José Antonio Mazzotti: from Sakra Boccata, five poems

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 6:14 AM 0 comments
Translation from Spanish by Clayton Eshleman

A los amantes de la lengua
casta-i-llana

To the lovers of the tongue
chaste-and-plain

8

The slope of the wave pursues itself. This dilation
Stirs the depths and settles on a dune
Its sight fixed on the surface awaiting the longed for moment
When the Sun goes out in an interregnum with the Moon
In broad daylight and seaweed and caparisons sing
And the flesh of the ocean rests from its knives
It’s the hour in which fish swallow their own anxiety
Throbbing in Chaos
Moon of Scorpio on the lance point
The slope of the wave rises
Raises up its foaming hand intending to touch them
It’s the hour in which the beach creaks with sardines
Which nurture the tree
Which sooner or later will return to the waters
To settle on the most golden dune
Gushing light

9

I love you with the madness of a foot caught under the keel
I love you with the speed of one sensing footsteps at the door
Who risks the heights to avoid capture
I love you standing and in the bathtub and under every walnut tree
And in the heavy softness of the snow
And in the desk chair when the lights go out
And I proclaim the victory
Of the Almighty Deep
Praised be the Name of the Lord under his height
Perfect Circles like Moray’s Incan terraces
A drop eternally falling onto the surface
Extending its waves while the planets
Line up on the curve of its song
Fleshy rose of all the seigneuries
Little caramel mouth silken cutis *
In the culpable darkness of the infinite

I love you as if this night were
The first time

10

The solitude of the mirror does not recoup its expectations
Like the Tunnel of Time it’s a trunk that swallows whatever meat
It offers itself as a sacrifice it’s a trunk
Viscous and fragrant with sweat from the past
Painted with golden bodies it recovers its own life
It remembers labyrinthine cities
On the bank of a muddy river
It ventilates the end of summer and searches for clams
At the edge of a dry abyss
Its steps lead it through churches
Erect as nipples and at their doors it descends
Into the woods of the centenary bones
So much death and no power at all against life *
The mirror changes colors
It illuminates from the doorway the purple mantle
Of the Virgin of Candlemas
Oh Saint Mary Mother of God shelter your little lambs
Who seek to perpetuate themselves in the mirror
Oh Saint Maria Mother of God
You yourself
Who with the Holy Ghost
Gleamed one night before the copper
Cauldron

11

We regain our lost innocence
The wine’s flavor is converted on the palate
Spirits formerly of the divine body
Live joined and jumbled obverse and reverse
A perfect androgyne self-sufficient
Double joy double bristling
The past and the future concentrated and the present
Open like an infinite arc
If you don’t know what you’re after you’ll never get it
There’s a lunar eclipse on the back of Scorpio
The astrologers point out the harmony of the cycle
Look within yourself look deep
You’ll find the leather bag in which the male’s face
And the female’s nape float up front
Or inside out they touch each other stretching forth
their hands
They were pondering in unison
These rainy words out of which a blue smoke
Ascends

Habemus Papam

12

The page shining blankly extinguishes the evening’s silence
Breathing suddenly a vertebral cartilage outlines
The back of a monster in the lake
Surfacing and descending
It has a spiny crest and a trickle of blood
Penetrates its two cheeks and its fiery eyes
Baste its transparent rhythm
It searches in the water for impossible nourishment
Thinking that the last time it had some it was 10 A.M.
The cars down there in the street were moving away
Church bells were encircling the meeting
Of sweet moans in penetrated scales
The fish glorified between the sailors’ sabers
Fond of fresh water and condemned
To the crest of the waves
Now crawls
Along this sand
Descending and surfacing
From the bottom of the lake

[TRANSLATOR’S NOTE. Concerning the title of this 28 poem cycle, the author writes: “Sakra Boccata is a title coined after the words for Sacred and Mouthful in Spanish/Italian. This title can also be read as ‘a mouthful from the Devil,’ which can refer to cunnilingus. Also present in the title: the divine breath that God breathed into matter, as well as a sense of poetry as an art that creates life.” In his Introduction to the book, Raúl Zurita writes: “These poems display a carnal, erotic version of the never-exhausted Neo-Platonic theme of perfect love achieved by two beings to erase all the physical and mental distance between them ... a merger not only of bodies searching for each other but of language itself ... as if the poems would like to devour themselves in a grand sexual act in which culture, eroticism and nature would once and for all erase their borders.”
 
In section 9: “Little caramel mouth silken cutis” is a translation of a line from a popular Peruvian song “La flor de la canela.”
 
In section 10: “So much death and no power at all against life” is a play of words on a line in César Vallejo's poem “XII / Masa” from España, aparte de mí este cáliz. The original Vallejo line reads: “Tanto amor, y no poder nada contra la muerte!” (“So much love, and no power at all against death!”).]
 
José Antonio Mazzotti is a Peruvian poet, scholar, & literary activist. He is Professor of Latin American Literature in the Department of Romance Languages at Tufts University, President of the International Association of Peruvianists since 1996, and Director of the Revista de Crítica Literaria Latinoamericana since 2010. A prominent member of the Peruvian 1980s literary generation, he is considered an expert as well in Latin American colonial literature, with a notable focus on its mestizo and creole aspects.

