Friday, September 29, 2006

The Books of Water

The Books of Water

archetypes swimming in the trees. oh dark night.
does distance break between time and sparrows?
transition. trembling. timorous clatter of small wings.
pictograms, ravens, clouds, embossed paper, sandstone:
how it unites, when nothing’s left but petals, desiccant, flavorless.

wordflower opening. eye in hand: palms orange, afire.
pointless eroticism of sunlight: koi bathing in what’s breathed.
agony of cliffs, iron-stained: fossil seabed, waves rippling.
chest breaking into white light. sirens of wolves.
returning face of stone people, waking under moons and roads.

temptation of the deep seas: indigo, pelagic, unsounded.
pilgrimage through afterburn. purpling epistles, lost phrases.
underworld papyrus. stone books on wall of night.
scents of ears before flowers, afterimage of absence.
holes in the walls of dikes and seas without shallows.

formless persuasion of rain: watershed, sandbar, plummet.
all the shell asks of the crab is to be left behind.
acidic touch of the dissolving of minerals: making silt.
harmonies of lyre branch and hail strings: storm’s octave.
rivulet’s tail. puddles into ponds, into inns for pilgrim waterbirds.

celebrant. krakon. evocation of orison and shadow.
whalesong below, vibrating the hull skin. waves lap.
a deeper silence. trench, abyss, lumens of angler fish.
ocean, vapor, dew, cloud, rain, river, lake, passage, ocean:
bonded chain of weeping. engines of summer, salamander, mayfly, maple.

calligraphy of snow: the nights of trees.
flock of starlings flees from a single crow.
under hedges, wardens nest: season of voles.
hairnet of stars in the juniper: white snow berries.
tallpines rest, old white-haired bishops: a last sermon.

A poem in a form which I have been working in for some few years now, that as far as I know I invented, and which seems natural to me. Jessica Schneider coined the name durku for the form, a combination of my surname with "haiku." It's an affectionate, humorous, evocative name for the form, which I am not entirely comfortable with, for the reason that my goal as a poet (in this form and elsewhere) is not to be self-promoting, but to become egoless, and let each image and moment evoke its own existence, without the interpretative or disruptive presence of the writer's ego.

My goals as a writer are generally transpersonal rather than confessional, transcendent rather than self-advertising, eternal and timeless even while recording the tiniest details of vision. The paradox, of course, is that I can never totally reach that goal, even as I seek to create a poetry that is less time-bound, more global, less narrative, more imagistic. Yes, the "I" has to be there as an interface and filter; "I" can't get around it; but there is much more to ourselves and our beings than the "I" alone. (Also paradoxically, the form is a reflection of my mind, my idiosyncratic ways of thinking. Like John Cage writing mesostics, I don't know that anyone else could use this form this way.)

The form is fractal, in that it is self-similar on different scales. Each line of each five-line form is haiku-like; each five-line form can be grouped into larger sections of four to six staves; each larger poem consisting of five-line forms can be seen as part of an overall viewpoint, a Book if you will. You can zoom in and zoom out and the tone, effects, and imagery remain similar on each scale. When the sub-sections of a larger set also carry their own subtitles, the subtitles may also add up to a poem. So, there are several layers in each poem, and the poem can be read on several layers.

One of the beauties of fractals is in finding higher levels of order and pattern within seemingly random chaos; in these poems, the images and phrases, often seemingly abrupt and disjointed, combine to form a flow and meaning, a rhythm and music, a cinema of Presence, a continuous music, a pattern laced together in the reader's mind.

As far as I know, this is the first genuinely fractal poetic form. And as I said, as far as I know, I invented it.

About "inventing" the form, I want to reiterate what I've written elsewhere: I generally like to let a poem's form emerge during the writing. I am often into the second stanza, if there are stanzas, before I know what the form is going to be. To me, this process feels organic, emergent, natural. The poem tells me what it wants, rather than being a process where I impose my ideas onto the form beforehand. I started writing poems in this form circa 1998, before I really knew what I was doing, or what I had. It has become, along with haiku and haibun, and the prose-poem, one of the very few forms that I naturally write in. (Most of what I write is so-called free verse.) Gradually, I realized that I indeed had a form, not just one poem in its own unique format. So, it would be as proper to say that I "discovered" the form, or that it was "revealed" to me.

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