Thursday, August 28, 2014

Summer Morning's Harvest

awynfoto2014

Photo taken outside in the back yard this morning after putting the tomatoes on the bench and noticing the play of yellow/ red, the insistent little "rudi's" poking through the lattice, and the smallest tomatoes seemingly collectively turned to greet them.  I imagined them . . . conversing.   Only later did it occur to me how different are their lifecycles.  The tomatoes have to be planted anew  year after year after year, while the rudbeckias,echinacia, strawberries, raspberries, lemon balm, lavender, chives, mint and parsley all just automatically arrive and claim their usual spaces.  Some, like the raspberries, insist on 'traveling'.  A few even migrated into the tomato patch this year.  The strawberries, I see, are moving as well, beyond their designated borders.  Encroachables on the march.  And don't let's even talk about the mint!  My perennials continually surprise me. 


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Next Door

On the old woman's clothesline:

Doll Baby

it will never grow up,
or not need her to care -
or leave, or ever
disappoint


Monday, August 25, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

Trench Art


 "The Best Time of Day"
A postcard from the Trench Art Exhibit
"Dear Irma, the mail has been delivered. Good cigars. A letter.
 But in the newspaper there is nothing about peace?! 
1000 greetings, your Otto."
December 26, 1915


To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War, Postcards from the Trenches: Germans and Americans Visualize the Great War centers on the art created by German and American soldiers on opposite sides of No Man's Land.    Hand-painted trench postcards, sketches, ink drawings, and graphic works made by soldiers in the midst of the conflict, juxtaposed with mass-produced postcards and government propaganda, movingly illuminate the personal landscapes and bitter truths of the Great War.

In Washington, D.C. - Aug. 19 - Sept. 27, 2014
In Houston, TX - Oct. 23, 2014 - Feb. 14, 2015

Saturday, August 16, 2014

When Knowings Visit


awynart

Even those wired to feel perpetual astonishment,
awed by life despite its darkest overwhelmings,
could face a time when wonder ceases -
and at that moment wonder
if it matters.  And if so,
what then? 
    And if not, 
        what then?
In either case, an astonishing conversation might take place
within
of what one can live without, or in spite of,
or without which life's not "Life",
as Life waits listening at the side,
its bag of gifts and horrors, 
never-to-be's, unimagined possibles,
opening and closing
opening and closing
opening and closing..

Such wonderings arrive,
on reading how others have met and dealt with
the cloudy grey of life's tossed mix
of the ever-meshing Dark and Light,
'mid one's own 'knowings'. 






Monday, August 4, 2014

100 Years and our wars


[Harry Patch died in 2009 at the age of 111.]
 "No war is worth the loss of a couple of lives, let alone thousands."
~ ~ Harry Patch, former soldier



100 years after the "Great War"
and all those other wars that followed
. . . and continue,
some will turn off the lights tonight and light a candle and
pause for a moment of silence,
say officials televized visiting the graves of the 'fallen'
or giving speeches to honor the soldiers who fought.

What of those others, though,  who did not fight or serve,
those millions of citizens whose lives were also taken?
Mothers, babies, old folks, children, nurses, grocers, teachers, farmers,  bricklayers,
clerks and cooks and artists and scientists and students?
Nine million soldiers died in the fighting, 6 million civilians died from disease or starvation
and 1 million more as a direct result of military operations.[1]

"One million died as a direct result of military operations."
The military has a name for this latter group. "Collateral Damage."
Collateral means 'additional but subordinate; secondary; supplementary'.
Collateral Damage is damage to things that are incidental to the intended target.
Things like . . . people.
The intended target at Hiroshima was Hiroshima, the city.
A single bomb instantly destroyed the entire city.  And most of the incidental people therein.
The intended target in Gaza this past week has been schools, a hospital and buildings
full of refugees whose homes had been bombed, in this latest 'little' ongoing regional war.

Big wars and little wars, declared or clandestine, defensive or punitive, death is death.
We 'war' against crime, and drugs, and poverty - there are always, it seems, the need to
"fight a war on". 

In a dream I imagined an international  public memorial commemorating the
brave and the fallen due to war--any war--where instead of famous officials and military images
media-blasted to remind us of our war history (uniforms, medals, rifles, tanks, troops, battle scenes, trenches, etc.), where the focus is War--I imagined instead a sea of ordinary people, each holding a photo of a loved one lost to war, or the after-affects of war, assembling to remember not war and death (the how and where) but the life of the person war took, the focus on why.  Why war?  Why did we have to go to war?  Was there no other option?

