All That & More : 2012 in Review (w/musical moods and interludes)


The term is evincing.  That word that stands for the complex of tangled strands stuck and striated into a confrontation with blankness.  You know what I mean?

Balled up like a sap-thickened snot-slickened hardening knot of twine, all strung together, unruly, but wadded and crushed, like a snowball – a large icy one – but dirtied – clodded thick and gluey-thready – distasteful, a kind of impossible object – something like the idea of the innards of a self – what one sees in a mirror – like a melancholy music – tunes that you love that empty and sicken you – help you to feel more alive – all that.  More.  The unaccountable enormity that feeds into a stream called entity.  All that.  More.  Horrible, beautiful things.

            The fact that we are far more than we are able to surmise, and far less than we hope or wish to be.  Messy.  Contents of a dump.  A lifelong of it.  From every here and there that has ever counted as “around” us.  All that.  More.

It comes to bear.  In its confusing ways.  Its overwhelm, that is not too much, indeed, we hang together by its incredible pressure.  All that.  More.  We are composed of far more than we can consciously carry or categorize.  Too much.  All that.  More.  The too-much encroaches, suffocates, immerses us in such a way as to individuate and differentiate us as misshapen identities, figures in rubbled ground, that which we spy in mirrored surfaces and the reflections of others’ faces.

That is what I bring to blankness.  And stare.  All that.  More.  Scrambled and disturbing.  Flustercucked and discombobulating.  Lost in the morass that makes me, that I am unable to peek through, even glance.  Life.  All that.  More.  Too much.  What cannot possibly be organized.  All that.  More.

            This is my life.  Such a jumble of grandeur, goodness, glorious juiciness and jubilant joyeux, with dark twisting tunnels of termiting fear, incapacitate fogs too bleary to count quite as fog – glaucous and cataracted visions.  Too much.  All that.  More.

I heave and haul it to blankness.  These pages.  I set it on fire, collecting the ashes.  Or pick at a corner, scabrous and stubborn, until a smidgen unravels and I can trouble it.  Or simply collapse on the paper, clod-like and unstable, leaving crumbs.  Thank you paper.  All that.  More.

            If you took all that was life-sustaining precious to me in this world and stacked it on top, I would die quickly, crushed under its weight like a sparrow cracked under boot.  That which breaks us makes us stronger?  Comes out of the mouth through the pen and returns through the tubes in my ear-throat to gag me.

I buckle under it like an aged Prometheus and slog, spilling it onto the blankness.  All that.  More.  I love what survives me.

“with no sign that the artist has any object in mind other than eating away the immediate boundaries of his art, and turning these boundaries into conditions of the next achievement.”

-Manny Farber-

All that and more.  It evinces.  I am thankful for the whole god-damned and gloriously blessed mass.  I gnaw.  It evinces a spittle, which falls on this blankness.





Writing for children, like talking to them, is full of mysteries. I have a child, a six-year-old, and I assure you that I approach her with a copy of Mr. Empson’s Seven Types of Ambiguity held firmly in my right hand. If I ask her which of two types of cereal she prefers for breakfast, I invariably find upon presenting the bowl that I have misread my instructions — that it was the other kind she wanted. In the same way it is quite conceivable to me that I may have written the wrong book — some other book was what was wanted. One does the best one can. I must point out that television has affected the situation enormously. My pictures don’t move. What’s wrong with them? I went into this with Michael di Capua, my editor at Farrar, Straus & Giroux, who incidentally improved the book out of all recognition, and he told me sadly that no, he couldn’t make the pictures move. I asked my child once what her mother was doing, at a particular moment, and she replied that mother was “watching a book.” The difficulty is to manage a book worth watching. The problem, as I say, is full of mysteries, but mysteries are not to be avoided. Rather they are a locus of hope, they enrich and complicate. That is why we have them. That is perhaps one of the reasons why we have children.

The Nourishing Silence

In the midst of busy, sometimes harried, rhythm-bashing holidays, Holly and I find our first day of quiet self-direction, spending a full day of her sketching, submitting images, reading… and myself completing an essay and Ida’s blank notebook and polishing on some poems…and, probably most nourishing of all (for me)…input.  Here are the sumptuous nuggets I’ve been sampling today:

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Conclusion to the Gift that Explodes : Final Page


and the typeset:


Taking Root, Using Your Woods

For this is how we come to woods – they come to us.  Ancient are the lineages and deep the roots of almost every wood we encounter.  Your woods, my child, though freely belonging to anyone, are also and quite absolutely, your own.  You see, we come to learn our woods through time and play, experiment and work.  Those woods you train yourself with, that you fondle and prune and water and grow – those woods will change right along with you.  With time and your own adjustments, growth and adaptations to all within and around you – these woods will shape those changes in you and you will select, alter and use each of your woods in your very own specific and particularized manner…in every moment, experience, and time.

