30. A Recipe for a Long Semi-Structured Poetic Sequence

for my colleagues & comrades of Writers Forum Workshop – New Series, who have tasted what this recipe produces, monthly at The Fox, underneath the maroon lincrusta

And why do I do this, then?
well, if I didn’t, it wouldn’t be
                                  so
dumb necessity claims – it’s like the experimental
                                  – thank you Andrew Duncan
                                    and was that Ian Brinton?1
because this means not mastery but learning
not predicting how the words will fall upon the page
letting what is in & beyond them speak through
and it’s like too avoiding writing The Poem – bless it!
                                              all proper a
                                              golden little bowl
but letting in the dirty cracks of human experience now
which I don’t understand2
                         try and live within
involving them in this writing as I also
seek its origins to escape – we must know
first what has been paid for all our poetry
as here in Stortford, birthplace of Rhodes3
but what did you expect then? – fucking holy innocence?
                                my arse!
                                welcome everyone
                                to the here-and-now4

So you need just to start, yeah
unfolding stories in wonder, picking
at scars5, at dreams, all
seeming discarded, itchy & painful
forms the apprehension to proceed

One touch over all you’ll need
improvisation to rearrange everything
as it comes at you to pick it up
place it as it says where it says
so it says aloud its name thus:
     the dogshead of rage arises
     ends up all decollated upon the pole
     where Stafford & Warwick fight
& you try to get that energy
not to fit it into the schedule
but continually grow what you’re doing
until it becomes the place you are travelling to

The delicious game is to do this
with ingredients fresh & of the best
ones that fly around your head
untrammelled & unplanned but direct
open to all the stinking country-rock
           yes, of ambient experience
                                      thus:
     reading & thinking thru the reading & writing of the poems of yr contemporaries
     the last moment before the baby wakes & you’ve got then to attend
     all the texts you have already written
     all the texts you’d wished you’d written
     the facts & legends of a family’s living
     all the benefits you can gather from the company of poets
     just what you encounter on the train to a rundown seaside town
     the geography of that town, suffused with external memories
     taking a postcard & ask who is it? who is it? where is it & why?
     adding nothing
     what you hear in a coffeebar, or a pub, or wherever – let it force itself in
     the refusal to do what you ought – very important
     using all those precise techniques for the making & raising of actual things
     invent! with fortitude, the basis for all magic working & of all good cooking
     the cultivation of your non-neurotypical self
     high-status elites – focused on closely & continually6
     openness to games, swimming, floating away
     all your friends (real & imaginary)7
     the weather
     never forget a touch (or more) from Dom Sylvester Houédard
     just playing about with your computer8
     any system of magic that seems to work for you9
     an attempt at out-foxing Vanessa Place10
     fucking fucking rage
     the pleasures of narrative
     what appears to you in the night
     scars
     entoptic patterns
     Walter Benjamin – read what you like11
     itself – turned in & turned out12
& use of these what you want & in what order
or none at all & add whatever you wish
that’s pleasurable, nourishing & good fun together

Now, if a thing ain’t coming
                              – create its preconditions
then there’s no backward, let it stop with us
& inhabit too this vagrant sanctuary
                                      – do this
– or however you like for all I care
  the number of ways of acting is infinite
                                            but
  this here you can see13 is operative now:
     write 10 poems sequentially
     each following a different pattern
     then numbered 1 to 10
     decide by dice roll the order of forms
     that you’ll use in the next run of 10
     (purely as permutation – never 2 of the same successive
                              really doesn’t work!14
     & with one of them changed to a fresh recipe
     which determined of course stochastically
     while binding across these strutting runs
     let each poem bequeath 1 or 2 chosen words of power
     to its successor 10 units on
     & so on, building up as they proceed
     – this has very interesting effects
+ 2 further turns
          – whatever ingredients you choose of course
          crucial is openness to all language & image
          as you find them swimming thru this world
          supersaturated with meaning as it is
          let it crystallise out as it chooses
          – & challenge yourself in your making of instructions
          to go beyond what you think as poems
          or what you feel at ease doing
          in the mood of exploring & improvisational discovery
          not as aspirant formalist – no!15
     then let it play out
     the great game
     of writing a poem
     put into this world
     letting it swim with
     in the motion of us

