Syrians to Canada (II)

Some friends on Salt Spring Island are raising money so they can invite two, maybe three Syrian families to come live there with them there. Maybe they will make new lives, new starts, there. Maybe they will go from faces in the news to friends you run into in the grocery store. How nice is that?

It strikes me as the most, a sliver of the only, important thing.

If you want to send them a few bucks you can here.

It’s hard to feel loss even when it’s right in your face. My dad, he’s in decline, I don’t want to see it. Three hours after we’d had lunch together he was asking if I’d had lunch with them. He’s going. Next time I see him he’ll be a little more gone. Don’t want to see or feel any of it. And yet I don’t want not to more.

And when it’s not your family, and not your people, and not your problem …

And yet it is, and it is, and it is – and you know it, yo?

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On co-teaching

A bit more from the syllabus of my upcoming poetry worksop.

How’s that for a Freudian typo. Workshop.


Something started happening with the presentations in a class I taught last spring. Between the work of the presenting student, and my pesky interrupts, and the contributions of everyone else, they ceased to be presentations, without becoming anything else at all defined. A little bit seminar, a little bit Q&A, quite a lot of free-for-all. The presenter and I were, in effect, teaching the class together in an ongoing improvisation, and though there was sometimes awk­wardness there was a lot of joy. I think a lot got learned. I came to call the practice co-teaching.

Scruffy, unpredictable, co-teaching is a surrender of control and dispersal of authority very much in the spirit of the rhizome. So I propose that we take up co-teaching as a practice this quarter also. First time round, it came adventitiously, and I don’t want to over-plan things now, it might kill the spontaneity. Soon to come, then, bare traces of a structure, offered tentative, for us to revise if we find them too much, or too little, or simply amiss.

For now. Each of you will sign up to co-teach one poetry text and one poetics text. (Full list below.) In most cases you’ll be collaborating with one fellow student and with me. I’ll give you some pointers – poems or concepts I think important to touch on in the text – and will count on you to develop a plan of action, ahead of time, with your student collaborator. (If you need to involve me in your plans ahead of time, cool, but otherwise I’m happy improvising in response to whatever unfolds.) Sign-up will happen soon, so please acquaint yourself with the course texts promptly.


The list, i.e., the crazy we be up to:

William Carlos Williams, Spring & All

Robert Creeley, Pieces
Charles Olson, “Projective Verse”

John Taggart, “The Rothko Chapel Poem”
Denise Levertov, “Some Notes on Organic Form”

Ghandl of the Qayahl Llaanas, from Nine Visits to the Mythworld*
John Cage, “Lecture on Nothing”

Will Alexander, from Towards the Primeval Lightning Field*
Calvin Bedient, “Against Conceptualism” (CV)

Adonis, from Selected Poems*
Federico García Lorca, “Theory and Play of the Duende”

Jean Valentine, Break the Glass
Lyn Hejinian, “The Rejection of Closure”

Coral Bracho, from Firefly under the Tongue*
Adrienne Rich, “When We Dead Awaken”

*Selections to be worked out in consultation with co-teachers.


Image credit: Marc Ngui, Thousand Plateaus.

A taste of rhizome mind

From Poetics of the Rhizome. A course set to start soon.


Before the World Wide Web, there was a worldwide web. Human beings are recent guests in that web, guests often rude and destructive, but sometimes stunned with awe, or love.

[T]he Great Subculture which runs underground through all history … [a] tradition that runs without break from Paleo-Siberian Shamanism and Magdalenian cave-painting; through megaliths and Mysteries, astronomers, ritualists, alchemists and Albigensians; gnostics and vagantes, right down to Golden Gate Park.
                – Gary Snyder, “Why Tribe”

Rats are rhizomes. Burrows are too, in all of their functions of shelter, supply, movement, evasion, and breakout. The rhizome itself assumes very diverse forms, from ramified surface extension in all directions to concretion into bulbs and tubers. When rats swarm over each other. The rhizome includes the best and the worst: potato and couch­grass, or the weed.… The wisdom of the plants: even when they have roots, there is always an outside where they form a rhizome with something else – with the wind, an ani­mal, human beings…. “Drunkenness as a triumphant irruption of the plant in us.”
                – Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

I would describe poetry as ecology in the community of words.
                – Jed Rasula, This Compost

[T]he separate perspectives of my two eyes converge upon the raven and convene there into a single focus. My senses connect up with each other in the things I perceive … each perceived thing gathers my senses together in a coherent way, and it is this that enables me to experience the thing itself as a center of forces.
                – David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

This old plum tree is boundless. All at once its blossoms open and of itself the fruit is born. It forms spring; it forms winter. It arouses wind and wild rain…. Its whirling, miraculous transformation has no limit. Furthermore, the treeness of the great earth, high sky, bright sun, and clear moon derives from the treeness of the old plum tree.
                – Eihei Dōgen, “Plum Blossoms”

Most of each thing
is whole but contingent
on something about
the nearest one to it
                – Fanny Howe, “The Splinter”

Common threads here are multiplicity and interdependence. There’s no one way to be human. There’s no one way to be a poem. There’s no one way to be at all! And no one way to say so.


