SHARKPACK Poetry Review

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Organon Next: ‘The Quickest Sand’

This question stemmed from a tweet by Boston’s Spece:

“Politics, confessionalism, identity poetics—refuse. Literary merit. That is all. #iupampo #w00t”

Celebratory in his fire is the Spece-monsta! If you don’t believe he’ll turn that flame upon you, say something. Watch the leaves and stuffing you kept about yourself to stay warm catch fire.

And then, when you’re full nude and bearing the cold of nature yourself without crutch, start again.

I start here.


Exhaustive, thorough.

Shift to synonym: severity, strictness.

I see boundaries surround the Poet. Those same dark basketball fans that were unlit on my  court.

Spece suggests rigor before society.


Take those unseeable fans, and turn them into the stones of a monastery (they serve the same function: actionless wall).

Take the poem as task. Scrub and scrub, not seeing the floor turn any lighter shade, only see it getting wet and wet again.

Others, though, they will come to that room and see the difference, the hours of grime’s festering that you’ve erased.

The gratification for the scrubber is in the next day’s soreness. The way over days and days of scrubbing one’s body becomes the essential scrubber. Technique improves; power.

Soreness, yes. And clarity.

A poem that has been scrubbed with rigor will leave these.

“One should interrogate [. . .] wherein [. . .] he (currently) deems his best work.”

Get that isht out of the parentheses.


The water that flows into your writerly stream now must be drunk to quench your need to write.

Oh, I’m going to move upstream where there is a greater flow so I might drink more.

Oh, well you are a fool—you can’t drink faster unless you practice drinking.

Access to more water means that and no more.

There is a time to move streamsites. Best if it is not of your accord that you move. Let rump becomes irate in its position. Let the pen dry up. The exterior world reflects your stagnation and waits for you to notice.

At that point, with a groan or scratch (or as we age—a moan), we move. And though the work we do is interrupted, we gain two things.

Rest and education.

Apply to poetry.

Spece puts forward the sestina, which form he may’ve drifted from.

Let’s say I arrive at the sestina streamsite.

I can’t squeeze the syllables correctly.

It looks like a form-poem (bad) and disguises its content in a gaudy costume.

It’s too obvious and mono-purposeful.

Then I write it again and again and again, scrubbing the form, knowing the floor, until my pen runs out of ink.

Then I move to another site. And at each, I gain its heights faster because of how I’ve learned the process of learning from the sestina though the form where I am now is essay, is epic or painting or sketching or speaking aloud, sweeping the garage, laying seed, making a bed.

So, I’m sorry for saying it: every process begets another until you die and become bone.

The poet as bone then. Or the Poem as bone, perhaps?

I think there is something there. I’ll try to break apart my thoughts as they are Legion.

I am bone. I have set.

My use is not endless, but I am useful, very useful, in certain situations. (Prying open doors, for example).

I continue to do, as I am, again and again and again until I am worn through or break.

One person Spece mentioned in his initial draft to this question is the businessman poet.

Eventually a poet turns to the world to inquire whether it likes her work enough to pay him for it.

(Note, I do not say a poet asks the world; very often they never ask. They look to their work and say no, it is not enough, and keep their words, their title, at home.)

For those poets who do sell their work—how quickly do they reproduce their success? How quickly do they ossify (thanks, Joseph) in style, and become print-artists who do not seek expansion into newer forms? Is there something in producing the same work again that is inartistic?

Think Warhol. Duchamp. Tom Clancy.

Perhaps the danger here is in placing the poet as the matter and not the maker.

When walking Denver’s Museum of Nature and Science and staring up at the bones of our in-house Tyrannosaurus, the room reeks of its power.

Paying creedence to the Rex (as to Dickinson, G.M. Hopkins, &c), I can study him. Learn his name, know his bones.

Not seek to supplant him, no. His power is different than mine, right? Atmospheric, almost? In that just stepping into the Rex’s proximity, the room is taller and more dinosauric, so that anything I did in the room would acquire that attribute (the speech I give there is a dinosauric speech and the food I eat there is a dinosauric portabello on rye).

So how do we pay that credence? How do we stand eye-to-eye with the Rex, so as to know him and keep releasing his power (Poetry, after all) into today?

My suggestion is to not remove our bones from our body until we die. To not try to die in a museum but to live and fight and write until the wood closes over us, then the soil, then years and years of compaction and weather and erosion until someone, some digger, uncovers us, scrutinizes our bones, tries to understand how they fit together and made something he might have been had he been born when we were.

Certainly it seems to lend an accidental element to his wandering spade. But you don’t get to make yourself an Integral Poet. It requires another hand.

8 responses to “Organon Next: ‘The Quickest Sand’”

  1. Now let me ask, EW: do you imply it is the reader that makes an Integral Poet (!) integral? Has Hamlet chancing on a skull ‘made’ Yorick, in some sense?