And the varied fortunes wandering through this poem
could not help me stop from saying what
there is in a poetic sequence:
                               as a journey
across this dark & obscure terrestrial star
not mere jumping on the spot
squeaking in the lyric voice
                             but major working
                             encouraging intervention
                             whatever speaks
                             Enochian tongues

Questions of lexis here important
avoid ritual purity like the plague it is
write for voice but not as voice
massed choirs or other transitory auditions
root in written words, sober as rain
colourful & nourished, yes, from the speech
                                 of our Polish mothers
now too our source
                   but not our only
also words diurnal & strangely secular
as many out of the dictionary as in
syntax fluidic necessarily as current speech
occasionally conceptually fully logged
but flying, not wading or marching
write too as a bastard or a mongrel
hybrid vigour trumping formal rigour16

Return to it again & again
under different aspects
each time receiving illumination
nothing is exhausted
nothing is unfamiliar
arrange it all
into a house of life
study it in detail
& live within it
then write again
and again for fun

Close attention
close unattention
concerned & unconcerned
in close attention
lose attention
always concern unconcern
attracting entities
children twice
to carry on
these difficult times
need is more
than personal;
need is more
than sound or sight17

[So I got this out of many sources: Williams’ & Eliot’s complex sequences18; Spicer’s serial poem; heavy flavourings of Oulipo, NY, & early Cambridge too, my masters19; undigested (or overdigested) fragments from the forgotten avant‑gardes & alternatives of the late mid last century20. Slowly finally working through; what can I say? Find your own route, your own diet, your own recipe. Ignore mine. More from both art song & popular song good – structure, progression & repetition, variation & tone – try these & play. Freely improvise. Never mind it’s autumn here. We will reach whatever end we reach.21]

 

 
1
discussion in café in Red Lion Square after the Free Verse Poetry Bookfair, September 7, 2013

 
2
do you?

 
3
“colonist hearts seen in a butcher’s tray”, Doug Oliver, “Remember Stortford, birthplace of Rhodes”, Oppo Hectic (Ferry Press, 1969), p 12, quoted also in Peter Philpott, The Bishops Stortford Variations (Great Works Editions, 1976); and still seen daily

 
4
or hear-and-know

 
5
“Scars are not injuries … a scar is what makes you whole.” China Miéville, The Scar (Pan Books, 2003), p 216

 
6
can only be critically

 
7
you’ve already begun to deal with our enemies

 
8
or your pen, whatever

 
9
well, OK, even critical theory; but when doing this working remember to protect your skull & its crowning chakra in a foil cap, & to rigorously avoid impure thoughts (< sigh! > even though these are the best)

 
10
Bert Brecht may be useful here, the cunningest old fox in such games – also genre prose, the more bastardised the better of course

 
11
then maybe some Brecht, yes, again; some Gershom Scholem – only then a little Adorno, once you have an educated taste

 
12
ideally both at once; or, just mistakes

 
13
or hear

 
14
think of this as good pragmatic advice, like the incest taboo

 
15
nor card-carrying oulipist – fellow-travellers only please

 
16
“Thus from a Mixture of all Kinds began / That Het’rogeneous Thing, an Englishman.” Daniel Defoe, “The True-Born Englishman”, in edited Geoffrey Grigson, Before the Romantics: An anthology of the Enlightenment (Routledge, 1946), p 137

 
17
yes, do bring in sound poetry & visual poetry or even asemic poetry – all good things; but never accept any restriction – seize opportunity always

 
18
let’s claim them both as the good English poets they aren’t, but could have been

 
19
also before them, in my innocence, the Beats – oh, the filthy grebos, don’t let those smart college boys sneer (or they’ll clock them snobby gits alright) – they’re the ones who really set it all in motion

 
20
who now remembers Fathar & Yanagi, the Duncan McNaughton world; or Loris Essary’s Interstate & Alan Davies’ Oculist Witnesses, language-oriented before the LangPo cadres took over; or Opal L Nations’ Strange Faeces – just what it says?

 
21
but only if we start & do it, now:

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