Sunday, November 28, 2021

Jim Leftwich: examples of a certain kind of thinking #2

​​Jim Leftwich: I am looking for examples of a certain kind of thinking about poetry which, if pursued to its logical extremes, would eventually include considerations of asemic and/or desemantized writing.

Charles Olson

Andre Breton

William Wordsworth

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Denise Levertov

Emily Dickinson (Thomas Wentworth Higginson)

Gertrude Stein

Arthur Rimbaud

Hannah Weiner

Jan Arp 

Adrienne Rich

John Cage

Isidore Isou

Antonin Artaud

Hugo Ball

Diane di Prima

Jack Kerouac

Allen Ginsberg

Mina Loy

Lorine Niedecker

Leslie Scalapino

Bob Kaufman

Nicanor Parra

John Wieners

Thomas Meyer

Dmitry Prigov

​​Captain Beefheart​

​Hannah Höch 

​​Varvara Stepanova 

Christophe Tarkos


Robert Creeley

Charles Olson, "Projective Verse" (1950)

A poem is energy transferred from where the poet got it (he will have some several causations), by way of the poem itself to, all the way over to, the reader. Okay. Then the poem itself must, at all points, be a high-energy construct and, at all points, an energy-discharge. So: how is the poet to accomplish same energy, how is he, what is the process by which a poet gets in, at all points energy at least the equivalent of the energy which propelled him in the first place, yet an energy which is peculiar to verse alone and which will be, obviously, also different from the energy which the reader, because he is the third term, will take away?

This is the problem which any poet who departs from closed form is specially confronted by.

Andre Breton, Surrealist Manifesto (1924)

Those who might dispute our right to employ the term SURREALISM in the very special sense that we understand it are being extremely dishonest, for there can be no doubt that this word had no currency before we came along. Therefore, I am defining it once and for all:

Surrealism, n. Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express ― verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner ― the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by the thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.

William Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1800)

I cannot, however, be insensible to the present outcry against the triviality and meanness, both of thought and language, which some of my contemporaries have occasionally introduced into their metrical compositions; and I acknowledge that this defect, where it exists, is more dishonourable to the Writer’s own character than false refinement or arbitrary innovation, though I should contend at the same time, that it is far less pernicious in the sum of its consequences. From such verses the Poems in these volumes will be found distinguished at least by one mark of difference, that each of them has a worthy purpose. Not that I always began to write with a distinct purpose formerly conceived; but habits of meditation have, I trust, so prompted and regulated my feelings, that my descriptions of such objects as strongly excite those feelings, will be found to carry along with them a purpose. If this opinion be erroneous, I can have little right to the name of a Poet. For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: and though this be true, Poems to which any value can be attached were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man who, being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also thought long and deeply.


I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Poet (1842):

The poorest experience is rich enough for all the purposes of expressing thought. Why covet a knowledge of new facts? Day and night, house and garden, a few books, a few actions, serve us as well as would all trades and all spectacles. We are far from having exhausted the significance of the few symbols we use. We can come to use them yet with a terrible simplicity. It does not need that a poem should be long. Every word was once a poem. Every new relation is a new word. Also, we use defects and deformities to a sacred purpose, so expressing our sense that the evils of the world are such only to the evil eye.

Denise Levertov, Some Notes on Organic Form (1965)

Form is never more than a revelation of content.

“The law—one perception must immediately and directly lead to a further perception” (Edward Dahlberg, as quoted by Charles Olson in “Projective Verse,” Selected Writings). I’ve always taken this to mean, “no loading of the rifts with ore,” because there are to be no rifts. Yet alongside this truth is another truth (that I’ve learned from Duncan more than from anyone else)—that there must be a place in the poem for rifts too—(never to be stuffed with imported ore). Great gaps be­tween perception and perception which must be leapt across if they are to be crossed at all.

The X-factor, the magic, is when we come to those rifts and make those leaps. A religious devotion to the truth, to the splendor of the authentic, involves the writer in a process re­warding in itself; but when that devotion brings us to un­dreamed abysses and we find ourselves sailing slowly over them and landing on the other side—that’s ecstasy.

Thomas Wentworth Higginson

April 16, 1862: I took [Emily Dickinson's letter of the previous day] from the post office in Worcester, Mass., where I was then living. It was postmarked "Amherst," and it was in a handwriting so peculiar that it seemed as if the writer might have taken her first lessons by studying the famous fossil bird-tracks in the museum of that college town. 

                                            Dickinson envelope circa 1877

Gertrude Stein, In a conversation with John Hyde Preston which appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in 1935

You will write if you will write without thinking of the result in terms of a result, but think of the writing in terms of discovery, which is to say that creation must take place between the pen and the paper, not before in a thought or afterwards in a recasting. Yes, before in a thought, but not in careful thinking. It will come if it is there and if you will let it come, and if you have anything you will get a sudden creative recognition. You won't know how it was, even what it is, but it will be creation if it came out of the pen and out of you and not out of an architectural drawing of the thing you are doing.

Arthur Rimbaud,  Letter To Georges Izambard (13 May 1871)

I'll be a worker: that is the idea that holds me back when mad rage drives me toward the battle of Paris where so many workers are still dying while I write to you. As for my working now, never, never; I'm on strike. 

