April 18 and
(organismic (holistic (exploratory
Or to elaborate on Charles Olson’s Projective Verse with special emphasis on “that stance toward reality which brings such verse into being” (Olson 239) and synthesize what Robert Duncan said in 1963 in two separate letters to Denise Levertov (who herself had some interesting thoughts along this line and no doubt whose field prompted Duncan):
the conventional poet = universe and life are chaotic; the natural is formless (chaotic); the poet (the civilized or moral man) is given an order to keep against chaos. Every freedom is a breakdown of form. Freedom = (a) disorder or (b) sin.
free verse = the universe and man are free only in nature which has
(And we are reminded of been lost in civilized forms. The poet must express his
WCW’s notion that no feelings without the trammel of forms. The poem does
verse is actually free, that not find or make but expresses…Free verse just doesn’t
each takes on its own believe in the struggle of rendering in which not only
patterns & tendencies.) the soul but the world must enter into the conception
the poem. Ginsberg’s “Howl” is one of
of free verse.
the organic poet = the universe and man are members of a form. Freedom lies in the apprehension of this underlying form, towards which invention and free thought in sciences alike work. All experience is formal – We feel things in so far as we awake to the form. The form of the poem is the feeling (and where form fails, feeling fails.) (Duncan/Levertov 405, 407-8)
Most notably in
Organismic vs. Mechanistic
Despite the good
Doctor’s suggestion that the poem is a “machine made of words” (256), an
organic poem is more like a ghost in the machine. Olson suggested in “Projective
Verse” that such verse suggested a stance toward reality that was counter to
the modernism of his day. The stance Olson hinted at is known as a
whole-systems (organismic) perspective which is not so much in opposition to
the Newtonian/Cartesian paradigm, but goes beyond its limits, the limits
suggested by mind being separate from body, person being separate from
environment and so on. Reality is more than inert atoms, but atoms as an aspect
of patterns of relationship, events in a process of becoming. To go beyond the
need for control and domination, we enact Partnership and its inherent
interconnectedness. Beyond the merely rational, we get to the mythic. The
organic poet understands and nurtures the mythic and the sacred nature of all
reality which grows in its sacredness as the poet’s trust in her process
deepens. The content DOES change as the organic poetry practitioner quickly
learns in verification of what Olson suggested. One reaches deeper levels of
awareness, new teachers appear (including children, nature and other unconventional
sources), and stronger fields of energy become available. Rather than seek to
oppose evil, the organic poet can imagine it, see the capability for evil in
herself, and move to compassion while yet creating a field of resonance that
makes such evils less likely to succeed or even be attempted. Here I am
thinking of the mindfulness of Gandhi and the field he radiated that ended
British colonial rule of
The organic poetry practitioner initiates a process (or a process in said practitioner is initiated) in which a homeostasis of consciousness begins to happen. Homeostasis is the property of open systems, organisms, to regulate their internal environment to maintain or create stability. Enacted by the organic poetry practitioner, the poem is written, a deeper state of consciousness is enabled, a new level of seeing (or being) is achieved, new teachers (sources) appear, new experiences are had (or reactions to old experiences begin to change) and trust in one’s process leads to such qualities as optimism, willingness, acceptance, understanding, reverence and – ideally – serenity. I am suggesting here the organic poetry praxis is a kind of witnessing consciousness or mindfulness. Tibetan Bon Master Physician Christopher Hansard suggests that “Mindfulness is one of the qualities you are migrating towards throughout your life, whether you are conscious of this or not. It is the development of compassion and serenity” (203). The praxis of Organic Poetry speeds up this homeostatic process in one’s self (this quest for balance), creates a field of resonance that those who are open may recognize and resonate with, and is the process by which the most powerful of the continent’s poetry (Whitman, Williams, Olson, McClure, early Levertov, Hernandez Cruz, Waldman, Bowering, Blaser, Rothenberg, Kyger, Wanda Coleman and others) was written.
1:19A – 4.18.06
revised – 5.1.06
Duncan, Robert and Denise Levertov. The Letters of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov. Eds. Robert J. Bertholf and Albert Gelpi.
Hansard, Christopher. The
Tibetan Art of Serenity.
Levertov, Denise. New
& Selected Essays.
Olson, Charles. Collected
Williams, William Carlos. Selected Essays.