(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.

This morning I have been thinking about what I want out of life. Not in terms of a stockpile of accomplishments or acquisitions. But which moments do I want to squeeze from the days? What does a good day look like?

I haven’t really been taking photos since the end of summer. And it feels like I have lost that particular practice of meditation. The noticing. The meta-awareness of my own limited perspective through the lens.

This morning there is a cluster of snowbells sheltering under the dormant hedge in the front yard. A promise.

I took a picture.

I’m not sure why. I could have come back to the little library and written about it – as I am doing. But why that, then, too? What’s up with this need to see myself seeing? To document my perspective?

With all that I’m learning about this stage of life, sometimes second-hand, it seems like an obligation to notice the world while I’m still in it. It goes back to that perennial question: what am I doing here? Maybe all I owe the world is my gratitude to a cluster of snowbells on a morning after a storm.

And once again, I hold to my belief that we have the concept of metaphors entirely backward. Our experience is always the vehicle, and nature itself is the tenor. Our art is always in service to nature.

Insert a Venn diagram where we are a small circle in the larger circle of the natural world.

Maybe it is a pantheist idea to think our purpose is to be in service to the world? And maybe it’s self-serving to think that if I can be in harmony, it will contribute to a more harmonious world? To think that my perspective could serve to open other people’s perspectives?

But what if I’m an unwittingly altruist ant in a crowded nest, thinking I am working for myself? In which case, my (self-)perceived egoism is nothing to worry about.

When I think about perfect days, I think about all the things E. and I filled our days with when we were falling in love. Drinking hot chocolate in the dunes after dark. Finding silly things-we’ve-never done to do together: surfing, landscape-drawing courses, trekking the Hardanger plateau. The excuse about everyday obligations taking over doesn’t cover it. There were everyday obligations on those days as well. It may have felt like time out-of-time, but it wasn’t. And what if our idea of cause & effect here is all wrong? What if the feelings didn’t spark the experiences, but the experiences (the willingness to experience) sparked the feelings?

Once again, nothing new here. A cliché idea from any self-development course or marriage-counseling session. But once again, experience cannot be learned by rote.

So I keep writing it down.

And I will give myself permission to continue with this memoir project. Out of my comfort zone and crossing genres. So much to learn. So many ways to fail. So, like crossing the plateau: one careful step in front of another. Staying in the moment, which does mean to focus from one, specific perspective.

One at a time.