Thursday, March 18, 2010

deer, woods, dusk

deer, woods, dusk

In the indigoed light, it’s snowing again, thick mists fogging the distant treetops. Flakes begin to stick to the wet ground, which was covered with water and sleet, and will soon, in the chill evening, be covered with ice and snow.

deer move in the woods,
stepping high, noses down—
snow falling hard, now

The watershed deer herd were mincing through the woods to the south of the house, exposed by the lack of leaves on the trees, the air dark blue with evening. One doe started to move into the yard. I picked up my laser pointer, and put the red dot on the crumbled snow at the her feet, and much to my pleased surprise, she nosed at it, the way a cat or dog will do. I moved the dot around a few times, and the doe followed closely, then I moved the dot off into the woods, and the deer bounded away. Who knew? I guess I’ve discovered a new way to herd winter deer.

ruminant hooves pace
silent among fallen oak:
winter tree-spirits

Start with a poem. Then we make iterations of the poem, gradually working towards words-as-art, or visual poetry. At what point does the poem's linguistic information stop being comprehensible? At what point do we reach the frontier between (verbal) meaning and (visual) meaning. At what point does the art cease being an illustration, and become integral? When do the words become an integral element of the art? One element among others, which can be parsed for verbal meaning, in gestalt, but is also part of the greater gestalt (in which the verbal meaning might be nested) of visual/poetry.

At some point all the elements must synergize into something archetypal, symbolic, mythopoetic: the goal and result of much of my creative work. At some point the elements must become more than what they individually are, to take on a numinous, liminal life of their own; to become shamanic; to become an experience of threshold. This has long been known to me, as the artist, as the goal of much of my art-making: to depict and recreate, visually, aurally, even verbally, experiences of the threshold and the liminal, that I have myself experienced, and which I have no better way to re-create for others to witness.

In the past, I've treated words this same, as an element of composition, in experimental musical settings. I've made several text-sound pieces on tape (and later digitally) using layered readings of my poetry, and cyclic loops of texts that are a form of gradual-process music. For example: Light, in which the words finally become part of a multi-layered texture that has musical shape and form: the words as elements of composed music, rather than purely linguistic conveyors. At what point does the (verbal) meaning go away, and the sound of the speaking voice become a musical texture?

Using word-clouds as an element in a visual composition is equivalent, I think, to using spoken words as an element of musical composition. There is still (verbal) meaning to be found on the small, fractal scale: individual words and phrases come to the foreground of attention. But, hopefully, the overall effect is gestalt and non-linear, rather like non-verbal cinema. The (verbal) meaning of the words is not as important as the textures created with them; although there are meanings to be found (assembled, perceived, created) therein, the meanings are additive; right-brain-perceived as a gestalt, rather than left-brain linear-logical. A lot of this is about liberating poetry from the straight-jacket of fixed meaning—not of meaning itself, since the idea of "liberating" words from meaning entirely is absurd, as words will always be signifiers for memory, experience, and conception; but rather, of liberating words from assumed fixed positions of meaning. To soften the edges of hard linear logical, rational discourse. To make poetry from language that all-too-often is wielded as a blunt instrument of deterministic meaning, and by softening that bluntness, to allow a bit of Mystery to creep in. Which is what poetry is all about: making words do more with less; making words invest themselves with meaning beyond the ordinary; with opening the doors and windows for Mystery to seep in, if it will.

And all of this because deer have been continuously and forcefully coming into my perception, in various recurrent and forceful ways, for the past several weeks. When ghost-deer walk into your mind, sit down in the grass and listen to what they have to say. When you find a perfect antler discarded on the lawn right under the window where you do most of your writing, pay attention. When deer emerge from the fog and blowing snow and darkness, every dusk of every day for a long week of driving, listen to what they're pointing you towards.

And then respond by making art about the encounters. Because poetry and art and music are praise: are celebration, and commemoration: are the journal and notes made from encounters with the liminal, on the threshold, and you had best pay attention, or ignore them at your peril.

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