Wasatch Mountains in Utah (October 2011)

Writing about writing poetry: It soothes my soul the way reading scriptures comforts believers. In an earlier post I referenced Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry by Jane Hirschfield (here), an inspiring and thoughtful meditation on how poetry comes into being.

And now I have another to recommend: Recklessn ess, by Dean Young. Young’s approach is, as the name suggests, wild and full of unexpectedness. But this small book is delicious at every level. Where Hirschfield’s approach is methodical and carefully constructed, Young’s is more rhizomatic and unstructured. It feels like he took the topic and then turned it inside out—a riskier ride, but full of memorable passages. Guidance for beginners (Young is undoubtedly a great teacher) is particularly inspirational as is his thoughts for us old dog veterans. This is a book I could send to just about anyone who is a maker and know they would find easy entry.

This book was my steady companion during a recent visit to Utah, the kind of book buddy you need when you venture into a culture that is starkly different from the one you have claimed for yourself. Young’s book was my pocket sized guidance system. This, plus the backdrop of freshly snowed mountains and the discovery of Les Madeleines‘ heartstoppingly delicious Breton confection, the Kouing-aman, made navigation easier than I had expected.

I’ll share a few passages here now, a few more later on.

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For Western culture, the movement towards/return to the primitive is lastingly vigorous from the early twentieth century on. Beginning in painting but extending into literature, music, and dance, the artist turned from mastery of illusion and technique to a more unmitigated, raw relationship with the basic materials of the medium, and, at times, a spiritual even mythological assertion of the rights and perils of the artist and humankind.

***
Purposelessness is not meaninglessness. I wasn’t put on this planet to explain myself. The variety of nature is too astonishing to explain as a form of utility, it’s just not necessary. Functional concern does not look for plethora, it looks for single solutions. god must have loved beetles, Darwin remarked of their astonishing array. Myriad minded let us be.

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People use language for two reasons: to be understood and not to be understood.

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Some things must be made opaque to be seen.

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John Ashbery writes in “The Invisible Avant-Garde,” “Most reckless things are beautiful in some way, and recklessness is what makes experimental art beautiful, just as religions are beautiful because of the strong possibility that they are founded on nothing.”

***
I always tell my students not to worry about originality; just try to copy the manners and musics of the various, the more various the better, poetries you love: your originality will come from your inability to copy well: YOUR GENIUS IS YOUR ERROR.


Les Madeleines’ exquisite Kouing-aman…


…which can be transported to your home in a nifty Saarinen-inspired travel boite

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