Monday, July 28, 2014

Topeka Immersion-Somatic-Becoming Poetry Project #6

Topeka Immersion-Somatic-Becoming Poetry Project #6
for Leslie Von Holten


This project is in two parts. You will need a good sketchbook, a pencil (charcoal preferred), and a pen.

Go to a coffeehouse, a park, a historical location, or somewhere people are.

For the first part, you are an artist. You specialize in drawing. If you cannot draw, don't worry. You can sketch. Sketch or draw the best you can.

You are working on a collage of things. You are an artist working in your own style.

Take fifteen minutes to relax and mediate, then relax until you notice something or someone that interests you. Do your best to draw her or him, or the thing of interest. Sketch if you want to. Draw or sketch wherever you want on the page. Sketch or draw how much feels right to you. Leave lines unfinished. Leave lines going into other parts of the page.

Work in pencil or charcoal. Avoid self-editing. Simply continue or combine.

Continue relaxing, sketching and drawing whatever attracts your interest.

You are an artist in a public place, sketching your impressions of that place, everything in it, in the way you sketch or draw, in the way you are interested in the things there in that moment.

When you finish, be sure to date and sign the back. Sign the front if you want.


For the second part, you start another page while looking at your collage.

You are a poet now. Write whatever impressions you feel from the art.

Use concrete nouns, words to describe what is happening on the page.

If you feel a narrative, write a narrative. If you feel lyrical, write a lyrical poem.

Make connections with the connections on the page. Is there someone looking at something? Write about it.

Work in pen. Avoid self-editing. Simply continue or combine.

Feel free to not get it right. You are a poet. You can write whatever you want and not have it right.


Sketch a collage and write a poem each day of a month. Go to the same place every day.


At the end of the month, contact the place you went to and ask about doing an art show. If a coffeehouse, ask the manager about a show.  If you chose a park, tack up your work on trees.


The goal of this project is to 1) further finding the artist-poet in each of us and 2) to find connections with place and community. Each of us can connect with community in many ways. This is one way to do it.

Topeka Somatic-Eavesdropping-Attachment Poetry Project #5

Topeka Somatic-Eavesdropping-Attachment Poetry Project #5
for Kevin Rabas

Go to your favorite coffeehouse with pen, paper, and a poetry book. You should do this project when people are around.

Start with your coffee or whatever drink at your table, getting into your meditation. Breathe, relax, take in everything in the coffeehouse, everything in the moment.

You will be moving during the project. Move to another spot if you feel it is right. This is to be active in the present moment.

You will also be at rest and waiting. Rest and wait if you feel it is right. This is to be active in the present moment.

You will also write based on what is overheard, what comes to your mind, and what is in your book. Write whatever you feel. Follow your creative moment in deciding which to consult.

Keep in mind you can riff.

It takes a little while to get into doing this. You might feel foolish moving around so much, then remaining still. After half an hour, you will find your stride.

If you need to, take your iPod, Walkman, etc. to wear. Listen to your favorite Jazz tunes at a low setting so you can still overhear what is going on.

An alternative to listening is lip-reading, tapping on the table, and such.

Give this poem to a friend or someone in the coffeehouse.


Kevin wrote to me, "Jazz is improvisation. Everything is improvisation." He is an amazing poet and Jazz musician, so this project riffs off of his quote." The idea for this also came from how when Kevin and I are together we enjoy hanging out at coffeehouses. We sometimes do spur-of-the-moment writing exercises, often putting together a chapbook of poems from Xeroxed notepad paper.

I often go to coffeehouses to meet with someone, to write, or to grade online. With any of these, I become tunnel-visioned out of concentration. This project attempts to do the opposite, to connect with others without being too obtrusive. To improvise. To be in the moment.

T.S. Monk: "What a lot of people don’t understand is that jazz is not driven by technique. Jazz is driven by philosophy and it has always been driven by philosophy. There’s a root philosophy to the music that will pass down from generation to generation and one of those philosophies is that you can’t stay in the same place. You must move forward. You must stay on or as close to the cutting edge as you possibly can. The objective is to explore the unknown. Fear of the unknown drives so much negativity in the human psyche. It is the objective – going back to Buddy Bolden and Louis Armstrong – to play something that you never played before."

I am taking Monk's quote figuratively and literally, that a poet keeps moving, keeps improvising, going forward.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Topeka Trance-'Cryption Poetry Project #4

Topeka Trance-'Cryption Poetry Project #4
for Joe Harrington

Put your team's baseball cap on. Plan to write during the evening game, and to have it on the radio. Better a transistor, but even a phone with an app for listening will do. Begin deep breathing. If you find your mind wants to start the poem, write the envoi.

