Monday, October 31, 2011

"From NOTEBOOKS AND PAPERS OF GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS" Post # 2 From "Nature Writing The Tradition in English"

If you worry about readers you will never get to be a writer. The matter of readers is something like the matter of children—you tramp along and one day it –might----so happen----that --- you look around and the house is filled ----with the paraphernalia ----of children.

In a similar way—the matter of readers happens or it simply doesn’t.

What you do is you start writing. You write badly.
You keep writing. You still write badly.

The only requirement of this program is that you stop—start—stop—start in a telegraphic fashion. Of course if you are really disciplined and have no kids it might be possible to  do this every day in some sort of remote control sort of fashion –for “x” number of hours non-stop.

I’ve found I can only do this work –as time permits—or as I force myself to do it.
Most days I sit here and a swarm of bees descend about my head and bury me in their honey. I read other poets.

I don’t write poetry.
I pretend this reading is going to make me a poet.
I rather doubt it.
But at least there is a poet in the vicinity –even if it isn’t me.

Readers are like dandelions. They turn up in regulated lawns. But if you are a bit of meadow—you tend cultivate a range of wildflowers besides the weedy dandelion or two.  You get a host of Fireweed, you have the false Solomon seals, there are a fraction of trillium, there are blue columbines and yellow ones—in other words—the dandelions of readers are missed or mussed up or competed out.  Instead of readers you get a meadow of odd fly by night folks like stars winking on and off and you understand that they are simply part of a scenery that is constant---not readers but odd passing revolvers firing in the night.

Readers are something you get when you actually have a sort of music that is delirious.  I think of Gerard Manley Hopkins. He has music here and serious imagery. I would like to be him.
Heck I would like to be his toenail.
I can’t even approximate him.
I suppose he has readers.

I suppose that you have to be this perfect to have readers.

Page 285

    What you look hard at seems to look hard at you, hence the true and
the false in the stress of nature.  One day early in March when long stream-
er were rising from over Kemble End one large flake loop-shaped, not a
streamer but belonging to the string, moving too slowly to be seen,
seemed to cap and fill the zenith with a white shire of cloud. I looked
long up at it till the tall height and the beauty of the scaping –regularly
curled knots springing if I remember from fine stems, like foliation in
wood or stone –had strongly grown on me.  It changed beautiful
changes, growing more into ribs and one stretch of running into branch-
ing like coral.  Unless you refresh the mind from time to time you can-
not always remember or believe how deep the inscape in things is.

From “Nature Writing The Tradition in English”  edited by Robert Finch and John Elder

I like the rigor of this poet.
How he asks for things to become part of him--"I looked long up at it" until the subject --"had strongly grown on me."  He asked for things to be known intimately to him.

He asked himself to look repeatedly--"to refresh the mind from time to time" so as to acquire the deepest possible understanding of the inner workings of the subject----or else "you cannot always remember or believe how deep the inscape in things is."

At the end of the day it is always tempting to look at these poets and want to give up. Why even bother you wonder –to sit in the dark room with the words flaring like matches lit—and attempting to do what these poets have done with the lit flame of their minds and hearts? How is it at all possible to go into “inscape in things”  -the ruddy interior where the soul dances—remote and perfect?

How did any of these poets make their art?
There is only a small hint in the deep seeing written out here.  A sort of trace of what must be done – a slimy scale path to follow. The path is very thin and silvery and old. A few words show the route.  It requires more knowing and effort than simply following another poet’s hints.  But what –more ---is required I am not sure –now---- of any of it .

Mostly it seems to require some sort of lively ability to sense matter that is present –in excitable ferment.

Here is Hopkins speaking about a flower, a bird, a flock of starlings.

Page 285

    May 9 –

   Later – The Horned Violet is a pretty thing, gracefully lashed.  Even
in withering the flower ran through beautiful inscapes by the screwing
up of the petals into straight little barrels or tubes.  It is not that inscape
does not govern the behavior of things in slack and decay as one can
see even in the pining of the skin in the old and even in a skeleton but
that horror prepossesses the mind, but in this case there was nothing in
itself to show even whether the flower were shutting or opening.

From “Nature Writing The Tradition in English”  edited by Robert Finch and John Elder

Page 285

    Oct. 5 –A goldencrested wren had got into my room at night and
circled round dazzled by the gaslight on the white cieling; when
caught even and put out it would come in again.  Ruffling the crest,
which is mounted over the crown and eyes like beetle-brows; I
smoothed and fingered the little orange and yellow feathers which are
hidden in it. Next morning I found many of these about the room and
enclosed them in a letter to Cyril on his wedding day.