The military rewards those who are exceptionally brave in war by giving them medals of honor.
What reward of honor to the mother caught in a war who meets a bullet head-on, rather than let it reach her child?  To the mortally  wounded brother who'd insisted that his sister be saved first.

In my dream there was no distinction among the dead - of who'd fought with a rifle
and who'd died as part of the group referred to by military strategists as "collateral damage". 
You don't have to have been there to be a victim of war. Ask the dead soldier's widow and children, the slaughtered parents' orphaned child, the nurses who take care of the returning war wounded.
Life, for them, goes on, but not without having gotten war's scars.  You just can't always see them.

Only when the second massive global war came along a few decades later
did The Great War ("the war to end all wars") start being called "World War I".
World War II showed that even "the most devastating war the world has ever known"
could not convince humans to end all wars.  Au contraire. 

The next world war won't be fought with soldiers on a battlefield. (The AI progammers haven't yet figured out how to get the future  robo-grunts to think like humans.)  Battles will be waged in a control room. Someone will just push a button and Poof!  the world as we know it will disappear, thanks to our evolution from crude canons and muskets to swift, precise nukes.


Imagine . . . a world without "war".
Our Militaries would become obsolete.
There would be no need to amass more sophisticated and more ingeniously concocted lethal weapons to keep up with other players in the race for better national defense. Departments of Defense could become Departments of Peace.

In my dreams.

___________________
*
An interesting observation - while commemorations commence on this 100-year anniversary,
reminding ourselves of the horrors of war, the focus should be on how to not let this ever happen again, right?
Without realizing it, I'd relegated Peace to being a fantasy.  That was . . . sobering.

I further note that in the above piece I've referred to war 23 times; to death or dying, 13 times; to the military, 6 times, and twice each to targets and bombs.   And only once, to peace.    (The part about lighting a candle, in a moment of silent reflection - is only performed for one minute, out of respect for each nation's warriors, rather than as an urgent call for peace.   Perhaps because in so many parts of the world, peace just can't take hold yet.)  I wonder, on the 200th anniversary of The Great War, if we will have finally figured out that war is not the answer.  If we make it to that time, as a civilization, that is.   I prefer to remain optimistic.  I don't know the answer (if war isn't 'the answer'), as to the exact  "how".   But maybe we'll get there "yet".  If not in my lifetime, another's.





Friday, July 25, 2014

Life's Little Flybys



awynfoto*

This morning, a burst of birds
from tree to sky
       (not one hesitating).
I watch them soar.

Unlike us, weighed down with words -
our me, our my -
       caught, forever waiting
our something-more.


______________________________
* Photo taken of a mural on the side of a building in Montreal, last Friday, en route to Boston.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Our Hands


Faces of the Hand by Tamas Wormser   (National Film Board of Canada, 1996)


 We use our hands to work, play, communicate;
love, kill, pray, write;
point, punch, caress;
 create art and music; 
climb mountains, dig in the earth;
 and to heal.

A pottery maker:  
"I touch the clay, and my fingers can feel the form inside it."

A violin maker:  
"Manual labor is becoming so rare that someday people will beg us 
to have something made by hand."

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Phone is Calling



Got a call this morning announcing they were going to be spraying my sector and a particular date was given.  July 14.  And July 19.  Actually, July 14 through July 19, is what I understood them to be saying. Wait, they're going to be spraying my neighborhood for six days?  What for?

Last year when the city replaced some of the pipes supplying water to our neighborhood, everyone got a robo-call announcing the date and which hours the water would be shut off.  That should have been my first clue - the city does not call each individual house and ask to personally speak with the owner by name.

"Spraying for what?" I inquired.
 "Insects".   Wow, this must be serious, I thought.  In the years I've lived here the city has never come to my neighborhood to spray for insects.  What sort of insects?  Yes, we have mosquitoes. The entire province has mosquitoes.  We have always had mosquitoes -  and flies and gnats and bugs of every sort, including tics that bring Lyme Disease. Has West Nile Virus recently surfaced here?

"We are coming to spray in your sector.  The spraying will take place on  July 14th" is what stuck in my brain.  By air?  Instead I envisoned a big truck passing on each street, spraying, house by house. 

