Thursday, February 26, 2009

White Worm

Dwelling in the black,
the white worm called
out: some say white
orders, while chaos'
shadow destroys.
But the circumference
soon centers
that noirish truth.
The worm blanched
by the dark
is no more stable
than a crease
of light
over a lake
on a summer night
or a pursed
lip over her ear.

Wir Lagen and Worms

I have been thinking a lot about earthworms and for some reason, this morning, the worms reminded me of one of my favorite Paul Celan poems. It is entitled:

Wir Lagen.

by Paul Celan
translated by Keith Harvey

We lay
already deep in the shrubs, when you
finally crawled along
but we could not
darken over to you:
it ruled
light constraint.

Wir lagen
schon tief in der Macchia, als du
endlich herankrochst
Doch konnten wir nicht
hinuberdunkeln zu dir:
Es herrschte

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


The night-soil
of Darwin's
is saltier
than Persian
Rumi's poetry
than a Gulf
in November.

The Worms

The snails slumber
in the shade
of the rose leaf,
while the worms
churn black soil
like the steel
of a gray cruiser
green waves
in the southern sea.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Leaping Poetry and Primordial Words

I just finished reading Robert Bly's "Leaping Poetry, an Idea with Poems and Translations." In the work Bly attempts to explain what is happening in the poetry of Lorca and Neruda, Rilke, and the surrealists. Lorca tried to describe the phenomena himself in his brilliant book "Duende." Edward Hirsch picked up the thread in his book, "The Demon and the Angel." Paul Celan tried to explain it in his short prose pieces; just as Heidegger did in his work on poetry and Holderlin. Wallace Stevens wrote from it and tried to articulate it. Henry Corbin found it in the Iranian poets and called it the Mundus Imaginalis. What is it, then?

Bly says that it is the "leap" within the poem from the conscious to unconscious mind. But what it really is, is man, the myth-maker, making soul. Soul is made by man through his exploration of the unconscious contents of the world in a valiant attempt to make conscious what is unconscious. Soul-making is the evolution of myth through man's intense identification with his body and the surrounding nature. It is this action of evolving which occurs in Wallace Steven's poem "Anecdote of a Jar" and it is Paul Celan's groping in the dark to reach the other. It is the metaphor for the incarnation of god in man.

I wrote "Petroglyphs" as an expression of my struggle to understand the numinous feeling I received when reading certain poets--Rilke and Celan, in particular. I felt that this feeling arose from their use of certain images that contained the archetypal seeds of primal emotions. I called these images the "primordial word" and associated the "primordial word" with the word Logos. Logos is the creative force implicit in the creation of the Christian mythos. In my terminology the primordial word contains a primal emotion that connects us to an archetypal emotion. Consequently, the primal word functions as a portal that takes us to the Mundus Imaginalis--that mid-world between the conscious and the unconscious mind. It is the mid-world where great poetry resides. Shakespeare was a master of it. Ted Hughes understood and used it. Lorca had it, just as Celan and Rilke do. Bly reaches for and worships it. Therefore it is the "leap" that turns the stone of image that contains the poem.

Shamans, priests, and myth-makers depend upon the primal word to enter the Mundus Imaginalis. It is in that state that visions reside and the collective consciousness flows like a river. The entry way always demands a ritual. Surrealists use automatic writing; shamans use trances and self-inflicted illnesses; mystics use hunger and prayer; Sufis whirl; poets and Freudians associate. No matter the process, the goal is the same--to reach the mid-way, the Mundus Imaginalis--to tap into the collective unconscious to share the vision of the world and the language of the angels.

Monday, February 23, 2009


The point is a whole
and contains no points.
A line is a series of points.
Two points and a line begins.
We sat, two points,
three days a week
for twelve years
talking. We formed
two lines at right angles,
an analyst and an analysand.
Lines have no breath;
they sigh breathless.
from their silence.
Worlds form
from the angularity
of their sound
like a mound
of dirt above
a mole's hole.

Friday, February 20, 2009


The Zero
from the sun
and sprayed
from Pittsburgh
into the round
of the Grauman
from Tucson
through the flames
into a darkening sky
black with oily smoke.
His silk chute
and he jerked,
his jumpboots
above wisps
of jellied clouds.
His Hellcat
crashed into the sea.
A caesura
it cracked the surf
like the claw
of a Baltimore crab.
Maury caught
a silver glint
off a steel strut
as the Zero
He was alive,
but now a castaway.

The green sea
with dolphins,
in the surging
off a pink,
coral atoll.
the sinking Hellcat
and flying fish
in mirrored
the steel
that the sea
into rust.
Maury invested
his rubber vest
with air
and floated
on his back.
Next stop,
he whispered,
is hell.

No land.
Only an atoll
of pink coral
to rest his head.
Maury sensed
the sharks
and the leviathans
circling below.
One whale
eyed him
with such empathy
that Maury imagined
it wept
for his plight.
His head
against pocked coral
and he grasped
with wrinkled fingers
the mottled
and pulled
himself from the sea.
The moon
now a silver circle
above the pacific
upon his berth
on the atoll.
Safe now,
he said,
"I am hungry."

