Monday, April 4, 2011

To Be A Foolish Wise Guy: Poetry Month

Last spring I made a 7 day urban pilgrimage--a poetry pilgrimage. Pilgrimage as in the pre-Christian Celtic sites in Western Ireland--not long journeys to an ultimate destination: Canterbury, Compostella, but circular routes of a few hundred yards marked by sacred stopping points along the way.

I thought of the journeys most of us take every working day, from bedroom to kitchen to street to car or bus or subway, and on to our workplace. Repeated in reverse every evening.  Why not, I thought, an urban, secular pilgrimage? Mark the way stations we pass, erase from memory, make invisible through repetition. Where there are no sacred places, I thought--where nothing is inherently holy, everything might become so, for what is the sacred --  but our own powers of attention made manifest in place & time?

 Each day, for 7 days, I followed a cycle that might represent our most ordinary, daily routines: my apartment (private), backyard (private but visible to other private spaces), front porch (overlooking public space), a bench on Passyunk (public/commercial), the corner of Broad and Morris (traffic intersection & entrance to public transit), and finally, the courtyard of City Hall (Public Civic space). At each station I took notes--only the most immediate impressions, a register of sensual attention. At the end of the day, I revisited each station (my virtual return cycle) in memory, free association, commentary.  These notes became a daily two part poem for each place, repeated for seven days. I added them, page to page to make a scroll--like a sacred text. Six stations, seven days x 2, 84 'stanzas,' 16 pages in a long scroll, which I read aloud at each place for all the entries pertaining to that station--and on the last day, the whole scroll east of City Hall.

This public reading became central to the whole experience in a way I hadn't at all anticipated. It became a kind of sacrifice of self-consciousness--I wasn't reading for anyone. It made no difference whether I was alone or in a crowd, whether I was noticed or ignored (mostly the latter). I felt myself bodily entering into the poem as it happened... to me, around me, out of me and onto the scroll. The public reading was essential: in doing this, I experienced such an exhilarating sense of freedom.

Time again...Spring... when "priketh hem Nature in her corages / Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages

This time, it will be to give poetry back, as last year I drew it forth from public space... whether anyone pays attention matters not at all.  The pigeons will be there and the sparrows--witness enough

I made a poster--for Poetry Month. With an image of a Poem Tree. I have 5 Rondos of my Poem to the End of My Days... 5 Rondos, one for every workday. For the rest of April: 2:00 PM, Love Park (or the Septa concourse beneath if rain or wind that threatens to blow my poster away).

Monday: Chronic Chronos Kairos
Tuesday: Transport
Wednesday: Everything Changes
Thursday: Talking to Trees
Friday: Chloe

If the fool persists in his folly he will become wise...

You do stuff. & then you write about it., & if what you do...

No comments:

Post a Comment