Now I am going in for debauch.Why? I want to be a poet, and I am working to make myself a visionary: you won't possibly understand, and I don't know how to explain it to you. To arrive at the unknown through the disordering of all the senses, that's the point. The sufferings will be tremendous, but one must be strong, be born a poet: it is in no way my fault. It is wrong to say: I think. One should say: I am thought.

I is someone else. So much the worse for the wood that discovers it's a violin, and to hell with the heedless who cavil about something they know nothing about!

Arthur Rimbaud, letter to Paul Demeny, Charleville (15 May 1871)

I say one must be a seer, make oneself a seer. The Poet makes himself a seer by a long, gigantic and rational derangement of all the senses. All forms of love, suffering, and madness. He searches himself. He exhausts all poisons in himself and keeps only their quintessences. Unspeakable torture where he needs all his faith, all his super-human strength, where he becomes among all men the great patient, the great criminal, the one accursed– and the supreme Scholar!–Because he reaches the unknown!

Hannah Weiner,  "If Workshop", Poetry Project Newsletter, February-March 1990

If you are a poet would you have the three obligations: work on yourself to become more conscious, work in the world to change it free and equal, include ecological survival, and work in poetic forms that themselves alter consciousness.


techniques of disjunctive, non-sequential, non-referential, writing can directly alter consciousness, whether by destroying long habits of rationality, by surprise tactics to which the brain responds differently, or by forcing a change to alpha level by engaging both hemispheres of the brain, choose your science.

Jean Arp, Dadaland (1948)

In 1915 Sophie Taeuber and I painted, embroidered, and did collages; all these works were drawn from the simplest forms and were probably the first examples of "concrete art."  These works are Realities, pure and independent, with no meaning or cerebral intention.  We rejected all mimesis and description, giving free rein to the Elementary and the Spontaneous.  Since the arrangement of planes and their proportions and colors seemed to hinge solely on chance, I declared that these works were arranged "according to the law of chance," as in the order of nature, chance being for me simply a part of an inexplicable reason, of an inaccessible order.

Jean Arp, Dadaland (1948)

I would meet with Tzara and Serner at the Odéon and in Zurich's Café de la Terrasse to work on a cycle of poems: The Hyperbola of the Crocodile-Hairdresser and the Cane.  This kind of verse was subsequently dubbed "Automatic Poetry" by the surrealists.  Automatic poetry emerges directly from the poet's guts or any other organ that has stored up reserves.  Neither the Postilion of Longjumeau, nor the Alex- andrine, nor grammar, nor aesthetics, nor Buddha, nor the Sixth Commandment could interfere.  The poet crows, curses, sighs, stutters, yodels at will.  His poems are like nature: they stink, laugh, and rhyme like nature.  Trivia, or at least what people call trivia, are as precious to him as sublime rhetoric, for in nature a broken twig is as beautiful and as important as a star, and it is men who arrogate for themselves the right to judge what is beautiful or ugly.

Adrienne Rich, Poetry and Experience (1964)

Today I have to say that what I know I know through making poems. Like the novelist who finds that his characters begin to have a life of their own and to demand certain experiences, I find that I can no longer go to write a poem with a neat handful of materials and express those materials according to a prior plan: the poem itself engenders new sensations, new awareness in me as it progresses. Without for one moment turning my back on conscious choice and selection, I have been increasingly willing to let the unconscious offer its materials, to listen to more than one voice of a single idea. Perhaps a simple way of putting it would be to say that instead of poems about experiences I am getting poems that are experiences, that contribute to my knowledge and my emotional life even while they reflect and assimilate it. In my earlier poems I told you, as precisely and eloquently as I knew how, about something; in the more recent poems something is happening, something has happened to me and, if I have been a good parent to the poem, something will happen to you who read it.  

John Cage, in conversation with Wes Nisker (originally published in the Winter 1986 issue of Inquiring Mind)

I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I’m doing.

John Cage: from An Autobiographical Statement (1989)

I once asked Aragon, the historian, how history was written. He said, "You have to invent it." When I wish as now to tell of critical incidents, persons, and events that have influenced my life and work, the true answer is all of the incidents were critical, all of the people influenced me, everything that happened and that is still happening influences me.


Take any part of this book and go to the end of it. You will find yourself thinking of the next step to be taken in that direction. Perhaps you will need new materials, new technologies. You have them. You are in the world of X, chaos, the new science.  


ISIDORE ISOU    Shows another way out between WORDS and RENUNCIATION:

                   LETTERS. He will create emotions against language, for the

                   pleasure of the tongue.

          It consists of teaching that letters have a destination

  other than words.

ISOU            Will unmake words into their letters.

                Each poet will integrate everything into Everything

                Everything must be revealed by letters.




           Anyone who can not leave words behind can stay back with them!

Antonin Artaud, from Ten Years That Language is Gone, Cahier 285 (April 1947)

Translated by Clayton Eshleman (published in 2004)

And since a certain day in October 1939 I have not written anymore without

    drawing anymore either.

But what I draw

are no longer subjects from Art transposed from imagination to paper, they

     are not affective figures

they are gestures, a verb, a grammar, an arithmetic, a whole Kabala, and one

    that shits to the other, one that shits on the other

no drawing done on paper is a drawing, the reintegration of a strayed sensibility,

it is a machine which has breath

it was first a machine which at the same time has breath.

