I am casually continuing to read Arne Naess and still sorting through what he really means, and what I really believe.

“Ecosophies are not platforms for a political movement or policies, but are personal philosophies of life in a worldview.”

He goes on to say that this international movement of deep ecology does not constitute a religion. But I am (mis)understanding his belief system as something aligned with religions – the kind that do create a hierarchy with humans at the top of what has be created:

“The protection of the Earth’s vitality, diversity, and beauty is a sacred trust.”

Back to Bryson, with his layman understanding of geophysics, whose depictions of the earth point to a kind of vitality that is beyond our comprehension, and certainly beyond our protection. The continents will “drift” long after we are gone. Vital and diverse.

I am not at all implying a disregard for climate concerns, for the human-driven tumble toward the end of the world as we know. I am just wondering how honest we are when we talk about the deep ecology perspective on the extinction of certain insects and birds and, well, all of it. Is it honestly out of a belief that we are no more significant than the lady bug, or is it that we want to tip-toe around all of it as though it were an expensive present that we are obligated to respect and attend to.

And… what does beauty have to do with it? Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. It is an active way of viewing the world and dividing it into a hierarchy.

I would love reading suggestions regarding the exploration of ugliness. A kind of objective poetics, perhaps. If art is for art’s sake is it truly not in service to our pleasure?

There went the timer.

I still find myself turning to non-fiction for poetry. Bill Bryson explaining how the Appalachian mountains were formed and keep forming seems somehow more to the heart of poetry than a lot of what I’m finding in the anthologies I take to bed.

I keep wondering if this has something do with the fact that my education, like that of many others, was so colored by deep reading that even Billy Collins had to bitch about it. This frustration of mine is on me.

I’m struggling to unlearn now everything I know about poetry. And I’m still trying to figure out how much a writer can demand of the reader in terms of their curiosity, their efforts to read between the lines, and to hear the subtext in every expressed thought. I mean, I don’t think that poetry should never tell the truth. (Especially when you dress it up in “borrowed feathers” like established poetic diction.)

By all means tell anything you want – except the truth.

I nearly wrote something this morning about what was “behind the greasepaint”. When I was an undergraduate we had old tubes of greasepaint at the bottom of the make-up boxes. Nasty stuff. They were already decades old and none of us touched it except with our fingers, out of curiosity. Any kind of metaphor that doesn’t take the immediate, experiential world into account risks being little more than a self-conscious anachronism. (Oh, but I do remember the… smell.)

All these pretty words – and “shocking”, vulgar words, too – do they give us useful metaphors that takes us deeper into the parallels that exist in our experience, or are they sentimental allusions to help us confirm what we already wanted to see in the moment? I think that my early poetry education was so deeply influenced by the Modernists that literary references themselves masqueraded as art in my mind.

I think we can show the truth, by way of making lies transparent. I am thinking of a fun exercise for myself to play with this idea. Here is the challenge of quick, morning pages: the ideas come like excited puppies, but then like Ruth Stone’s dragons, they’ll slip away between the commute and the lunch break. They’ll move on to someone else.

I want to clear a wall here in my little library and put up a huge board. I’ll pin the edge of these ideas, like insect wings, in neat, taxonomic rows. And the sound of their fluttering (what a soft word for the that kind of struggle) will fill the room. And remind me why I am here.

No. There has to be another way that doesn’t involve capturing the poems. That doesn’t involve torturing the world into shape.

I’ve written before about my Snow White fantasy of talking with the gentle animals of the forest. I think a lot of us have that little dream. But once, on Nara, I held out the rice cakes for the deer on the island, and they rushed at me with their soft snouts and smooth teeth. And for a moment I thought: so this is the way my world will come to an end. Suffocating, deer lice filling my lungs.

The world really isn’t how we think it up.

I think what I want to do as a poet is to make and then fracture poetry somehow, create the cracks where the truth can get out.

Probably because I think that’s what poets have always done. Zoom in. Zoom out.

Look here.

There went the timer.

GLOUCESTER: Alack, alack, Edmund, I like not this unnatural dealing. When I desired their leave that I might pity him, they took from me the use of mine own house, charged me on pain of perpetual displeasure neither to speak of him, entreat for him, or any way sustain him.

EDMUND: Most savage and unnatural.

King Lear

It is Edmund, whose conception was the result of natural attraction rather that of socially constructed union, who describes Lear’s daughters’ ambitious cruelty as unnatural.

The dramatic irony is thick as fresh sap.

Edmund is both natural and savage and understands the inherent connection in all things. His bloody rebellion is against the unnatural constraints he is obliged to accept as the will of gods.

Does he mean the women’s behavior is savage and unnatural toward their father, or is it savage and unnatural because it encroaches on Gloucester’s own territory and volition?

If we repeat a dogma often enough, we internalise it. But we do so still knowing it isn’t true. It is just accepted. Begrudgingly, and under various forms of threat.

Children have to be taught not to “dash the brains out” of other living things. They have to be taught to put restraints their own drives. Conflict is easy and natural. It’s the way around it that requires some kind of constructed route. What can the nature of any construction be?

I’m going to take Leonard to the dark park. There is always a possibility that things will go wrong when he tests out new relationships or challenges old ones. That’s why it is safer to have him off the leash.

There is an anthology of Furies waiting for me this evening. (For Books’ Sake publishers).

I think that I have always had a bit of an aversion to the nature poems that hold up the prettiness of nature like an anecdote to all that hurts. They feel like lies.

Imagine lying on the grass, looking up at a blue sky. How can you not put yourself in that space without also feeling the sharp edges of the blades of grass under your soft and exposed upper arm? Or feel the dread tickling of a piss-ant crawling over your ankle? The mystery movement – a tiny rustling – just under and behind your ear?

How can you breathe in the oh-so-pleasant smell of pine sap and not acknowledge the slaughter on some level? I don’t mean in a sins-of-our-fathers way.

What is, is. In the nature documentaries the p.o.v. is everything. The lion or the wildebeest. Funny how we will attribute cruel volition – volition – to the lion when we see through the eyes of the ungulate. But when the story is told from the lion and her cubs’ point of view, the grazing wildebeest is as senseless and lifeless as cartoon prey of a cartoon protagonist. The dead eyes of the schooling masses.

Goldbarth’s nature poem doesn’t mention a single tree. But it is all about looking closely at the wholeness of… us.

I was listening to a podcast that mentioned early cave art: the hand-prints that are silhouetted with paint “before spray paint existed”, they said. They expert imagined the volition of the individual artist who wanted so badly to leave “his” mark in the world. Invention to suit a desire.

But you know what I thought? I thought about laughing spontaneously with a mouth-full of half-chewed blueberries. I would love to think that that is how the spray-paint discovery was made.

This hand? Yes, I was here, but just in passing. Like a ghost temporarily blocking the way of the truth. Like a toddler demanding attention before her attention is snatched by a buzzing fly on the rim of her sippy-cup. Like an exchange of conversation in the now, unconcerned with who may be listening.

The view is always more interesting when peeking through a small aperture. It doesn’t make it more true.

In the late fall, the oyster mushrooms look like lilies from a distance.