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[The following was recently compiled & is posted here as anindication of the range of translations – solo & in collaboration & by nomeans complete – over the last fifty years. (J.R.)]

From German

New Young German Poets (Celan, Grass, Enzensberger, Heissenbüttel, Bachman),City Lights, 1959.

Rolf Hochhuth, The Deputy, Broadway playing version,1965, Samuel French.

Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Poems for People Who Don’t Read Poems (translatedwith Michael Hamburger and the author), Atheneum, 1968.

Eugen Gomringer, The Book of Hours & Constellations,Something Else Press, 1968.

Kurt Schwitters, Poems Performance Pieces Proses PlaysPoetics (with Pierre Joris), Temple University Press, ExactChange, 1993.

Periodical and anthologypublications from Goethe, Heine, Arp, Huelsenbeck, Dieter Rot.

From Spanish                                                                                                                                             
F.G. Lorca, Suites, Green Integer Books, 2001(earlier in Collected Translations of Lorca, Farrar Straus Giroux).

Pablo Picasso, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz & OtherPoems (with Pierre Joris & others), Exact Change,2003.

Periodical and anthologypublications from Neruda, Huidobro, Alberti, Cecilia Vicuna, Sor Juana Ines dela Cruz, Asunción Silva.

From French

Periodical and anthologypublications from Jacob, Tzara, Picabia, Di Manno, and others.

From Czech

Viteszlav Nezval, Antilyrik & Other Poems (with Milos Sovak), Green Integer Books, 2001.

American Indian &Precolumbian Sources

The Flight of Quetzalcoatl (Aztec), Unicorn Books, U.K., 1967.

The 17 Horse Songs of Frank Mitchell (Navajo, with assistance from David P. McAllester), Tetrad Press, U.K.,1973.

Songs from the Society of the Mystic Animals (Seneca, with Ian Tyson, Richard Johnny John),Tetrad Press, U.K., 1975.

15 Flower World Variations (Huichol), Membrane Press, Milwaukee, 1984.

Multiple anthologypublications in Technicians of the Sacredand Shaking the Pumpkin.

Japanese

Nakahara Chuya, selectedpoems, with Yasuhiro Yotsumoto, in progress.

Polish

Cyprian Norwid, “Chopin’sPiano,” with Arie Galles, in Poems forthe
Millennium,volume 3, 2009.

Hebrew and Aramaic

Gematria 27, with Harris Lenowitz, Membrane Press, 1977.

Multiple translations withHarris Lenowitz in A Big Jewish Book (Exiled in the Word), Doubleday, 1977 andCopper Canyon Press, 1989.

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[In constructing an assemblage of “outsider” poetry there is a point finally at which the work of contemporaries has also to be considered. I have felt constrained here by a determination not to confuse “outsider” with some sense of the “marginal” or “alternative” as defined in contrast, say, to another assumption of “mainstream” or “normative” or even (god help us) “canonical.” Here, it seems to me, one principal characteristic (but only one) of outsiderness, as I’ve come to understand it, is a difference of mind or body that results in a range of differences in language & poetic forms that might otherwise be hard or impossible to come by. It is in this sense too that “outsider art” and by extension “outsider poetry” has had as one of its anchors what Dubuffet & others defined as art brut & brought into prominence the work of artist/poets such as Adolf Wölfli & Aloise Corbaz. In line with that I can imagine the place among outsiders of “canonical” or near-“canonical” figures such as Blake & Smart, Hölderlin & Artaud, whose skewered view of language & poetic form was both a cause & consequence of their historical isolation. Coming closer to the present, however, I have hesitated to bring the work of my contemporaries & acquaintances into play. With Hannah Weiner (1928-1997), as a key instance, the turning in her work followed an extreme perceptual shift in which words & letters appeared to her in air & on the surfaces of objects & people, to be incorporated into the written works she was then composing. In her own well known accounting: “I SEE words on my forehead    IN THE AIR    on other people    on the typewriter   on the page   These appear in the text as CAPITALS or in italics  The results of that, through her own efforts, were nothing short of extraordinary.

[The following poem & many others, some still more radical, can be found at Weiner’s web site: http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/weiner/]