It is a search for a lost world

and one that no human tongue integrates

  and the image of which on paper is no more than a tracing,

 a sort of diminished

 copy. For the real work is in the clouds

Words, no,

arid patches of breath which gives its full

but there where only the Last Judgement will be able to decide between values,

the evidences,

as far as the text is concerned,

in the moulted blood of what tide

will I be able to make heard

the corrosive structure,

there where the drawing

point by point

is only the restitution of a drilling,

of the advance of a drill in the underworld of the sempiternal latent body  


I am it seems a writer.

But am I writing?

I make sentences.

Without subject, verb attribute or complement.

I have learned words,

They taught me things.

In my turn I teach them a manner of new behaviour.

May the pommel of your tuve patten

entrumene you a red ani bivilt,

at the lumestin of the utrin cadastre.

This means that maybe the woman’s uterus turns red, when Van Gogh the

     mad protester of man dabbles with finding their march for the

     heavenly bodies of a too superb destiny.

And it means that its is time for writer to close shop, and to leave the written

    letter for the letter”

Antonin Artaud, from 50 Drawings to Murder Magic (selections from notebooks dating from 1946 to 1948)

Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith (published in 2008)

To understand these drawings


       you must

       (1) leave the written page

             and enter

             the real

             but also

leave the real

             and enter

                         the surreal

                         the extra-real

                         the supernatural

                         the suprasensible

                         into which these drawings



                         because they come from there

and because they are in fact

merely commentary

on action that

has really occurred…

Hugo Ball, Dada Manifesto (1916)

I let the vowels fool around. I let the vowels quite simply occur, as a cat miaows... Words emerge, shoulders of words, legs, arms, hands of words. Au, oi, uh. One shouldn't let too many words out. A line of poetry is a chance to get rid of all the filth that clings to this accursed language, as if put there by stockbrokers' hands, hands worn smooth by coins. I want the word where it ends and begins.

Diane di Prima, from  November 6, 2013, a conversation with Hilton Obenzinger at Stanford University for  a series called “How I Write, published by The Los Angeles Review of Books in January, 2021

And then I took a class with James Waring in composition. He was a choreographer, but I wanted to take his composition class. I was taking dance, and I was doing some performing with him. “Tonight we’re going to talk about form. Everything has a form.” He said nothing else. After about 10 minutes, we all started to go out the door. We were looking at everything. Oh, that has a form. That has a form. What he was telling us was all forms are okay. Leave your mind alone. Don’t mess with everything all the time. And I started to write and tried to follow my mind wherever it went, what [poet] Philip [Whalen] calls the graph of the moving mind. Write exactly what’s happening as closely as you can.

And one of the things that came out of that was Calculus of Variations. One of the things I learned from Jimmy’s class was taking a structure and then hanging absolute freedom on the structure.


1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy

2. Submissive to everything, open, listening

3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house

4. Be in love with yr life

5. Something that you feel will find its own form

6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind

7. Blow as deep as you want to blow

8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind

9. The unspeakable visions of the individual

10. No time for poetry but exactly what is

11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest

12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you

13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition

14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time

15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog

16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye

17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself

18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea

19. Accept loss forever

20. Believe in the holy contour of life

21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind

22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better

23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning

24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge

25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it

26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form

27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness

28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better

29. You're a Genius all the time

30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

Jack Kerouac, "Essentials of Spontaneous Prose"

SET-UP The object is set before the mind, either in reality. as in sketching (before a landscape or teacup or old face) or is set in the memory wherein it becomes the sketching from memory of a definite image-object.

PROCEDURE Time being of the essence in the purity of speech, sketching language is undisturbed flow from the mind of personal secret idea-words, blowing (as per jazz musician) on subject of image.

METHOD No periods separating sentence-structures already arbitrarily riddled by false colons and timid usually needless commas-but the vigorous space dash separating rhetorical breathing (as jazz musician drawing breath between outblown phrases)--"measured pauses which are the essentials of our speech"--"divisions of the sounds we hear"-"time and how to note it down." (William Carlos Williams)

SCOPING Not "selectivity' of expression but following free deviation (association) of mind into limitless blow-on-subject seas of thought, swimming in sea of English with no discipline other than rhythms of rhetorical exhalation and expostulated statement, like a fist coming down on a table with each complete utterance, bang! (the space dash)-Blow as deep as you want-write as deeply, fish as far down as you want, satisfy yourself first, then reader cannot fail to receive telepathic shock and meaning-excitement by same laws operating in his own human mind.

LAG IN PROCEDURE No pause to think of proper word but the infantile pileup of scatological buildup words till satisfaction is gained, which will turn out to be a great appending rhythm to a thought and be in accordance with Great Law of timing.

TIMING Nothing is muddy that runs in time and to laws of time-Shakespearian stress of dramatic need to speak now in own unalterable way or forever hold tongue-no revisions (except obvious rational mistakes, such as names or calculated insertions in act of not writing but inserting).

