “The Classical World” (IF Publishing, 2018).
And so it was a nice surprise today to receive a letter from Fuller, saying he’d finished the painting but was afraid to hang it, feeling that by hanging it he’d be burying it alive, along with a picture of the painting itself leaning against a wall.
Twain’s book is as macabre and terrifying as anything Poe ever wrote and, since I’ve never read Stephen King, I’d go as far to say that I can’t imagine anyone writing a book as scary or as true as Twain’s ‘Pudd’nhead Wilson’, written in 1895.
It was curious then that yesterday’s revelation of a family member’s unwise indiscretions confirmed my longstanding suspicion of this particular person’s hypocrisy and ingratitude without surprising me at all! I’d just finished reading ‘Pudd’nhead Wilson’ in which there is no mystery as to the identity of the murderer—the reader knows exactly who dun it—rather the mystery is in the duplicitous behavior of the main character, a twin swapped at birth to become a white person instead of the black person he is, and vice-a-versa. And while telling this tale, Twain poses a larger- than-life-itself question: why do people so often act in ways they believe are beneficial to themselves, when in fact the way they act is poisonous not only to the ones they profess to love but most of all, and most perversely, to the very person perpetuating the act?
Though Nature as we know it might be coming to its end—could we as a species be approaching the very first televised apocalypse in much the same way as we were once witnessed the first televised war? (Vietnam)—I’ve come to think that human nature never ends, in that it never ends astonishing, surprising, even shocking in its smallness, its petty personal concerns and selfish little rearrangements of the truth made to suit a two-faced narrative. The hypocrisy in the case cited above was both blatant and hilarious: blatant because the perpetrator operated in a way that seemed to suggest she wanted to be caught and hilarious because those of us who were the victims of the false narrative could only laugh at its ultimate ineptitude, in the end feeling nothing but compassion for the one who resorted to speaking from two faces.
Saying one thing to a person and then another completely different thing to another person about that person isn’t a crime, though maybe it should be; it happens all the time in our social, cultural, political, and personal lives. It’s just plain old sad is what it is, as sadly funny as Twain’s old novel, as true a narrative of human nature today as it ever was. In Twain’s telling it turns out that Pudd’nhead isn’t a Pudd’nhead at all: we’re the real Puddn’head’s, saying one thing to one another when we’re really saying another thing altogether.
By 6 a.m. the Plumeria blossom is voted most valuable flower on the island.
Back in the hills, in a little grass shack, the master photographer mixes organic compounds that will transform themselves into the scintillating hues soon be seen in the brilliant 80 x 100’ tapestry now hanging in the eastern sky.
Time gets a much needed makeover: it’s time for children to become the leaders and the adults to become children who not only share their toys but are happy that others have as much or more than they have.
The imperfect world hides for a few moments in the palm tree outside my window, letting in all the light that I can possibly see, the kind of light that surprises me and looks better and better the closer I come toward it.
All art is some sort of exploration of what am I doing here or what are you doing here or what are we doing here. It’s that first moment of waking in a place you’re not familiar with and wondering where you are, knowing that you’re still you, that you haven’t changed being you, but the place where you are you has changed completely without you being aware it’s changed: art is the reconciliation of those two things—not knowing and knowing—that can bring forth something that you’ve never seen before if, that is, you see the art in it.
I woke up a few moments ago from a deep sleep, having no idea where I was, and took a picture. The light verified morning; and then slowly, second by second, I was able to make sense of what wasn’t in the picture, the rest of my surroundings and how I came to be surrounded. I would never claim that it’s art that I made here, but I know that it has art in it.
The painter plays with the surface of space the way God plays with the universe.
Not knowing what to do is not the time to do nothing.
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle then it is to open up a tube of orange paint and believe it will emerge as red or as yellow.
The color blue is the color of blood vessels as they appear to the soul.
A rose by any other name is coffee.
Painting is the effort is to look at something long enough for it to either disappear or become something it’s never been before, something you can paint with your eyes closed. The preceding words are homage to the poet RC who wrote, ‘if you look at something long enough/everything becomes water’, or something like that.
