On listening to another, oneself

Zoketsu Norman Fischer on listening:

  • Listen with as few preconceptions or desires as possible.
  • Listening takes radical openness to another and radical openness requires surrender.
  • Listening turns a person from an object outside, opaque or dimly threatening, into an intimate experience, and therefore into a friend. In this way, listening softens and transforms the listener.
  • Listening requires fearless self confidence that is not egotism. It is faith in yourself to learn something completely new.
  • To listen is to shed, as much as possible, all of our protective mechanisms.
  • Simply be present with what you hear without trying to figure it out or control it.
  • To listen is to be radically receptive to others.
  • You are aware of all your preconceptions, desires, and delusions, all that prevent you from listening.
  • Listening is dangerous. It might cause you to hear something you don’t like, to consider its validity, and therefore to think something you never thought before, or to feel something you never felt before, and perhaps never wanted to feel.  Such change in ourselves is the risk of listening, and this is why it is automatic for us not to want to listen.
  • To really listen is to accord respect. Without respect no human relationships can function normally.
  • So much of what we actually feel and think is unacceptable to us.  We have been conditioned over a lifetime to simply not hear all of our own self-pity, anger, desire, jealousy. Our “adult response” is no more than our unconscious decision not to listen to what goes on inside us.

From Taking our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up

So much of being grown up, yeah, is an unconscious choice not to listen to most of what goes on inside.

How to listen and let it, another, oneself, in. Not give it sway but look after it.

Asked before what just sitting following the breath could possibly offer as a response to Trump and what’s happening.

This thought, just now. Trump’s first failure is a failure of inner listening.

I know that sounds 180 degrees wrong. But I mean Norman’s sort of listening – the friendship given another, given to oneself. Trump has no such friend.


The image atop: three Daruma dolls. I saw one last summer in a store window in Toronto and wished for it and … oh, it’s a long story, but my dear friend Barb went to great lengths, and then some more. And over pancake breakfast at the Old Town Cafe a few days ago passed it across the table to me. Daruma = Bodhidharma, Zen founder, spent nine years in a cave listening.


With thanks to Nomon Tim Burnett for passing the text on.

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Everything you wanted to know about meter in Shakespeare but were afeard to ask

Given to my Intro to Shakespeare students and now y’all. (Sorry, leaving out the bit where I show how to listen for stresses, and mark them, or show them rather they already know how to listen for stresses, just don’t know they do.)


And here we go. The baseline foot of iambic meter is the iamb:   x  / 

The most common variation in an iambic meter is the trochee:   /  x

Other common substitutions in an iambic meter are

the anapest   x  x  /
the spondee   /  /

Occasionally you’ll see the pyrrhic   x  x   and it’s usually paired with the spondee like so   x  x  /  /   and that’s sometimes also called a double iamb.

Only other foot possible, in English, is the dactyl   /  x  x   and you won’t see it in an iambic line. If you do you’ve grouped the stresses wrong. Erase your foot divisions and start over, remembering to maximize the number of iambs.

Similarly, if you come up with this   x  /  x   or this   /  x  /   as a foot, you’ve gone astray somewhere, unless you’re scanning Greek or Latin verse for quantity, which you ain’t. Back up and start over.

Sometimes at the end of a line you’ll have an extra unstressed syllable, and want to join it to the final iamb to make a foot like this   x  /  x   don’t. Leave it there. It’s not lonely, it’s a syllable, not a kitten. If you see a kitten, rescue it.


Moves to watch for, and effects they’re thought to have. An initial trochee

        /     x
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

creates emphasis by leaning into the words to come. A mid- or end-line anapest can lend speed, momentum, naturalness –

                                  x           x       / 
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

A spondee creates emphasis a bit differently than the trochee,

    /       /
No more – and by a sleep to say we end

pounding its fist on the words right at hand. The pyrrhic-spondee pairing (double iamb)

   x      x     /         /
with a bare bodkin? who would fardels bare?

is an interesting move, softening, yielding, then hitting hard. Take a look at this moment in Hamlet’s monologue; can you discern what the variation does, here? How would you perform it?