CENTER OF INTEREST Begin not from preconceived idea of what to say about image but from jewel center of interest in subject of image at moment of writing, and write outwards swimming in sea of language to peripheral release and exhaustion-Do not afterthink except for poetic or P. S. reasons. Never afterthink to "improve" or defray impressions, as, the best writing is always the most painful personal wrung-out tossed from cradle warm protective mind-tap from yourself the song of yourself, blow!-now!-your way is your only way-"good"-or "bad"-always honest ("ludi- crous"), spontaneous, "confessionals' interesting, because not "crafted." Craft is craft.

STRUCTURE OF WORK Modern bizarre structures (science fiction, etc.) arise from language being dead, "different" themes give illusion of "new" life. Follow roughly outlines in outfanning movement over subject, as river rock, so mindflow over jewel-center need (run your mind over it, once) arriving at pivot, where what was dim-formed "beginning" becomes sharp-necessitating "ending" and language shortens in race to wire of time-race of work, following laws of Deep Form, to conclusion, last words, last trickle--Night is The End.

MENTAL STATE If possible write "without consciousness" in semi-trance (as Yeats' later "trance writing") allowing subconscious to admit in own uninhibited interesting necessary and so "modern" language what conscious art would censor, and write excitedly, swiftly, with writing-or-typing-cramps, in accordance (as from center to periphery) with laws of orgasm, Reich's "beclouding of consciousness." Come from within, out--to relaxed and said.  

Allen Ginsberg on Mexico City Blues (lecturing at Naropa, circa. 1985)

AG: I’m just trying to check through the things (in Jack Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues) that are exemplary of pure poetry


“”Darling!”/Red hot,/That kind of camping/I don’t object to/unless it’s kept/within reason” – You got that? – “”Darling!”/Red hot,/That kind of camping/I don’t object to/unless it’s kept/within reason./ “The coffee is delicious.”

This is for Vidal Didn’t know I was.a Come-Onner, did you? (Come-on-er)/ I am one of the world’s/Great Bullshitters,/Girls/Very High Cantos.” – (It’s whatever he thought).

[80th Chorus]

“This is about a kind of funny bebop complexity or bebop simplicity in poetry – 80th Chorus – Goofing at the table with Bill Garver, actually. The situation was Bill Garver (was) in Mexico City, sharing an apartment at 220 Oruzaba Street, an old junkie retired from New York, who had a legal (prescription) for morphine in Mexico, and who had retired to live out his days there. Kerouac was living upstairs and would go down and visit Garver who was shooting-up, or just talking, or…

“GOOFING AT THE TABLE/ “You just don’t know.”/”What don’t I know?”/How good this ham n eggs/is/”If you had any idea/whatsoever/How good this is/Then you would stop/writing poetry/And dig in.”It’s been so long/since I been hungry/it’s like a miracle”/Ah boy but them bacon/And them egg– /Where in the hell/is the scissor?/ SINGING: -“You’ll never know/just how much I love you.”

That’s the 80th Chorus. So it’s dispersed mind, but it’s actual recollection of the things happening there.


“Mr Beggar & Mrs Davy/Looney and CRUNEY,/I made a pome out of it,/Haven’t smoked Luney/& Cruney/in a Long Time./ Dem eggs & dem dem/Dere bacons, baby/if you only lay that/ down on a trumpet/Lay that down/solid brother/’Bout all dem/bacon & eggs/Ya gotta be able/to lay it doen/solid -/ All that luney/& fruney”


“Fracons, acons,& beggs,/Lay, it, all that/be boppy/be buddy/I didn’t took/I could think/So/bepo/beboppy/ Luney & Juney/ -if-/ that’s the way/  they get/ kinda hysterical/  Looney & Boony/Juner & Mooner/Moon, Spoon, and June.”


“Don’t they call them/cat men/That lay it down/with the trumpet/The orgasm/Of the moon/And the June/I call em/them cat things/William/Carlos/Williams – He knew William Carlos Williams’ work and advanced on it into the mind. In other words, not merely vernacular thought but vernacular mind. So that’s why it ends – “I call em/them cat things/ “That’s really cute, that un” – that one – that un – “That’s really cute,/ that un”, William /Carlos/ Williams.”

Bobbie Louise Hawkins (in attendance in the class):  (Did you make that up “vernacular  mind”?)

AG: I just thought it up this minute. That is to say, Williams was working with actual speech as he heard it around him and arranged it. (He) composed his poems, as he says, of the elements of the speech as it is heard around. But he was primarily preoccupied with quotidian speech, or vernacular speech, or Rutherford (New Jersey) speech. Kerouac was more preoccupied with the quotidian mind, that is to say, the sounds in the ear, or the sounds in his head,

Bobbie Louise Hawkins: (What) is that word? –  “quotidian”?

AG: Quotidian – Q-U-O-T-I-D-I-A-N – Everyday. Everyday mind, or, in Buddhists-speak, Ordinary Mind, i.e, what is actually happening in the mind and the stream of language that goes in and out of the mind, as in those early poems when he’s saying, “DON”T IGNORE OTHER PARTS/OF YOUR MIND/…when you’d let the faces/crack & mock/& yak & Change” – the “yakkety-yak” of the mind, the matter-babble behind the ear – “yak & change/& go mad utterly/in your night/firstmind/reveries” – as a baby. “Bo-bee-zabba-dooble-wee-blue-di-doo” [Allen parodies mind-language, scat singing] – Anything you do with it. The actual mind sounds, rather than the household sounds of Wiliams’, orthe doctor’s sounds. So Kerouac was really preoccupied with the internal vernacular

Bobbie Louise Hawkins: So it’s like his mind is the locus of experience..