Several things will happen during this project: Your love for listening to baseball, your love for the language used for the game, your love for writing, all of the emotions you have about each combined in this moment of meditation.

Think of this as a meditation in the way you write poems. You will write slow while listening to the game. You will listen for those words that come in your mind. If you love writing fast, write fast only when you are following your own path away from what is said.

Begin writing as soon as you hear the sportscasters give whatever wording it is that signals that the game has started.

Keep in mind that sportscasters speak fast as you will stay meditative. Write the words that resonate with you as you hear them. However, be ready to continue with the other words that follow what you have written. Stay in that moment until you are "stuck". Go back to the game and continue.

Write until you are finished.


What is Trance-'Cryption? It is where transcription, trance poetics, and encryption meet.


The idea for this came from how many poets are baseball fans. Joe, Susan M. Schultz, and so on.

Ron Silliman? Anselm Berrigan and Bethlehem Shoals? Yes!

I wanted this project to reflect these poets' sentiments about baseball and poetry. Plus, I wanted to honor my friend.

I am fascinated with sports talk. Listening to a ball game is unique, in that almost all sportscasters sound the same, use the same rhetoric, and such. However, there is a lot said that goes outside of what happens in the game.

I also wanted a poet's aesthetic to come into play, that going into that poetic trance for writing should be the main goal--the thing privileged.


My poem coming soon.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Topeka Somatic-Trance Poetry Project #3

Topeka Somatic-Trance Poetry Project #3
for Melissa Studdard

Prepare for this project by reading through it until you are ready to move through it without worry of its "directions."

We have someone we care about--real or imagined, living or deceased--who is a heart-guide for us. Even if this person rarely spoke, or you never met her or him, or whatever reason or non-reason, this person is important. This project attempts to uncover and [re]cover your connection via a poem. This poem is also a gift for you and her or him.

This project relies on our abilities to find a center throughout whatever chaos, loss, the past, etc. Poetry brings our attention to the present moment, transcending time and space, so using the body while writing is important.

First, do simple breathing exercises. Rest with deep breath, and center your spine as perpendicularly with the earth as possible. Close your eyes if you need to.

Take out "scrap paper" to circle on. You might need ten sheets. Maybe fifteen. Write the name of your heart-guide at the top of each paper. Choose either way to circle, whatever way feels comfortable, beginning at the center and moving outward on the paper.

While doing this, close your eyes and think about the person, the essence of your center, the essence of your emotion. Do your best to continue with breathing, with spine-alignment, with circles.

Continue doing this exercise until you are ready with an image. This meaningful image will be the concentration of your poem.

Begin writing in the middle, circling outward in the same way you drew the circles. Your circles of meaning, memory, emotion will become words now. Stay with words for that image, using repetition, reflection, modes of looking to fill the page with words around (bad pun!) that image. Allow whatever other images that come in while on the page to connect with that image.

Do not worry about the placement of words. Stay in the trance of your movement.

When the page is full and you have another image, start with it on the next page. Start anew or continue--whichever you feel is "right." If nothing comes but you want to continue, try drawing circles again.

Send this poem to your heart-guide, physically, mentally, or by any other means.

You might have several heart-guides. Select another one tomorrow.


Note: I love Melissa's work for its mix of mystical imagery, as well as her heart-approach to the world. Here is an interview with her:

"Art is about discovery and sharing. Inside each of us, crashing against the shore of ego, are waves of truth trying to push their way onto land."

I wanted to take my reflections on her and her approach to poetry, as well as traditional approaches to meditation and the body-mind-heart, to create this project. I hope I accomplished this.


My own writing: [coming soon]

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Topeka Somatic-Attachment Poetry Project #2

Topeka Somatic-Attachment Poetry Project #2
for Amy King

This project takes a little planning before going through with it. Select a place from your past which no longer exists. It could be a favorite clothing store, comic book store (in my case), building-turned-parking lot, park-now-building, river-now-dried, prairie-now-mall, or such. You will need to take at least one physical item which reminds you of that place: a picture of that place now missing, a picture of yourself from that time, a comic book from the time (in my case), a sandwich, wear the clothes you purchased there, and so on. Also, you will need a book of poetry from one of your favorite poets. The one I borrowed from was Amy King's _I Want to Make You Safe_. I asked her permission before moving forward, as well as checked with her about my end result.

The project is part somatic, part immersion, part write-through.  Make sure you are hydrated, as a sense of loss might come over you in your excursion.

Go sit in that place for a while with your things, including pen and paper (the immersion part of the project). Sit embedded in that atmosphere, noting whatever is happening. Allow your thoughts to wander and close your eyes. Open your eyes if the mood strikes you, looking at your artifact of that time (the somatic part of the project). Think of what is missing, the emotions around the time--happy, sad, and mixed--while doing your best to stay in that moment.