"We have pets," I said.   (Should they be kept indoors?  Should I stay indoors?) "What sort of chemicals will be used?'    Oh, not to worry, the voice on the phone assured me.  "It's biologic.  It's all natural."    Me, I wanted to know  specifics, like what might be its effect on the pets, or my vegetables out back.  Was it safe to breathe in?  I was having trouble understanding her French, she spoke rapidly and used terms I wasn't familiar with.  She passed the phone to someone who spoke English, who assured me my pets and veggies would come to no harm. 

Bees are insects.  Might it affect the bees? I wondered.   "It's biologic", the second voice repeated,  the tone less authoritative and more soothing, adding:  "Wouldn't it be nice to have a bug-free lawn, not to have spiders on the porch?", etc.  (How did he know about the spiders on the porch?!)  And then, almost as an afterthought, "It will cost $47.  The effect will be good for a year."

Duh!

Seems I mistook a telemarketing call for an urgent city announcement.  "Spraying my sector" is different from "spraying IN my sector".  And they wouldn't be spraying "house to house" for six days, they would spray (if invited) (and paid $47 first) only once, within a six-day time frame. 

Double Duh!

Maybe it was not just the words, but the tone in which this "service" was presented, as if it were inevitable.  "We are coming to spray in your sector on July 14th" - like an official announcement.  "A biological spray."   The minute he mentioned "lawn", I knew.   These lawn help-keeper-uppers crawl out of the woodwork all spring and summer, offering to come cut your grass, clear your shrubs, landscape your garden, spray for insects.  Their area code told me the call came from Montreal, an hour and a half away, but this didn't register at first.  They're not even local lawn help-keeper-uppers!  (The local ones also call, but usually they're more direct and don't sound quite so 'official', like a Mandatory Bug-Eliminator Patrol.  They just stuff flyers in the mailbox or have it included in our PubliSacs.)

The telemarketer calls I really find incredible are the ones where they call you and announce you've just won a prize, but not really..

"Congratulations!  You've won a trip to the Bahamas!"
   --  Great.   Send me the tickets.
"First we need to see if you qualify".
   --  But you just said I won.  How could I have won if I didn't qualify?
"We need to verify if you are eligible.  What is your name, please?"
  --  I am the person listed under this telephone number. that you just called."
"What is your telephone number?"
   -- You just called me.  Don't you have my number in front of you?
'Well, if you qualify, you have a chance to win a free trip to the Bahamas.  Do you own a credit card?"
  -- Did I win something or not?
CLICK.   

My phone calls me several times a week with these type offers - lawn service, new car deals, are you happy with your TV cable service, would you like to subscribe to Le Nouvelliste? etc.   Sometimes I pretend I don't understand French.  Sometimes (if they speak very fast) I really don't understand their French.  As I' once worked in a call center, I can sympathize  being paid bottom-of-the-ladder wages being required to call lists of random numbers at dinner time trying to get someone to take a lengthy survey or to sell them something.  As well as the pressure to make a quota.  Amazing that in this day and age they are still using the same old, tired methods with the same annoying approaches, getting the same predictable results.

I can't believe I didn't recognize a lawn-service call from the get-go.   My antenna must need tuning.





Sunday, June 22, 2014

Stories, Big and Small


 awyn art




Isis the goddess gets a candle lit in her honor
by a newly initiated young witch
crafting healing spells when the 
novenas failed,
while ISIS the terrorbringers storm fist-thrusted 
'cross gun-swept sands -
caravan style -
in identical new Toyotas.

In a dark, rented room
a lonely man in a faded armchair smokes a borrowed
cigarette,
wondering where his life went.

In a loft, a frustrated painter
hurls his prized ivory paintbrush at the wall,
its splattered flecks bringing unexpected
inspiration.
           "At last!"

At the BookFair, a writer bemoans his perennial
     unpublishedness.
Leaves with a pocketful of
scribbled hopes.

In the suburbs, a woman slips into her nightdress, aglow -
the letter that brought forgiveness within reach
on the night table, wedged between
the jar of pink face cream and her
chipped porcelain pillbox.
           “I am loved.”

A child looking out a school bus window
witnesses a brief  act of kindness;
hasn’t yet learned that big word called ‘empathy’
but instantly knows its opposite,
suddenly arm-pinched by the bully in front.

A soldier looks death in the eye and gets a reprieve,
his life forever changed.

Everywhere, a story
and stories behind the stories
behind the stories -
too many unwritten,
untold or
unheard.