From “Nature Writing The Tradition in English”  edited by Robert Finch and John Elder
Page 286

   Nov. 8 –Walking with Wm. Splaine we saw a vast multitude of star-
lings making an unspeakable jangle.  They would settle, in a row of
trees; then, one tree after another, rising at a signal they looked like a
cloud of specks of black snuff or powder stuck up from a brush or
broom or shaken from a wig; then they would sweep round in whirl-
winds – you could see the nearer and farther bow of the rings by the
size and blackness; many would be in one phase at once, all narrow
black flakes hurling round, then in another; then they would fall upon
a field and so on.  Splaine wanted a gun: then ‘there it would rain meat’
he said.  I thought they must be full of enthusiasm and delight hearing
their cries and stirring and cheering one another.

From “Nature Writing The Tradition in English”  edited by Robert Finch and John Elder

I like all the descriptions this poet has made of the world—from the smallest flower in decay to the bird in his room to the birds in the whirlwind outside. There is a sense of understanding of how life is in these organisms---of their true inscapes—or souls.

Hopkins was a sort of man—I imagine—who felt deeply---and who was able to go from the tightly curled petals of a bloom to the feathers on the floor of a bird—to the whirl and jiggling of a flock of starlings whose crowd of fans---so it seemed—to him—were “stirring and cheering one another” on to more joyous activities. He would have had a true feeling for his subjects.

I think great poetry happens out of such sympathetic joyous communion with the subjects the poet chooses and that such resultant outflow—received by the reader—can only serve to anneal her to the poet’s sticky sequences.

Such a poet –of the “inscape” of things----cannot fail –at the matter of harnessing readers to his cart.

here is a door

Block parties of children are everywhere.  We delivered younger boy’s sleeping bag to him at the house of his friends. The father told my husband that there were 18 children over. I shuddered delicately when my husband told me.  
As for older boy I have just texted him to discover he is having a blast at his friend’s house.  How I got such party animals for sons I do not know.

Here is a door.
I open it.
Inside the poem writhes like a body filled with maggots.
I go tweezer out each sensate worm.
This is how I spend my days and evenings.
Late at night I wake up from this dream of words and wonder where time went. Through which funnel did hours trickle through to leave me in the darkness?

Sometimes a rug gets pulled from under you.
Another year has gone by.
When will the body be devoured?
The worms turn the heap of flesh.
Not yet.

"From NOTEBOOKS AND PAPERS OF GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS" Post # 1 From "Nature Writing The Tradition in English"

I am surgically implanted.
The mind is a body that needs opening.
A folly sits in the heart.
Rubbed out kisses on the trees.
Muck is all about. Ghosts and warriors go hand in hand with bags of stars and stones in their mouths.
A river of darkness is everywhere.

The house is empty.
Older boy is at a Halloween party.
Younger boy is at a Halloween sleepover.
For once in about a century, my husband and I are empty kangaroo pouch and only the steady delivery of candy to visitors reminds us we have children.

The mind is a happy minefield.

I am reading Gerard Manley Hopkins in his notebooks—just an extract –you understand –so this is not knowing him as I know Emily Dickinson—but some sort of tonguing and sensing---so that soon I will start this poet ---that I have wanted to eat but have not.

This poet is perhaps the closest to how I would write in prose.  Look at this section.

Page 283

                                EXTRACTS FROM EARLY DIARIES

                Drops of rain hanging on rails etc seen with only the lower rim
lighted like nails (of fingers). Screws of brooks and twines.  Soft chalky
look with more shadowy middles of the globes of cloud on a night with
a moon faint or concealed.  Mealy clouds with a not brilliant moon. 
Blunt buds of the ash.  Pencil buds of the beech. Lobes of the trees.


See how this tiny bit of the language is so alive?
I feel the spermatozoa rushing for the fertilization event—then going way beyond this first contact and zygote formation and ----charging towards embryogenesis.

I would write like this—in everything—this alive and sensual.

But how to do this?
And then what would it make?

I suppose what Hopkins was doing here was seeing.

He was doing the pleasurable matter of conversion.

You look at a simple thing –like rain as he does in the first sentence and then he translates it to another language—imagery of a poem. This poetical language is not yet poetry.
But he has it in abeyance.
When he needs this image—with its watery fingernail—he will be able to use it.

Then he takes a perfectly ordinary body of water—“brooks” and makes an image of “Screws” –but what of the “twines”?

He murks through the moon. He tries two ways with it—playing with its appearance.  The first one –has “a moon faint or concealed.” Then he goes to “a not brilliant moon”. In both cases he has shown the moon dull but with different versions of clouds about it. In the first version –you have “globes of clouds” and in the second version there are “Mealy clouds” about.

He does this type of variation with one thing—buds/ eyes/ hands in the rest of this entry.  It is rather the way that Leonardo da Vinci went about the world—seeking out facial features and drawing them out until he had a repertoire of such notes to use for his work.