What’s the next painting, the next great painting that can be made?
The next painting will be a picture of a big star, and the star is a house with doors and windows and a chimney, and the star will be suspended in the dark void of a moral universe made of shimmering shadows and purplish-gold points of light; and the painting after that will be a basketball in which the air inside the basketball is the central image, the symbol of God himself, invisible but captivating the attention of people worldwide.
But now, not knowing what to do, I go ahead without knowing, spread a band of yellow-green paint over a dry orange wash with a palette knife and then hose it down with a small wet brush.
All the secret of paint is locked up in the painter who starts from the bottom and works to the top, and then works down from the top to the bottom, making triumph after triumph and mistake upon mistake, covering up both mistakes and triumphs with more paint of different colors—blue, green, yellow, red, white, and their offshoots—until the purity of the painter’s original vision is diverted into a new purity, a colorful paradise in which the paint itself, not the painter, is in control, and the painter must resist the temptation, as strong as it might be, of mixing a light green wash in a bucket of cold tap water and pouring the whole thing over the painting that the paint has just created.
Surfaces are so strange; not enough attention is paid to them though they’re where almost all the action is. The painting realizes this, as does the painter who says, “I can’t think of anything more exciting than the surface of things” * and the other painter who says, “my objective is to see my face in the palm of my hand.” **
The surface is where the painting does all its thinking: don’t be fooled into thinking that what you see in a good painting is some sort of Platonic rendering brought down from above or up from below to assume its transformation as The Form behind the Form. No, the paint has seeped through the painters’ deft preparation, very often through layers upon layers of gesso and duct tape, all by itself, in whatever shape it’s in, to make contact with the mind of the canvas itself, oozing through the crevices, finding its home as the thinking brain of the image; and finally, at last, all that can be seen of the painting is the surface.
What’s worse than smoking a cigarette?
Throwing that cigarette, after it’s been smoked, to the ground, first stepping on it so as to extinguish the possibility of it creating a real fire, and then leaving it where it’s been thrown, in someone else’s private space.
The penalty for such a smoker? Either one year less or one year more of life: one year less if the smoker loves life and one year more if the smoker craves death.
Walking home from the polling place at 755 27th Avenue near Fulton, I give myself a TED TALK and then sign a document permitting my TED TALK to be released to the public—
“Rich people have always interested me but only to the point where I become uninterested and know I can never be like them, never measure up; and then one day I decided I really didnt want to measure up to anyone other than myself, that I’m far better off going it alone, that aloneness is the only way I can negotiate the world...”
(I’ve asked the TED TALK people to douse the stage lights in such a way that only my body can be seen, in homage Billiie Whitelaw in Beckett’s ‘Not I’).
My TED TALK concludes with the impossibility of it going viral. And so I continue shuffling toward home, imagining, as I shuffle along, the sort of person who throws a cigarette on the sidewalk or into the street, as well as the people, the other people, who’ve dropped their paper napkins, plastic spoons, forks, and knives, orange juice cartons, pages of the daily newspaper, straws, water bottles, clothing, cans of Coke, ATM receipts, business cards....
I’d expected to be filled with civic pride; instead it’s a sad little walk I take from the polling place home; that in this beautiful city there seems to be at least one piece of trash for every citizen, and that so many of us walk by the trash as if it isn’t there.
Morning delivers its windows right on time, and I’m eager to see out of them.
Upon rigorous inspection I see that there is not a speck of dust or a smear on the new windows, and that they are the perfect transparencies they were advertised as being.
Through morning’s windows I’m able to watch the sun rise, seeing the world come to life as if arising slowly from the sea, a submerged continent at once alien and promising, having shaken off overnight everything that had plagued it, silently vowing to show its newfound purity as the light that makes us—at least all of us seeing it this way—responsible.
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 myself would like someday to write and then publish,
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.
Art as my only compensation, solace at the exact moment I need it (and Lea Ann’s, who spends 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.
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.”
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.
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, 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.
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.
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 primarily, and 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.