~~ A.W.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ride Slide

At the park this morning
boughs descending, river rising -
the bike waits, hooked to a bench.
I'm on the bank
hooked on the
 Quiet

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Of Dads


 
 Poet Jessica Goodfellow has collected and posted some wonderful  poems about fathers on her blog at Axis of Abraxas today, here.   Too good not to pass on.

Some  poems to, from and about fathers, reposted from Salamander Cove, here.

Happy Father's Day today, Alexi and Nate!!   :)


Sunday, June 8, 2014

At the neighberhood yard sale . . .





I wouldn't dare show that to the cats -
instead I
 bought a miniscule jade 'desk' frog
for 50 cents




Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Not Letting It Go Down the Memory Hole*


man facing tank, alone
Tiananmen Square
25 years ago


Lone protester on a street in Tibet
five weeks ago

[April 26, 2014, Nqaba County, Amdho region, northeastern Tibet, a 19 year old monk of the Kirti Monastery staged a peaceful public protest, alone - for which he was beaten, then taken away.[1].]

tank man
monk man
not alone




Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Accidental Artscape

Mini wooden cityscape

Photo taken during walk in the forest behind the centuries' old (1765) former flour mill
 in Pointe-du-Lac, QC, on Sunday, May 24, 2014.


  (Same photo cropped and repositioned, with Picassa3)
  
"Dreamscape", in Black and White



(Same photo re-cropped and re-sectioned, adding color )

"Red Wood Fence"

____________________

Accidental mini landscapes -
We see what we see.
I'd never have noticed
had the tree not told me.











Sunday, May 18, 2014

Crinkle Vision

awynart
Experimenting with a new kind of paper 
>
[See 'the rest of the "Crinklies"  here.]



Saturday, May 17, 2014

Creativity, unfettered




Most people liked this video because of this child's adorable, big-eyed cuteness.  
Several noted that "son français est meilleur que le mien!"  (her French is better than mine!).
I agree on both counts, but what really fascinated me was her vivid imagination.

Hippos that are allergic to magic, refusing to go to heaven
Witches that can be felled by an orange ring
Boxed animals, "frightening trees", powerful mammoths
Flowers!  The sun!  Clouds!

One commenter described her story  as being "dark", asking if this example was "normal for French toddlers, or is it just her?"  He expected a cute story about Winnie the Pooh and friends playing games. "Instead she [the child] talks about animals going to jail for being poor, baby-eating crocodiles, and a suicidal Hippo trying to go to hell but HAS to go to heaven.  WTF?"

Apparently this commenter has never heard of those 'classic' fairy tales  read to us as children or seen cartoonized on TV, about trolls, and monsters, treacherous deceptive wolves and witches, threatening to kidnap or eat children, nor has he apparently been exposed, as a child,  to ideas about heaven and hell, fighting with helmets and swords (or even the idea of jail or animal attacks or suicide) through hearing words from one's parents, playmates, religion, hearsay or the TV.  Why is it  "not normal" then that children might weave all this information and their perception of same into their imaginary tales?

She's holding a book about "Winnie the Pooh" and straightaway begins improvising.  The commenter above, I guess, expected a rote book report.  Has he never, as a child, colored outside the lines?

Fairy tales have told her witches are "bad".  She's figured out that if you eliminate the "bad", you won't feel threatened .Cause and effect.  She introduces this reasoning into her story, saying that "If you kill all the witches, people will be peaceful."    And her tale of crocodiles eating babies tells me that in her narrative, she intends it as "just a story" here.  But recognizing the elimination of evil will have a positive effect is more than just a story, it's become a belief. 

When my grandchildren were the same age as this French child, every time I visited, they would beg me  to tell them favorite remembered stories.  As I always made them up as I went along, and there were so many of them, they would sometimes have to refresh my memory.  I was amazed at their capacity to recall so many  exact, tiny details.  What about those particular stories made them worth remembering, I wondered.

Sometimes I ran out of story ideas (or wind).  So we would communitize the story teller role:  One of us would begin, and then each in turn would continue it.  Odd, as well as perfectly ordinary figures inhabited magical worlds, accomplishing improbable tasks; where plot was secondary;  the ending unforseen.

As my grandbubs got older, now reading books on their own, I was surprised to find that their enthusiasm for hearing oral stories made-up "out of the blue"  has not diminished.  A kid for whom writing a story for an assignment in class is pure torture, let lose for oral storytelling becomes an instant orator; his voice unable to keep up with the ideas pouring out of his head.  It wasn't the story so much as that transformation that surprised and delighted me.  It was like seeing a flower suddenly open in the light.