AG: Yes

Bobbie Louise Hawkins: ..and the source of his language

AG: Yes, rather than Rutherford (New Jersey). In that sense, I think, there was an advance over Williams (not over, but an advance from Wlliams’ base) because previous writing of that kind of gobbledygook nature, or Surrealist, or automatic, writing, or Dada had been senseless, but literary (rather than senseless, but painted after nature..sketched after nature). Jack was sketching after what-he-heard-in-his-mind-nature, His mind was Mont St.Victoire and he was constantly sketching Mont St Victoire, his brain was Mont St Victoire, so that he was constantly making paintings of (that), rather than the speech out of the mouth, in the street, So, as we were moving from, say, Objectivist, Imagist,1930’s clear lucid material world preoccupations to a later psychedelic, more internalized subjective exploration (in the) (19)50’s and (19)60’s, this was sort of like a signal…what do you call it? – graduation or move or evolution, in terms of his and others’ preoccupations to what’s going on inside my head.

Allen Ginsberg, MIND WRITING SLOGANS (1994)

“First Thought is Best in Art, Second in Other Matters.”

— William Blake

I Background (Situation, Or Primary Perception)

“First Thought, Best Thought” — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

“Take a friendly attitude toward your thoughts.” — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

“The Mind must be loose.” — John Adams

“One perception must immediately and directly lead to a further perception.” — Charles Olson, “Projective Verse“

“My writing is a picture of the mind moving.” — Philip Whalen

Surprise Mind — Allen Ginsberg

“The old pond, a frog jumps in, Kerplunk!” — Basho

“Magic is the total delight (appreciation) of chance.” — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.” –– Walt Whitman

“…What quality went to form a man of achievement, especially in literature? … Negative capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.” — John Keats

“Form is never more than an extension of content. — Robert Creeley to Charles Olson

“Form follows function.” — Frank Lloyd Wright* (*Quoting his mentor: Louis Sullivan).

Ordinary Mind includes eternal perceptions. — A. G.

“Nothing is better for being Eternal Nor so white as the white that dies of a day.” — Louis Zukofsky

Notice what you notice. — A. G.

Catch yourself thinking. — A. G.

Observe what’s vivid. — A. G.

Vividness is self-selecting. — A. G.

“Spots of Time” — William Wordsworth

If we don’t show anyone we’re free to write anything. –– A. G.

“My mind is open to itself.” — Gelek Rinpoche

“Each on his bed spoke to himself alone, making no sound.” — Charles Reznikoff

II Path (Method, Or Recognition)

“No ideas but in things.” “… No ideas but in the Facts.” — William Carlos Williams

“Close to the nose.” — William Carlos Williams

“Sight is where the eye hits.” — Louis Zukofsky

“Clamp the mind down on objects.” — William Carlos Williams

“Direct treatment of the thing … (or object).” — Ezra Pound

“Presentation, not reference.” — Ezra Pound

“Give me a for instance.” — vernacular

“Show not tell.” — vernacular

“The natural object is always the adequate symbol.” — Ezra Pound

“Things are symbols of themselves.” — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

“Labor well the minute particulars, take care of the little ones.

He who would do good for another must do it in minute particulars.

General Good is the plea of the Scoundrel Hypocrite and Flatterer

For Art & Science cannot exist but in minutely organized particulars.”— William Blake

“And being old she put a skin / on everything she said.” — W. B. Yeats

“Don’t think of words when you stop but to see the picture better.” — Jack Kerouac

“Details are the Life of Prose.” — Jack Kerouac

Intense fragments of spoken idiom best. — A. G.

“Economy of Words” — Ezra Pound

“Tailoring” — Gregory Corso

Maximum information, minimum number of syllables. –– A. G.

Syntax condensed, sound is solid. — A. G.

Savor vowels, appreciate consonants. — A. G.

“Compose in the sequence of musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.” — Ezra Pound

“… awareness … of the tone leading of the vowels.” — Ezra Pound

“… an attempt to approximate classical quantitative meters . . . — Ezra Pound

“Lower limit speech, upper limit song” — Louis Zukofsky

“Phanopoeia, Melopoeia, Logopoeia.” — Ezra Pound

“Sight. Sound & Intellect.” — Louis Zukofsky

“Only emotion objectified endures.” — Louis Zukofsky

III Fruition (Result, Or Appreciation)

Spiritus = Breathing = Inspiration = Unobstructed Breath

“Alone with the Alone” — Plotinus

Sunyata (Sanskrit) = Ku (Japanese) = Emptiness

“What’s the sound of one hand clapping?” — Zen koan

“What’s the face you had before you were born?” — Zen koan

Vipassana (Pali) = Clear Seeing

“Stop the world” — Carlos Castaneda

“The purpose of art is to stop time.” — Bob Dylan

“the unspeakable visions of the individual — Jack Kerouac

“I am going to try speaking some reckless words, and I want you to try to listen recklessly.” — Chuang Tzu (translated by Burton Watson)

“Candor” —Walt Whitman

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” — William Shakespeare

“Contact” — A Magazine, Nathaniel West & William Carlos Williams, editors.