Last thing, we sometimes see trochaic meters in these plays – songs and spells, mostly. Trochee world is Bizarro world – English is biased to the iambic, so when you go trochaic, you go to the strange. In a trochaic meter, iambs are the most common substitution, and feel like an unexpected or unaccustomed softening. No anapests here but dactyls have become possible. Spon­dees and pyrrhics rock on, as before.


To review (and add a little). Feet that make the basis for meters in the plays:

iamb   x  /
trochee   /  x

Feet that can be variations in those meters:

anapest   x  x  /
dactyl   /  x  x
spondee   /  /
pyrrhic   x  x

How to describe the length of a line

one foot          monometer                             four feet          tetrameter
two feet           dimeter                                    five feet           pentameter
three feet         trimeter                                   six feet             hexameter

To give a full description of the meter of a line, identify the baseline meter (dominant foot and number of feet) and any substitutions. E.g., “iambic pentameter with a spondee in the fourth foot” or “trochaic tetrameter with a dactyl in the third foot.”

The marks, the terms, are a pain, I know, but they’re a means to an end. A violinist doesn’t learn to read sheet music so she can read sheet music. She learns it so she can play a Bach concerto.

Lastly, note we’re marking meter here, not rhythm, which is a subtler business altogether. There’s a way to mark it but we’re not going there. Fortunately, as speakers of English, you live in its rhythms as fishes in water, so just trust your sense of the character as a living human being, speaking to others the same. The meter is in there, lending order quietly, almost invisibly. When reading these lines, don’t be a robot, be a person.

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.

Maybe a bit like this

I was at a lovely poetry event last night, Kitchen Sessions Bellingham, very capacious in its tastes (its heart also), though the emphasis was spoken word, and I found me thinking near the end, Cool. Spoken word poets are the scops, the bards, of our time. And this form they work in, spoken word, is about the one form we’ve got that says direct intense heartfelt personal disclosure is crucial to (not an impediment to) the art.

And here you are (we in here said to me) doing “total translation” of an oral poem. Which means sometime or other you’re going to need to translate its orality. Meanwhile here you also are, wanting to draw intense heartfelt you into art, without arting it up the way your literary training says you’re supposed to.*

And so why not (we in here said to me) take these journal pages you’ve been making, and rewrite them as performance poems?

Brilliant! Didn’t work.

Who knows, maybe I’ll make and do a performance poem, now that I see I’m not done till I also translate the poem’s oral being, but the journal pages (here’s the one I’ve been working with tonight –


Maybe a bit

–) are wood, not plastic, have grain, can’t be remoulded into just any shape.

These thoughts come quick on the heels of an e-mail exchange with one of my most trusted readers about a draft of a bit of Overject. She expressed, not doubts, not trepidation, nor unease – astonishment, that’s the word, a mix of consternation and amazement – about the journal pages, of which the above’s one of three. And they were the three I was most concerned of, not for the personal exposure, surprisingly that don’t fret me much, but for the aesthetic risks they run, which are grave: banality, triteness.

So, the other play I’ve tried out this evening, is to rock** or wave the sheet up and down as the scanner scans. A translation of orality, I suppose, in that it makes visual the scop‘s or the slam poet’s speeds and slows. Sort of, sort of.


Maybe a bit - warped

And I think, we’ll see, that’s how it’ll look in the book.

The Martians are writing us.

Not to us – us.


* Why not? I think we’re back at “total translation = translate the translator.” The text is made of layers, some of them finished, some of them inchoate. The translator is made of layers, some of them public, some of them inchoate.


** How is rock the verb for the gentlest most restful action imaginable, the noun for the oldest hardest substance known to us? (I’m setting the music aside for the mo.)

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.

Sorry! Sorry! One more

Can’t resist. Heard it on As It Happens and had to search it out. I had surgery recently and taught while on painkillers and every time I said something off colour or inappropriate, I got to say, That wasn’t me, that was the Percocet.