At what age, I wonder, do we begin self-restricting our imagination, self-correcting, self-censoring?  At what age do we begin thinking "I can't say/ write/ paint/ think  that because . . . because people will think it silly/ it won't be understood/  it's too "different"/ it might offend.

Worse, though,  I think, is when we start noticing that something elemental has gone missing and wonder where that once-familiar spark has fled - that enthusiastic, spontaneous well of creativity that lately (or suddenly) seems to have abandoned us.



Saturday, April 26, 2014

Musings on the Week's MediaFeedia

awynart



To strike, or not to strike
is not the question.
The question will never be asked of us at all.
Turn off your device, unplug the session.
When sleepers awaken, empires
 could fall.


________________

 Pukapab  - contraction of  "Je ne suis plus capable", meaning: "Enough!"/ "I just can't anymore"

MediaFeedia - lies/ distraction/ chroma-key blue screened/green screened 'news'/ fake reality.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Urban Art


Last week, in Montreal


Photos taken from window of  back seat of car
while stuck in traffic




Thursday, April 17, 2014

DoodleHaunt

awynart View #1

awynart  View #2
Glancing through some old papers and

I can't remember now who got drawn first,
which was an afterthought,
why she is shaped like a fish, or
how these two ended up merged to one another on the page

but

 each is insisting on being seen first,
the face to which the viewer's eye gravitates as the primary focus,
the second figure relegated to being "lesser", a mere accessory,
 appendage, or barnacle.

"It's just a doodle" won't cut it, I fear.

[I thought this only happened with one's fictional characters,
this nag at the creator - and
even if you draw faces without mouths,
they voice you through their eyes.]
And so, to keep the peace -  let's give  Equal Time
to Mr. Green-Sweater Guy and Miss Pouty Fish,
page-angled to ensure that each gets to be
top draw.


Friday, April 4, 2014

'it was never real'

Danger of Death (1954) - Artist: Hans Arp

But What Will Replace It
 
but what will replace it

the wings drop from the summit of the table
like leaves of earth
before the lips
it is night in the wings
and between the wings the chanting chains are missing

the skeleton of the light empties the fruits

the body of the kisses will never awaken
it was never real
the sea of the wings cradles that tear
the bell speaks with the head
and the fingers lead us across the fields of the air
toward the nests of the eyes
there the names melt

but what will replace it
in the height of the skies
neither sleeping nor waking
for the tombs are brighter than days

~ ~ Hans Arp

[poem written in 1929]

Revolted by the butchery of the 1914 World War, we in Zurich devoted ourselves to the arts. While guns rumbled in the distance, we sang, painted, made collages and wrote poems with all our might. We were seeking an art based on fundamentals, to cure the madness of the age, and find a new order of things that would restore the balance between heaven and hell. We had a dim premonition that power-mad gangsters would one day use art itself as a way of deadening men's minds.     
        ~~ Jean (Hans) Arp, in "Dadaland" (1938). 

Today's "power-mad gangsters" use media and entertainment to "deaden men's minds". 

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.
      ~~
Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death ( Penguin, 1986).
 
Digital distraction, addiction to social media, a marketplace glutted with "must-have" trendy new products, you barely notice the play of the real as play, because the play has become the real.  Dada yesterday; ad ad today.  Define your 'real'.  Lots of people still reading and writing and making art; less and less, perhaps, thinking anything they can say or do or create could "cure the madness of the age".  I was particularly struck by Arp's phrase "find a new order of things to restore balance" because the new world order intended by the Powers That Be is anything but balanced, and one wonders, echoing Arp's words here, should that not work out and things collapse and turn even more chaotic - what will replace it.

Musings on a late, chilly afternoon in April, waiting for the snow to melt away.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Patience

awynfoto-Mar. 28, 2014

Its resistance to departure manifests in
slanty flaked reminders
of tenacities -
        its to hold on,
            yours to hold out,
till Time decides
it's time.

Spring waits,
on hold -
again.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Salut, Bill Knott 1940-2014

 
 Bill Knott - Untitled

One has different reasons for one's initial response to a poem.  It might excite, confuse, entertain, disturb, appall or bore you.  Some of Bill Knott's poems made me laugh out loud.  Others made me cringe.  Many I simply couldn't understand what the heck he was talking about.  A significant number of them, however,  resonated. . .  astonished . . . stunned.  Certain ones just blew me away, and I found myself going back to them, again and again.

