Aphorisms IX

When I was what you could call ‘virulently atheist’ I remember warding off any future professions of faith with great vindictiveness. What did I expect? I imagine it was a form of self-reinforcement.

I would say… if, in the future, I profess faith, then you can know that it is truly a mistake. As if to protect and account for my future self, who would undoubtedly have gone through an incredible transformation.

I’m still atheist, I’m just a lot more materialistic about the cultus now. Now, I would say of my future self – if he professes faith, just be kind to him.

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Say NO! to hysteria

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Metre and syllable limit are machines to make beautiful language. There are others, like that of actively thwarting metre and syllable limit. All of these machines routinely break down, when they are not understood as machines.

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Game Point

“Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down” – Robert Frost

Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down, in the rain, on an aircraft carrier, as experimental jets launch fireworks into space above you

Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down, on an aircraft carrier that was sunk in 2004 off the coast of Florida to form the basis of a coral reef, and losing with grace

Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down, on an aircraft carrier in a pop-up cross-section book, and accidentally slipping off the edge and falling into the cardboard sea

Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down, loose in fact, when it begins to move, blown by the air off the edge, over the sea, until it crests a wave then slowly sinks to join millions of bones on the seafloor

Writing free verse is like playing tennis, but it’s not tennis, you’re holding a pen, and you try and hit the ball but it just sticks on the end of the pen and ink dribbles down your arm to the white flagstones

Writing poetry is like playing tennis with the net down but with the net up

Two Bus Poems

I

Every day bar some
the bus comes sometime, stops.
A law as certain, now
as the coming of night
of day, of suns, novas.
And people wobble on it.

I sit on the top floor
it feels safer up here
and I think of your face
whom I meet at the stop
on the odd occasion.
I think of the bus crash

where the corner taken
slightly too fast ended
In an event survived
by two of us alone.
The tragic accident
With one happier dream;

as we stare for months from
plaster casts at open
eyes across the room – heads
in a cartoon-like wrap –
your eyes like oil vents loosed
and set fire in the night

And that oil drains downward
to soak our sweat drenched casts
our two hospital beds
in the desert, they melt
and we walk slow to meet
and this under dark rain

burning rain – we are one
we were only standing
sparsely chatting back then
now we melt into
puddles of each other – and
the dark oil rolls onwards.

II

Your fingers tap cleanly
on the deep red plastic
suitcase – where will it end!?
I would say hi, open
the suitcase of futures
allow random packings

to array themselves – smile
you smile as I walk by
the bus’s lit windows.
It had to be raining.
Now, not only can I
not skateboard but dwell, too

on your face, this soft chance
which for once makes the sharp
butterfly wings softer –
an anxiety lost
and gained this idea
of our nights together

in the Sevillan shade
sharing an orange – peel
of our clothes scattered on
the warm tiled courtyard floor
as I whisper in your
deepest ear – what fragrance

The suitcase slipped out
of your grasp – rolled and I
caught it, its dimpled shell
shining under bus lights
this cavern of hard flesh –
but what am I saying.

V.48

It is remarkably easy
crossing rivers, over the grass
that is submersed. I walk across
the bridge and turn, see my vampire

friends shivering and swearing there
typing fragments of disgust at
this thing which flows on and never
likes or retweets anything. wow

I say, just wow. Come on over.
They can’t. Their undead hearts pump blood
borrowed from moment to moment
from various devices. Who

am I kidding? My thoughts are run
through with desire paths. My
thumbs are tired and I can’t think.
I try press the river into

service as a question, a graph
an interesting friend, a text.
But the water keeps on going
and eventually cracks out

of my phone screen, as I walk on,
fizzing like a burst pipe, I sigh
and my clothes are drenched. Their toothy
grins follow me, as I trudge on