It may not be long before one of us departs with The Leavings, and with such a season you may seek out woodless spaces for a while.  There is nothing wrong with leaving woods behind for a time.  You will invariably find yourself among thickets of woods you do not recognize, are unfamiliar, or being used in ways you had not imagined.  Remember, my dear one – this world is large and uncontained – we cannot master it – it is crowded and flush with persons and woods.  Incessantly they are changing, every moment – the woods and their peoples, and the peoples’ selection and uses of woods.  Many will offer you groves unwanted, wealds of woods you do not know, clumsy lumber for your yearning purpose.

Remember to breathe and look far, my dear, take your time and search their roots.  Nearly any wood can be partially known from its seed taking root and its clamorous growth.  Woods are formed of winds and waters, weathers and disparate soils – they are bound to have unique characteristics and histories, varieties and sources – learning these will help you find your way among them.  While hardly a simple task – its effort carries its own worth.

Then you may come to feel comfort in whatever woods construct the bosk where you are – they can speak to you, and you with them – becoming another precious person of the wood.

You have so much to offer us, as the forests of woods do you – all the many woodlands spread throughout our homelands, neighborhoods, countrysides and world – many, yes, loved child, many woodlands yet to be invented, discovered or known – and you, sweet forested one, growing now among them, taking roots, assembling branches and leaf piles and canopies, or ships with broad docks and high towers, realms and copses, barrels and fires and beds – as you learn to love and use your woods, multiply and form them – oh what wonders await us all!

Take your roots, then, gather seeds, use your woods – let them grow and shape you – plant, sprout and remake them!  All woods you engage are yours while you are in them!  So live, darling wonder, live and learn and create!  Staying open to woods – testing and investing and proclaiming them!  Even logging them for records or constructions, be certain to renew, and create!

and the final product of the little gifted notebook from my lovely daughter, sussing me through these holidays

Notebook - Ida

Architectures of Possibility

“Writing is a manner of reading.  It is a mode of engaging with other texts in the world, which itself is a kind of text.  And reading is a manner of writing, interpretation, meaning-making.  Which is to say that writing and reading are variants of the same activity.  Existence comes to us in bright, disconnected splinters of experience.  We narrativize those splinters so our lives feel as if they make sense – as if they possess things like beginnings, muddles, ends, and reasons.  The word narrative is ultimately derived, through the Latin narrare, from the Proto-Indo-European root gno-, which comes into our language as the verb to know.  At some profoundly deep stratum, we conceptualize narrative as a means of understanding, of creating cosmos out of chaos.”

“Yet in many cultural loci these days we are asked to read and write easier, more naively, less rigorously.  We are asked to understand by not taking the time and energy to understand.  One difference between art and entertainment has to do with the speed of perception.  Art deliberately slows and complicates reading, hearing, and/or viewing so that we are challenged to re-think and re-feel form and experience.  Entertainment deliberately accelerates and simplifies them so we don’t have to think about or feel very much of anything at all except, maybe, the adrenalin rush before spectacle.”

-Lance Olsen-

“Literature is the question minus the answer.”

-Roland Barthes-

Using Our Woods – the Gift that Explodes 6

Notebook 6

and the typeset version:


Whose Woods are These I Think I Know

At any given moment, these are the only woods we have.  We do what we can with them, my dear, always many and diverse.  Yet just a tiny little forest in the vastness.  Some of our woods are soft and mulchy while some are brittle and sharp.  There’ll be splinters and cracks, switches and boughs.  But used together, in ways appropriate to their kind, they’ll be useful.  Like don’t use kindling-wood so support the house.  I know you often think, being small, that you don’t always have the woods you need.  That others more skilled at building, the polishers and craftspersons, or the armory whittlers have advantages and types of wood beyond your resources.  I’ve heard you cry that your stand of woods is lacking meat or certain fruits, you haven’t the wealth of many rings and nuanced etchings.  That when you rope the trunks, the roots are shallow and fail the weight you beg them carry.

