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(Seriality: (A Workshop) (Feb 2021)

In this workshop we take the methods and the organismic stance toward poetics (& life) and continue to investigate how to deepen one’s own work and life through spontaneous writing, honing the intuition, exercising the imagination & discovering the joy of seriality. In four weeks we’ll investigate several approaches toward serial form, read essays, read and write poems, engage in discussion and have related outside-of-class activities suggested to deepen one’s relation to this stance.

Charles Olson – Human Universe

Gemini, G.E.L. Serial Exhibit.

Sam Hamill @ 70.Excerpt:

Onikoroshi Saké (Demon Slayer)

It’s not the process, it’s the LIFE of poetry. All this clamoring to be public is not only a nuisance, but a squandering of money and good will.

These are not budding Buddhas. They are Oni—little poetry demons that trivialize the life of poetry, which is a path, not a destination. In the great not-knowing, there is only the learning, the path, the Way. The little Oni keep dancing and trying to become Big Devils, undermining principles and true practices.


Assignment: This class is designed in part to take the experience of spontaneous composition practiced in POPO, and the effort to learn how to subdue your editor’s mind (ego) and write from an open stance honed in Poetics as Cosmology and start thinking about series of poems rather than occasional poems. The feelings experienced are: 1) to be overtaken by the Muse (see Diane di Prima interview and the talk of her Loba project) and to 2) work in the serial mode and have the experience of poems sort of writing themselves and resources dropping into your lap.) If you are already working on a series, bring the latest poem in that series, potentially to read in class as illustration (not as workshop moment.) If you do not have a series, plant the seed of learning what you can do in terms of a series of poems. You could write 28 more postcard poems in February and see what themes emerge. Prepare one or two each week to potentially share with the class. You could also do an ekphrastic poem based on any of the images from the Gemini G.E.L. work.

ALSO: Do one personal ritual. Ideally alone, ideally by water or forest. Engage the same inner voice you hear when composing poetry and ask that your next step in this process be granted. For example, if you don’t have a current series of poems, ask that the best possible subject emerge. If you have a series, ask that the next poem come and that it more deeply express your inner world/landscape. Plan to share the poem but do not tell anyone about the specifics of the ritual. DO THIS FOR YOURSELF. Do one a week and try to write from it, or take notes about things that happen in nature around you.

This might help:

Primer on Hakuin:


  1. Watch this:

take notes and bring a thought or two about this to class. Maybe also read about Mackey’s series.

2) Think of a title and go outside and “hunt” for the poem.

“I’ve had this feeling before—of going out to get a poem, like hunting…[I felt] erotic, oddly magnetic. Like the photographic paper. As I walked I was recording the details. I was the details, I was the poem.”

—Eileen Myles

I believe this is from an essay in her 1991 book Not Me.

3) Short Eileen Myles poem to listen to. (From this 2002 interview.)

4) Do your personal ritual. See above. (You could make your ritual the poem hunt. Maybe have rules like no talking to anyone.)

5) Read:

(P.S. There is no #8! Go figure.)


Continue the series you have started, if you have. Be ready to discuss your series in class, if you’d like. Write an anagram poem like this one:

Ann Graham Walker Anagram

or this one:

Show Opening Anagrams for Saundra Fleming

or this: Birthday Anagrams for Charlie Stobert

Try this program to help you gather potential anagrams:

Take a look at this:

In the essay BEING HUMAN IS AN OCCULT PRACTICE, Zurawski argues that studying and sharing literature can function as a means of enriching the impoverished definition of “human” created by capitalist social relations. Beginning with an analysis of Robert Duncan’s description of the moment in his high school classroom when he finds himself called into a life in poetry, this essay explores the possibilities of the literature classroom at the very moment that it’s being dismantled by the neoliberalization of our university systems. Zurawski argues that the literary holds a revitalizing potential precisely because of its capacity of exceeding the narrow imaginative aims of life within our contemporary social order. READ EXCERPT.

Listen to THIS:

Some background of the poem is here. Remind me to read this poem in class if you are interested. The poem was written for his daughter, I believe and there is a nod in it to CBC, I am rather certain.

See also this. And this. Listen to this for extra credit:

or this as mentioned in class after the passing of Chick Corea:

From 2:55 to 5:11, there’s Amy Miller talking about seriality:

If you still need more: Robert Duncan/John Weiners film (1965).


Bring in your interview poem! (Make sure your partner is cool with you reading it. No one is forced to share.)