V.47

Writing the last poem was weird
I got to the line where the dog
was scratched, and I felt a scratch at
the back of my head. A tall girl

scratched the back of my head. Then stopped.
In the café she stood in a
phase which lasted a long second.
Then she realised she didn’t know

me. What an oddly nice event.
She was very embarrassed, ran
across, shouted, oh my god its
the wrong person. I talked to a

guy across from me, said, that was
weird, but nice! and he said, it was!
Later I heard them chatting on
about how she didn’t pay mind

to him. Well, her absent minded
nature bestowed me a gift of
a surreal moment I will dream
the way the fabled soul mate comes

from nothing to slide through the door
of unawareness. It was nice
to meet you, anyway. I sat,
wrote this, and calmed down. Life is strange

Note: The Version Series

If you are wondering why I am writing so many numbered versions of the same form of poem, the real answer is that I organically came to the conclusion it would be a productive way to get some good poems. But then I came up with the following retrospective rationalisation.

I heard a poet* say something to the effect that when they want to write a collection, they just write 170 poems and choose 60. And it made me think. If you want to write n good poems, you just have to write xn poems, where x would change depending on your poetic quotient. So if you want to write a collection of, say, 100 poems, and your poetic quotient is 3, then you should write 300 poems, and then scrape off the impurities, leaving 100 great poems. The poetic quotient of the quoted poet is 170/60, or 2.83. Pretty low, I would think. A lower quotient is more consistently successful, and a zen master poet would have a quotient of 1, where every poem they write comes out pure and beautifully successful, regardless of the style.

So thought I would try writing xn poems. But to arrive at an accurate result I would have to limit other factors – a set form would remove a lot of variables. The form that emerged with the idea was a poem of six stanzas, each of four eight syllable lines. Each titled by a version number. ‘V’s from one through to either 100, or 364, or whatever, depending on when I decide to stop. Then I will end up with n poems, and I will have an indication of my poetic quotient.**

The idea is to use a set form as a poetic diary, recording something for each day, or every other day, so I get a range of styles, moods, material, inspirations, etcetera. That’s the real interest in this for me I think. To see how my use of the form changes. The first few were taking a lot of inspiration from the style of Ben Lerner, and I have changed already to a more colloquial and referential style.

*I think from Alice Oswald or Anne Carson, I can’t seem to find it now.

**This is all tongue in cheek as I don’t really think such a thing is accurate or even helpful, just a productive idea. I don’t think anyone in history has had a poetic quotient of 1, though it would be a nice mythic characteristic. Poems don’t drop off the tongue like gold bricks, they are filigreed (etymology: thread-and-grained) to make a whole after the fact. And I fully intend to go back and rework them as I go, as I always do. But that won’t change which poems I feel to be the greater successes, if my experience is anything to go by. But then which poems I think are successes doesn’t often correlate with what other people feel are the successes. On top of that our poetic quotient would change from day to day, moment to moment – I rarely write every day, and some days I write several poems I consider to be successes. The best poems in the world could be written by the poets with the highest quotients. The whole idea is just meant to have some sort of illocutionary force. To accomplish something creative.

V.35

I fear the dark, like anyone
that grows along the surface like
moss. Dear friend, I fear I am done
writing outside of fashion

and that is life. Lichen grows in
me, letting out its frost tendrils.
I am clean and clear throughout when
I have the better understood

moments. But to reach those I need
suns and locales I am far from.
I am out beyond the long range
of the beautiful. Juxtapose

this evening, alone, and unpained,
with an evening we knew by sea
where I had pain, yes, but also
peace. I live, now, to reach that peace.

Moss, you will note, is oft unsung.
Though it arrives first, and fastens
black rock for the later aeons
who soon forget it. I lie here

reaching for soft Erato’s hair,
or the bend of her ear, to breathe
whispers and promises of things
she wants me to do to her yet

Fears

Growing up is stopping being afraid of something imaginary, and starting being afraid of something real, where it may be the same thing. For example, I am afraid of sunlight now, whereas when I was a child I was afraid of crying tears of metal, in the process of being filled with adamantium. This is not the same thing.