LITTLE BOOK 125
OCT POWER DAY Oct 12 78
OCT POWER DAY
11 SHEETS 3
correctly
ohs hannah SPEL
b
  e
    s
      m
        o 
          r
            e
               p
                 r
                   a
                     c
                       tical
Jimmie cant spell
        corrected
        date
                       12
JIMMIE          STANDS
            BIS PRINT
I HAVE POETS
HIS MIND IN
MY             POEMS
Hannah
       I CANS WRITE
I correct
BIS PRINT 
MYSELF          CORRECT 
S  P  E  L  L  I  N  G 
I JUST HAVE ONE
MIND
c            j              e
  o            I        I 
    u             m m
      n                      t
         t                 o
            s            l
                       a
To      OFFER       MY 
               OTHER
M I N D
please  Jimmy prints 
                  HIS LETTERS
HIS SECRETS
                        HIDES
R U S S              spell
Jimmy is spelled
correctly
                      HOME
ON 9th STREET 
of
COURSE
I just couldn't write 
it about myself 
BIG P about it
I     JUST     RUSSEL
I canst spell
                MEANS
walks with him
              INS NOV
FEBR complete
I JUST DONT WANT
          signed date 12 
ohs    hannah     spelled
   a               y
      w         l
         kward
        SILENCE
THISBOOKCOMPLETED
    SAY TONIGHT
          JIM spell
          ERROR
I just want to  write
about
     WHATS A NAME
standing up
all
   THE STEPS
SHEETS
ha SKIP TOP LINE
hannah forgot
          STRUCTURE
ins my SILENCE
S  E  N  T  E  N  C  E
I may just become
  Jimmie scribbles
a
   RUSSELL MEANS
writer soon
             TWO PAGES
hannah this is our
          forehead
secret
                SILENT
3 people split
before forgets
message
PAGE               ONE
you feel PRINT
WONDERFUL AFTER
THIS      BOOK       IS
          SOLDS
I meant a message
silent messenger
secret
          two pages lost
              INS SHEETS
E  X  P  E  N  S  I  V  E
and I
BIS                 PRINT
forgot
BRUCE
W
  H
    A
      S
            A
                S
                  E 
                    N
                      TBRUCE
what writers
remember I am me
     ALWAYS
     M E A N S 
I always forget to 
spell his name
b  a  c  k  w  a  r  d  s
      SPEAK
      STONED
correctly   Jimmie     call
please f
        o
         r
          g
           e
            t
             s
              e
               n
                t
                 e
                  n
                   c  SILENCE
                      e HANNAH
                      THATS OCT 12
Jimmie thinks
SECOND PAGE
I'm a fool not
to
      MISS A PAGE
write a second book
Bernadette closes
about him
          explain
suspended
sentence
please be silent
                      structure
I ams giving away
all my secrets
                        darling
B  E  R  N  A  D  E  T  T  E
I am also a writer 
                  Jimmie signed

[The preceding is from Weiner’s Little Books/Indians, Roof Books, 1980.]

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Charles Stein: A Poem and a Note from "From Mimir's Head"

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 6:54 AM 0 comments

The Hat Rack Tree
Your old hat
sits
on the hat
rack tree
as the plumes
of the tree
grow dry
and wind unravels them.

"No wind
is the King's wind."

Now you go to buy some new
hat. Should it be
just like it?

A new hat sits like a plume
on the hat rack tree.

There is a bird
on that lady's hat.
Pluck its felt?
Or shred the brittle veil
that hangs from the brim?

It is a crow
(not my crow).
Something not alive
on the hat rack tree.

What can I do with this?
What can I sell?
Come all comers
to the hat rack tree
and see the lady's hat with blackstuffed crow.

Odd--but the crow's eye lives
with terrible rays
and the feathers shine
with a glint of green--

Wind  in the branches
wind in the plumes
strong enough to knock your
hat off. Knock your hats off.

If you were a King
and owned a tree
would you become a crow
with its terrible shining
and charm the wind
into your hat
and wear it
out
to see the world?

A lady's veil
conveys her shining.
She is nervous.
Nor does she glean
the thing on her hat.

Note

The thinking that goes into a poem or that can be awakened as its“further life” — like the fuzzy temporal location of particles in quantumreality — exists more like a cloud than a thing. Do these thoughts precede orsucceed their poems? But the poems themselves do not have unique temporalonset: they link on to each other and to the texts and thoughts that environthem, in the problematic temporal topology of textuality itself, appearingafter the fact yet in the guise of that which uncovers “meanings” in, of, andfrom them.

These notes, then, are the “further life,” in my own thinking, ofthe poems themselves. I certainly could not have produced the thought in thepoems before I produced the poems—but the notes show the poems to be the“further life” of texts and thoughts that, in a literally “cymatic” sense, have“influenced” them—i.e., flowed in them, or flowed them in.

 [There follows his note on the poem, above,with a further addendum: “In our collaborative ‘dialogical’ writings, GeorgeQuasha and I frequently use the phrase ‘the future life of the work’ tocharacterize discourse, art, work, conversation, or any vital experience arisingfrom some work that ‘furthers’ its creative impulse(s).”]

The Hat Rack Tree

My father kept a grand hydrangea bush. It had magnificent floreateplumes in summer, but a scraggly hierarchy of clipped and naked branches out ofseason. Good for nothing but a rack to hang your hat on, he called the nakedbush his “hat rack tree.” Like the skeleton of a way of thought, I thought; a(kabbalistic) tree of life that, seeming to assert nothing, serves as acognitive scaffold, a schema to hang your images on.


Donnings and doffings of often headless hats haunt the forest.Hats suffer the fates of the identities they betoken and effectuate. A shortpoem in The Hat Rack Tree reads:

My hat had vanished.
When that cat that
sat up looked straight at it,

that hat had had it.

The cat’s intensity vanquishes the identity that is the target ofits massive concentration. I found the following item among forest notes fromthe early ’80s too late for inclusion in The Hat Rack Tree volume:

The forms
fall off
the hat rack
tree.


