Robert Grenier’s Sentences

A digital version of Robert Grenier’s seminal Sentences. My students have a great time with it and the questions it raises—what’s part and what’s whole? what’s the function in a poem of silence and empty space? how does dispersal of the poem as a digital edition affect its prior existence as a pricey handmade edition? when he writes “bird,” does he mean a bird, or does he mean “bird”?—keep us happy and hopping a long time.

Whalecloth’s home page, with a bit of context for the poem.

Robert Grenier’s Sentences

No Narcissus

Drove down to Samish Island this morning for a dharma talk by Norman Fischer. A bit remains with me from the life of Dongshan. He was walking up in the mountains, newly a teacher, chewing on the question of suchness, his teacher Yunyan’s “just this,” came to fastmoving stream and was startled by his fastmoving reflection in the water.

“Wherever I go,” he wrote in the poem the moment gave him, “there he is, with me. He’s me. But I’m not him.” Norman, I hope I have that right.

Drove away with a feeling for the dreamlike spaciousness of the country around—green fields, tidal flats, starlings in the road, hawk on a powerline. If I could amend it, it would be to say, “He’s me. And I’m not him.”

A few points of contact. Narcissus staring at his reflection in the water. Chuangtzu’s butterfly. (Was I Chuangtzu dreaming I was a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming I’m Chuangtzu?) And the spacious light of Sappho’s fragments (rereading them for my compost course) in Carson’s translation:

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]
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] thought
] barefoot
]
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(She won the Griffin Prize this year, as did Brenda Hillman, on the international side. Wonderful.) More to come on Carson’s Sappho, how it seems to me compost might be a way to speak of them.