(So: not a diary entry today)

I have been listening to interviews on the Penteract podcast, and reading essays about visual poetry and began thinking that perhaps I am not working toward visual poetry – as I’m hearing it “defined” in these places: as necessarily disassociating linguistic symbols from their semantic meanings. That isn’t my goal. I hope that I am still working with visual poetry as it is defined by a community of artists here/there/somewhere? The learning curve here is steep. It doesn’t matter in terms of what I am making, but it matters in terms of getting it out in the world. It matters in terms of community.

What I want to do is use visual elements, textural elements, and semantic elements in dialogue. In a kind of gesamtkunstverk that avoids both illustration and lyricism; the narrative and the line (including movement) are only elements in the whole. 

At the risk of sounding pompous, I want to create a Brechtian artwork that makes the viewer intensely aware of their role as observers –  in terms of a disruption of the audience’s habitual (emotional) response to a text or narrative. But I don’t have any desire to deconstruct the sense of either. 

For example: when the narrative text of a poem dissolves into asemic writing it can take on a lyric quality, I don’t want that quality to be an illustration of the text’s narrative, but it would bring with it its own emotive qualities and push the narrative through a transition that will ultimately, necessarily break down any human narrative. 

All of my work the past few years is integrated with a kind of field-guide observational relationship with nature. From wasps to telomeres. My approach to nature isn’t Romantic at all, I am trying to “ground” the narrative and the unavoidable lyric expression in a larger context with a disruption of perspective. 

I want to flip the metaphor relationship of the lyric poem: human experience is the vehicle, and what we consider the “natural world” is the tenor. It is an attempt to move away from an anthropocentric view. 

An anti-lyrical poetry.


What is horrific is natural. Nature is horrific. Yes, there is the deer in the grove. And there is the blacklegged tick on the neck of the deer in the grove. And in the gut of that tick, the Borrelia burgdorferi move through the tick’s body.

There is a reason designers look to the tiny elements of the natural world when creating their monsters. And it’s the same reason we already know them.

The soft light of the alarm clock begins to glow at 4:10 and intensifies so I wake before the recording of the blackbirds begins. I’m grateful for this cheap, but fancy clock. It’s a gentle way to begin the day.

The morning ritual is set. Bathroom to stairwell, to alarm panel, to sliding glass door, all with Leonard at my heels. I put the button to warm up the coffee machine while I drink a glass of water, fill the dog bowl and wait for Leonard to trip back into the house to get his treat. Then I take my coffee to the little library and turn on the computer. From here, all order falls apart.

On days like today, no words come. There is a quiet weight in my chest and an almost neutral calm. I breathe. I suppose this waiting is a form of meditation. Definitely a form of faith: with faith’s discomfort.

There are days when no news, no comment, no achievement can be good enough. When there is still unfulfilled anticipation. Something beyond hope really. It’s a feeling that touches back to childhood and naive expectations of a vague “good” that is just around the corner. Surprise me! Come on.

In two hours my watch alarm will vibrate to remind me to take the medication that keeps that feeling at bay. Or at least keeps it from being much more than a memory of a feeling.

Another cup of coffee for now. Another sober look at the wasp project and the steep learning curve as I pick up paintbrushes and charcoal again. Wishing I had the confidence of anticipating the “good” now.

It’s odd how self-confidence can abandon you as decisively as a disappointed mentor, shrugging and saying, “I guess I was wrong about you”. A sigh. “But keep working… Who knows.”

A sigh is still a breath, I suppose.

This morning I am making significant changes in how I use social media. This is part of a huge shift in my priorities in general. How I want to use my time. In some ways, it feels odd to do this now. It seems self-serving. Focusing on that very first circle of awareness at a time when there is so much immediate trauma in the distant reaches of my awareness.

I keep reminding myself that it is about balance. And about making room for genuine responses to the larger world. I do nothing to benefit the world, passing on memes or summarizing what I read in a news article. I have to acknowledge and then give up the desire to be the “first to know”. The currency of relevance. I am not relevant in terms of current events.

But I do have something to give.

I remember my publisher referring to books as “ferske varer” – produce that goes quickly out of date. And I get that – in our market-driven system – that is a fact. But I figure there has to be another way of approaching art. A way to avoid being swept up in the attention economy, the consumerist throw-away society.

I don’t think I am advocating preciousness. Just attention.

This is my problem. I’m not making blanket statements about the state of the arts.

I know there are artists who strive to make that one beautiful thing. And there are artists who are driven by other (legitimate) impulses. I think that I have spent years waiting for inspiration, in the sense that I have been expecting that the outside world would cause a worthy reaction: “The artist responds to their culture”, “Art needs to be relevant”. Relevant to who or to what? My culture – our culture changes so quickly. Maybe change itself is the only thing one can honestly respond to.

I need to slow down. Step away from social media’s armchair generals, and the what-I-ate-for-dinner photos. I need to turn off the podcasts I’ve been listening to for hours a day. I need quiet.

It may be age? If it is, so be it. Maybe I am old enough to recognize what stays. To be concerned with what stays.

Maybe art dies. The way Peter Brook talks about a deadly theater, I think there are deadly artworks on the walls of galleries, too. In books.

I’ve written seven books, including one that was consciously “relevant” and is dead to me now. I don’t want to do that again.

I don’t want to grasp at the present.

I’m making clay from recycled paper. An ouroboros in praxis.

Shhhhh.

This is not a treatise. It is a diary entry. Nothing more.