Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Transparent Poems 2

Stanley Kunitz is a poet I don’t know well, but recently I dreamed of finding a lost poem by him. Then I wrote about transparent poetry that allows the world to be visible through it, and a friend sent me this:

I never tire of birdsong and sky and weather. I want to write poems that
are natural, luminous, deep, spare. I dream of an art so transparent that
you can look through and see the world.
Stanley Kunitz
Paris Review Interview The Art of Poetry 29

I like the rhymes in the universe.

Thanks to Allison Atwill

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Transparent Poems and Poems that are Journals

Poems are journals
I’ve always been interested in poems that have some degree of transparence to events and feelings, water over weeds in a stream bed. I noticed this first with the Chinese poets and it led me to an interest in Zen. When I first read Basho, in Brisbane, I think, I remember that my body relaxed, which was something it was in need of. I could see that anything in life could be included and there could be accuracy as well as a feeling for the moments when, no matter how humble our activities, we know that we are moving through vastness. So these are poems that are a certain kind of journal. Here is Basho,
Holding wheat ears
To support myself,
I say goodbye

Wordsworth’s, “Upon Westminster Bridge” is an English example.

This City now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Wordsworth is more interested in flash than Basho. He is impressed by how impressed he is by the scene; he wants it to mean something grand. Then he pulls it off, he does convey something grand. The similarities are there too. Both poets are tourists who notice what their minds are doing. For them, what you think and feel is the point of going on a journey.
You know the kind of thoughts you tell a friend? There is a different kind of thought, that is not about making my case or loving someone, or sharing my state of mind. This kind of thought gropes towards what it’s like to be alive. For example, a haiku, Durham, January 09.

It rained in the night,
I was part of that. At dawn
again, winter rain.

Through poems like this I keep an erratic journal of the thoughts that I don’t quite understand—the thoughts outside my usual thoughts. They don’t have a punch line. I like the idea of a spirituality without a moral too. Here’s another way of doing a poem journal, also without a moral, which is just to describe the surfaces.


We sailed out of Sausalito.
There was no wind, then a lot.
We sailed to San Francisco.
A queue of freighters came in through the Golden Gate against the ebb.
One of the ships had big cranes on the deck and was obscured by smoke.
It looked like a ship from the London dockyards a century ago.
We came back around Angel Island.
We did more than nine knots.
In Raccoon Straits there was a tribe of seals and hundreds of sea birds.
The seals barked.
The wind died.
We saw a whale. It had barnacles and dark flukes. It was heading for the Golden Gate.
We saw the whale again.
A boat was adrift. We took it in tow.
When we docked the owner found us. He wore shorts and a Hawaiian shirt.
His boat pumps out the heads of the boats all over the Bay; the business is called MT Head.
He promised us a free pump out.
We had espresso.
We took out the other, smaller, boat.
The wind came hard in gusts. We lay over and came back up.
I learned how to tighten the back stay to pull the mast back and change the shape of the sail.
Then we sailed fast.
We sailed up Richardson’s Bay.
Divers were working on a sunken boat.
We could see just the mast.
We cleaned our boat and checked the rigging.
I had a flat tire.
A man in a Land Rover had a flat battery but I couldn’t drive to him to help.
I changed my tire.
We ate fish tacos.
We talked.
We didn’t solve anything.
We walked around the night harbor among the boats.
I drove home.

Let me know about poems that you think of as journals.