    1. Reader Response theory, Joseph? Haha. 🙂

      1. I know, I know. All my investment in ‘banking’ down the tubes.

  2. So. Many. Compelling. Questions. Especially: “So how do we pay that credence? How do we stand eye-to-eye with the Rex, so as to know him and keep releasing his power (Poetry, after all) into today?” Another question: “How do we stand eye-to-eye with the Rex, so as to be nourished from his power, even as it remains eternally “un”knowable in its self-contained difference?” How to transcend the quest for knowledge? How to reorient the poetic impulse away from mastery, so as to liberate Poetry from the harnessing of power into, instead, a poetic string vibration of multidimensionality, wherein what can be known must–by the necessity that emerges from the act of creation–sometimes remains hidden, while–at the same time– that which is unknowable can be acknowledged as elemental and eternal mystery?

  3. Joseph > Knay and Aye – The digger is the next poet.

    MG > ‘Reorient away from mastery’ is cool :

    I lean towards transience as a solution. Shifting focus always, not seeking to dominate any Poem– or more largely, moment in time– but rather to see them through to completion.

    I think the harnessing, as with a horse, implies _using again and again_.

    One sees the old horse broken by the farmer’s returned use.

    Keeping a stable of fresh mediums to change to, such that the old never becomes so worn as to be unusable– does that avoid a ‘mastery’ of the horsepower?

    We are bent on use, humans. We must do during the day else we get plump and ineffective and grumpy, but there are so many of us, with more to come.

    The signs of that? Erosion.

    Great ruts of commonly-walked poetic path need to be let wild again, since Mastery of the Land, Horse, & Man leave the marks of the bridle not indistinct from the paved road.

    So, transience. Straying back into the jungle, not caring whether we come back out or not.

    I do wonder if you could help me understand your multidimensional string.

    Go through that a bit conmigo, will you?

  4. I’ll try, although I’m not nearly sure that even I fully understand what I mean. So: string theory and poetics. Most humans operate (as people, as poets, as plumbers) within the unquestioned assumption of a universe. But what if that universe-as-given-form (poetry, for example) were a chimera, severely limiting our understanding of the possible and, in this case, poetic play? The locus of “integrity,” as we understand it to be (measurable perhaps, certainly infused with a value system that can be fixed or at least imagined, etc.), might then—as seen through a covalence of multiple lenses—be dependent on this misapprehension of dimensionality (although I make no presumptions here about anyone else’s app-or-comprehension). What if there are, in fact, “multiverses”—by which I mean not different forms of poetry (sestina, sonnet, etc.), nor Derridean “differance” (God forbid—but also, kinda), nor human individualities—but rather the transcendence of consciousness (and perhaps form) accessible through an as yet hidden poetic wormhole (and “language poetry,” for me, doesn’t quite cut it)? Here, “transience” and “jungle” serve exceedingly well as impulse/image for climbing out of those “great ruts of commonly-walked poetic path” in great need of the “wild.” Dickinson seems to have accessed just such a tunnel through which to explore the multiverse and, concomitantly, the fissioning of that “paved road.” Even more so than the modernists, it seems to me (although yes, of course, Bishop and others). I’m not a seer, as are the poets, but it seems to me that we (poets and readers) stand in final need—truly—of a transformative consciousness in poetry. Wherein the experiential is not the impoverished and sickly self-referencing of a single universe, but rather vibrates across the strings of many (human and other-than-human—the latter’s “use” as blasphemous metaphor being put to rest, at last).
    But perhaps we are saying close to the same thing. ☺

  5. EW: I love the way you put this: “My suggestion is to not remove our bones from our body until we die. To not try to die in a museum but to live and fight and write until the wood closes over us”. I see the nub in this, and also in what M. Graham is saying: that beyond the “I”, beyond even the Eye, certainly beyond culture (Spece’s rant)—is the infinite cosmos (“infinite” being the name we give to something utterly unapproachable) and a consciousness alert and responsive to that larger dimension is what gives rise to a craft that reflects that immeasurable power again and again, freshly, to its participants.

    Spece may not like this (but his anger has its own shrine): I believe that politics, confessionalism, and identity poetics can have their own integrity—it’s just not one that interests me—because the larger forces need tending to and it’s a gift to see through the fog, a gift to bear the night which proffers such distant lights. A seer needn’t disdain the blind, but be a shepherd for the thing unseen.

    Where’s the locus of integrity? I say it’s in submissiveness—humbling, groveling, service to the truest master. The name is almost always boiled down to God, Nature, or the Cosmos. Whatever you call it, it’s the largest thing.

  6. Taking leave– awesome to both wormholes and humility. Onward with craft, respect, and heightened responsibility.


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