As in, for instance, when I mocked the Republican candidates as a sardine can of moral dwarves, I could say, That was the Percocet talking. Apparently, Percocet’s a Democrat. In which spirit, this.

Guys, I still love this guy. I might come 2016 spoil me ballot and write him in.

Elise Partridge – Launch of The Exiles’ Gallery

Oh late, oh night, and here are give or take some words I said at the Vancouver launch for Elise Partridge’s The Exiles’ Gallery, now out from House of Anansi Press, you can find one here.


So we’re here to celebrate a new book of poems by Elise Partridge. Elise can’t be here with us in a bodily form. After her struggle with cancer she has gone what some faith traditions like to call home. Not her tradition, as far as I know, or mine, but the word, “home,” gives me a comfort when it shares a sentence with her name. Too, it gets me thinking about her title. It’s an odd title. The Exiles’ Gallery. The sounds in it hardly touch each other. THE EXILES’ GALLERY. It’s as if our mouths were to be acrobats, temporarily. Or as if all the phonemes in there were jonesing to get the eff out of there. I hope that way of putting it wouldn’t, doesn’t, displease her.

You might even say the sounds are exiled from each other. And something like that’s true with all her book titles. FIELDER’S CHOICE. CHAMELEON HOURS. The phonemes are oddly at odds. I say “oddly” because she can sure as hell do euphony when she pleases to

 some small donations from these golden trees

 Now we welcome the widening water

The, not dissonance of her titles, their refusal to euphonize, she’s up to something.

Quick check, everyone raise their hand who’s not exiled in some way or other from something. Thought so. (Two guys raised their hands here. Really? Really?)

To be at home isn’t a given, and it isn’t that common, and maybe it isn’t even a right, to judge by how mostly we treat each other. It’s a lot more common for us to be in exile of one sort or another. Exile from your country or your spouse or your own sadness or the soil in your hands planting a flowerbed.

And there are so many things that a girl outside a country dance staring up at the planet Mars, and the parents who last danced grudgingly on their wedding day, and a homeless man under the Burrard Street Bridge living out of a shopping cart, and for that matter Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar in leaky fishing boats and wanted not anywhere, don’t have in common.

A thing they do have in common, and all us with them also, and her poems point us to it, their attention is a lighthouse on it, is such home as they do have, at a given moment, they’ve made it for themselves. For sure there are gifts, a look, a drink of water, no life without those. But home’s made through one’s own activity, dogged or desperate, out of what a moment offers, whether that’s ample, or it’s meagre, or it’s barely anything at all.

And that’s what I’ve been finding most lately in the poems. In their sounds, the extraordinary heterogeneity of them, which I’m embarrassed to be only now hearing. Sometimes the mixture heightens anxiety. Sometimes it darkens satire. Sometimes it’s pure praise for sheer mixed-up-ed-ness of this world.

             [W]e strode
back to our avenues,
jaunty, just nineteen,
to troll like rowdy gods.

My neighbour’s daughter claps
as they lurch right
again

Praise for the sweet various flowershot dungheap of our world. Only world, her poems say, we get. Read them.


Then some beautiful readers reading some beautiful poems in beauty. I can’t give you those so here instead my beautiful friend.

partridge


(I was the last reader and told this little story and read this poem.)

For around a decade Elise and Steve were regulars on the property I owned on Salt Spring Island. While I was away they would tend to a plumbing system Byzantine in its complexities—clean up nightly prezzies from my cat—and once endured a plague of tent caterpillars I have to admit I thought they were exaggerating to call Biblical, till I got back, and had confirmation from the locals.

They did good work there, despite the distractions, Steve on his articles, Elise her poems, and this is one such of hers, “Invitation.” I read the poem, as not a last poem, but a leave-taking poem, full to the brim and then some with the love of life I loved and love still in her.

INVITATION

The stag and doe
lift their heads
in the brush

ears raised
as if
attuned to our tears

The grass reaches through chairs
by the shed
as if to thatch cushions
for the pair of us

The gate that won’t quite shut
with its scruff of lichen
invites us into the orchard

to pick “till time and times are done”
our choice of the bursting plums.