Monday, May 22, 2017

Impermanence, Sort Of

I have made several collages that are made permanent only in photos, such as this one. I assemble the scraps but do not glue anything to anything. The paradox of assembling images in whole that remains unglued and can fall apart at any moment is thrilling, intoxicating. Controlled chaos at its finest, with the knowledge that chaos will win. And of course, I cheat by taking a photo, so in a sense it is permanent, as permanent as anything digital can be.

What do I discover as I go through this process? First, that it is the process itself that I love: the tearing of scraps; the finding of already-torn scraps in my box of scraps; the way-leads-on-to-way of it all. Then there's the freedom of it: I can arrange the pieces without having to worry about the logic of gluing something under one piece but atop another. So many of the collages I glue into permanence are not quite what I intended, because the logic of sequencing the pieces sometimes defies me.

What I haven't done yet, but may try soon, is using the exact same pieces to make a different collage, a series of collages all with the same elements...

Permanent impermanence, repeating itself again and again.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


I belong to a Facebook group where collage artists post their work. I am always fascinated by the way these artists see and interpret their world, turning chaos into order and exposing the underlying chaos beneath what seems like order. And oh, the colors!

These artists turn scraps into works of art; they see the potential in those scraps.

Imagine if we had politicians who could see the world this way. See what's wrong, and create something to right that wrong. See what's right, and incorporate it more fully into people's everyday lives. See chaos and ask why; see the patterns of the past, and ask, why not break those destructive patterns.

Instead, we just get the chaos interspersed with the destructive patterns (because destruction is easier, after all, and has no intellectual prerequisite).

Instead, we have scraps of human beings who see only their own dark impulses. The rest of us might as well be swept up and discarded. The rest of us become the pieces we try to pick up.

Sorry; I have collage-on-the-brain these days.


from petal
to hand
to bird

Monday, May 15, 2017

How Does This World

In pieces; that's how this world does.

In a deceptively simple poem titled "In Vain," Jack Kerouac has a beautiful image:

"The windowshade string upon
            the hand bible
In vain—"

I discovered this poem while prepping for Modern Poetry; it is the voice of a somber, haunted, poet Kerouac rather than the road-delirious, live-for-the-moment novelist Kerouac that emerges in these lines, each image "in vain," whether highbrow or low, distant or at-hand. It is the voice of a poet trying to make meaning; the voice of a poet asking, "How does this world?"

It is a collage. It is in-the-making, imperfect, working its imperfections into the whole. It is tactile and immediate, present tense despite the absence (or rather, the implication) of the verb "is" throughout the poem. The implication of a motel room in those things—"windowshade string" and "hand bible"—evokes Kerouac on the road, but exhausted beyond sleep, wondering what it's all for. Wondering how does this world.

It feels almost absurd, but this isn't far from anything Emily Dickinson does in her poems, as well. "How does this world" could be her question, explored in nearly two thousand poems.

Over the next few blog entries, unless I go off on some interesting tangent, I hope to explore some of the pieces that comprise the endless answer to "how does this world."

See the complete Kerouac poem here:

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Onward We Go

And so, the creative season stretches out before me, mysterious, dream-like, just waiting for me to shape its imagery into metaphor and its meanings into poems. I also find myself in search of a new project.

If only such internal shaping of this world could smoothly translate into the external shaping of this world, the immediate creation of certitude, peace, help for pain (see Matthew Arnold's poem "Dover Beach" for the context of that allusion). Alas, I am not even certain any more that there is an external world until I at some point during the day turn on the television to see the same talking heads talking the same foolishness.

If it were all poetry, I guess, poetry wouldn't matter so much. We live by paradox. We figure it out as we go along. We figure out what to keep, what to treasure, and what to remember only so as not to repeat. Onward we go, into the creative season.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

In the Mind's Eye

It is still on my shelf, my 1987 copy of James Gleick's book Chaos, one of my all-time favorite nonfiction books. One of the gems that I highlighted: "In the mind's eye, a fractal is a way of seeing infinity."

In the mind's eye—what a wonderful phrase, validating of both intellect and imagination, of the necessity of both working together as a means of interpreting perception in the reality of the moment. As always, I am reminded of poetry and collage, each of which is also "a way of seeing infinity."

How to describe the blindness of those who lack this "mind's eye," those who live by destruction rather than creativity? Or those who cannot balance the two—balance, as one thinks of Jackson Pollack, so many inner demons and yet the capacity to create something new, something that changed our collective mind's eye and made us see everything anew (those waterlily panels of Monet! We get it now!).

For an artist, what better evocation of chaos theory (infinite possibilities within finite parameters) than Pollack's drip paintings. Understanding those finite parameters—the edge of canvas or page; the poetic line and stanza; the letter and spirit of the law; the boundaries of human dignity—lets us manage and even thrive within the chaos of daily life. We are witnessing the beginning of the end of the ability to thrive. We must find a new way to see infinity, to brush up against those finite parameters and pull back, creating a new possibility that was there all along.

Artists and poets, please keep showing us the way.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Women's Work

A little bit of everything; a patchwork. Women's work. I spend so much time writing persona poems inspired by nineteenth century people that I think a lot about what those people's daily lives must have been like. I always circle back to the thought that their lives were more similar to our than dissimilar.

The modern "convenience" of television and other media is nothing if not consistent in driving home the point that our ideas about one another and our ways of treating and speaking about one another have not changed all that much in 100 or 1000 or 10,000 years. Women have always done everything and put up with the accusation that they can do nothing and that they like it. And "it" there means...everything.

Everything is political, especially, especially, the personal.

Back to work...

Friday, May 5, 2017


I love secrets. Not too many at once, and not a self-destructive one, but a good secret or two is power. Poets (and here I may be projecting) seem to me a reticent bunch; we hold our secrets close and allude to them in poem after poem.

More than a year of working on poems related to Emily Dickinson has filled my head with imagined secrets, as well. And again, poems are filled with such imaginings...

pieces of wings and who did the piecing