Plum Blossoms - detailMy students are you reading. Winter is coming. You’re gonna be asked, early on, to write spring. The image atop is Red and White Plum Blossoms by Ogata Kôrin. You can read a nice treatment of it here.

Here’s what Dōgen Zenji, my teacher’s teacher’s teacher, and on, has to say about painting spring:

When you paint spring, do not paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots – just paint spring. To paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots is to paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots. It is not yet painting spring.

It is not that spring cannot be painted. My late master, old buddha, he alone was a sharp-pointed brush that painted spring.

So be the sharp-pointed brush painting spring. Or whatever.

 

Hwæt (the movie)

Last week I had the pleasure of reading in the epic recital of Beowulf at Bellingham’s local meadery, Honey Moon, þæt wæs good fun. The opening lines wouldn’t quit me after so I kept messing with them. Here’s the result.

My first movie. Crude stuff, okay, but what I’m keen on? Putting images I’ve made by hand in motion and putting sound and voice to them. Doubt I’m done exploring that.

Check out, while I’m channeling the pre-mod, Benjamin Bagby’s astonishing recreation of these same lines. My Old English is too crappy for me to know for sure, but I think he’s probably the Olivier, the Brannagh, of the scop set.

Nina Simone Breaks Fourth Wall, Makes Blogger Cry

Still don’t have a damn idea how to write about race, freedom, trauma. But this came along last evening and got all the way in. I had a hell of a time cracking protects to get it to you, file formats are pretty hard to navigate too, but I claim fair use. And well goddamn but hear the smarts in her voice. I mean here.

My father always promised me
That we would live in France,
(You know you don’t believe that)
We’d go boating on the Seine
And I would learn to dance.

We lived in Ohio then
And he worked in the mines—

I don’t want to sing this song. It’s not for me. My father always promised me that we would be free, but he did not promise me that we would live in France. (Most beautiful laughter.) (Words I can’t make out.)

—How ’bout Brooklyn?

No, my father knew nothing about New York. At all. He promised me that we would live in—peace. And that maybe I can still get. Okay. We have to skip that one.

Really though, hear her. The transcript’s nothing. Don’t know how to put words to my sense of the fullness of life I hear in her voice as it bodies forth.


Addendum a day later. She’s a dharma teacher. That is the liveness I perk to in her words from the wholeness I hear in her person. I don’t mean to diminish the particularity of the fight she was part of – a civil rights struggle I empathize and identify with but cannot have felt as an existential claim on my being as she did. And yet, the clarity of her no, this is not for me, a gift to me in my witless powerlessness.

Syrians to Canada

I’m proud of my country today. The first 163 of 25,000 expected Syrian refugees arrived last night – Lebanon to Toronto, by air.

Have I ever said that before, “I’m proud of my country today,” of either of those that half-claim me? Maybe not. But today, yes. From the NYT:

The arrival of the first flight was highly anticipated in Canada. To avoid a crush that might overwhelm the exhausted refugees, the government asked the public not to go the airport to see the flight arrive. Those who ignored the request were not able to get close to the refugees in any case: the military plane taxied to a terminal building deep in the airport grounds with no public access; it is normally used only for visiting foreign dignitaries.

The building has been converted into a special processing center, where arriving refugees will not only go through the usual customs, immigration and health screenings, but will also be given all of the other paperwork necessary for their new lives, including public health insurance cards. They will also be given winter clothing, and children will receive toys.

Visiting foreign dignitaries. Damn straight. And what do you give visiting foreign dignitaries? Toys. Someone’s getting it right for once somehow.

The whole article here (you may hit a paywall).

Honestly? I’m so heartachy, after Charleston, Roseburg, Paris, San Bernardino, hardly an exhaustive list, and too a racist convulsion here at Western I haven’t found the clarity yet to write about, and too all I learn from reading or listening about my students’ struggles with assault, trauma, depression, poverty, addiction, violence, and dysfunction – when I read “children will receive toys” it takes something not to start crying.

I look forward to whitened old age when I can weep quietly at the slightest provocation and no one will take it amiss. Oh, that’s just how Grandpa is, he weeps when you swat a fly …