Not Supposed To Do

This poem, excerpted from Art Garfunkel’s autobiographical What Is It All But Luminous / notes from an Underground Man ©2017, reminds me of the playfulness of Shel Silverstein:

Today I'll judge my books by their covers.
I'll watch a pot, count unhatched chicks,
I'll fix the unbroken, hold secret gods divine.

A thousand fine soldiers, resplendent in
  their jacket designs, are lined in shelves
        in my aerie--
All the noble sentiments quilled,
Cry for all the milk that's spilled,
Let the unaware buyer be sold--
If the book cover glitters, it's gold;
I'll make a Top Forty polled for pretty veneers,
  how the book appears, and how it feels
    to hold and be held the whole night
       through...
Today I'll do exactly what you're not
supposed to do.
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In a world seduced by easy understanding…

This short excerpt from the preface to E.E Cummings: A Life by Susan Cheever, ©2014, was a big help to me in understanding his poems.  It’s a tremendous relief to know I’m not supposed to “get it” right away:

Modernism as (E.E.) Cummings and his mid-twentieth-century colleagues embraced it had three parts. The first was the exploration of using sounds instead of meanings to connect words to the reader’s feelings. The second was the idea of stripping away all unnecessary things to bring attention to form and structure: the formerly hidden skeleton of a work would now be exuberantly visible. The third facet of modernism was an embrace of adversity. In a world seduced by easy understanding, the modernists believed that difficulty enhanced the pleasures of reading. In a Cummings poem the reader must often pick his way toward comprehension, which comes, when it does, in a burst of delight and recognition.

’69

Excerpted from Art Garfunkel’s autobiographical What Is It All But Luminous / notes from an Underground Man ©2017:

In May of ’69… Paul’s writing changed from “I know your part’ll go fine”– words of a deep friendship (The Only Living Boy in New York)– to “Why don’t you write me?”– words of frustration.

So many things that are obvious in retrospect slip by us in the present.

(An aside:  it seems petty to complain about a book’s font, but this was published in something resembling Comic Sans that is very difficult to read.)

“I thought you were a trout stream.”

Excerpt from Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan, ©1967:

I remember mistaking an old woman for a trout stream in Vermont, and I had to beg her pardon.

“Excuse me,” I said, “I thought you were a trout stream.”

“I’m not, ” she said.

Almost all of Richard Brautigan’s poetry and novels are available for free download from The Brautigan Archives.

Slow Down the Inexorable Rush

Excerpted from the preface to E.E Cummings: A Life by Susan Cheever, ©2014

Princeton poet Richard P. Blackmur said (E.E.) Cummings’s poems were “baby talk,” and poetry arbiter Helen Vendler called them repellent and foolish: “What is wrong with a man who writes this?” she asked.

Nothing was wrong with Cummings– or Duchamp or Stravinsky or Joyce, for that matter. All were trying to slow down the seemingly inexorable rush of the world, to force people to notice their own lives. In the twenty-first century, that rush has now reached Force-Five; we are all inundated with information and given no time to wonder what it means or where it came from. Access without understanding and facts without context have become our daily diet.

 

It Is Important Not to Know

Lawrence Ferlinghetti on the benefits of travel:

Sometimes it is better not to know anything about a country when you visit it. Especially it is important not to know its language or languages. Thus every sound, striking the ear like a small bell or animal cry, without any associative meaning, takes on the immediate quality of poetry, the quality of pure color in painting, with the percussive effect of pure sound in a void. It is only as these sounds accumulate inside us that some sort of composite meaning forms itself. Until then, we are like children newly arrived on earth, with virgin timpani, each a tabula rasa upon which all has yet to be written. Herein lies the true fascination of travel, not in the confirmation or contradiction of what we have been led to expect by the perusal of history or the learning of local languages, nor by the recognition of native customs in their similarity or dissimilarity to our own…

Thus it was that I came upon the souk in Marrakesh as a space traveler in a time warp, knowing nothing of the place in which he has landed, with only his senses to inform him of the strange terrain.

And strange it certainly was. Night itself, and I arrived at night, casts its mystery even on the most familiar domestic scene, for night itself is always the eternal unfathomable darkness out of which all is born and into which all is borne in the end. We are merely time travelers in between, fleetingly passing in a patch of sunlight, from shadow to shadow. Every day is a patch of light, however somber or bright, every night a patch of that eternal mystery.

The souk was of that darkness, and it lay everywhere before me.

Excerpted from Writing Across the Landscape, © 2015.

But in your dreams, whatever they be…

Another excerpt from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s travel journal, Writing Across the Landscape, © 2015:

NIGHT OF MARCH 6 (1972), IN NADI MOTEL– So noisy couldn’t sleep all night. Like a train station: trucks roaring past, people talking in hotel, doors slamming, etc., etc. Bad dreams… 7:15 a.m. we fly out to Australia. Possible that our waking psychic states are mirror images of our sleep & dreams, as the branches of the tree mirror the pattern of the roots? So that the profile of our dreams transfigures our waking moods preceding or following that sleep? The depression or euphorias of dreams carried over into our daytime subliminal feelings… A bad dream may blight our day, a dream of desire carry over into waking sexual aggressions. Of course, it’s all in Freud, all in Wilhelm Reich… The moon is my undoing when the sun comes up, the midnight sun gathers us in, our dream siblings signal us thru the flames.