The hats
go back
to the sky.


As the poem strikes me now, there is celebration here of aliberative moment, when the fixities of appearance fall away, and the icons ofidentity levitate, or the principle of structure, imparted by the tree to thatwhich hangs upon it, exchanges secrets with the indeterminate.

The closing and title poem of The Hat Rack Tree turned out to bethe first in a series of poems. I repeat its publication here to be true to thesense of that series.



“No wind is the King’s Wind” (page…)

A refrain from Confucius (is it?) in Pound’s Canto whatever,primes for me an open inquiry into contingency, randomicity, spontaneity, andthe forces of morphogenesis and order.



The demagogue and technologist would put the wind under his hat;while the magus or the Taoist would ride the wind.

[Posted here in celebration of the recent publication by StationHill Press (Barrytown, New York)  of Stein’s FromMimir’s Head.  Like all of Stein’smajor gatherings of poems this forms part of an ongoing work called the forestforthetrees.]

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The following was in reply to Tenney Nathanson’s query – March 16, 1996 on the Electronic Poetry Center listserv – about my own statement that “the most telling impact of Ezra Pound's work was on poets who politically and morally might have been at the greatest distance from it.” To start with my own experience

– growing up when I did – the presence of Pound in the late 1940s was, to say the least, a bewilderment. I was stunned by much of the poetry, both by how it read (the language of it) and by what I heard it saying: anti-war and anti-capital and powerful too in its presentation of a way, a means, of approaching and hoping to shape the world through the poet's means, the poetry itself. I was about 16 years old at a first reading of him, and shortly thereafter – along with the reading – came the awarding of the Bollingen and the tremendous fuss that that stirred up (close to fifty years ago). With that we were aware also of the extent of Pound's fascism and, as became clearer over the years, the viciousness of the anti-semitism in his World War II broadcasts – a lunacy of language common to the fringe of homegrown fascists who were also in his entourage. My own first published piece of writing was a letter to the New York Post (a different NY Post at that time) in which I lamented what I thought had happened to Pound and what had become (as it still seems to be) a conundrum around the man and the work that the man had given us. There was a lot I didn't know then but knowing it would certainly not have made it easier.

I was never, in any sense, a Poundian, since there were too many other threads and lines coming into my awareness to allow a focus (in that sense) on any single individual. But the observation of Pound's impact – on myself and others – began shortly after that: the observation that those who were most significantly building on Pound's poetics and actual poetry were not the crazies and the fascist hoods of the John Kasper variety, etc., but poets like Kelly, Olson, Duncan, Mac Low, Blackburn, and before them the whole gallery of "Objectivists" or – from other directions – any number of European and Latin American writers – all of them (as I understood it) with a political and moral sense (coming out of World War II) that was strongly anti-fascist, strongly in opposition to the totalitarian barbarisms for which Pound (in the years of his fascist infatuation) had become a minor flunky. In their context Pound became, remained a vital force – the proof, through them, of what was right and germinal about him and the proof, conversely, of what was evil – and banal in Hannah Arendt's sense – in his succumbing to the "fascist temptation."

What Pound offered and in some sense made possible wasn't divorced from the political but wasn't at the same time tied to what became HIS politics. It was a demonstration of how the political – as history – could enter the body of the poem – how the poem could thrive on what Ed Sanders (many years later and clearly drawing on Pound) spoke of as "data clusters" defining a new "investigative poetry". I don't need to go on with this, I think, except to note that it was (as far as I can recollect) not the little fascists who learned from this but poets who by disposition and, I believe, commitment were looking for a way out of the fascist and totalitarian nightmare that had threatened to overwhelm our world. And there was also – stronger in Pound than in most other forerunners in the North American context – a sense that history and poetry could be redefined, opened up and certainly renewed, and that for this Pound himself (as Charles Bernstein, I think, points out in his Pound essays) was a stepping- stone, a guide to things that his fascist leanings would have finally precluded. He was clearly the most extraordinary translator we had by then produced – not only pointing to Albigensian Provence and to a sense of China speaking to the present, but (coming like Césaire and the other Negritude poets) from the likes of Frobenius, forming one of the links (but only one) to an African past as a pinnacle, too, of the creative human spirit. It is not to say that this was – all of it – of Pound's doing but that he helped to set much of it in motion – much of what, coming after him and (in some sense in spite of him) – became essential to our present work.

And, finally, I would point out what was – for myself and others – the lesson of Pound's failure – the lesson of the poet who had in the long run betrayed his poetry. It is a terrible thing to say and it is, I think, a terrible possibility that faces all of us. But it is Pound who also says it best, from the "pull down thy vanity" voice in Canto 81 to the still more telling voice (where he was already into his silence, depression) in Canto 116:

I have brought the great ball of crystal
                who can lift it?
Can you enter the great acorn of light?
         But the beauty is not the madness
Tho' my errors and wrecks lie about me.
And I am not a demigod,
I cannot make it cohere.