Note: If something is too overwhelming, please know you can stop and take good care of yourself instead of writing now.

While you have these image-memories, set out to the poetry book you brought and look for the poem that resonates with where you are. Read that poem. Then begin writing.

As you write, if you search for a word, search the poem for a word to use, the one that resonates with what you want to write (the write-through part of the project). Continue writing in this manner, while your soma-memories are guiding the poem and words from the poem you found create bridges.

Afterwards, move slowly and take your time returning to the now, the present. Drink more water. Be good to your heart, as you have re-covered and recovered an important part of yourself in a new way.


I used Amy's title poem from her book for my project, and it turned out to be the longest poem from my writing. There was a lot to uncover, as I went to Campus Center at 17th and Washburn to write about Comics & Fantasys. I soon thought about Twisters (a calzone restaurant) and going to both places with Brian Nightingale when we were in middle school. He took his life in the fall after our high school graduation, so the happy memories mixed with survival and loss prompted this one.

Here is the beginning of the poem:

Do I thumb through the right avalanche

that brings me circa whatever,

or turn the handle mistakenly

because of the wine I drink

at Flying Monkey, because

across the street Brian continues

playing that pinball game

while I read comic books, waiting

for one of my mothers to come

to pick me up? How can I already

be chained to each stupid day

back then, pulling apart

my mind’s clothing? With thirst,

I need water to break my dehydration

of 1984, 1991, and 2004, at least

I think those years marked

by dandelions, my rolling

across the grass. I sit in corners

here, come find me

in a ball flipped by flippers.

Those dandelion seeds fall

out of my hands’ skin, scatter

as I shout to my boys

not to touch them. How can I hide

dung, bells ringing, mission

drums, crucifixions? Carrie asks

about a place outside of this

country. Even rabbits

can’t make it across this boundary

I wear in silence, shoulders

sloped, my coat’s armor

shields out wind, rain, beast,

you, and this includes

me. What is my coin

of the realm doing

down the well? An arm

from that white rabbit

reaching up to take my

numbered memories? Days

trees get knocked down

along with abandoned buildings

to make way for new apartments,

commas, ellipses, waiting

to see death? I get up, shake

off my face, bury

costumes, drink wine, stagger

past houses, scream my policecar

siren and climb

up its vibrations. How could I

imagine never seeing you all again,

ghosts? I die

again, a drunk mummy

staggering to search for a new

tucking behind night. Romans

did this, so why can’t the USA?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Topeka Somatic Poetry Project #1

Topeka Somatic Poetry Project #1
for CA Conrad (also born in Topeka)

Go to that place where you were miserable during some time in your life. I mean that physical place. Go there and wait. Allow the memories of that place to come back, who you were then, and allow those feelings to come back, the person you were to come back. Allow all of it to enter in. If you feel sick, or faint, or alienated, close your eyes and wait. Then open your eyes and look around. Look at the people who look alienated, depressed, sad, burdened. Allow your past to move you into a positive motion, into who you are now, someone changed, someone different, who would feel differently now because of your changed heart-mind. You do not want others to suffer like this. Call it Christ or Siddhartha, this kind of figure who wishes to take on the suffering of others because she or he can is the figure you are becoming in this moment. Take out your pen and write a poem for these others. After you are done, read this poem to someone who looks sad, depressed, and ready for someone to come read her or him a poem.

My Grunge of 1991

I really don't like how Grunge turned out. Maybe it is too grungy? There were sentences I put in about events that really don't work. I thought about omission, but that is not working either.

It will take a bit of play, a bit of refiguring, deciding how many sentences should be included.

Maybe the success of MSWo1984 is because I carefully selected, crafted, etc, each sentence?

I am going to return to 1991 later. I'm moving on to 2004.

New X-Men: Phoenix and death (again)
Cloud Atlas: Feminist dystopian novel

I went to the Indiana University Summer Writers Conference in 2004 and attended Li-Young Lee's workshop. He read at a restaurant there, accompanied by Jazz band, and I remember his poems "Seven Marys" and "Station" vividly. I was really blown away by them. I know several people do not prefer his work, but those two poems stand out!

April 1 — Web site is launched for the announced purpose of "Exposing fraudulent contests. Tracking the sycophants. Naming names." Members and visitors contribute information which links judges and prize winners in various poetry contests in attempts to document whether some contests have been rigged.

Carl Phillips The Rest of Love: I picked up a signed copy of this in Left Bank Books, St Louis

Tony Tost Invisible Bride: I was blown away by this, and that it could win the Walt Whitman

Deer Head Nation came out in 2003.

The Killers in the summer and fall.