Thursday, March 29, 2018

Geof Huth : My Poetry Writing Day : 24 February 2018

I’m not sure if I believe in writing anymore. My thinking may have devolved to the point that I believe in poetry without accepting the evidence that writing exists. Or it is that I see poetry as so many things besides and beyond writing. It may be that I have debased poetry and writing by accepting so many vagrant means into the accepted ways of making of such literary devices. For a poem, to me, is nothing more than an engine to run a thought—or a feeling or just a word—through a person.

Every day, I proceed under the apprehension that something will cause me to make a poem, that almost no day will close without my forming a poem of the evanescence stuff of my day. The program of the poet is to be prepared for that small twinge of inspiration that might barely make a survivable poem, a thing one might care about, if one cared about words or what they do or what the replacements of words to do a person and why, and why it is important. Or why we wish it were.

I made in this day maybe twelve poems, counting this one you are reading at this moment. One lasted for but an instant—


—and then it was gone. I sent it out into the world as a sequence of letters, a coded message for the eyes, yet I created it for the ear, whispering what it might sound like into my own ear, hearing how it couldn’t work well enough unless my voice gave it breath enough to keep it alive—then imagining it the form of


and sending it out, unwhispered, again—maybe as a new poem, maybe as a revision, but thinking of it as a poem about the speaking of a poem through the body: coming from the head (worn with work), transmitted first to the arms (one entumored), and finally to the thumbs tapping it swiftly and silently out into space, that electronic and digital space humans inhabit when they forget they live in airspace, in groundspace, in trees-sleeping-until-spring-as-brown-but-waiting-to-be-green-space, and sent there just in case someone was listening—or someone was seeing well enough to listen to what was seen.

In the afternoon, I paused from reading and shopping and cooking and cleaning to make two poems, both out of scraps of ancient court documents so small and so removed from their home documents that I cannot repatriate them—one of these poems made inside a bell jar my mother-in-law had given us to hold a single ornament for an evergreen in the process of dying and one inside the distorting glass of a small bottle that once held a small quantity of artisanal tonic water. Both pieces of trash, because I make these poems out of rubbish, out of what has been left behind or tossed away, out of trash from the street, out of cloth tape and rough twine that once held together sets of documents, out of disintegrating ribbons and wax seals that had confirmed the authenticity of the files, out of straight pins and paper clips that held pages together, out of the bodies of insects (housefly and moth) that had died among these papers.

These are found and made poems that take decontextualized scraps and recontextualize them. I put fragments of words together with other visible but atextual pieces and create a poem out of text and textile and texture. I create little things to look at and read, because looking and reading are often the same process, the act of persons bringing information into their bodies. They do this not because they are required to; they do it because meaning is nourishment, because connection to another body even through nothing but the data a person presents to them is the human act of learning and knowing and coming to know more. In one of these little poems—consisting primarily of a single length of cotton tape decorated with a scaly textured spine of nothing but thread—there appear these markings, in no particular order except however each person sees them:

                of the Clerk of the
                                        in the City of New York.

                                                                [three loops of a pen]
                                                                                                                [another three, but different, loops]

                                                dn       [but these letters are upside-down, so “dn” is actually “up”]

                                                                                      [a pencil mark]

                [the slightest sliver of a the lowest reaches of a line of text, where the only recognizable part is
the bulbous-ended descender of a g or a j or a y, but which seems impossible to be any of those]

Yesterday, I was interrupted in the course of my day by a red-leather bound volume sitting among hundreds of shelves of others books, but this one bearing the arresting title “In the Matter of Bird.” (Merely a case title for a civil case without a defendant, because sometimes the most supposedly mundane phrasings stop me and allow me to listen to their possibilities.) I texted this title to myself yesterday, expecting to write my nightly lineated poem against this title, but I forgot and instead wrote a poem off the top of my head about rain and self and the holding of reality within the body of a person, and thus the separable and separate body of every person.

Tonight, I wrote—in a faux-red-leather bound volume that includes a bar directory for the state of New York—a fragmentation poem (something like the grenade with the same forename but less deadly): each line a fragment, a set of metrical lines (but only in that the meter of the poem matters but is inconsistent across every line), and nothing more than an imagining of the chaosmic flight of a small bird aloft within the wind of the earth and the wind of its own making. I keep this poem for myself now, but I will read it to my wife upon her waking tomorrow, and she will say it is good, and I will note that it is a failed little creature with no more than one unbroken wing.

Near the beginning of the day today, I made two little versi, poems in which I bind two words together by slipping the letters “vs” between them (in the manner of my friend mIEKAL aND). One of them was

run vs rum

—which I created in my head while “running” on a treadmill and I intended as a counterpart to the poem

gin vs gym

, which I wrote yesterday. These versi are maybe no more than word games, but a poem is a way to play with words, to play with meaning, to cause a little tumult in the mind of another.