Rearrange, my dear, and be patient.  Keep trying the woods that you have.  I’ve seen a woodsman create with 100 what many cannot in a jungle.  We must seek and study our world, evince all its ins and its outs.  Which of our woods will comfort, which we can hone for attacks.  What parts need handled carefully and preserved, that they might grow fuller and larger with age, ‘til they form a bridge toward where you need to go.

It is greatly advisable to journey and trade.  Take with you fresh seeds and young branches.  Try never to sever your roots, but graft and train, splice and mend, understand what will fertilize.

Your woods are an active place and a venture, requiring tenacious tending.  Climb, my child, but test your footing, not every sapling will hold.  You can succeed and will, should you choose to partake with the People of Woods.  It only takes time and practice – adapting and adaptation – the bud and the tendril, the log and the trunk.  Recite and remind and then jumble.

Above all, my daughter, please play.  Pick-up sticks, wooden boats and chutes and ladders.  Kites and slingshots, barrels and monkeys, apples to apples.  Now is the time to throw peaches and chew the walnuts’ rind, bowl crabapples, smoke the reed and sniff the pine.  Some whips will leave seams you’ll never forget, some falls may even break a limb, but you will grow and know, know and grow, until you, like the tree, flourish and bloom, strip and stand bare, proud and enduring, withstanding both wind and the wave, strikes and blows, the cold and the dark, all from your stock of woods and what’s possible.

Whoever dreamt a log could roll on rivers, or bend into a wheel?  Who knew they’d form enormous arks – large enough to save our world?  The handing of a tiny reed embossed with cursive love, sharpened to a blade, signs set to warn of danger, posts to fort a home.  My love, impossible does not apply with your woods – all that we know is unknown where the woods come into play.

Experiment, invent, babble the brook or construct a staying dam.  Use our woods, love and care for them, ignite your passion, rub them together toward sparks, thatch, nest, spear.  The woods are waiting – and these are yours.

click here for all 6 pages – The Notebook

Inspiration Chains, or, Free Association

Prompts, shared.  Whether images or music, language or film, it is delightful to hearken others’ cherished influences, themselves becoming common grounds, points of congruence for these virtual-seeming communities of blogosphere.  Recursive and reciprocal correspondences, often represented via comments, but probably present in many less conspicuous ways, are, in my opinion, the likely meaning-manufacture points of this medium.  Circlesunderstreetlights has passed on some lovely and instigative musical prompts over the past days, each of which I’d love to interact with via language, but haven’t found the coveted chain of moments that might allow for it. However today’s prompt from her:

tripped off a chain of evocative discoveries and resonances for me… including, but not limited to:

which led to a combo with one of my favoritest crooners:

leading onwards to more of Patrick Watson:

may these bring some moments of holiday PEACE and reflection

and perhaps even inspiration and production!


The Gift that Explodes, 5 : Whispered Leavings

Notebook 5

This constitutes the 5th page of the Notebook given me by my daughter…here it is in typescript:


In Which the Leavings Whisper

Indeed there are times of leaning toward cold and the dark.  We huddle close, our woods seem silent, even emptied, so we hush and sound our whispers, to blend them into wind, its Winter.

I speak of the dangers – presumption and preference – too-devoted attachments to our particular woods.  You hear us sing their praises, we dance like them in breezing sunlight, pattern our coats according their colors, entrust them to shelter and shade us, providing our true light and fire.  We claim them the hardest and strongest, the Durable Ones.  We come to cling to our woods as life.  Dear child, it is not long before we view them as the “only.”  The Most and Highest, the Broadest, Richest, Rooted Deep.  We worship their hold, celebrating their fruit.  Develop our rituals of cultivation by tending them daily, each of us making our rounds, repeating the woods until they are all that we know, all that we love, the scope of which we are able to see.

Hush and beware, my splendid dear, for here is where the quiet comes.  The times we call The Leavings.  These very woods to which we cling, within and upon which we build our homes, nourish our bodies and fuel our fires, compose our messages and texts, which provide us with movement over long waters and vast mountains of snow – keeping us warm all the while – just when we revel most confidently in their glorious splendor, their rainbows of color and light-glowing hue…they begin their wandering away.  Day by day, as the cold is approaching with its elongating nights, they drain of their colors and begin letting-go.  These, my child, are The Leavings.