“God appears & God is Light

To those poor souls who dwell in Night.

But does a Human Form Display

To those who Dwell in Realms of Day.” — William Blake

“Subject is known by what she sees.” — A. G.

Others can measure their visions by what we see. –– A. G.

Candor ends paranoia. — A. G.

“Willingness to be Fool.” — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

“Day & Night / you’re all right.” — Gregory Corso

Tyger: “Humility is Beatness.” — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche & A. G.

Lion: “Surprise Mind” — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche & A. G.

Garuda: “Crazy Wisdom Outrageousness” — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

Dragon: “Unborn Inscrutability” — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

“To be men not destroyers” — Ezra Pound

Speech synchronizes mind & body — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

“The Emperor unites Heaven & Earth” — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world” — Percy Bysshe Shelley

“Make it new” — Ezra Pound

“When the music changes, the walls of the city shake” — Plato

“Every third thought shall be my grave — W. Shakespeare, The Tempest

“That in black ink my love may still shine bright.” –– W. Shakespeare, Sonnets

“Only emotion endures” — Ezra Pound

“Well while I’m here I’ll

do the work —

and what’s the Work?

To ease the pain of living.

Everything else, drunken

dumbshow.” — A. G.

“… Kindness, sweetest of the small notes in the world’s ache, most modest & gentle of the elements entered man before history and became his daily connection, let no man tell you otherwise.” — Carl Rakosi

“To diminish the mass of human and sentient sufferings.” — Gelek Rinpoche

Mina Loy, from Aphorisms on Futurism (1914)

IN pressing the material to derive its essence, matter becomes deformed.

AND form hurtling against itself is thrown beyond the synopsis of vision.

THE mind is a magician bound by assimilations; let him loose and the smallest idea conceived in freedom will suffice to negate the wisdom of all forefathers.

CONSCIOUSNESS cannot spontaneously accept or reject new forms, as offered by creative genius; it is the new form, for however great a period of time it may remain a mere irritant—that molds consciousness to the necessary amplitude for holding it.

CONSCIOUSNESS has no climax.

LET the Universe flow into your consciousness, there is no limit to its capacity, nothing that it shall not re-create.

Lorine Niedecker, The Poetry of Louis Zukofsky (1956)

Technically, a recurring thing, for all but the apathetic student, is never the same -- though the idea of recurrence is useful to establish relationships, to reveal kinship.

Poet’s work


     advised me:

          learn a trade

I learned

     to sit at desk

          and condense

No layoff

     from this



Leslie Scalapino interviewed by Maggie Golston (1997)

It’s as if we’re all making translations of things which we take in almost by a process of osmosis, and it becomes a form of ventriloquism. And writing is, in a way, a form of ventriloquism, where you’re reproducing things that are supposedly you and that are supposedly outside you, that are supposedly social, and you’re taking yourself for that and that for yourself. It is, in any case, something that is illusionistic, because it is a matter of your training and your being placed in a context that articulates it that way, a training from birth in terms of a construction of self. What I’m interested in in poetry is to try to get to what actually is there, so it does involve in a way deconstructing a sense of self, as not being real, as not being what is actually happening.


What I’m really interested in is contemplation, or observation or apprehension, in terms of the interior, and action, and to make these things come into the same space, so that they’re going on in the same time. There is something that is possible to occur in people’s understanding of what they’re reading, what they’re experiencing, something that is neither social nor private, that enters some other realm, that becomes itself, and gets past any of those kinds of categories.

Bob Kaufman, Abomunist Manifesto (1959)



Bob Kaufman, Second April (1959)

Session fourteen... is a roach and happy guts, shorn hair of minor criminals, on floors of prefabricated gas chambers, we mad on Aztec planted turnips, read poems off each others' ass by narrow daylight in New Tex hotel rooms, they watch, we unzip fly, why, gasping into our own interiors, hoping to drag air to strange tomb-like bellies ... they watch tombs, we throw soggy peanut shells under skidding wheels, we witness God's divorce, the bitch leaves, we cry jazz historical tears, they watch, we lock door on bankrupt, God give us new, we ate fire last time, be cool, God.



Young poets

Say whatever you want

Pick your own style

Too much blood has gone under the bridge

To still believe -I believe-

That there's only one way to cross the road:

You can do anything in poetry.


I'll say it one last time

Worms are gods

Butterflies are flowers always fluttering

Rotting teeth

brittle teeth

I go back to the days of silent movies.

Fucking is a literary act.

John Wieners, from The Journal of John Wieners is to be Called 707 Scott Street for Billie Holiday 1959

I must forget how to write. I must unlearn what has been taught me.


I must learn how not to write. I must watch with my 5 senses  


I must stop being wise.


All I am interested in is charting the progress of my soul. And therefore all men's souls. What the soul is I don't know. But that it is contained in every blood nerve and brain cell I do .


All I am interested in is charting the progress of my own soul. And my poetics consist of marking down how each action unrolls. Without my will. It moves. So that each man has his own poetic.


