Life as Rehearsal for the Poem

In two previous workshops we discussed (& wrote from) the Eileen Myles notion of the hunted poem and her essay in which she talks about that method. Excerpt:

The process of the poem, the performance of it I mentioned, is central to the impression I have that life is a rehearsal for the poem, or the final moment of revelation… I’ve had this feeling before — of going out to get a poem, like hunting… I felt “…erotic, oddly / magnetic…” like photographic paper. As I walked I was recording the details. I was the details. I was the poem…

The act of writing spontaneously is an effort to return to this state. Myles calls it “oddly / magnetic” which is one way of looking at it. It is an enhanced state that comes in part from being a smaller part of the living and breathing cosmos. Words fall short here but we all have had the experience of something being witnessed or experienced through us. The Poetry Postcard Fest is an effort to, in the words of Anne Waldman: “Be in the perspective of a writer 24 hours a day… all your senses are acute, attuned to the delicate and fierce nuances of language… Repeat the mantra: I exist to write.

How are the energies and rhythms of life, the demands of individuation, the responses to the now and here (as Jason Wirth says it) reflected in the work? Is there an humilitas sufficient to make (the writer) of use? What practices support the cultivation of this state? What habits occlude it? Who are we reading? Who are our “great companions?” Miriam Nichols on Robin Blaser:

Blaser was passionate about what he called the public world. This was a concept he adapted from Hannah Arendt and presented in his poems and essays as a collaged conversation about the state of things—a kind of on-going commentary on what was happening around him in poetry, philosophy, politics, science, and society… The wager of the lifelong poem is that by most thoroughly living and performing a localized time-space the poet can bring a perspective to the world necessarily inhabited by all. Once installed in that public space—and living up to one’s historical moment is not easy or self-evident—one may find the companionship of others who have done the same. Hence a way to be at home.

Buddhists know you have to be now and here and yet you don’t have to be a Buddhist to understand that, nor to understand how 95% of our culture is focused on the material life force, is distracted, may even be clinically neurotic in an age when the energy is so intense. As Bhagavan Das put it in a 1997 interview:

…someone who really wants to do a spiritual practice now and really get on it, you can get more merit and more advancement in three days than you could, say in 30 years, right? A long time ago, or in another age, like in the 1800s or, in the ancient times. In other words, it’s so bad, it’s so dark. No one’s calling God up on the phone, right? Everyone’s busy with the world. So God’s available. You can get through.

Paul E. Nelson: Operators are standing by.

Bhagavan Das: Operators are standing by to take your call.

Can you plan a three day retreat, alone, no devices, ideally isolated in nature away from family and friends with the intention to be able to live a life that allows you to: “Be in the mind/perspective of a writer 24 hours a day?” These three days would be spent doing your spiritual practice, praying, sacred dance, drumming, chanting, doing yoga, meditating, singing, doing Latihan, walking in nature, being in silence, whatever practice or practices support your inner life. If life’s obligations prevent a full-blown solo retreat, perhaps some help can be brought in for you to adapt this for three days of modified retreat.

This workshop will happen on five consecutive Sundays, June 6, 13, 20, 27 & July 4, 4-6pm PDT. Cost $200 via Paypal or check or Venmo:

The last night will be a low-key preparation for the 15th Poetry Postcard Fest in which participants will talk about their strategy for the fest and celebrate going through a whole season of workshops, the first such effort in SPLAB history. With gratitude for how you teach me and enrich my life as a poet and human.

1,000 blessings & appreciation for your consideration,

Paul E Nelson
20-April-2021
Unceded Duwamish Territory
Cascadia Bioregion