I can read this, anyway, as both a confession of failure (and of betrayal – of himself and us) and at the same time a triumph of whatever is there speaking through him. But not Pound alone – for which let me end, Tenney, by copying out (in what's already a long message) a poem by Julien Beck (of the Living Theater, etc.), a good pacifist and anarchist and anti-fascist, who I think loved all the poets that he mentioned in it. It's one too that Pierre Joris and I are happy to include – along with a number of others – in a section of manifestos for the second volume of Poems for the Millennium:

Julian Beck's "the state will be served / even by poets"

the breasts of all the women crumpled like gas bags when
neruda wrote his hymn celebrating the explosion of a
     hydrogen bomb by soviet authorities
children died of the blisters of ignorance for a century when
siqueiros tried to assassinate trotsky himself a killer
     with gun and ice
pound shimmering his incantations to adams benito and
     kung prolonging the state with great translation
     cut in crystal ...

[The complete text of Beck’s poem can be found elsewhere on Poems and Poetics, and I would call attention also to a series of my own poems, The Pound Project, also on this site. (J.R.)]

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Preface to the Poems of Han-shan
by Lu Ch'iu-yin, Governor of T'ai Prefecture

No one knows what sort of man Han-shan was. There are old people who knew him: they say he was a poor man, a crazy character. He lived alone seventy Li (23 miles) west of the T'ang-hsing district of T'ien-t'ai at a place called Cold Mountain. He often went down to the Kuo-ch'ing Temple. At the temple lived Shih'te, who ran the dining hall. He sometimes saved leftovers for Han-shan, hiding them in a bamboo tube. Han-shan would come and carry it away; walking the long veranda, calling and shouting happily, talking and laughing to himself. Once the monks followed him, caught him, and made fun of him. He stopped, clapped his hands, and laughed greatly - Ha Ha! - for a spell, then left.

He looked like a tramp. His body and face were old and beat. Yet in every word he breathed was a meaning in line with the subtle principles of things, if only you thought of it deeply. Everything he said had a feeling of Tao in it, profound and arcane secrets. His hat was made of birch bark, his clothes were ragged and worn out, and his shoes were wood. Thus men who have made it hide their tracks: unifying categories and interpenetrating things. On that long veranda calling and singing, in his words of reply Ha Ha! - the three worlds revolve. Sometimes at the villages and farms he laughed and sang with cowherds. Sometimes intractable, sometimes agreeable, his nature was happy of itself. But how could a person without wisdom recognize him?

I once received a position as a petty official at Tan-ch'iu. The day I was to depart, I had a bad headache. I called a doctor, but he couldn't cure me and it turned worse. Then I met a Buddhist Master named Feng-kan, who said he came from the Kuo-ch'ing Temple of T'ien-t'ai especially to visit me. I asked him to rescue me from my illness. He smiled and said, "The four realms are within the body; sickness comes from illusion. If you want to do away with it, you need pure water." Someone brought water to the Master, who spat it on me. In a moment the disease was rooted out. He then said, "There are miasmas in T'ai prefecture, when you get there take care of yourself." I asked him, "Are there any wise men in your area I could look on as Master?" He replied, "When you see him you don't recognize him, when you recognize him you don't see him. If you want to see him, you can't rely on appearances. Then you can see him. Han-shan is a Manjusri (one who has attained enlightenment and, in a future incarnation, will become Buddha) hiding at Kuo-sh'ing. Shih-te is a Samantabbhadra (Bodhisattva of love). They look like poor fellows and act like madmen. Sometimes they go and sometimes they come. They work in the kitchen of the Kuo-ch'ing dining hall, tending the fire." When he was done talking he left.

I proceeded on my journey to my job at T'ai-chou, not forgetting this affair. I arrived three days later, immediately went to a temple, and questioned an old monk. It seemed the Master had been truthful, so I gave orders to see if T'ang-hsing really contained a Han-shan and Shih-te. The District Magistrate reported to me: "In this district, seventy li west, is a mountain. People used to see a poor man heading from the cliffs to stay awhile at Kuo-ch'ing. At the temple dining hall is a similar man named Shih-te." I made a bow, and went to Kuo-ch'ing. I asked some people around the temple, "There used to be a Master named Feng-kan here, Where is his place? And where can Han-shan and Shih-te be seen?" A monk named T'ao-ch'iao spoke up: "Feng-kan the Master lived in back of the library. Nowadays nobody lives there; a tiger often comes and roars. Han-shan and Shih-te are in the kitchen." The monk led me to Feng-kan's yard. Then he opened the gate: all we saw was tiger tracks. I asked the monks Tao-ch'iao and Pao-te, "When Feng-kan was here, what was his job?" The monks said, :He pounded and hulled rice. At night he sang songs to amuse himself." Then we went to the kitchen, before the stoves. Two men were facing the fire, laughing loudly. I made a bow. The two shouted Ho! at me. They struck their hands together -Ha Ha! - great laughter. They shouted. Then they said, "Feng-kan - loose-tounged, loose-tounged. You don't recognize Amitabha, (the Bodhisattva of mercy) why be courteous to us?" The monks gathered round, surprise going through them.