A poem does not have to be a major thing. Or a statement? I am allowed to ask many things because it has been given me the means to plunge into the depths and come up with

answers? No. Poems, which are

my salvation alone. The reader can do with them what he likes. I feel right now even the reading of poems to an unknown large? public is a shallow act, unless the reading be given for the

fact of clarity. The different techne

a man uses to make his salvation. That is why poetry even tho it does deal with langue is no more holy act

than, say shitting.  


And if I cannot speak in poetry it is because poetry is reality to me, and not the poetry we read, but find revealed in the estates of being around us.

It is necessary for the poet

to be ignorant of the true mystery and yet to contain it wrapped around him. Not aware that his slightest flash of eyelid is enough to set those off around him into an ecstasy of awareness. To be dumb himself. A mammoth vegetable, A. Richer says.


The poem demands a degree of attention that drugs, because they slacken one, deter one from the poem. At least I feel not at my maximum powers. Although a breadth, a dimension is given one that is almost, or not, but irresistible. Each action, object takes on a special meaning it did not have.


Thomas Meyer, from ISIS' MEMORY (Caterpillar 5/6, 1970)

The most astonishing fact on which poetry thrives is that every sentence (or projected unit of utterance) CAN stop, not complete itself & begin again as a new sentence related or unrelated to its own initial impulse or sound. No where else in the cosmos is this aspect of will & magic so clearly & precisely manifest.

Dmitry Prigov, from an interview with Philip Metres (1996)

You know, the thing is that no great myth exists now in which a hero could appear. I have written other discourses-the liberal-democratic, the national-patriotic, the contemporary homosexual, the mass metaphysical—these are big discourses—but it’s not necessary to write about heroes. One could just describe a kind of writing. Then there’s the very complex problem of self-presentation-as poet not existing in quantity of poems but as “manipulator.” I have a big project which is about images—I have to write 2,000 poems per year, 24,000 poems overall. It’s also a project that is a type of poetic conduct, more than anything. So I don’t have any problem finding material—some people just don’t understand the structure of this work.

(In 2005 he estimated that he had written 35,000 poems. He died of a heart attack in 2007.)

​​Captain Beefheart​, The 10 Commandments of Guitar Playing (1996)​

1. Listen to the birds

That’s where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren’t going anywhere.

2. Your guitar is not really a guitar

Your guitar is a divining rod. Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you’re good, you’ll land a big one.

3. Practice in front of a bush

Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush doesn’t shake, eat another piece of bread.

4. Walk with the devil

Old Delta blues players referred to guitar amplifiers as the “devil box.” And they were right. You have to be an equal opportunity employer in terms of who you’re bringing over from the other side. Electricity attracts devils and demons. Other instruments attract other spirits. An acoustic guitar attracts Casper. A mandolin attracts Wendy. But an electric guitar attracts Beelzebub.

5. If you’re guilty of thinking, you’re out

If your brain is part of the process, you’re missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing.

6. Never point your guitar at anyone

Your instrument has more clout than lightning. Just hit a big chord then run outside to hear it. But make sure you are not standing in an open field.

7. Always carry a church key

That’s your key-man clause. Like One String Sam. He’s one. He was a Detroit street musician who played in the fifties on a homemade instrument. His song “I Need a Hundred Dollars” is warm pie. Another key to the church is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin’ Wolf’s guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty — making you want to look up her dress the whole time to see how he’s doing it.

8. Don’t wipe the sweat off your instrument

You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music.

9. Keep your guitar in a dark place

When you’re not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don’t play your guitar for more than a day, be sure you put a saucer of water in with it.

10. You gotta have a hood for your engine

Keep that hat on. A hat is a pressure cooker. If you have a roof on your house, the hot air can’t escape. Even a lima bean has to have a piece of wet paper around it to make it grow.​

​Hannah Höch 

There are millions and millions of other justifiable points of view besides yours and mine. I would like to blur the firm borders that we human beings, cocksure as we are, are inclined to erect around everything that is accessible to us.

I would like to show the world today as an ant sees it and tomorrow as the moon sees it.

​​Varvara Stepanova, from On Constructivism (1921)

Experimental cognition, as "active thought", as the action of the contemporary epoch (rather than contemplation), produces an analytical method in art that destroys the sacred value of the work as a unique object by laying bare its material foundations 


The formal approach is opposed to spirituality and ideas, and the work is transformed into an experiment, a form of laboratory wor ​k.

​​Varvara Stepanova (1919)

I connect the new movement of non-objective poetry as sound and letter with painterly perception, and this imbues the sound of poetry with a new and vital visual impression. By blowing up the deadly monotony of fused printed letters by means of painterly graphics, I am approaching a new type of creativity. On the other hand, by using painterly graphics to reproduce the non-objective poetry of the two books Zigra ar and Riny chomle, I am introducing the graphics of sound as a new quality into painting, thereby augmenting its quantitative possibilities. 

Christophe Tarkos

Poet Is Getting Ready To Think

He falls and he drops things in the stairwell: a thin string of sand, a thin string of rice, of crashed, pulverized crackers, and as he lets them fall from above, kilo by kilo, sac by sac and chair after chair, table after table, tree after tree are falling, dropped by him, as he himself thoughtlessly falls. And out of his fall intelligence and poetry are born.

