Walt Whitman manuscript, “Go, said his soul to a poet.”
And now it’s time to get the fuck out
Of this beautiful pointlessness.
Last days in Gainesville. I’m feeling these last lines particularly hard. The end of my program era. Last looks a prelude to departure. The present in the past tense. Beautiful and pointless.
July 25, 1853. I have for years had a great deal of trouble with my shoe-strings, because they get untied continually. They are leather, rolled and tied in a hard knot. But some days I could hardly go twenty rods before I was obliged to stop and stoop to tie my shoes. My companion and I speculated on the distance to which one tying would carry you,—the length of a shoe-tie,—and we thought it nearly as appreciable and certainly a more simple and natural measure of distance than a stadium, or league, or mile. Ever and anon we raised our feet on whatever fence or wall or rock or stump we chanced to be passing, and drew the strings once more, pulling as hard as we could. It was very vexatious, when passing through low scrubby bushes, to become conscious that the strings were already getting loose again before we had fairly started. What should we have done if pursued by a tribe of Indians? My companion sometimes went without strings altogether, but that loose way of proceeding was not to be thought of by me. One shoemaker sold us shoe-strings made of the hide of a South American jackass, which he recommended; or rather he gave them to use and added their price to that of the shoes we bought of him. But I could not see that these were any better than the old. I wondered if anybody had exhibited a better article at the World’s Fair, and whether England did not bear the palm from America in this respect. I thought of string with recurved prickles and various other remedies myself. At last the other day it occurred to me that I would try an experiment, and, instead of tying two simple knots one over the other the same way, putting the end which fell to the right over each time, that I would reverse the process, and put it under the other. Greatly to my satisfaction, the experiment was perfectly successful, and from that time my shoe-strings have given me no trouble, except sometimes in untying them at night.
On telling this to others I learned that I had been all the while tying what is called a granny’s knot, for I had never been taught to tie any other, as sailors’ children are; but now I had blundered into a square know, I think they called it, or two running slip-nooses. Should not all children be taught this accomplishment, and an hour, perchance, of their childhood be devoted to instruction in tying knots?
—THOREAU, from The Journal
July 22, 1851. I bathe me in the river. I lie down where it is shallow, amid the weeds over its sandy bottom; but it seems shrunken and parched; I find it difficult to get wet through. I would fain be the channel of a mountain brook. I bathe, and in a few hours I bathe again, not remembering that I was wetted before. When I come to the river, I take off my clothes and carry them over, then bathe and wash off the mud and continue my walk. I would fain take rivers in my walks endwise.
—THOREAU, from Journal
MOVING DAY / THE LITTLE DISTURBANCES OF MAN / CITIZEN OF / GOING PLACES / YOU ARE HERE
July 19, 1851. Here I am thirty-four years old, and yet my life is almost wholly unexpanded. How much is in the germ! There is such an interval between my ideal and the actual in many instances that I may say I am unborn. There is the instinct for society, but no society. Life is not long enough for one success. Within another thirty-four years that miracle can hardly take place. Methinks my seasons revolve more slowly than those of nature; I am differently timed. I am contented. This rapid revolution of nature, even of nature in me, why should it hurry me? Let a man step to the music which he hears, however measured. Is it important that I should mature as soon as an apple tree? aye, as soon as an oak? May not my life in nature, in proportion as it is supernatural, be only the spring and infantile portion of my spirit’s life? Shall I turn my spring to summer? May I not sacrifice a hasty and petty completeness here to entireness there? If my curve is large, why bend it to a smaller circle? My spirit’s unfolding observes not the the pace of nature. The society which I was made for is not here.
—THOREAU, from The Journal 1837-1861
Thu, Nov. 24, 2011
Your new poem is tight, smart, without any false notes, and the title is fantastic, but, but, but, you’re basically writing in the Ashbery mode. This is no fault of your own, since Ashbery casts a huge shadow across contemporary American poetry. That wry, intelligent noodling, with just a touch of pathos, is showing up everywhere, and not many people can do them well even, as you have managed to pull off here. Still, you must move beyond this. To take real chances, you must lose yourself, freak out a little, become wild yet still in charge. I know that sounds oxymoronic, but that’s what it takes to luck into a super rare, truly authentic poem. When I saw ———— in Philly recently, I said to her, “I’m preparing to write my first poem.” And who knows, maybe I won’t ever get there, so welcome to the gestation club, motherfucker! Technically, I’d say pay more attention to sentence lengths, try to vary them more. Also, be more conscious of mixing dictions and modes, as in be a more versatile ventriloquist, and speak from all of your orifices, even those you didn’t know exist.
July 14, 1831. One of the arguments with which nature furnishes us for the Immortality of the Soul is, it always seemed to me, the awful solitude in which here a Soul lives. Few men communicate their highest thoughts to any person. To many they cannot, for they are unfit receivers. Perhaps they cannot to any. Yet are these thoughts as much made for communication as a sex. Ellen wondered why dearest friends, even husband & wife did so little impart their religious thoughts. And how rarely do such friends meet. Here I sit alone from month to month filled with a deep desire to exchange thoughts with a friend who does not appear—yet shall I find or refind that friend?
—EMERSON, from Selected Journals 1820-1842
The fourth day of the year must have marked
the beginning of our new way of life.
For lunch there was curried dragon.
It will all take some getting used to
from “Curried Dragon”
Poetry Magazine July/August 2012
July 13, 1852. A journal, a book that shall contain a record of all your joy, your ecstasy.
—THOREAU, from The Journal 1837-1861
Here’s your mistake back
you never made it
here’s the cushion
reshaping the couch
your shadow slips under the threshold
you never crossed it
—CONNIE DEANOVICH, from “Divestiture”
New American Writing Number 30, 2012
Emma: I’m thinking of getting a microwave.
Me: It’s good to have a nuclear option.
Emma: I’ve never had one before. What is a microwave good for?
Me: Microwaving stuff! Like this Old Dry Mother Fried Rice.
Emma: I can’t believe they call it that!
Me: I know—it’s like a Wu-Tang special menu item.
Emma: Back to my microwave problem. I think my mother conditioned me to fear them.
Me: That sounds serious and shit.
Emma: Totally. We had one, but she wouldn’t let us be in the kitchen when it went off.
Me: You mean, when it was “on.”
Emma: Like I said, I was conditioned. She would count to three and we’d have to skedaddle.
Me: “1, 2, 3…”
Emma: “Or else…”
July 12, 1853. White vervain. Checkerberry, maybe some days. Spikenard, not quite yet. The green-flowered lanceolate-leafed orchis at Azalea Brook will soon flower. Wood horse-tail very large and handsome there.
—THOREAU, from The Journal 1837-1861