"Why has a big official bowed to a pair of clowns?" The two men grabbed hands and ran out of the temple. I cried, "Catch them" - but they quickly ran away. Han-shan returned to Cold Mountain. I asked the monks, "Would those two men be willing to settle down at this temple?" I ordered them to find a house, and to ask Han-shan and Shih-te to return and live at the temple.

I returned to my district and had two sets of clean clothes made, got some incense and such, and sent it to the temple - but the two men didn't return. So I had it carried up to Cold Mountain. The packer saw Han-shan, who called in a loud voice, "Thief! Thief!" and retreated into a mountain cave. He shouted, "I tell you man, strive hard" - entered the cave and was gone. The cave closed of itself and they weren't able to follow. Shih-te's tracks disappeared completely.

I ordered Tao-ch'iao and the other monks to find out how they had lived, to hunt up the poems written on bamboo, wood, stones, and cliffs - and also to collect those written on the walls of people's houses. There were more than three hundred. On the wall of the Earth-shrine Shih-te had written some gatha (Buddhist verse or song). It was all brought together and made into a book.

I hold to the principle of the Buddha-mind. It is fortunate to meet with men of Tao, so I have made this eulogy.

from The Cold Mountain Poems

1
The path to Han-shan's place is laughable,
A path, but no sign of cart or horse.
Converging gorges - hard to trace their twists
Jumbled cliffs - unbelievably rugged.
A thousand grasses bend with dew,
A hill of pines hums in the wind.
And now I've lost the shortcut home,
Body asking shadow, how do you keep up?

2
In a tangle of cliffs, I chose a place -
Bird paths, but no trails for me.
What's beyond the yard?
White clouds clinging to vague rocks.
Now I've lived here - how many years -
Again and again, spring and winter pass.
Go tell families with silverware and cars
"What's the use of all that noise and money?"

3
In the mountains it's cold.
Always been cold, not just this year.
Jagged scarps forever snowed in
Woods in the dark ravines spitting mist.
Grass is still sprouting at the end of June,
Leaves begin to fall in early August.
And here I am, high on mountains,
Peering and peering, but I can't even see the sky.

4
I spur my horse through the wrecked town,
The wrecked town sinks my spirit.
High, low, old parapet walls
Big, small, the aging tombs.
I waggle my shadow, all alone;
Not even the crack of a shrinking coffin is heard.
I pity all those ordinary bones,
In the books of the Immortals they are nameless.

5
I wanted a good place to settle:
Cold Mountain would be safe.
Light wind in a hidden pine -
Listen close - the sound gets better.
Under it a gray haired man
Mumbles along reading Huang and Lao.
For ten years I havn't gone back home
I've even forgotten the way by which I came.

6
Men ask the way to Cold Mountain
Cold Mountain: there's no through trail.
In summer, ice doesn't melt
The rising sun blurs in swirling fog.
How did I make it?
My heart's not the same as yours.
If your heart was like mine
You'd get it and be right here.

7
I settled at Cold Mountain long ago,
Already it seems like years and years.
Freely drifting, I prowl the woods and streams
And linger watching things themselves.
Men don't get this far into the mountains,
White clouds gather and billow.
Thin grass does for a mattress,
The blue sky makes a good quilt.
Happy with a stone under head
Let heaven and earth go about their changes.

8
Clambering up the Cold Mountain path,
The Cold Mountain trail goes on and on:
The long gorge choked with scree and boulders,
The wide creek, the mist blurred grass.
The moss is slippery, though there's been no rain
The pine sings, but there's no wind.
Who can leap the word's ties
And sit with me among the white clouds?

9
Rough and dark - the Cold Mountain trail,
Sharp cobbles - the icy creek bank.
Yammering, chirping - always birds
Bleak, alone, not even a lone hiker.
Whip, whip - the wind slaps my face
Whirled and tumbled - snow piles on my back.
Morning after morning I don't see the sun
Year after year, not a sign of spring.

10
I have lived at Cold Mountain
These thirty long years.
Yesterday I called on friends and family:
More than half had gone to the Yellow Springs.
Slowly consumed, like fire down a candle;
Forever flowing, like a passing river.
Now, morning, I face my lone shadow:
Suddenly my eyes are bleared with tears.

[The 50th anniversary edition of Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems was published by Counterpoint Press in 2009, along with the Kindle edition from the same publisher.]