Poet And Human Thought

A poet is intelligent. He prepares himself for difficult thinking. All thought is withdrawn, hard and pasty; so, the poet has to rub, soften, and warm it up. He trains his intelligence to get out of its torpor, he trains his head, parts of the brain, his neck, his ten fingers to pull out of it. He wants to cleanse himself. He peels the husk off his mouth, and the mouth begins to chew upon the right arm of its owner and master. And this is how little by little, he learns to wrap his head around ideas.

​The Poet Prepares His Head​

All thought is difficult to extract from thinking. The poet picks up his head, fumbles, squeezes it, takes out the eyes, pulls out the tongue, warps the skull bones, delves into them, carves and re-shapes, presses, sniffs, breaks off a tooth, and traces a groove across the face, adds more scars, slices off pieces, then completely overhauls the head, taking the cut-off parts, ironing them out so that he could saw and staple them together and then attach it all back to the head with pieces of scotch.

​d.a.levy, D.R. Wagner and Kent Taylor, from Para-Concrete Manifesto

Our concrete poems are written to purify our minds and intestines of all Western sophisticated hypocrisy.


Each poem is a drowned angel dredged from the polluted sludge of the Mahoning and Cuyahoga rivers.


Our concrete poems are Shit

each poem a tiny spat of diarrrrhea

growing into infinite globules of cement excrement

our concrete poems

are beyond concrete poems

Where DaDaism failed, preaching Anti-Art

but creating art & the NaDaists failed by creating an art of nothing-

ness when they proclaimed NOTHING - the cleveland cement fuckers will

succeed in giving the Public SHIT. . .

each poem - a new death of WORDS AS ART.

d.a.levy, from Cleveland Undercovers (1966)

NOW im driving my chariot through

Shaker Heights where all the mad

psuedo-atheistic jews hideout.

(I’m an atheist who believes in god,

i have to, i am god writes all my

poems) i am god going back to

Ohio City leaves are FALLING into

winter Franklin Circle jerks try to

sell me.

d.a.levy, from Suburban Monastery Death Poem (1968)

its so easy to convince poets

what poetry is

and what it isnt

& everyone knows

sleeping with the muse

is only for young poets

after you've been kept impotent

by style & form & words like "art"

after being published by the RIGHT publishers

and having all the right answers

after youve earned the right to call yrself

a poet      yr dead

& lying on yr back

drinking ceremonial wine, while

the muse, who is always a young girl

with old eyes into the universe

suddenly remembers necrophilia

is an experience shes had before

& shes not interrested

in straddling corpses anymore

​​​Robert Creeley, from To Define (1953)

Tradition is an aspect of what anyone is now thinking—not what someone once thought. We make with what we have, and in this way anything is worth looking at. A tradition becomes inept when it blocks the necessary conclusion; it says we have felt nothing, it implies others have felt more.

Robert Creeley, Philip Guston: A Note (1956)

For a sense of it, say—I tried to be careful, but the form would not have it. My care was the form I had given to it. How to care, that one does care? Care , it seems, comes from several words, among them the Anglo-Saxon caru, cearu (anxiety) and the Old Saxon kara (sorrow). Is it moving with care through care, that it comes to? I care, certainly.

I think—in that denseness of anxieties, and sorrows, like a nightmare world, of forms which are all exact and there, yet not the forms? What are the forms, one says. It is not possible that one should not arrive at them. Somehow not to be accidental, not even enough or too much 'accidental.' No one understands, but some know. It is a very articulate determination which can, at last, " . . . take care/by the throat & throttle it . . ." with such care.

Robert Creeley, from an interview with Mông-Lan (1999)

In the 1940s the prevailing imagination of poetry was so dominated by critical theory, especially that of the New Critics, that one was left with little room, either to think of poetry as a various and yet particular possibility of ways of speaking, or to be one with others commonly, in a given place, time, company. Just to be free of "The Rage for Order" or "The Well Wrought Urn" and the rationalizing thought back of them was instantly relieving. So I listened to a lot of jazz, having friends who were active musicians. Otherwise I hung out with mathematicians, art history majors, anyone who proposed the world in less cramped and presumptive manner. Some of the aforesaid critics I did like—William Empson, for example, or Kenneth Burke. But the patness of the Understanding Poetry proposal was really unpleasant—it had no room (or "understanding") at all for my own heroes, W.C. Williams most particularly.

In jazz I found much more instruction as to how to manage rhythm, how to make a line, call it, and keep an active pattern—"how to dance sitting down," in Charles Olson's phrase. Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, Bud Powell, Max Roach, and many others before them and after were really my source and instruction. There is so much emphasis put upon what poems "are saying." Yet it is only in the way poems are "saying" anything that I find them interesting. Otherwise love's love, eggs eggs, water wet.  "Listen to the sound that it makes," Pound emphasized—so I did.

Robert Creeley, from Pieces (1969)


The pen,

the lines it

leaves, forms

divine -- nor

laugh nor giggle.

This prescription

is true.

Truth is a scrawl,

all told

in all.


Each moment constitutes reality,

or rather may constitute

reality, or may have done

so, or perhaps will.


So that's what you do:

ask the same question

and keep answering.