I suppose all poets and artists –collect their talents’ background themselves.

They have to do this sort of apprenticeship—in order to make new.

It seems terribly demanding. 

It is also demanding of the reader.

Let me look at what he says about the visioning of an image.

 Page 282


                I have no other word yet for that which takes the eye or mind in a
bold hand or effective sketching or in marked features or again in
graphic writing, which not being beauty nor true inscape yet gives
interest and makes ugliness even better than meaninglessness.-

How do you detect the true nature of the world’s contents? This is what I think Hopkins is talking about here—the soul of the beast.

I suppose you detect it with practice.
You do the sort of deep looking that Hopkins practiced, that Leonardo da Vinci incessantly worked on.

Look at all the ways he goes on in this section to speak about the snow:

Page 282

                                                                                                -- On
the Common the snow was channeled all in parallels by the sharp
driving wind and upon the tufts of grass (where by the dark colour
shewing through it looked greyish) it came to turret-like clusters or like
broken shafts of basalt.--- In the Park in the afternoon the wind was
driving little clouds of snow-dust which caught the sun as they rose and
delightfully took the eyes: flying up the slopes they looked like breaks
of sunlight fallen through ravelled cloud upon the hills and again like
deep flossy velvet blown to the root by breath which passed all along.
Nearer at hand along the road it was gliding over the ground in white
wisps that between trailing and flying shifted and wimpled like so many
silvery worms to and from one another.


This is a very pretty passage.
He is simply describing snow.

But he has seen the snow in all its permutations.

1)      He sees snow “channeled all in parallels” –forced to lie side by side by the wind.
2)      Then he sees snow on grass-where the dark color of the grasses make the snow appear rock like splinters—“it came to turret-like clusters or like broken shafts of basalt.”
3)      Later in the same day-he sees snow flying into his eyes—like “little clouds” but not the airy sort of clouds in the sky –but “of snow-dust” which when sunlight brakes upon them—they appear like light through peaks of “ravelled clouds”.  So neat. This same snow—is also “again like deep flossy velvet” on the ground—pushed there “by breath which passed all along.”
4)      Finally—he has the snow become worms!  He says they swim along—“in white wisps” that do all manner of motions—“trailing and flying shifted and wimpled” to become these icy “silvery worms”.  

A beauteous display of transmutation of the poetical sort and he isn’t in a poem yet-he is  in the preliminaries of making love to the language!

Of course all this texture, detail and resonance is simply overpowering. I have only read two of his journal entries and I am stuffed to the brim. How to progress through the whole of his extract in this book? How to even see the complete contents of a book of this poet's lovemaking positions in language? It takes time to learn to get used to rich pudding and mutton after spare stringy chicken bones.
It will take a hell of a lot of time.
Almost my whole life.

a pretty world

I am caught by all visual  effects.  The pounce of sunlight on shadow disarms me and busies me about that space. The webbing of clematis as it shakes itself free of dew. Split hairs of their vines. The leaves torn and the purple tongues of their flowers bursting to seeds. These types of images hold me deeper and stronger than the television or film movies.  I do not sit in a trance before a show inside a movie house but I am ravished by the show of ordinary beings outside the house.

A paper bag blowing through the lane is a long funnel of leaves. The drip from the tap in the garden forms a small oily rainbow in the soil.  Wash of flies on the river form a tissue that softly covers the face and then disappears. Dragonflies imitate clothespins attached in love. 

I am oddly drawn to the round curvature of apples, the orange’s squirting rind, the cherries hard dark reds. There are sensuous delights in fruits that are copied only in skin contact with a lover. The falling rusk of the banana skin after it is eaten is a pleasurable thing.

All the seedheads with their fluff, buttons, snags, pulls, drawers of tidy clothes for the future—serve a purpose for my interest.  A float of a seed in the air seems an immortal, long, blessed journey.  Rubbers of their strings as they cover the soil—and form their cemeteries are hopeful things—for next year –out of such discard will come a new village of their youthful offspring.

The natural world has an infinite number of photographs that it prints out each day. I am dazzled by the endless production of such a fine photographer. They are pinned on every forest creature. The marsh clamps the pictures in her teeth of ice. Cattails push out their materials of soft down, the long needle is working constantly, images burst out.

It is a pretty world. I often forget this immersed in a book. It takes another poet to remind me to look.

here is the future

Waiting for Dr. Salopek at Heritage Medicenter, I had the opportunity to view the many variations in expression of aging in the population. No one dies any more. They linger on and then,  when they are about to keel over—they are resuscitated like roadkill reassembled and endure in some minor, reduced vestigial form of what they once were. All through the waiting time, seniors hobbled, walker limped and slowly moved back and forth--across my gaze.
Health care is the number one issue for all Albertans and for seniors the matter of health care is compounded by the matter of elder care. Who takes care of these seniors? Not one of them were accompanied by a daughter or a son.  Not one of them were lead by caregivers of the hired sort except for one young handicapped person. As I waited with my sister for the appointment –I wondered how these seniors managed.
Here they were. In a clinic waiting patiently for their help. And here is a province and a country –that ignores their needs and specific requirements for accessible accommodation, assisted living services and geriatric services. The burden of care is left to them or their struggling sandwich families who are full of resentment and battle fatigue.
Here is the future.
How do we deal with it?

