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Slarry, you asked about my poetic process, the act of creation regarding that two-day old sonnet. Assuming you're asking seriously, here's a serious answer. My answer deals both with writing and with my cancer experience. I wrote it at night on 8/30. The occasion should be obvious in the broad sense; more specifically, I suppose the poem lends support to my theory that "a writer writes." Again, broad sense, every piece I write presently becomes a standstill image of the larger process I'm undergoing. Back to process, I don't ever sit down and think "OK, time to write a poem." It just wouldn't happen even if I did. I do, however, try to write whenever I get the chance, diaries, essays, problems, small fictions, whatever. It's part of my life theory and my therapy — it's probably a large part of what's kept me alive so far.
If I haven't done it already on a given day, I'll sit down before my keyboard at day's end, and then I'll begin recording events, feelings, whatever hits me. It will start to flow, so long as the mind is open to a choppy flow, verbose flow, disconnected flow, chiastic flow, etc., any kind of flow. Almost always a small narrative emerges. At times, like on 8/30, the lines about a given theme start to thicken, they condense into more economic form, the break in certain places — the lineation often happens of itself. Rhyming almost never happens of itself. Although, a poem's form might just "happen," like the near 14-line form that poem found all by itself. To push it into a rhyme scheme and sonnet form was merely a small puzzle after it was all written. A self-contained "piece" of creation will emerge and my responsibility is to See it, Extract it, and then Rework it. The latter might take one or a hundred times.
Below is another piece. I'm not big on explaining any piece, especially before it's read, . . . so, here is another piece, that's all. All I will say is that the idea came before the content did, which is why you can read it like a written record, which is why actual records could be worked into it—in that sense it is all historical and true. That being said, this piece is still only mostly done; something is still off with it. I just can't identify it yet. It's called "The Premonitioner." Note, the first stanza took place, and I wrote what I wrote, weeks before I was tested or diagnosed.
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Before Daniel’s birthday after he died: I began to write on death and beauty, two concepts, no facts, always correlate in my brain. The ellipses in the original:
“…and I suppose I should rephrase my thought about death’s approach, my approach to it, since I am going towards it but I write from where I am and where it is — once I arrive the meeting will stop the writing, but what I am doing is coming to die.”
Reversing the direction, of death’s coming, is like hearing Monk play, really hearing. Piano keys are never pushed, they are not hit, they are not struck however gently — Monk rests his hands above the keyboard and lets them fall. Myopic naysayers could not see how he would wait, in full control,
how he would let,
the keys fall
in gentle syncopation.
Every year I rename my journal. Two thousand six on New Year’s Day was titled “Small Steps in Death’s Shadow.”
3 January 2006 untitled day
“. . . I don’t know if stress it the cause or not but my stomach fucking killed last night, right when I was about to sleep.
“Pain tonight too on the 4th, next day.”
“— pain is the most powerful aid to mnemonics.” (Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals 61) Not that we would otherwise forget. . .
4/5 January 2006 slow life dull pains
“. . . Next morning, the 5th, my stomach hurts still. Like this highwire tension, it seems like it won’t go away.”
I would run 6 miles a day. My halfway point a work of public, community art beneath the University Drawbridge, perhaps an anti-war piece, 14-feet tall, encircular, grey & red, in any event called “The Wall of Death.”
8 January 2006 why stay awake
“Sunday morning. Briefly, before the sun was up, sitting at my desk with a fresh cup of coffee, I thought, ‘This is not too bad, I feel pretty good being alive.’”
Consolation, there is no consolation in premonitions. Just one more ringing echo return of dumb fate speaking against the boundless sky. Deaf fate awaiting her return. A clownshow communication you can only watch if you turn on the subtitles.
Morning of 9 February:
“I woke up today and my stomach was hurting again — that nervy and painful feeling that I’ve had nearly every day for months now, and spend hundreds on for bullhsit no medical help.”
“The time to show a message is when too late and later there is no hanging in a blight.” (Stein, Tender Buttons 5)
2 March 2006
“In the morning I got a ride from Kim to have my endoscopy done, I lived.”
“The one thing you want is to pause so as to puzzle all this out, but that is impossible; you are moving much too fast for your momentum to be halted.” (Ashbery, Three Poems 87)
5 March 2006 cannot wait
“I keep waking up at about 5 every day — now . . . 5:21 and I finally . . . 'fuck it,' more insomnia coming . . . the summertime curse? . . . some other reason . . . stomach feels nervous all the time at night, that . . . pain upper left since last fall?”
10 March 2006 Dr. Peppin bad news
“6:02 PM, Dr. Craig Peppin just called me, at home, at about 5:50, which I’m taking as a sign that he’s concerned.
“Somehow even the line that it could be a kind of cancer just doesn’t bowl me over, but rather seems somehow appropriate, like it was only a matter of time until I would learn that in my life. Why do I feel that way? Will it all be cut short? And more strange however, when I piss and moan about my existential angst all the time, how life is so unsatisfying and I feel almost nothing but of the soul riven by lack then why should that be a worry to me?”
“And would you believe that this word could possibly be our salvation? For we are rescued by what we cannot imagine: it is what finally takes up and shuts our story. . .” (Ashbery, Three Poems 104; italics added)