I also created a few asemic fidgetglyphs, usually tiny visual poems made out of characters drawn or written to approximate the forms found within imagined writing systems. As the years of making these have progressed for more than a decade, I now create forms that are more logographic, eschewing almost entirely the use of actual alphabetic characters or written language. Yet I call these poems, even though they concern the making of shapes with ink and followed by my watching to determine when their expressiveness diminishes and I decide it is time to stop making them—until my imagination returns. I love cutting ink into the sturdy pulp of the paper, drawing lyrical curves or straight lines or expressionistic jaggedness.

As I was writing this, I remembered that I had discovered today that I had a small ovoid stone of granite, which I had decided could be the base for my next “stoen,” which is merely a poem of textual scraps glued to a rock or stone of any size. Most of these stones are flat and expansive enough to hold a collage of text that uses up dozens of pieces of paper to create a poem. But I thought this one would be small enough to hold just one piece of paper—if I could find the right piece. So I looked through my accumulated “wordscrapts” (as I call them) and found the slip of paper I needed.

This irregularly rectangular paper scrap was covered with the writing of a loose but firm hand. Heavy pen strokes predominated, some so deep (or the ink possibly acidic) that a slit appeared through the only whole world on the entire piece:


I glued this one piece across the top face of the stone, allowing the slit to show through as an opening, a rupture, and the aporia, in the text. I even took my microspatula and opened the slit a little and cleaned out the seeping and drying glue—so that the stone could show through the paper and the text, so that I could preserve and display the act that pen mark made more than a century before today.

A friend of mine, tonight, responded to my posted photo of pareidolia in beer foam in my wife’s glass (my caption was “Lascaux Beer”). He wrote, “I thought your glass was decorated with a band of horses. Just artistic foam.” My response was “Band of brothers, man. We will always be a band of brothers. Because those are the ones who die together.” And I think even that exchange—jokes and all—might be a poem, since I cannot tell the difference between poetry and life.

The music playing as I was writing this paused for a string of seconds and plunged me into silence, or the closest thing to silence I can find: a slight ringing in my ear and the muffled murmur of traffic a long way off and down. Within that breach of the sound enveloping me, I decided to make a poem by speaking it into a machine, by making it up as formed it, and I decided not to use the words of language but the glossolalia of the moving tongue. Such language is not really ever asemic in the way my fidgetglyphs are; this language is always filled with the meaning of the voice, that meaning beyond word, the meaning of tone and speed and pause. I was surrounded for over an hour with the aching sound of the Icelandic tongue, but I took not the sound of the language but the emotion of the voices from this music and made a little poem, one I could feel almost too sharply inside myself, as if I were actually telling a poem about hurt and pain. The mind of a poet is a strange thing and can even trick the poet.

The night has gone dark—has been dark for a while. I live in city high above the streets, with a view of the river, the harbor it slips into, and the opening of the sea it becomes, and I can sometimes hear only my own voice whenever my wife is asleep. Tonight, I am not quite done with this day of making poems, but all I have left—unless some other urge overwhelms me—is to continue to take poems I’ve already made and write them down over an over again. I’m working on a tiny leaflet of five poems of mine, poems written last month, mostly as I was driving to my office upstate. The title of the leaflet is “oieaux,” which also serves as the first poem in the book. Each of these is a poem in French punning off the word “eau” (or “water”)—except that one of them also makes a translingual pun in English. People generally sees puns as trifles, but to make a poetic pun is to be working fully in the medium of one’s work—in language, in a target language, doing what only that language can do.

I have already made these poems, so my poemmaking now is merely writing, but not writing in the sense of making some new written thing, but in the sense of writing the same thing down, in pen, over and over again, so I can have 100 copies of these poems to distribute to people, 100 copies written entirely in my own hand, everything on the pages written in my hand—and written on brittle acidic paper that will likely fall apart with time. Because the poem is not just its words; it’s also how its words appear in space, on pages, against the ear.

If I’m truly organized today, I will do an integral (but sometimes unmet) part of writing life, and I will collect metadata on all the poems I’ve created today and store that metadata in the little database I keep online so I can always look up a little fact about my writings and works. Because I’m not just a poet; I’m also an archivist, someone interested in records and driven by a need to document—because I’m drawn to words because they are human and because they are data.   

Geof Huth is a poet of mixed and many means. He presents most of his work (mostly nanopoems) into the maw of social media. He almost never finishes making a book of his work, and he never publishes except through his own presses, dbqp and pdqb, which produce very little. If he didn’t exist, there would be no need to create him, but he would still create.

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