The atoll stretched
like a withered finger
a kilometer
from east to west,
covered with a skein
of salvaged sand.
The only food
was sand fleas
and gulls' eggs.
Just beyond his reach
fish teemed.

Days passed
and then months.
Now naked
Maury danced
on his coral stage.
Once he found
a black spider
in a coral niche.
He named it god
and worshiped it.

Maury forgot
the language
of the surface.
He came
to speak
and dolphin.
He could even converse
with his sworn enemy
the gulls.
he wore their feathers
to honor their sacrifice.
He rode the fins
of the porpoise
and mosaic shells
of sea turtles.
He grew gills
and slept in caves
deep within the rifts
that ran across the floor
of the sea.

Maury walked
on his head,
his webbed feet
firmly against the waves.
He cursed
that cut troughs
in his roof
and submarines
that penetrated
his solitude.
he visited
the atoll
and coughed
when he breathed
the oily, acrid
air of the surface
and dreamed
of the topsy-turvy
of the Hellcat.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Remembering Reading Donleavy

I met them thirty-five years ago when I entered graduate school. They had been there the whole time, of course, but I had been in the History Department, not the English Department, and I didn't know who they were. And then again they were from the area, all local boys, sort-of-- from Lufkin, Nacogdoches, Houston-- and their girls were local too. Tough women from the big thicket or Louisiana. I was from up North near the Red River and not one of them really.

They thought I was rich at first but I wasn't. I lived in an apartment and drove a new car because I had worked in the construction business with my father and I made good money before I transferred in. I had studied at the college in my home town that was later absorbed by the state university before I transferred to the teacher's college, where I learned they ruled the English Department. Counting their girls, there was seven or eight of them and they made the top grades and led the discussions and chose the writers we were supposed to worship.

Like I said I had been in the History Department before graduate school and all my reading had been done in silence . I read most of the modern fiction in the college library by the time I arrived in the graduate program and I preferred European writers. In 1974, my favorites were Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, Iris Murdoch, and Lawrence Durrell. They didn't like those writers; instead, they liked Hemingway and Pynchon, Borges and Vonnegut, Roth and Bellow. I liked those writers, too, but they weren't my favorites.

At the time I arrived I was reading Christopher Isherwood and W.H. Auden. I also liked science fiction and I tended to read it indiscriminately. I was also studying German and planned to go to Germany as soon as I graduated.

They tended to ignore me at first but slowly they came to see me. It was probably the fight over Lawrence. I argued that Women in Love was one of the greatest novels ever written. When I said it, cat-calls issued from the room and the fight began. However, it was from that fight that the recognitions began. And although I liked the English and the Germans like Hermann Hesse, Thomas Mann, and Robert Musil, I seemed, eventually, to at least qualify for a junior membership in their clique because--here was the nub of it--I was a massive reader. And in the end it was the reading that qualified me to enter their presence. They couldn't deny the reading. It was too palpable, too catholic to be denied.

One night at the local donut shop on North Street at two o'clock in the morning the warring ended when the name J. P. Donleavy was mentioned. Unanimous consent was arrived at when we discussed The Ginger Man. We weren't sure why we liked it. Donleavy's prose was mentioned several times in a vague way. All we knew was that The Ginger Man's prose spoke to our sensibility.

Reading The Ginger Man now, I will tell you it is the poetry, not the prose that attracted us. And I might add that the sex and the bookish life in poverty and the youth also caught our attention.

Does anyone read Donleavy anymore? I haven't heard his name in years but they should. His prose still sparkles. Maybe someone with some clout will read him and then he will be re-discovered.


The imagination
from the center
and incarnates
Abel's flesh.
Through the circle
he knows
the circumference
and the round-ness
of the jar.
From the forest
the unknown
vibrates black
and void;
while within
the sphere
all light.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

While Reading William Carlos William's Autobiography

William Carlos Williams was a physician. From his autobiography I get the sense he was a very good one. He worked long hours saving lives and then he wrote poetry; a lot of poetry. From his autobiography, I gather the poetry informed the medicine and the medicine informed the poetry; just as his friendships informed his poetry or the city of Patterson did. A Jungian would say he lived poetically; just as Heidegger would, who wasn't a Jungian but a philosopher of being and poetry, or better yet as Holderlin wrote and Heidegger explained. The upshot is that poetry is emotion expressed. To live a life of poetry or to live poetically is to express the emotions of being. It is this task which makes people want to be poets; they want to live in the world poetically. So there is the task of being, to be, poetically, in the world of being.

Anecdote of the Center

In a Salon de The
in Algiers
a man in white
instructed the other:
take a linen
sheet of Egyptian
and a draw a circle
in the center.
Fill it with graphite
from Pennsylvania.
for the world
to coalesce
its circumference.
Then blow
upon its borders
until it inflates
into a white sphere.
When the pressure
it like Chaplin's
rotate it,
do it,
until it holds.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A review of Testimony to the Invisible: Essays on Swedenborg

This volume contains seven essays by diverse but well known thinkers, mystics and poets discussing the importance of an obscure--for most of us--Swedish thinker, Emanuel Swedenborg.