Knott frequently posted rough drafts on his blog, working and reworking a poem over and over - repeating, deleting, soundscoping,  wordchipping, rearranging whole lines.  Many he simply titled "Poem" or "Untitled".   I wondered how he kept track of them.   A word here, a line there, an arresting image, a compelling metaphor--I marveled at Knott's sheer bouts of creativity.

I  first contacted Knott in 2011 to ask permission to share one of his poems on Salamander Cove.   "Surely you could find a poet who isn't a now-forgotten oddity to feature on your site," was his reply.  Nevertheless, then--and several times in the years since, he graciously said yes to my using "any of" his verse or paintings.  I was just to spell his name correctly, "Knott, with two T's".

I had a brief email exchange with Knott back in 2012 when I approached him with the idea of doing a single-poet issue on Salamander Cove to showcase 52 of his poems and 37 of his paintings as a first Special Feature  (later desktop-pubbed as a 74-page booklet A Pocketful of Poems and Art by Bill Knott, sent to him as a thank-you).  Knott encouraged me in a separate early project, and half a year later, one day he emails me out of the blue, asking "Well, so whatever happened to your project?"  and to my procrastinatey excuse at the time, his blunt response was: "What are you waiting for? Just DO it!"  A much-needed verbal jumpstart that got me back working on it again.

Bill Knott - Horses of Time
I learned a lot from some of Knott's blog posts over the years. For example, he once provided 25 different translations he'd collected of Verlaine's Chanson d'Automne.   I found it invaluable comparing these translations, noting  how some felt plodding and pedestrian, while others better grasped the nuance.  I wondered how much time it'd taken Knott to find  these dozens of examples, then type them all out, one by one.  On the blog he'd sometimes critique a poem he admired (or hated), the examination of which got me to look more carefully at word choice, sound,  and form in a poem; how the slightest substitution could utterly ruin, or bring it to life.  Thanks to works mentioned I began reading poems I might normally have bypassed because of their "type".

Knott's syllabic verse inspired me to experiment, rework prose poems into sonnets, reduce a flash fiction to haiku.   I  began pushing myself to go beyond my comfort zone to try new ways, for example,  to resurrect a failed poem I'd long ago given up on.   "I fly with my wings stuck up my ass [a line in a Knott poem declares] but at least I try."  He would no doubt be amused, if not downright appalled, at my taking this one line out of context (not to mention that  I can't even remember which of his poems it actually came from!).   How a single word or line of something can inspire.   Knott was constantly trying - Let's see where this goes; wonder what happens if I put this word here instead of there,  let's purposely make it only so many syllables in so many lines.   Let's completely rewrite.

Bill Knott - Knotthead with ball
Knott wrote poems and songs and verse and plays, did translations, taught poetry, mentored students and new poets, selfpubbed his own books, and made paintings, later multiventuring into the blogsphere, always with the same recognizable voice.  What really fascinated me was Knott's originality and prolific imagination.  His poems continually surprised me, the phrases that would emerge!, the intuition they hinted at, the insights they sometimes  led me toI found myself using the word "Brilliant!" or a quiet little "wow" escape my lips after reading certain poems, where with certain others (especially the very long and  confusing ones) my eyes would simply glaze over.  The poems Knott wrote that 'stayed in mind'--those that get revisited, remembered--fall in the dozens.

I liked the way Knott experimented with language, giving objects emotions (or motives), verbing nouns or nouning verbs; combining, stretching, tweaking, rewiring, constantly re-inventing.  A  word would jump off the page from one of his poems as THE perfect word as used (even if made up) --  'Yawnwaving', 'twinmatism', 'stigmontage'  . . 'inbetweenities!!' 

Cartoon-like scenes would rush to mind's eye, of a stick figure "escaping blackly down its boundaries" or "a mustache that'd lost its urge to duel."  These playful splurts of Knottivity continually surprised, delighted, engaged.  It showed me you don't have to understand another's language to hear the message/discern the meaning in a poem; or be afraid to resculpt your tongue to express the way you see a thing.

