I have been fortunate to facilitate online workshops since Fall 2020. It is one of the great personal developments of the pandemic restructuring that we’re experiencing right now and, of course, if you want to know more about something, teach it. Starting from my graduate work in what Denise Levertov and Robert Duncan called Organic Poetry, (what Charles Olson called Projective Verse) and moving to what Jack Spicer and Robin Blaser called The Practice of Outside and the serial poem, I have shaped a curriculum that is based in these post-WWII methods and seeks to find what comes next. As Sunn Shelley Wong said, “at every moment in a life or in a poem, the formal choice is between answering to that which is alive, or attempting to enslave it.”
(Registration is open in the January’s Seriality (A 2022 Workshop)
My own experience with this work suggests that after learning to compose spontaneously (which the Poetry Postcard Fest helps to establish), the next step is going beyond the “occasional poem” and the poetry “prompt culture” to larger projects. In short, the serial. If it can re-enact history and deepen one’s experience of place, that’s even better. Sam Hamill was a wonderful teacher in the sense that he believed one must live the life of a poet and not worry so much about the public part of that, which he felt was a “squandering of money and good will.” His bodhisattva vow to poetry, which he mentioned in my 2005 interview with him, says it well.
Where does that leave me now and here? Since 2017 I have had the good fortune to live right next to a 19 mile-long auxiliary brain called Lake Washington here in a power spot the indigenous people called TUX woo’ kwib in a condo we’ve come to call Casa del Colibrí because of the love with which my beloved Bhakti Watts takes care of the local hummingbird population. The view is an endless parade of clouds, sunrises, coots, eagles, rainbows, ospreys, mergansers, beavers, kingfishers, geese, seagulls, crows and other wildlife and wind-guided water effects, with the occasional off-gassing old yacht idling for 30 minutes before going on a drunken pleasure cruise. There is enough here to hold one’s attention at almost any moment.
My latest series of poems is FLEXIBLE MIND, started in Fall 2020 and inspired by Michael McClure’s poem from his Touching the Edge: Dharma Devotions from the Hummingbird Sangha:
There is so much in that short poem, I could write a couple of blogposts about IT, but it is a good starting place for anyone interested in McClure. A recent poem in my own series was a subject of a video, which I hope you enjoy:
Thank you, Paul for your mad sober clever observant wise foolish teaching. Loved your poem. It would pair nicely on a page with that moth or butterfly image. Your observation that clouds are life is more literal than you might imagine. Most of a cloud’s condensation particles are living matter, bacteria, pollen grains and such. They also have identified 45 different special of microbes that live in the atmosphere. Its all one life.
Lovely, Rob! Clouds I am CRAZY about! One of the reasons I love living where I do…the cloudscapes are such a trip. I also am a longtime member of the (British) Cloud Appreciation Society. You sign up and get a cloud a day (photos taken by members, of which there are thousands around the world.)