Swedenborg was born in Stockholm in 1688. As Borges states in his essay, "this peerless, solitary man was many men." He was a cabinet builder, a mathematician, a scientist, and inventor. However, and most important to us, he was a mystic. Wilson van Dusen in his essay defines a mystic as "one who experiences God." When Swedenborg was fifty-six an event occurred that Swedenborg called the "discrete degree." From that point on he dedicated himself to the life of the visionary. During the next thirty years--he was quite long-lived--he produced the incredible works that influenced, inter alia, William Blake, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry James, Sr., Carlyle, Dostoevsky. Jorge Luis Borges, Czeslaw Milosz, and countless other poets and mystics.

Each one of the essays in this collection sheds a different light on Swedenborg and his influence. For instance,Kathleen Raine's "The Human Face of God" is particularly illuminating. In it she discusses William Blake's dedication to and study of Swedenborg but she also discusses the way Blakes' ideas, influenced by Swedenborg informed the works of Carl Jung and Henry Corbin. Another strong essay in the collection is Eugene Taylor's "Emerson: The Swedenborgian and Transcendentalist Connection." After reading Mr. Taylor's essay, I was reminded of how saturated 19th American literature is with the visionary ideas of Swedenborg and how close to the Mundus Imaginalis such writers as Hawthorne and Melville are.

If you are interested in the visionary experience, I highly recommend this collection of essays. And if you want to experience the clarity of Swedenborg's thoughts I recommend his volume: Heaven and Hell.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Anecdote of a Black Chow

The black chow
was his last dog.
No more dogs
to love; its memory
lives in his sadness.
A vestigial dog
haunts his stoop.
Its bark wakes him
from an afternoon nap.
He finds stiff
black hairs
on splintered
hooks splitting
away from the frame
of the screen door.
He senses its body
in the shadowed room;
he smells its oily pelt.
Its black tongue
lolls from its snout
at dusk
when the snails
cross the sidewalk
to the rose garden.

Friday, February 06, 2009


I have begun the sequel of my fantasy novel--Okeanus. The working title is Mittilagart, which is medieval High German for the word--earth. The operating quote of the novel is from Bonaventura Francesco Cavalieri, the seventeenth century mathematician: "all solid bodies are the superimposition of an infinite number of planes." The protagonist's name is Kavka; a librarian sent to earth to aid Michelle Tonneur find and capture the blue-black dragon.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Black Chow

The black chow sleeps
against the door.
Her heavy body an impediment
against entering or exiting.
She is a companion
that cannot be left.
Sometimes he throws
a message in a bottle
into the yard
and she springs
away with a cough.
Her weighted soul
splits the air
and her paws
pounce on the prize.
Freed, he slips
from the house,
sacrificing a message
unread. Now chewed
and wet she deposits
it on the stoop
before she settles
like Cerberus
to guard
a captive
who has fled.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Early Snails

The book-troll rose at five.
Morning frost stained
its windows satin,
as it stood and stared
at the seamless threads
of silver crisscrossing
the sidewalk's gray cement.
It whispered:
"they crossed in the night."
It feared the early snails
who could not decipher
one cellulose
molecule from another.
They chewed relentlessly
on leafy blades and papyrus,
leaving stains and holes
as reminders of their hunger.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Review of Steve Lyons' "Death World"

"Death World" by Steve Lyons is situated at the crossroads of four genres--(1) it is a military science fiction like Robert Heinlein's "Starship Troopers," Joe Haldeman's "The Forever War," and Gordon Dickinson's "Dorsai;" (2) it is a "deathworld" novel reminiscent of Harry Harrison's Deathworld series; (3) it is the story of a single squad in combat like "Platoon" and "Sands of Iwo Jima;" and (4) it is a horror novel like "Alien" and "Predator."

Irrespective of the genre echoes reverberating throughout the text, it remains true to Warhammer 40K. The usual 40k tropes abound: The troops go to war in the Gothic battle-barges of the Empire. They deal with the inept and sometimes corrupt Imperium commanders. Horror exists at every turn--from the dangers of the corrupting warp to the attack of zombies in the night. Consequently, the novel appeals to both gamers and science fiction fans.

In summary, the novel concerns a squad of Catachan jungle fighters sent into the jungle of Rogar III to assassinate an Ork Boss. The Empire and the Orks are mining Rogar III; however, over the last few months the planet inexplicably has begun to mutate into a death world.

In the Warhammer universe a death world is one that for whatever reason is inhabitable by man.

We learn that Rogar III world is sentient and does not want either the Imperial troops or the Orks on its surface. To rid itself of the invasions, it engineers its nature to become toxic to both humans and Orks.

The beauty of "Death World" lies in the deft way in which Steve Lyons presents the story. He introduces the squad in a straight-forward, no-nonsense way; he focuses on the protagonist--Lorenzo--;and he develops all his characters naturally through the narrative. He preserves the unities and abides by the conventions of his genre.

The story reminded me of some of the movies I loved as a kid--"Operation Burma," "A Walk in the Sun," "Battleground."

If you like "Death World," I also recommend Lucien Soulban's "Desert Raiders," Harry Harrison's "Deathworld," and Dan Abnett's "Double Eagle."