My advice to anyone who is a senior citizen is to group together and vote as a group.

No one listens to an individual senior citizen. The government ignores the senior citizen because it is more useful to pay attention to the worker bees and not the dying drones.

The only way senior citizens and their families can get the government to pay attention to their problems is simply through bloc voting. Gray power is powerful in terms of numbers.  Unite. Form a gray party voting block. Don’t be afraid to cross political lines to get what you want. What you want is whatever any party that listens will give you in terms of adequate housing, care and services.

Don’t be afraid. Be political. Why wouldn’t you be? Our governments are. Vote your gray bloc into what you must have –so that you can end your lives in the dignity that you deserve.

Here is a woman with white hair in a halo around her head. Here is a man stooped over a walker, his elderly wife supporting him from the back. Here is another man crooked and torn.

You have only a short end stage of your life.  But sometimes, this end stage can go on forever and why suffer like this?   


Vote your way back to a decent life.


I am going to write as if I knew what I was doing. I am going to pretend I know how to write a poem. I am going to sit here like a dagger in a body. I am going to resemble a poet who has experience. I am rubbing my mind against a blade. The blade takes off bits of tissue. You sit watching the blade do its necessary work.
I can’t do this. This is too hard. The song is always the same. The words however still need to be put down. Take a poem. Try to understand it. Try to put it into your own language. Then go to the next poem. Keep doing this until you are finished one book. Then start another book. This is all that I ask of myself. If I can write a poem in between the words I read, this is  very good.
I suppose really this is all a very futile business.  I may never get the hang of it. But at least I won’t look back and say that I did not have the guts to try to do what I wanted to do with my time.  I did try.
This is all very difficult to do. The words don’t add up to anything. But I still do the work because most writing done by any human isn’t worth beans. Most writing by most writers is crap.  But if you want to get beyond crap, you have to write the crap first and somewhere in the throw of words on the wheel –your mind –might learn the trick of shaping that clay into a beautiful instrument of language.

I try to read Emily Dickinson through because I like her abbreviated language. I like the fact that she was able to minimize the language in such miniatures that still express a great deal. I also like that she spoke of her feelings, felt that she had a soul and wasn’t reluctant to express her opinions.

I know Emily Dickinson is not a modern poet of the sort that I see all about me on the shelves of bookstores but I keep her company anyway.

Most of the company I keep is with books like hers and people who are not very sociable.

A long wind blows through the corridor of life and we are all odd bits of paper being blown to the end.

I don’t think it really matters what these odd bits of papers do.
We are here for that small tunnel travel.
Then we end.

It is best to find a work that is interesting and if you cannot, it is best to find a play that is interesting.

Most of all, it is important to realize your own unimportance.

Writing is a way to find this out.
The best thing that one does in writing—is simply keep putting words in a futile attempt –daily to improve the making of a poem.  

I don’t want to make prose.  I want to make poems.
But it seems all I do is make prose.
I am hoping that prose will help me flow into poems.

I don’t know if this will occur.
But prose has words that might be truncated and slimmed down and made into music.

If you cannot make poems, you must make something.
Prose has the advantage of loquacity.

If I can control this aspect of this matter—maybe it will be poetry.
This is all so damn frustrating.

imminent Halloween

The long carpet of brown grasses has been unrolled in the soccer field. The fir trees hang their green tinsels all about their bodies. A lock has been put on the marsh of chilling water. The cattails rub and rub against each other in futile friction –hoping to make fire.
A dull morning unscrambles from the clouds, a lick of sunlight is laid down like butter on the bread of the front path. Where the daylilies sag—the yellow is fierce.
All about the land a soft wind churns the air.  
The pumpkin we have not carved sits on the front entrance waiting for vilification.
A single box of chocolates is left of the candy I bought the other day. The only decorative elements on the front porch that might scare the children are my molting plants—the Rubber tree is shingled less and less, the Jade plant is no longer green and there are pieces of plant bodies scattered in dismembered parts.
Sugar clouds sprinkle everywhere.  You wonder what is the use of all of this. The soft wind pulls the sullen slow sheaves of the plants in the garden, the pale light shoves its way into view, the coffee cools in the cup. Another writing day begins. The goblins and spooks and ghosts will soon-- fly randomly about.