couple of nights ago nicholas woke up at a quarter to 2:00 a.m. needing a bite to eat and some comforting. seems when the boy is in a growth spurt, along with some aches (i sometimes think i can hear his tiny body screech like a sculptor stretching steel) he becomes a large empty stomach. when that happens, waking up in the middle of the night i mean, i feed him and hold him and turn the tv to whatever nonsense is on. mostly i channel-surf until the little guy goes back to sleep.
but on this night i watched the tail-end of a show on pbs about big-wave surfers, and the storm systems that cause big waves. now, what i understand about big-wave surfing is that the waves are freaking huge, and the surfers have to be towed by wave-runners to get to them. and the surfers are bad-ass individuals who have structured their lives around surfing. and they do it every day, surfing, religiously.
there are a few things in life that the devoted do structure their lives around, golf, surfing, skateboarding, running, skydiving etc. etc. it's a sketchy list, i know, but one thing that struck me when we stayed in santa cruz last may was that every morning there were guys who looked like they were in their 50s and 60s returning from the morning's surf. it takes discipline, and devotion, and love to do that.
i don't mean fans, people are fanatical about you name it. we all know, or are, persons who love football, basketball, whatever. no, i mean, surfing, for example, is a discipline and way of life for some. either you get bit by the bug, or you don't. it develops into a need, a discipline that i would call a religious expression.
that is all a long way round to ruminating about the call of poetry. which is a devotion to which we structure our lives. hell, i'd go so far to say that it is a religious calling. what i'm reaching toward in language and experience is the numinous. granted, i'm an atheist who grew up nominally catholic, but is it in the arts where we seek the transcendent? what the hell are the definitions of art anyway? i make no bones about my love of the lo-arts. last night, for example, i had written #9 sonnet of my ed wood cycle, and to relax afterward i played a dvd which has as an extra a gallery of drive-in movie posters played to exploitation radio ads. it relaxes me, but also, i find beauty in such drivel.
a few years ago, i was much taken with the work of philip k. dick. dick was a gnostic fuelled by amphetamines and scotch, who looked for god in garbage. one of the most resourceful books i'd read at the time was dick's collection of writings published under the title exegesis
. these were his notebooks of his investigations of the divine in a fucked-up universe. a futile search perhaps, depending on yr belief systems, but for me it was a catalyst to my own poetics.
a boost that i cannot define quite yet. even so, the connection between surfing and poetry is tenuous, yes, and yet it was the surfers' devotion i could connect with. there is so much talk about what poets should do for a living, teach, not teach, have a full-time job, and so on, that it becomes so much blather. who cares. poetry must, for it's own survival, for the survival of those who make it and read it, include everyone who is called forth, garbage collector or adjunct teacher. there is room enough for we many few who choose to live by and thru language. i hope so, anyway. i don't subscribe to rilke's advice to the young person thinking about taking up the pen: if you can do something else, do it. i am lucky enough to know what i want to do with my life. you probably do as well. trick is to find a method of employment that'll keep me, and anna and nicholas, in the three b's: beer, burritos and books.
i've got a lousy memory. but i've managed to memorize, mostly without realizing i've done so, a few scrap of poems. one of my favorites is from auden's memorial to mr yeats. i love it so because this extract has become part of my poetics. for what it's worth. i'll end this rant with it.Time that is intolerant
Of the brave and innocent
And indifferent in a week
To a beautiful physique,
Worships language and forgives
Those by whom it lives;
Pardons cowardice, conceit
Lays its honors at their feet.