April Diary 12: flowers in hell

This entry is part 12 of 31 in the series April Diary


Dear April it’s been a day spent largely in my head a commodious place since i haven’t stuffed it full of facts or indeed much of anything with a practical use

walking down the mountain i was thinking about something the Norwegian poet Rolf Jacobsen once said: “In an age of tiredness” he said “I write for the half-tired”

there’s definitely a class angle to the accessibility vs. difficulty debate (which for many of us is also an internal debate) though here in the chronically overworked US, sleep deprivation cuts across class lines. it’s more inescapable though for those near or below the federal poverty line. for members of the professional-managerial class it can be a bit more volitional

the point is as an insomniac i am intimately acquainted with all the ways that sleep deprivation can interfere with concentration and aesthetic appreciation, to say nothing of the mind’s overall speed and ability to function

with my strong preference for shorter lines and stanzas and for direct, more colloquial diction perhaps i too write for the half-tired

i do not believe in ever writing down to people which is i’m afraid how some on either side of the debate perceive accessibility. but
(insert winter wren trill here—i’m close to the stream)
gnarly or unfamiliar ideas can be presented in ways that invite a reader in and experimental language can be presented in a way that’s fun—see Christian Bök’s Eunoia or pretty much anything by Gary Barwin

it’s the cliquishness and austere aesthetics of a lot of avant-garde work that turns people off. if you doubt that people without college educations can appreciate difficult art, i’d invite you to consider the extreme metal underground, where in many genres complexity of composition is fetishized by the still largely working-class fan base. i believe the same was true of bebop in its day. you don’t need an expensively educated elite to have sophistication in the arts

all that said, there’s no denying the deep anti-intellectualism of anglo-american culture. what poetry does do well commercially tends to be pretty straight-forward fare, whether prosy free verse, rap- and Beat-influenced spoken word, or artistically arranged motivational poster copy

it’s quite a late spring. the first round-leafed hepaticas are finally fully out in Plummer’s Hollow after just a few hours of warmer sunshine this morning. now it’s clouding over again

i tell myself i don’t need any more hepatica photos but it isn’t a matter of need

first hepaticas
will the circle be

that haiku came a bit too easily. hope i’m not unconsciously plagiarizing someone!

also the first stinking Benjamin is out of the ground, green blade stained with mud

the best vistas must now contain something dissonant, tacky or even garish or else risk becoming cliché

bright red roof
the devil is just a hard
working cook

(is that even a haiku?)

(does it matter?)

no one ever talks about how Africa is giving birth to a new sea

also, two of the greatest poets i ever knew never published a book. one stopped writing altogether i suspect. brilliant but troubled. how fortunate must of us are to be neither

i say i’m talking to myself but i’m not — in the same way you say you’re talking to god but you’re not

(maybe that’s why i’ve begun to resist capitalizing i)

no ideology can ever be a perfect map to reality. i feel this is something that poets and physicists should intuitively grasp and it always bothers me when they don’t

places are the best mnemonics. they’re irreplaceable that way

when global corporate monoculture eliminates the last corner of local quirk and the same suite of hardy invasive species grows everywhere, what will happen to memory?

i suppose everyone will be on THC by then so it will be a moot question

i sometimes get really angry when i hear about texts or speech intended to be private, for a single person’s eyes/ears and ephemeral being nevertheless recorded and eventually shared. if this angers you too, prepare to be outraged when you find out how all the classic Zen ko’ans came to be

the collected ko’ans of masters such as Yunmen and Linji are unique gems of world literature and i’m so glad we have them. but a significant part of their opacity is down to us not knowing every intimate detail of the master-student relationships that gave rise to them. at their origin in other words while still conundrums intended to lead to breakthroughs they weren’t necessarily quite as mysterious as they seem today

mystery like many products of fermentation gets better with age

April shower
that heavenly odor
rising from old leaves

i really love how the flat thin soles of my shoes let me feel the smallest contours of the earth

trail running is a strange subculture of exercise freaks but they make some good products

but i wanna say to anyone who does like to run through the woods: imagine if you slowed down and got to know the trees and flowers so well that you began to see the natural world less as a passive environment to discover yourself in and more as an endlessly fascinating series of unique neighborhoods to lose yourself in—likely the way you already imagine cities. imagine walking at one mile per hour and feeling it’s much too fast.

imagine there’s a heaven and you’re in it
it’s easy if you try
but it’s also possibly a pointless exercise in privilege
hell isn’t exactly beneath us but we do manage to keep it out of sight most of the time
above us only the vacuum of space

which puts me in mind of Issa’s famous haiku

in the midst of it all
with hell yawning under us
gazing at flowers

that’s my version but you should try your own

yo no naka wa
世 の 中 は
world’s midst as-for
jigoku no ue no
地獄 の 上 の
hell’s on-top-of’s
hanami kana
花 見 哉
flower viewing!

all of which has me reaching for Baudelaire

he sits right next to Basho on my bookshelf

Time and nature sluice away our lives.
A virus eats the heart out of our sides,
digs in and multiplies on our lost blood.
Charles Baudelaire, from Flowers of Evil (Robert Lowell translation)

so. much. more. metal.

Series Navigation← April Diary 11: you may already be obsoleteApril Diary 14: cardinal, coyote, owl →

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