Bill Knott - Knotthead Squared
Knott was remarkably generous, as has been mentioned by others.   (Last fall I ordered and bought from him two small books of poems.  Imagine my surprise when what arrived in the mailbox were not two, but nine (NINE!!!) of his books all packed together into one box.)   He placed images of all his art work up on line, as a visitable archive, adding that because of illness he had given up painting. But he kept on poeming, to the very end, even though he'd also grumpily proclaimed, from time to time, that he was no longer going to write any more poems.  His unpredictability became almost predictable.  It's as if, however, he couldn't not keep doing so, and so he resumed, still "broken-winged", as he once deemed himself, still believing nobody cared and that his poetry didn't matter.  (On that account he would be wrong.)

More than several bloggers, in their mention of his passing have quoted this poem: 

Going to sleep, I cross my hands on my chest.
They will place my hands like this.
It will look as though I am flying into myself.

Bill Knott- Drowning
I don't know where we 'fly to' when we die but I can imagine Knott aloft, tossing little homemade copies of his poems out to any willing takers as he soars on past.  He wrote a poem about a balloon once, titled "Aloft", starting with a question a little kid might ask, "When a balloon bursts, where's all the air go to?", jumping quickly into what it's like to try to secure one's "whoosh-hold":

why strive and huff just
to stave off death
to survive
to be a substance a stuff


A poem about balloon air suddenly becomes a poem about  . . . Death. 

to live life as a pocket
a cluster
a cloud
to maintain your interior
mode


I can understand
that having once been
contained in bouyance
you'd want to retain
that rare coherence


you'd pray to stay a one
to remain a unity an
entity a whole in
this unencased heaven


[The balloon as us-- "whistlewhiffed", "kisspuffed", "flimsy-flacked" us, desperately chasing oneness.]

up into the sky goes
two lungs worth
of earth
unstrung
unloosed
the exhaled
soul of a boy a girl


alloonaloft
aloftalloon
lost


This is one of those poems I come back to, again and again.  I pray Knott won't go lost (in Knott-speak:) in the unencased heavens whoosh-buoyed into some incoherent cluster-cloud. What irony that the books he put up on Amazon for less than four dollars (" the lowest price allowable"), of which so few sold,  are suddenly going for $99.99 (only one copy available, gobbled up for reselling) now that Knott's not here.  How kind of him to have posted the pdf's to his poems on  his blog, generous to the last.

I am grateful to Bill Knott for his kindness in allowing me to share so many of his poems and artwork, for introducing me to the work of other poets and translators; for giving me, by example,  the inspiration--and courage--to experiment, to get inside words and the spaces around them, see where it leads.  It's true,  that "most of us remain unfinished".   [Another remembered line from a Knott poem].  Maybe in the end it's not so important what didn't get finished, but what did.

Soar on, Knott.  Salut.
__________________________


Bill Knott (1940-2014)

A few Blog posts from friends, colleagues, former students, readers, and other poets,
remembering:

Rose Kelleher at Lost in the Forest [many links to anything by, about, and in honor of Knott]
Robert P. Baird in  The New Yorker
Elisa Gabbert at The French Exit
Mixhael Lally at Lally's Alley
Kathryn L. Burton at Kathryn Burton.com
Jessica Goodfellow at Axis of Abraxas
J. Hope Stein at Poetry Crush

Joe Hutchison, at Perpetual Bird
R. M. O'Brien, at Illuminated Hypertext

A poet at A Retail Life After the MFA
Conrad Didiodata at Word Dreamer Poetics 

Lyle Daggatt at A Burning Patience"
David Bonta at Via Negativa
 Bob Arnold at Longhouse Birdhouse>/a>
Open Letters Monthly
Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post

Jan Vafidis at Vol. 1 Brooklin
John Cotter at The Poetry Foundation
Louis Mayeux at Southern Bookman
Folks at Cold Front Mag
Grant Clauser at Ulabic

Jack Kimball at Pantaloons
'tribach' at An Unambitious Blog

Ken Tucker at Muck Rack
Thurston Moore at Bongorama.com
Michael Robbins at Michael Robbins Poet Blog
Rob McClennan at his RobMcClennan.com
Stephen Kuusisto at Planet of the Blind
Vitro Nasu at Iconoclastic Incubator

Paul Belbusti at Dead Language Blog
Alex Gildzen at Arroyo Chamisa

 Richard Hell on YouTube
Staff at Emerson College
Staff of Harriet
Sydney Hermanson at Ploughshares Magazine
Folks at Book Forum


Obituary in The Boston Globe and here.


"My River"


~ ~ Bill Knott