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American Sentences
Organic Poetry


I have studied poetry since 1994. I am mostly interested in poets in the North American Open Form lineage which Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov at one time called Organic. (My graduate essays on this subject, evolving from Open Form in North American Poetry to Organic Poetry can be read here.)

I have been fortunate enough to interview Michael McClure, Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, Robin Blaser, Ed Sanders, Jerome Rothenberg, Eileen Myles, Wanda Coleman, Joanne Kyger, George Bowering and other poets connected to this tradition. (See for links to soundbites.)

My own poetry writing practice centers on three main projects currently. One is writing a serial poem that re-enacts the history of Auburn, Washington. (It was originally incorporated as the town of Slaughter in 1891.) My poem is entitled: A Time Before Slaughter. It is my contention that we each have inside us an inherent conflict between controlling something (or someone) or helping to aid its (their) individuation (freedom). The tension between Dominism and what Lissa Wolsak calls "Co-Mercy." The poem chronicles this conflict in me, in the town and in events such as the internment of Japanese-Americans and the treatment of the local environment and Native population. The book was published by Apprentice House of Baltimore in October, 2009.

Another practice involves my take on Allen Ginsberg's American Sentences. He wanted to Americanize the Japanese Haiku. Since 2001, I have written at least one of these poems every day. An essay entitled: American Sentences: Catching the Shadow of the Moment is linked here. Click here for an audio excerpt of an interview I did with Anne Waldman and Andrew Schelling about this form. For some of my American Sentences from the last few years, click HERE.

A third effort is a project entitled: Kozer Variations. I have written an alternate arrangement for each poem in Cuban-born Kozer's book Stet. A manuscript has been completed and work is being done on a few poems in series.

Research is on-going into an extension of the Organic Poetry inquiry, specifically looking at the link between a process mode of composition and the organismic cosmology. What Duncan and Levertov, through their work and correspondence identified as the Organic method, what Olson called Projective, that sense we all have had, that the poem can often write itself IS this third method. One training one's self to compose this way is looking for that free-flow, is open and allows themselves to be vulnerable. Hey, so you learn more about what makes for great poetry ten years after a certain poem is written. That poem was perfect when it was written and is a document of the consciousness the author had at the time it was written.

peN - 3.4.09

I have taught perhaps 400 workshops using Organic poetry techniques. Testimonials are here, and one outline of a six-week course is here.

I rarely keep this page current with the latest poems I have written.

2009 Poems

Tribe (After Ed Dorn, with Ed's original.)
Three February Poetry Postcards

2008 Poems

Uncommon Ground (Chicago, 12.27.08, co-written by the Fair, Sweet, Never Anything but Tender and Merciful, and certainly not demonic, (except-when-photographed-at-a-certain-angle), Almondina.

Exquisite Victoria Reunion Corpses (2008) written at the reunion of the Victoria School of Writing Summer School, Victoria, BC, November 8, 2008 with George Bowering and five other poets.

Because We Couldn't Stand the Grief written for Barack Obama.

Dear Almondina, written for Meredith Sedlachek.

Doe Bay - An Exquisite Corpse co-written with Meredith Sedlachek.

Orcas Island Corpse co-written with Meredith Sedlachek.

At Robin Holcomb, co-written with Meredith Sedlachek.

Comet Falls Corpse, co-written with Meredith Sedlachek.

Desolation Blues 13th Chorus written with John Burgess atop Desolation Peak, in front of the shack where Jack Kerouac was a fire lookout in 1956. Tom Gotchy's photos of the visit, here.

Box of Dream Stuff

Maybe a Cat Poem

Poet's Obligation

2007 Poems

Elegies for Slaughter

Frida One and Too for Frida Kahlo.

Funeral Photo Caption For my Dad at his sister's coffin, Feb 13, 2007.

Five Thirty-Ones for Doctor Bill Mitchell

The Death of Doctor Bill Mitchell

A series of short poems inspired by the late Indian poet Binoy Majumdar.

2006 Poems

After Blaser (Above Nebraska)

A sonnet ring written after my Father's June 2006 strokes, Nine Sonnets for Pop.

Tuscan Sonnet Ring written after trip to Florence Biennale.

2005 Poems

Poems that were inspired, in part, by the encaustic paintings of Debra Van Tuinen, some in collaboration with John and Roberta Olson are linked here: Alphabet of Wax:

Guanabo Written in Havana.

If We Can Bomb and Rebuild Iraq We Can Rebuild New Orleans

From the Victoria School of Writing Summer School July 2005:

George Bowering

Short Train Poem for Pop

Here is a series of poems written as I was closing SPLAB! at 14 S. Division: Dear Danika

Here is a poem written after hearing of the death of friend and legendary radio host Phil Harper: Googling Phil Harper

These are some old Jazz poems and one unofficial 3:15 poem I still like:

First, Breath (For Bud & Monk)
The Story of Pastorius (One View of a Secret)
The Path of Survival (For Frank Morgan)
S.O.B. Sonnet XXIII (For Charles Mingus) and
September's Search for Duende

One from 1999:
My Obligatory Seattle Rain Poem

For publishing credits, readings and other literary activities, see Community Activities.

Published chap books are:

"Twisting Runes - CD & Chap Book" June 2000
"Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Invisible Maniac" June 1997
"99 Lives" September, 1996
"We Don't Celebrate Halloween in Cuba: and other stories from Auburn"July, 1996

Selected Quotes

"To a genius interviewer and visionary" - Larry Dossey, M.D.
"Your sense of the mythic is down and dirty as well as sublime" - Jean Houston
"To a real radio intuitive" - Mona Lisa Schultz, M.D., Ph.D.
"An original thinker and poet of the airwaves." - Jane Leavy, Author