States of America, Plural

Course description. In late cuz I be worked hard and in grief and perplexed.


Creative Writing Seminar: Creative Non-Fiction: “States of America, Plural”

Works of creative nonfiction are inherently plural. Multiple storylines, many angles of approach. At times we resist this plurality, want to make an essay singular, unified, find a single speaker, one tone, give it nice neat arc, a clear theme. The premise of this class is, what a shame it’d be if we could. We’ll be interested here in nonfiction that embraces plurality and builds it into its formal body. Multiple viewpoints. Braided storylines. Image and text juxtaposed uncomfortably. Unwanted erasure defiantly embraced. Oh, and meanwhile, back at the ranch, America too is inherently plural, as recent social and political upheavals have brought to light. America’s got the same questions going on – are we one by being narrowly one, or one by being broadly many? E pluribus unum, yo? So while we’ll focus, as we should, on students’ own creative explorations, they’ll be informed by texts that argue, in plural ways, that plurality is our power. Namely, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me; Claudia Rankine, Citizen; Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts; Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Guantánamo Diary. Evaluation will be based on a writing journal, regular creative exercises, co-teaching of part of one of the assigned texts, a final portfolio of mindfully and heartfully revised work, and active energetic participation in all aspects of our work together.


What would it be to manifest diversity without recourse to the word diversity? Am I just a Trumpy grump here? I don’t think so. Quick analogy, I only believe patriots who wave or wear no flag. NO – the patriot I most believed ever was the one waving the US flag upside down. Oh, he loved his country truly, and I honked my horn. I wave diversity likewise. It’s become a cloying sameness.

Advertisements

Trump and the Diamond Sutra (II)

A sickness is spreading, here and now, and fucking hell.

Three gunmen opened fire in a mosque in Quebec City during evening prayers on Sunday, reportedly killing at least five people, according to the mosque’s president, Mohamed Yangui. Around 40 people were reportedly inside the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Center (Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec) when the gunmen opened fire.

Police say they arrested two people and aren’t ruling out the possibility of a third person being involved. Officials confirmed there were multiple fatalities but won’t specify how many.

Bodhisattva means a long view. Innumerable beings, innumerable worlds, and it ain’t you saving them anyway. But this – what are you going to do?

My country is burning, my other country is burning, the world is burning, the top of head is burning, here, now. And here I am grading? Somehow I am.

What the fuck is this world.

Calling my congressman does not feel sufficient. Waving a sign in a crowd does not feel sufficient. Okay nothing feels sufficient. Calling and waving do not feel me. What does then. You don’t do that, those, what are you going to do?


Sorry for the jargon folks. The Four Bodhisattva Vows, as I first learned them, and still most to heart know them –

Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them.
Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to put an end to them.
Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them.
Buddha’s way is unattainable, I vow to master it.

Bodhisattva = enlightening being. One who puts her enlightenments aside indefinitely, even if that’s forevers, to further the enlightenment of all the others.

My Q, and it burns, is how’s it function in this present sitch. Cuz DT, that whole coterie, they sentient beings too. They can sign executive orders, definitive evidence of sentience. Save them too? Sheeeeee-it.


Don’t believe in hell as a later place. It’s where they are now.

Artist’s statement (SCRO)

My first sub to a gallery’s call for entries. Writ with the help of a mist friend.


SCRO begins with a handwritten text about my relationship with my aging father. A single paragraph over 24 pages, one for each hour of the day. I manipulate the text on a photocopier, scan the resultant distorted images, and crop those to compose short video poems, 24 of them, each a minute long. The length of each frame determined by chance. The text distressed for my fear of his mental decline. Also for how hard it is for son to know father, or father son, or either one himself. The heart of the practice is my distortion of the ascenders, descenders, bowls and cross-strokes of my written hand. Visual forms, latent in the text, are literally drawn out of it as the words are composted—broken down and let re-flower in proto-signs, pseudo-glyphs, half-made faces and botanic forms. The soundtrack is ambient noise in and around the house for which my father co-signed the loan. He’s made me able to live, here. SCRO, the overlap of “scrotum” and “escrow,” both derived from words for to cut.


The stills I sent:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And here’s one of the things themselves.

Trump and the Diamond Sutra (I)

Worst case seems to be our case. Men of great sudden power – worldly power, outer power, power a manifestly decrepit political process has bestowed on them – are telling the media they are enemy and should just shut up. Are reinstituting torture at secret sites overseas. Are abhorring abortion abroad to placate a domestic audience though that jacks up illegal unsafe abortions in the Third World, and deaths by. Are waving threats of no-more-money at cities havening immigrants doing work few else want to and their DACA children, some my own very students. Oh if I keep listing I’ll never be done. The Constitution, frail bulwark, cries to think what comes next.