As we cuddle near their time-trusted fullness and warmth, they appear to us bare, barren, and grey.  We look up, we cry out “the woods!  the woods!” and our sound shrieks right through, we are staring at stark and the Gone.  Seeing past in icy clarity, our woods exposed and stripped – if we do not close our eyes in terror, but look far, far beyond our own tangled thicket of woods…far, far beyond, my lovely, farther even than the eye can see…are more woods, and more, everywhere woods making scents for their peoples, sheltering and shading them, burning and abandoning them as well.  If we hush and refuse ourselves despair as we see our woods give out, in turn setting ourselves silently to listening and keenly looking out – we can know the lessons of the Leavings.  That there are further woods than ours, many woods and other, only farther out.

We grow easily impatient of our woods in our discomforts and our panics and our fears.  Yes there are countlessly many Leavings – you can count on them, and by them, but my tender one, if you will persist and endure, if you are open to their lessons and their silence, the woods will come back to you, freshly and new.  There will be young woods you never knew before, and the old ones return too.

Our woods are never so much lost as that they undergo strange changes.  They break and wither, shrivel and drop – they must shed themselves of their embellishments and gathering continually – so they might produce themselves again, altered and renewed.  Their many uses over untold years are logged within their roots and cores, marked and divited, scarred and sapped – it is for us to remember and adapt, let go with them and wait, wait, enduring the Leavings with all that we have, slogging onward toward new growth.

Oh yes it is frightening to feel all is lost, sweet child of wonder, but our woods never fail us finally, they leave us to be born.

And this is why I gather samples wherever I happen to go – fruits and nuts, leaves and needles, parts of any woods I chance to see or hear – in order to remember and remind in times of Leaving that somewhere, and at any time, we will live again in woods that will be full and bright, returning the woods that we’ve known toward our unknown need.

Now rest, child, rest…the night is quiet and cold, let the woods hush and whisper through your dreams…

click this image for the document in its current entirety:

Notebook - Ida

The Gift that Explodes : 4 : a Loose Leaf

Here is page 4 of the Notebook from my daughter, which was a loose piece of notebook paper inserted into the stapled set.  Here is what’s become of it thusfar:

Page 4
Page 4

and the typewritten text


In Which Is Inserted a Loose Leaf

Becoming aware of the change.  My little one, as we let (or made) our woods carry us far, we discovered beings everywhere – and all using woods.  Having named our woods and defining ourselves by their usage – we had thought ourselves the only ones – the People of the Woods – and were surprised and astonished at the purposes others would put them to, at the sounds they were able to emit, at their shapes.  Even the structures they built could seem odd, and their burning came from strange fires.

Everywhere we ventured we found the woods relating to life.  Its giving and taking.  Beings used them for weapons and tools, they used them for shelter and warmth.  As our knowledge of woods grew enormous – the kinds and environments, uses and names – the Mysteries of the Trees began to grow.

In places they were pulped to a gum and let dry, then marked with a rock or hot iron.  Other places they were chopped into boards and large planes and smeared with designs from animal blood.  It came to seem the whole world was made of beings and woods, each defining themselves by particular use.  Battles were waged over woods, clans and families splitting apart, even lovers argued over true uses of woods – what they purposed, how they worked, why they mattered, which ones, what was proper to do with your woods.  Little one, woods came into conflict, everywhere.  People fought over which woods were best, or which had more power or weight, which cores were pure and which garbage, what woods should serve for what.

We wanted our woods to do everything.  To solve and evolve, to stand and retain.  But our woods continued to change as we lived them.  Some grew smooth and slipped from our hands.  Some hardened like rock and got to heavy to carry.  Some simply crumbled to dust.  As their variety grew, so our experiences – we encountered moments when we could not find the woods that we needed.  It distressed us and we cast about in clumsy silences and jerky motions.  We grew hungry for new woods that were different.  We began to play with the roots and the seeds, combining and grafting or trying new soils.

In times like these, there was speech of The Leavings, of infinite limits of life.  The old among us would point out the woods where we no longer dwelt or visited, had let rot or decay, and would question our strange new graftings.  The woods were always changing, dear child, there are always new things to learn.

It is time, then, to speak of these Leavings…draw near…it is our custom to address them in whispers and cold…

the Notebook as it is filled as of now, can be read here:

The Gift that Explodes: A Notebook