Coal Mountain Elementary. Mark Nowak

A collection of documents, artfully edited. On the one hand, what control, not to intervene. On the other, I miss words, miss personal weakness.

Maybe I miss irresponsibility.

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Nazi Literature in the Americas. Roberto Bolano

Q: Does amorality offer some added possibility in artwork?

It’s a question that would never occur to me—practically word salad, really—but one I think Bolano raises (here and elsewhere). Is it just me, or does he (in 2666) flirt with the possibility that Archimboldi is somehow the murderer?

Amorality? What does that mean. . .

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stepping into the palace

I’m afraid of the books I haven’t read—the ones I think I will love. This thought came to me as I hesitated over Rebecca Loudon’s Radish King, reluctant to open the cover.
Why? I’m afraid these poems will turn out to be the ones I wish I had written. (And then it will all be snuffed out.)
But, trying to get up my confidence, I considered that I’ve never, among all the brilliant writings I’ve seen, seen one I wish I’d written.
If I ever find one I will have to mine new ambitions—

Is this why we read?
We avoid reading (sometimes) to protect ourselves—when disciplined, we read so that we can shape our desires to what is still absent—
An artist is not satisfied.

Read what you are afraid of.

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manifesting 9 (&10)

9. Violate any of these rules rather than write a lifeless poem.

10. What I won’t make a rule about:
How it is made.
What it is.
May Noah’s ark never be big enough.

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Manifesting 8

8. Kitchen sink rule about lifestyle.


(Call this one a helpful guideline rather than a rule.)


If you can help yourself, do not be sucked into concerns about holiness. If you are writing for yourself (#4), what does it matter who you are? Finally, the sort of artist I am speaking of or to is an artificer, a maker, not a muse. You are not attempting to charm someone else into making a film about you; you are making an IT, a thing that can go in the world without you, can live without you. (I get a little teary thinking about this.)

Now someone will raise the ugly specter of commodification. Sure, it-ness can be a problem if it=product. And is this bit about it-ness contradicting #4 above? Well, personally, I do not like to look in the mirror all day. What I want to read is not myself, or not solely myself. So, for me, creating an IT is almost a process of enchantment. Pygmalion, yes.


Another way to put this: give up your personal vanity.


Flaubert is very smart on this subject. There is his famous “Live like a bourgeois so you may create like a genius” (loosely), but also “Art requires neither complaisance nor politeness; nothing but faith, faith and freedom.”

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Manifesting 7

7. (more ranting) This whole thing about poetry—

it’s a little precious, isn’t it? If you write in order to wear a poet hat, well, don’t make me read it. Forget that it is poetry, forget you are a poet. Make the thing. Don’t worry about what it is or what you are (and see #8 below).

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Manifesting 6

6. Time for a little ranting. Poems on poetry—I’ve never liked them.

Every poem is inherently somewhat about poetry, just as every painting has something to say about painting. So why write a poem that is also explicitly about poetry? That’s at best simple, at worse, self-aggrandizing.

Okay, I know this is unfair. I’m intruding taste in what’s supposed to be a bit beyond the individual—but who are we kidding? This is my manifesto. Some people certainly have managed to write good poems about poetry, and I certainly have loved some poems about poetry (but note the past tense: I think I don’t love any of them just now), but, honestly, all my poems about poetry have turned out utter crap.

So, for me anyway, no conscious navel-gazing.

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