Key essay: Jason Wirth Western Turtle Island anacrhy

Listen: Carla Bley: Life Goes On:

Watch: More Carla:

(Static at beginning of video gets fixed)

Celan’s Seriality

Read: Miriam Nichols on Robin Blaser

19) I am aiming for a biography that is neither as inclusive as Leyda’s Log nor as focused on the “life myth” of my subject as is Edel’s work. I have no wish to challenge the methods of these stellar scholars, but rather to propose an alternative focus. If the archive is our cultural underworld, the literary genealogy is the tale of the writer’s descent to it, and it is a story—a point of view on what that writer has seen and heard and what he or she wishes to bring to light. 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. Dante was his cher maître because Dante’s great imago in the Commedia gave him (Dante) a handle on the cosmos as well as a way to tell his story. Yet Blaser’s Dante is not the Dante of philology or high scholarship, but rather the beloved companion of a poet anxious to create a picture of his times. The serial form that Blaser worked in is about opening the poem to the contingencies of time-space. I use the geo-historical metaphor of location with consideration: the past is not a line but a territory, vast and shabby like Jean Cocteau’s underworld in the film, Orphée, a film Blaser loved. 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. In his “Author’s Note” to The Holy Forest, Blaser writes: “The whole thing: just trying to be at home. That’s the plot” (Blaser 2006b: xxv).

20) And so back to the task and method of biography. I have adapted my method from Blaser and his fellow poets (Charles Olson in particular) because, like them, I am interested in the way that a life’s work can make articulate the problematic of a certain geo-historical moment and illuminate the present in so doing. Certainly this was Blaser’s idea and I suppose I share the bias: he complained vigorously, for instance, when biographies of his poet-friends paid what he considered too much attention to the person with too little focus on the big questions that the work was meant to answer. My aim is to balance the all-inclusive claims of the archive with those of a genealogy tailored to Blaser’s project. This genealogy has to include the adventures and idiosyncrasies of the man, but as these provide context for his poetic vision, the company he kept (living and dead), and the problematic he addresses. So a Blaser genealogy has to acknowledge Dante and Joyce, two writers who were not just sources but everyday companions of a venture in poetry, because the first offers a world image and the second the shattering of it. Hence Blaser’s early poems are fraught with images of broken mirrors and glass—“strewn pieces, / his pieces in the forest” (Blaser 2006b: 130). Through the long time-span of the serial poem, however, these fragments begin to soften and bend into “the pleats of matter, and the folds of the soul,” as Blaser writes, quoting Gilles Deleuze from The Fold (396 original emphasis). In response to the divine view of the Commedia, where the imago mundi comes to Dante from a vantage point beyond the earth, Blaser offers a view-from-here.

21) I consider Blaser’s biography to be inseparable from his effort toward a poesis for his times. From a childhood fascination with the Gustave Doré illustrated Inferno14 to an adolescent love of Catholic pomp and after school Latin lessons from Monsignor O’Toole in Twin Falls, Idaho, Blaser moved from a medieval Christian world view into the twentieth century through the American romantics—Hawthorne’s “Artist of the Beautiful” is key, with the shattered mechanical butterfly—and the moderns. The Holy Forest takes its title from Dante’s Purgatory: it is the forest at the entrance to the earthly paradise—the paradise, Blaser maintains, that it is the task of the living to build. In “The Fire,” he says that in order to find a self, one must create a world (Blaser 2006a: 6)—that one is unimaginable without the other. This isn’t a hard idea to intuit: begin with the person, the birth place, and the family, and you will find a world; begin with a world and you will necessarily find the tracks of a person. So, for example, Blaser’s search for a way to integrate the sacred into a contemporary world view is both personal and public: it comes out of his Catholic adolescence but also the state of the humanities after modernism. It is neither separable from nor reducible to a life experience. For Blaser, poiesis was a thinking-through of relationships to the othernesses of human life and nature’s things—a slow recognition that transcendence is not a supernatural realm but just how any one of us is to another.

Also see Miriam Nichols interview: Parts 6 and TEN and also the reading and sixty-three minute discussion of Blaser’s poems.

I am finding this work of facilitating workshops energizing and now have the direction for the next course, A Sequence of Energies, to happen Sunday nights in April 2021: 4, 11, 18, 25 4-6pm PDT.

The Zoomroom link remains: Consider bookmarking it for future reference.