Commonplace Capers, No. 01

Reflections on a variety of things: aesthetics, poetics, ethics, ecology, techne, and whatever else you might want to talk about

Preface

Catching the tail of the dragon is the most difficult part. Having the strength to hold on is irrelevant. When you eventually lose your grip, you will be tossed away in a most spectacular fashion. A poor metaphor for the creative process, I know, but it seems to fit my experience.

These installments, these Commonplace Capers, are meant to explore various strategies and perspectives that have supported my creative journey, with the hope that sharing might be useful to creative folks like yourself attempting to grab hold of the elusive tail.

The Beat poet Robert Creeley espoused a poetics of the “commonplace,” celebrating, as he so amazingly did, the ordinary. Has there been anything closer to Shakespeare’s Sonnets than Creeley’s For Love?

Though the slim volume by Tom Clark never seemed to gain much headway (Robert Creeley and the Genius of the American Common Place), it certainly has been a major influence on my practice. The conversations between Bob and Tom seem to make public the interlacing poetic ideation that often remain cryptic/frozen in the dozen or so volumes of the Olson/Creeley Correspondences, published by Black Sparrow back in the day

It is difficult to encapsulate Creeley’s genius, but let me just point to his description of lint as a possibility.

So these Commonplace Capers… As they unfold they might provide some insight into the creative process unfolding at Krater Café, and if really lucky, some unknown sources of material for you, material which has shaped and formed this journey.

Alan Ginsberg’s Form for the Haiku

Thanks to the guidance of David [ben Alexander] at The Skeptic’s Kaddish, I’ve been led back to an engagement with a short poetic form that has been described as the American haiku. Alan Ginsberg set down this alteration of the Japanese Classic form as The American Sentence.

As David clarifies:

  1. Composed in one line;
  2. Syllabic, 17 syllables;
  3. Condensed, written with no unnecessary words or articles;
  4. Complete sentence or sentences;
  5. Includes a turn or enlightenment.

As I have been engaged in crafting these over the last month, I thought it could be useful to comment on what I find so attractive about the form.

Bringing Olson’s Poetic Triad to Ginsberg’s Form

Charles Olson had a Trinitarian bent to his poetics. The more accurate definition would be triadic.

Throughout his notebooks and in the marginalia of the books he adored, you find these three words together, repeatedly:

typos, topos, tropos

The aim here will be to consider in broad strokes the value of these categories for the creative process, and specifically how it can be applied to the crafting of The American Sentence. It will not be a deep dive into the fascinating world of Olson scholarship.

The Blow

Typos, or type, appears in the most general use of any categorical identification, but also in the rigorous definitions of personality types, and the cultural foundations Jung defined as the archetypes. Olson certainly had these broader definitions in play when he approached this principle. But he also took it in a surprising, visceral manner.

Olson wrote on a typewriter, and he was sensitive to the striking of the keys placing ink to paper. The type was formed by the pounding of each key across the ribbon to the paper, like the blow of a blacksmith’s hammer.

So, what to do with this for these American Sentences. I guess, at least currently, I put this into the realm of character, as in type-casting.

Where are we?

Topos, like its embodiment in the word topographical, designates place. Where are we? Where is this? Does our creative output make this clear?

In many ways, I am a lax in this sphere, as I find the location of things to be the basis of my craft. Where you ask? Here.

A Twist?

Tropos, as in tropical, calls our attention to the turn of the sunflower to face the sun. For me, the changes in time as explored in a text like the I Ching are precisely what this twist is all about. The energy needed to turn the page, this is tropos.

While I have spent more energy here exploring typos, all three of these poetic frames are in my head when I construct An American Sentence. The type, the place, and the turn… If you can get these to manifest in 17 syllables, then that’s a thing done !

Confession, a postscript

OK. I cheat. Both the titles and the imagery in my blog posts provide false support and undermine what purist practitioners of this form do with letters and punctuation alone.

That said, this cheating of mine is meant not to diminish the value of the form properly practiced, but to aid my goals publishing works of images and words within the blogging format.

Would you pass the salt?

17 thoughts on “Commonplace Capers, No. 01

          1. The Haiku had a pretty big influence on the Imagist school of poetry also between 1900-1920 or thereabouts. That very short poem concentrating on the image and the moment.

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