I’m not a marcher. Don’t like slogans, crowds, group thought. Guess I could suspend that, and may, for the import of opposing. Cuz this is real real bad.

Want to know what inner power is. Have started reading the Diamond Sutra again, Red Pine’s translation, thought I touched something in these lines:

After crossing his legs and adjusting his body, he turned his awareness to what was before him.

At the start of the sutra. Don’t feel qualified to comment on them, but what I hear is, the Buddha is in a body. And wholly in it. He needs to attend to it and knows it. Maybe his knee hurts, so he adjusts. He was out in the city begging for his one meal, walking barefoot, he’s an old guy by now, maybe his knee or his insole hurts. He adjusts his body. Doesn’t blame anyone for his discomfort, just does what he can to lessen it, and moves along. No arrogance.

No blame. Turns his care to what needs looking after – what was before him. Is human, not a god, not omniscient, it takes a choice and a turn to locate his mind here, in mindfulness. But he can, and because he’s love, he does.

What answer does this offer to Trump, at the apparent dawn of proto-fascism in a capital empty of competent political opposition? I think maybe none.

Nor am I helping the petitioners, demonstrators, agitators, and such, whom I admire lots and am glad for greatly but find I am not one of, much.

The only answer I know to the sickness of outer power is cultivation of inner power. I have not heard a resonant response to the ill spreading among us anywhere except in buddhadharma. Which I don’t understand, and tells me nothing specific about how to act.

And, too, I reject quietism.

Thus astray, as I dive into the Diamond Sutra, I may post a few of my misprisions here. Will share by tweet in case lonely sleepless sad POTUS eavesdrops.


NEXT DAY. This post started to turn to crap. Had I had a beer too many? (Been through a breakup, second time round with the same o so lovely heartful hurted beloved, some beers is cheery to me.) Maybe I just lost the bead.

“Group thought,” that’s out, everything I’ve heard about the Women’s Marches, they were astonishing harmonious various, true response, right action.

“I have not heard …,” that out. Soon as I said it, started hearing fierce meaningful responses all over. L. in Portland sent this from HuffPo on ethnographic blogging, its quilting of irreducibly multiple voices, as resistance to the One Voice of the State. Adam Gopnik’s annoying fondness for the sleek epigram has transmuted under a new pressure to become a majestic voice of true opposition. He wrote this in the New Yorker, from which a taste:

Whenever there is an authoritarian coup rooted in an irrational ideology, well-meaning people insist that it can’t persist because the results are going to be so obviously bad for the people who believe in it, whether it’s the theocratic revolution in Iran or the first truly autocratic Administration in America. Tragically, terribly, this is never the way it works. There is no political cost for Trump in being seen to be incompetent, impulsive, shallow, inconsistent, and contemptuous of truth and reason. Those are his politics. This is how he achieved power. His base loves craziness, incompetence, and contempt for reason because sanity, competence, and the patient accumulation of evidence are things that allow educated people to pretend that they are superior. Resentment comes before reason.

And this in the Sun, which arrived today, its dawn offering

Let America Be America Again
Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America was never America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed –
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It was never America to me.)

Ironies multiply and compound. The whole poem here.

Could be said, these are buddhadharma, yo? A sutra‘s what stitches you up.

I just – I just – I don’t know how to turn acts of mind, poems and posts, to act acts. I want to knock a government down. What use, following my breath?

Plum blossoms

First noble truth. Being hurts. It just hurts, to be. What is it to sit in that? Not to gnash, flail, look for a door out of it, but just abide in it. Wakeful, curious.

Hurting with more losses than I’m used to right now. Orphaned, a friend said, and nailed it. A woman I loved and loved me she said and I thought might be my only has shifted and said no to me. Bereft. My father my dear rigid irritable father is sliding into a senescence our lengthening life spans have made famous. His wife N. who has become dear to me, I fear for her, the burdening. And my mother, wounded and wounding, I have to say a no to her I don’t know she’ll withstand.

And these are all what a young man dear to me would call “first world problems.” And he is in duress in the only psychiatric bed that could be found in the whole GD state. A sort of duress I know myself. Times I think the error might be traced back to matter, the making of it in the first place.

So. First noble truth. It hurts to be. Duhkha. Suffering, pain, unsatisfactoriness. We crave, age, we sicken, die. And it’s called noble because it’s good news. Good news because it’s the truth, said plainly, straightly.