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decudnirepus

Alwaysinspiring my sense of quantum poetics is clinamen, the atomic swerve, afoundational concept in Alfred Jarry’s ’pataphysics that might be expressed in WernerHeisenberg’s uncertainty principle, a key breakthrough in quantum mechanicsthat proposes simultaneous values cannot be assigned to the position andmomentum of a physical system. If language is not merely descriptive but participatesin the formation of physical reality, then poetry might be said to constitute amanipulation of physics, which would redefine poetry as not just a phenomenonof consciousness or an ontological and/or epistemological activity, but also asa clinamatic mutation on physical reality, or what might be thought of asnature. Poetry in this context could be capable of what Christian Bökidentifies in ’Pataphysics: The Poeticsof an Imaginary Science (Northwestern University Press, 2001) as the“prohibited hypothesis” of ’pataphysics, where “the most radical gesture inscience” through the “impulse to revolutionize the condition of the species”could entail “the abolition of the species itself.” It certainly seems possiblethat the most radical gesture in poetry could destroy poetry by redefining it,as innovations in poetry might be thought of as abolishing the relevancies of itsprevious forms; this is the avant-garde. However, if poetry is a physicalmutation on nature, which includes humanity, could its most radical gesture,like the most radical gesture in science, destroy the species? If matter cannotbe destroyed but only redistributed as energy or another form of matter, thenannihilation might be thought of as an antecedent to transition, or what couldbe thought of as novelty, where matter changes, its borders mutable and adjustable.In poetry, distinct objects compared in metaphor are often changed by the actof comparison, suggestive of how molecules are changed by observation, and how,according to Heisenberg, “the transition from the ‘possible’ to the ‘actual’takes place during the act of observation.” Walt Whitman: “And now [the grass]seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.” Thus, chance could be definedas physical change—taking the form of creation, destruction, or any nuance inbetween—prompted by novelty.

In conjunction with the expanding andaccelerating multiverse, our experience of physical reality might expand andaccelerate at varying scales, including subatomic and astronomical scales andwhat we encounter at eye level. We create technologies like microscopes andtelescopes to interact more significantly with the multiple scales of physicalreality, and as such technology advances so do our capacities to create throughother mediums. One hypothesis of quantum poetics is that poetry, as amultiversal technology, ricochets between pattern and the clinamatic swerve towardnovelty within multiple scales of physical reality through known and unknowndimensions.

The Alphabets of the Future are Wormholes

Heisenberg,whose uncertainty principle was part of his development of matrix mechanics,was concerned that quantum theory does not have an adequate language beyondmathematics to describe it. Heisenberg comes close to proposing that poetry isthat language in Physics and Philosophy(1958) when, immediately after articulating this concern, he referencesGoethe’s Faust to describe hisunderstanding of the structure of language. Mephistopheles says that whileformal education instructs that logic braces the mind “in Spanish boots sotightly laced,” and that even spontaneous acts require a sequential process(“one, two, three!”):
Intruth the subtle web of thought
Islike the weaver’s fabric wrought:
Onetreadle moves a thousand lines,
Swiftdart the shuttles to and fro,
Unseenthe threads together flow,
Athousand knots one stroke combines.

Heisenberg,while arguing that science must be as attentive to imagination as to logic,also seems to be suggesting that novel sciences must be described by novellanguages. As I learned in kevin mcpherson eckhoff’s rhapsodomancy (Coach House, 2010), the alphabets of the future arewormholes: creative forms of language like poetry have the ability to not onlydescribe novel expressions of physical reality but to invent them through itsshorthand, “one treadle” moving “a thousand lines,” where a “thousand knots onestroke combines.” Since the concern in theoretical physics today is reconcilingquantum mechanics with relativity through proposals such as string theory,poetry might be thought of as an experiment in physics and physics as a fieldtest for poetry.

Physics is thestudy of physical reality. Following in the tradition of Western atomic sciencefrom Thales to Democritus, contemporary theoretical physicists are consideringhow the multiverse’s subatomic, vibrating membranes of energy—the open and closedstrings of string theory—might function as elementary constituents of matter.In literary terms, string theory could be thought of as a critical theory; itnot only describes physical elements within spacetime, such as elementary elements,it attempts to describe spacetime itself. Physicists, like poets, think throughand with multiple forms of language. One intersection between poetics and theoreticalphysics that fascinates me occurs at the scale of diction, where theoreticalphysicists describe the strings of string theory as “open” and “closed,” justas Lyn Hejinian, in her essay, “The Rejection of Closure” (1983), describesopen and closed texts. In string theory, a closed string is topologicallyequivalent to a circle, having no end points, whereas an open string istopologically equivalent to a line interval, having two end points. Accordingto Hejinian, one “tentative characterization” of the closed text is “one inwhich all the elements of the work are directed toward a single reading of it.”In addition, “each element confirms that reading and delivers the text from anylurking ambiguity.” A closed text might be visualized as a circle, as having nobeginning and end points in which to imaginatively enter or exit the text, thussituating the writing and reading of such a text within the circle’s interior,where “all the elements of the work are directed.” The open text, on the other hand,“foregrounds process,” “invites participation,” and is “open to the world andparticularly to the reader,” according to Hejinian. Open texts, topologicallyspeaking, would have end points, entries and exits in which the imaginationparticipates, multiplying readings. The open text operates outside of theclosed text’s interior circle, its extended topology uncurling into a line.Hejinian casts the line farther: “Writing’s forms are not merely shapes butforces…” In quantum poetics, I imagine clinamen as a form and force of physicalreality and poetry that can be open, closed, and/or open and closed all at onceby way of the quantum jump.

