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The lute lies rusted in its green case odor of pines is synthetic; sweeteners artificial; even salt!  our tongues crave something dif...

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

JM's Writing Experiments

I wanted to see if these were still alive on the internet somewhere.

Here's more complete list:

1. Make a list of writing experiments.
2. Write a poem in which you include some reference, explicit or implicit, to everyone you know who has committed suicide.
3. Write poems designed for a particular magazine (a la Jack Spicer), even if this magazine doesn’t publish poetry. Send the poems to the magazine as you write them until they either publish you or tell you to stop.
4. If you are an academic, give an academic paper composed entirely of heroic couplets. Don’t tell anyone what you are doing.
5. “Ghost-write” poems for politicians or celebrities.
6. Write non-stop for 6 months, in every waking hour not devoted to any other necessary activity.
7. Compose a poem employing as many metaphors or examples as possible derived from Wittegenstein’s Philosophical Investigations.
8. Read only poetry written before 1800 for a year. See if your writing has changed. If it has changed for the better, do the same with 1700.
9. Take a book of poetry by someone else and compose poetic responses to every single poem. Try this with a poet you hate and then with a poet you love. Try writing your poems directly in the book, if you can stand to deface it.
10. Invent “heteronimos” a la Pessoa.
11. Compose a “Japanese Poetic Diary”
12. Write an autobiography, but including only events having to do with particular “subjects” (cooking, jazz, landlords, shoes).
13. Write the eleventh “Duino Elegy.”
14. Write a book of poetry in which the letter B never appears. See if anyone notices.
15. Parody your own style.
16. Stage elaborate contests (sestina contests, memorizing contests, rhyming contests).
17. Invent multiple ways of “gambling” on poetry (e.g. on the contests devised above).
18. Create a “neo-classical” style that is as regular and normative as Racine. The vocabulary should be fairly limited, the syntax limpid, the versification utterly smooth. Use this style as your normal mode of communication as much as you can get away with.
19. Try to get non-poets to collaborate with you on grandiose poetic projects. Test your persuasive powers.
20. Convince famous painters to illustrate your work or paint your portrait, or composers to set your poems to music.
21. Practice thinking in complete sentences. Do not write these down.
22. Be a Platonic “name-giver” of the type described in the Cratylus. Work at giving things their exact or “proper” names. Then practice with “misnomers.”
23. See if Wittgenstein was right: try to invent a “private language” for your sensations.
24. Adopt a variety of social “identities” in your writing (race, ethnicity, class, sexual identity). However, avoid any explicit “identifying” reference in the poem itself (e.g. don’t use the word “barrio” in your chicano poems).
25. Invent a private slang (a la Lester Young); attempt to get as many people as you can to use the words you coin. Don’t use these words in your writing; rather, conceive of the invention of this language as an independent poetic activity.
26. Write “vocalese lyrics” to a recorded jazz solo.
27. Practice speaking in blank verse as “naturally” as possible.
28. Create your own avant-garde movement; make sure you officially dissolve the movement after 6 months or a year.
29. Invent an imaginary city, complete with geography, history, architecture, prominent citizens, etc… Keep a sort of “bible” of all the information you compile. Then write poems set in this city.
30. Write nothing but sestinas and pantoums for a month. Then “cannabilize” them, using the best lines to write other poems.

When we say we don't understand a poet

There are poets I don't understand. By this I don't mean not understanding the words of poem, or being not able to interpret the meaning of the words. It's more that I don't get what the poet is trying to do, or why they are writing the way they do. I have this problem with contemporary British poets often. I just don't get it. I'm sure many have felt this way about Creeley as well. It is an understanding of the aesthetic intention. In this sense poets teach us how to read them: we have to just keep reading until we have learned.

Another thing is not liking a poet in one's own group. Say, if one liked all the New York School poets but didn't get one or to of them.  Or a poet one is supposed to like, but doesn't.

How To Live

I've been sent this previously unpublished poem by Mateo del Olmo.  He'll probably be insulted when I call it a bad poem, but so be it.  

How To Live

Sleep refreshes

Food nourishes

Dreams confuse but reconstruct the mind

Meditation sorts things out

Kissing makes Goddesses of women and fools of men

Sex is a demon, but who can despise it?

In a dream a problem is never solved

but it is

Poetry confuses the intellect but then doesn't

Spices alert the palate

A man's beard grows to remind him he is alive

Music soothes or excites

Salt is a metaphor for what isn't insipid

Melancholy heightens the appreciation of beauty like Keats's

"sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud"

Sunlight cheers and invigorates

There are those who claim it has a fragrance but it doesn't

Exercise rejuvenates and will not confuse the palate

Surrealism turned out to be a false path

It did not teach men to live

It confused the confusion of the dream with the reconstruction of the fragrance of sunlight

It did not even try to teach women how to live

The alcohol of surrealism is not the spice of melancholy

or even a slow-growing beard

Meditations actually are useful "in an emergency" though you wouldn't think it

The confusion of beards with weeping clouds does not occur in dreams

Spices have fragrance, but we do not know what it is for  

I hate the physical world

I hate the physical world

how it chaps your lips

and skins your knees

Monday, February 20, 2017

Poem With a Comma or Two

I can't fathom those Rilkean distances

hierarchies of shouting matches

I must take my sublimities in other shapes

compressed and obdurate drinking song

botanicals, mineral resistances

A perfumer's nose, but with the soul of a weightlifter


Here's some strengths and weaknesses I wrote out.  You can see the left hand column under the + has harmony and rhythm, knowledge of chords, harmony, song structure, and, generally a strong work ethic and the analytic ability that makes me want to make this kind of list in the first place.

The right hand side has weaknesses: piano technique, ability to improvise, lyric writing, my ear (in ability to play things I hear), and knowledge of recording techniques.

What this does is to give me some clarity.  Almost everything in the + column has to do with composing, and in the - column with performing.

Bass Notes

I am going to try to learn a standard by listening to the bass notes, to get the chord progression.  I think I will start with "I cover the Waterfront."


It struck me that you ought to approach learning to play music the way you do learning a language, or  vice versa.  When I tried to teach myself to draw a few years back I remember thinking: oh, that sounds incredibly hard or time-consuming (when looking at particular instructions). Well yes, that is because these things are hard to do.

You can learn a lot of Italian or a little Italian.  You can learn a little piano or a lot of it. In either case a little bit won't get you a lot.  When I am frustrated by my progress on the piano I realize it is because I am not putting in enough work of the right kind.  Instead of thinking "I just need to know enough to play my own songs," I should have been thinking: I need to play a lot of piano, not just enough for bare adequacy, because then my songs will sound bad.  I am a long ways from there, but I get better gradually.  While I am frustrated, it is a good frustration, because I use it to my advantage.  I really have not had a bad experience when playing, since I resumed a year and a half ago.