My teacher gave me the name KyushunKyu, endlessshun, spring. One of the epithets for enlightenment. Occurs to me now, this cold cold blowy night, he wasn’t giving me that name he was giving it the world.

I don’t know what my practice is. I know my heart hurts. I can try to make it not hurt, like some ruffian to it, I guess, or I can let it hurt, tender it. But even then I don’t know what my practice is.

Is all I got for now. And love. And plum blossoms, who throw off the cold.

John Berger, 1927-2017

And now John Berger gone. Who’s had more power and sway over my grown mind than any other. A whole man, upstanding.

This from his essay on the Chauvet Cave:

We have no word for this darkness. It is not night and it is not ignorance. From time to time we all cross this darkness, seeing everything: so much everything that we can distinguish nothing. You know it, Marisa, better than I. It’s the interior from which everything came.

The meaning there is, nothing is lost. And yet what a loss.

His love for the world shone in the care of the balance of each syllable.

Not a word he wrote was not about, in, and of, intimacy.

 

Sound w/ no human meaning

I am thunderous sad this howly eve. Why so hard to let go of what you never held ever. Well the wind it howl all my walls round, Heathcliffs me, heathens, encliffs me, as I prep my lessons.

Here’s a few on sound-as-sound, animal meaning, gut calls. Not that they have no human meaning but they have no meaning proprietarily human. Chords that binds us to birds, rats, rocks, grasses, ice floes.


One.

Hear sound made as its own meaning – Louis

, Ella

, then write a poem of pure sound.

Two.

Do the Dada, eye

ball-karawane-2

and ear

Karawane (click on the loudspeaker and give a list)

then do it again.

Three.

Make a list of sounds you make you feel are meaningless but just the same expressive, of you. For instance, “ugh,” “gahhhh,” “phphhht.” Go for as long as you can and spell them as accurate as you can.

Four.

Homophonic translation, as I’ve laid out here and here.


These for my intro poetry workshop, whom I wish to shake at outset, their sense of the possible.


Am drawn to them, believe or no, by an anything but frivolous practice, liturgical chanting of sounds that, some, to me, are just pure sound, e.g. the Emmei Jikku Kannon Gyo

Kanzeon namu butsu yo butsu u in yo butsu u en buppo so en jo raku ga jo cho nen kanzeon bo nen kanzeon nen nen ju shin ki nen nen fu ri shin

because of my illiteracy. Translation,

Kanzeon! Praise to Buddha! All are one with Buddha; all awake to Buddha. Buddha, Dharma, Sangha – eternal, joyous, selfless, pure. Through the day Kanzeon – through the night Kanzeon. This moment arises from mind; this moment itself is mind.

But we chant them in Japanese, unknowing the meaning many, because the sounds themselves are, it is said, efficacious. Then there are dharanis with no semantic meaning anywhere, only mantra value

Namu kara tan no tora ya ya namu ori ya boryo ki chi shifu ra ya fuji sato bo ya moko sato bo ya mo ko kya runi kya ya en sa hara ha e shu tan no ton sha namu shiki ri toi mo ori ya boryo ki chi shifu ra rin to bo na mu no ra kin ji ki ri mo ko ho do sha mi sa bo o to jo shu ben o shu in sa bo sa to no mo bo gya mo ha te cho to ji to en o bo ryo ki ru gya chi kya ra chi i kiri mo ko fuji sa to sa bo sa bo mo ra mo ra mo ki mo ki ri to in ku ryo ku ryo ke mo to ryo to ryo ho ja ya chi mo ko ho ja ya chi to ra to ra chiri ni shifu ra ya sha ro sha ro mo mo ha mo ra ho chi ri i ki i ki shi no shi no ora san fura sha ri ha za ha zan fura sha ya ku ryo ku ryo mo ra ku ryo ku ryo ki ri sha ro sha ro shi ri shi ri su ryo su ryo fuji ya fuji ya fudo ya fudo ya mi chiri ya nora kin ji chiri shuni no hoya mono somo ko shido ya somo ko moko shido ya somo ko shido yu ki shifu ra ya somo ko nora kin ji somo ko mo ra no ra somo ko shira su omo gya ya somo ko sobo moko shido ya somo ko shaki ra oshi do ya somo ko hodo mogya shido ya somo ko nora kin ji ha gyara ya somo ko mo hori shin gyara ya somo ko namu kara tan no tora ya ya namu ori ya boryo ki chi shifu ra ya somo ko shite do modo ra hodo ya so mo ko

And I can tell you, when you’ve chanted it, you’ve been rocked.


And if you want some words said to have meaning, here.

Lighthearted fundraising schtick, yeah! And my first time as kokyo, OMG. And my most sacred text.