The Matrix

According tophysicist Gino Segrè’s Faust inCopenhagen (Penguin, 2008), while the mathematics used by Heisenberg’smatrix mechanics was not new, the theory itself was original for developingwhat Max Born called “symbolic multiplication,” which resulted in illustratingthat the commutative law of arithmetic (ABequals BA, i.e. 4X3 is the same as3X4) is not valid in subatomic systems. Heisenberg’s symbolic multiplicationproposed that in quantum mechanics a particle’s position multiplied by itsmomentum is not equal to a particle’s momentum multiplied by its position; inother words, a particle’s position multiplied by its momentum (AB) minus a particle’s momentummultiplied by its position (BA) wasnot zero, as it would be if the product of position and momentum commuted.Instead, in matrix mechanics, a particle’s position multiplied by its momentumminus a particle’s momentum multiplied by its position is proportional toPlanck’s constant, a physical constant of subatomic quanta that is nonzero.Since Planck’s constant is always nonzero, uncertainty is at play in measuringobservable subatomic phenomenon of the present. By invalidating causality aswell as attempts at measuring non-observable subatomic phenomenon, Heisenberg’smatrix mechanics suggests that the future position and momentum of subatomicparticles cannot be calculated because the determining elements of the presentcannot be known with certainty. This is one way that quantum mechanicsconceives of time in a novel way. Heisenberg’s quantum mechanics conceived ofspace in a novel way, too, offering a new model for how electrons moved withinatoms. In contrast to notions that electrons in atoms moved in orbits likeplanets, matrix mechanics describes the motion of electrons as jumps or leapsfrom one quantum state to another, reminiscent of clinamen and evoking thepossibility that clinamen could be a physical force like electromagnetism orgravity that exists not only in creative or metaphorical contexts, but also inphysical reality. In the framework of quantum poetics, such breakthroughs inphysics can be applied to physical reality at all of its scales, visible andinvisible, including cultural and creative scales, and, more specifically, tolanguage and what I might call its matrixmechanics, poetry.

If poetry is amatrix mechanics of language, how can interpretations of poetry be developed withcertainty if a poem’s present state (while creating or experiencing it?) cannotbe described without ambiguity? Conventional notions of meaning are dependenton linear notions of time, as meaning is arrived at, in time, aftercomprehension or examined experience. Most reading relies on linear notions oftime, as well, since grammars often follow a progression that occurs beforecomprehension or examined experience is reached. However, poetry can usurp conventionalinteractions with time when the writer-reader experiences language outside of lineartime, which might include time slowing, time speeding up, a sense of no time,or a sense of all times at once, where simultaneity occurs between time scales.Poems also work in tandem (toward unity and/or disjunction) with space in a waythat is attentive to the spacetime of the poem’s medium, which transcends physicalcontexts such as the page, screen, or voice. In poetry, as in quantummechanics, it might not be possible to forecast the future with certainty; anymeasure of a poem’s activity might only be described in terms of probability.

Dr. LisaRandall, the Harvard particle physicist I saw lecturing on CERN just before theLarge Hadron Collider went operational, called herself “a model builder.” Askingus to use our imaginations, she showed us crude graphs of open and closedstrings in string theory to illustrate the hypothesis that our universe is alow-gravity universe while other dimensions in the multiverse, which are called“branes,” are high-gravity universes. I was interested in her arguments as wellas how she presented them, taking note that she used two-dimensional illustrationsto portray eleven-dimensional concepts. Considering the homophonic relevance ofthe word “brane” as well as Heisenberg’s concern that quantum mechanics requiresa language beyond mathematics to describe it (like poetry?), I have decidedthat I, too, am a model builder. I construct poems that construct me—

In my sense ofquantum poetics, which I think of as a mode of examination that appliesprinciples in theoretical physics and ’pataphysics to poetry, the cultural and creativedimensions of physical reality are not as distinct from physics asdiscipline-specific discourse would have us assume. Quantum poetics posits thatpoetry and science are activities linked through what Jarry calls “imaginarysolutions,” and that this exchange between disciplines is not metaphysics but Jarry’s’pataphysics, where exceptions are the rule. Such exchanges invite more significantconversations between disciplines, or what might be thought of as translations.There seems to be a belief among poets that the best translators of poems fromone language to another are poets, since those who write poetry can representchallenging or traditionally un-translatable forms and concepts usingapproaches from poetry that a poet would understand in a way that someone whodoesn’t write poetry might not. Translation is also a political discourse withits inherent focus on expanding communication and experience between cultures.It might also be a conceptual discourse when translations are attempted betweenwhat are usually thought of as distinct modes of inquiry, as in quantum poetics.The ordinary risk of translation in any of these contexts might be that the translationfails at adequately communicating or representing what’s being translated.However, thinking of translation in terms of success and failure doesn’t takeinto account self-reflexive translations and how translation might operatewithin gradations of success and failure. Perhaps due to the inescapable resultof mistranslation, the act of translation is thus always a creative act,evoking more questions than it can resolve, questions that imagine solutionsthat ask more questions. This is one outcome of reaching across forms in themultiverse. Imaginary solutions multiply.

Therefore, indefinitely:

POETRY IS THETANGENTIAL POINT BETWEEN BRAIN AND BRANE.

’Pataphysics isthe physics of poetry….

[Parts one to three of "Quantum Poetics," as well as examples of Catanzano's poetry, have appeared elsewhere on Poems and Poetics.]

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