Notebook Excerpts

I have a growing desire to write in three dimensions, to sculpt text rather than paint it.  To use words as mixed media.  More shadow and space where mystery can rush in.  To manipulate poetry, to construct it (not so much a poem as a construction) rather than simply (hear the bland intonation) write it.


The question of how to get shorter line breaks.  I don’t want them to seem unnatural.  It’s a frame of mind.  See the line breaks of tanka.  See the slowing-downness.  Not slowness, necessarily, but the process of slowing.  Noticing.  Chewing on something.  Setting a thought apart — not letting the mind race, but letting it settle.  In some ways is it the opposite of a prose poem, which lets the lines sprawl so luxuriously till line breaks cease to be?  There can often be “another ordinary day” feel to prose poems.  Then there’s the setting off from the rest, the highlighting, the calling attention to, the deliberateness, that comes with line breaks, especially shorter lines.  Something arranged, or composed, like a collection of stones on a shelf.  That’s the conceptual art of it.  (The artist Joseph Beuys always left plenty of space.)


Saw Adelia Prado read last night.  She was absolutely connected to the words, invested in them, not cavalier about them like some poets can seem when they read.  She read slowly, clearly, and forcefully.

She stopped once to catch her breath from sadness.  She wept.  She placed a fist over her heart.  She raised her palm in the air.  That old auditorium with periodic tables of the elements suspended from the ceiling was transformed.

“I don’t write with my head or my heart,” she said, “but with my gut.”