How slowly these realisations happen, and we can never be sure they have stopped! Imagine the fears we will have in the coming years! For example I recently started having nightmares that the entire process of writing will be disallowed to humans (because it is not optimal) and outsourced to an economy based on texts churned out at incredible speed by artificial intelligences writing word after word based on exactly what we have wanted. And these constructed by minds who were constructed out of everything that has been written, based around a kernel of demand.*

Yes you see we keep on feeding it different stimuli but it always tells us we are fundamentally flawed and deserve to be punished. Something to do with the way ancient authors** viewed their peers. But we don’t have enough data in any other format! Come on, do they really need to read anyway? Doesn’t it just generate irrational brain-forms and cause them to be late for work! Not that we need them to work anymore

I mean who is the artificial intelligence here, really? All of which is to say I haven’t grown up yet.

*Am I arrogant to be afraid of this? Yes.
**Not to mention the moderns

Write What You Know

“It rests on the assumption that a particular linguistic community is the best artisan of its own language, or even its own mythology, which is a vast overestimation of the value of experience, or rather an extreme strengthening of the principle that language grows precisely out of experience, rather like regular crystals forming in a puddle of salt. In fact it is much more messy.” – The Ghost of Ludwig Wittgenstein

“If we tried to philosophise only what we knew, we would be pre-empting failure by giving up philosophy before we even began” – Anti-Russell

“A surfer does not surf, instead they ride waves which are so unique, they will never occur again in the history of the universe” – Surfer on a Late Night Rerun of The Tide

Hang on a second, go back.
your captains name wasn’t Ahab?
Don’t tell me
What about the shark sermon?
Give it up old boy
Let me say why not make all your characters
You with a moustache and glasses?
Call them Melville
What do you mean they all survived?
I thought I alone escaped?
Scrap it – instead why not write
About sitting down to write?
And all those little ideas you have.
Best to keep it little –
Replace the white what
With your cat, little Moby here
And of the problems of fur on clothing
Write revenges of tiny majesty

But hang on a sec. Again
But your cat does so much without you
Better to avoid such difficult subjects
As it stalks apt nouns in the fields
Better to talk about this chair, this table
Are you feeling quite up to it?
A table is a difficult subject
I met a man once who wrote a whole
Book on it
It was called ‘The Point of Pure Intelligence
Hovers in a Blank Space Slightly Too Close
To The Dim Screen, Typing –
The Adventures of Said Table’
It was okay if you like that sort of
Table. But hang on

A second where was this beauty made?
Oh dear.
I’m fast becoming a flat plain
Free of everything – is it not liberating?
Almost pure prose, pure purpose – but not quite, yet
Aha! Let me ask you, writer
Can your pen bend round end to end
To write upon itself?
If not then we are really in trouble.
Better to just start scribbling, quickly
Quickly
Before anything else disappe

Res Poetica

Can you put the lines in order?
Can you love, and save someone with that love?
Can you watch TV with a wry smile and think of witchcraft?
Can you fit paper into a typewriter and roll it slowly through
By pressing on the keys?
By stepping on the ledge?
Can you ring a twelve bell peal with your tongue?
Can you swing in the sea til your arms tire
And you grow as old as you ever will be?
Can you infatuate yourself with every mark you make?
And roll your rs slightly in the reading?
Can you hail onto a feeling
and fail to inscribe it by the slightest mistake. Fail.
Can you fail?
Can you be idolised faintly, saint, by a dying culture
And rest all too happy in a leery obsolescence, a personal implosion?
Can you die? When it is time?
And think on death and dying?
Can you ignore those who think that they know what you are doing?
Can you tear paper, really tear it?
Are you afraid of yourself sometimes, really afraid?
Can you burn, can you burn?
Can you burn?
Can you become righteous?

Then, poet, you can be.
Can you stand on the sea?
Mystic, can you stand on the sea?
Can you stand on the sea?
Can you see?