Flowing Uphill

An admirer of Leonardo's Deluge drawings finds the key to poetry in the turbulent properties of water he revealed.
Andrew Joron examines how "both water and language are complex systems situated at the edge of chaos."
The Pulitzer building. Architect: Tadao Ando. Photo: Robert Pettus. Copyright: The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.

In 2007 the Poetry Foundation and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts collaborated to bring poets together in conversation with works of art based on the Pulitzer Foundation's Water exhibition. John Yau served as a curator for this collaboration. He invited poets Cole Swensen, Andrew Joron, and Arthur Sze to reflect on and react to artists including Roni Horn, Cy Twombly, Max Beckmann, Henri Matisse.

What a poet has to say about water is obviously going to be different from what a scientist would say, or even from what a visual artist would say. And in what I’m going to say, I’d like to maintain that difference, and give you my own poet’s-eye view of water—but because poets always like to promote a multiplicity of meanings, I also want to elide and erase that difference between art and science, and appropriate and mix up the multiple discourses, the multiplicity of ways of construing and constructing the meaning of water.

A familiar strategy of poets is to find analogies, metaphorical relationships, between things—and for some poets, the more unlikely the analogy, the better! I think there is an obvious and not at all unlikely similarity between language and water: water is like language, language is like water. Both are seemingly transparent, ubiquitous, and necessary to sustain our life. Mainstream culture and mainstream writers (and here we see that common usage has already anticipated the water analogy) trust in the transparency of language, and use it as a transport medium for carrying meaning. Then there are those language-workers, poets and writers, who are not carried along by the mainstream, who want to divert the main stream of meaning from its easy and obvious flow, who want to force meaning to do the impossible, to flow uphill, to make language move in ways it has never moved before. Such language-workers (I am one, along with my fellow panelists) distrust the apparent transparency of the medium, and seek to discover turbulence, ripples, eddies, and vortices, plays and tricks of the light in the reflecting pool of shared meaning.

And of course the underlying meaning of water is that it is very nearly meaningless: tasteless, odorless, shapeless, its properties are very hard to nail down. Very like the shapelessness, the actual meaningless of language considered as a whole. For the sum total of all possible statements in language is not one big meaningful statement, but a meaningless multiplicity of statements. So, in considering what water really is, what language really is, we are suddenly closer than we might wish to the primeval chaos.

The British poet Peter Redgrove, recently deceased, and who incidentally wrote many fine poems about water and who was known to splash language up quite vigorously, once offered a definition of the poet as a “scientist of the strange.” In other words, poets are observers—and producers—of astonishing events, of configurations that occur only once and never again, of the kind of motion where cause and effect are no longer proportionate, where small causes lead to great effects and vice versa. In physics, this kind of motion is called “nonlinear”: the motion of a water molecule, for example, is nonlinear, as is the circulation of meaning in a poem.

And so a poet thinking about water quite naturally assumes his or her role as a scientist of the strange—and I hope to demonstrate some of the strangeness of water. Our predecessor in this undertaking, the great imaginative spirit who examined water from the viewpoint of the artist as well as the scientist, was of course Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo was interested in water throughout his career, but especially relevant for our purposes is the series of drawings he executed late in life, when he was thinking about the end of the world and about last things in general—these are the series of sketches known as the “Deluge drawings.”

The Deluge drawings attempt to do the impossible, to capture and convey all of the effects of nonlinear motion by means of line drawings—that is, to represent that which is inherently fleeting by that which is inherently fixed. Leonardo’s Deluge drawings come close to abstract expressionism in their violent registration of water in a state of crisis. Looking at the Deluge drawings, the eye gets lost in a maze of lines depicting waves, whirlpools, eddies, and turbulence of all kinds. Leonardo needed to invent abstract expressionism in the 16th century in order to document scientifically all of the properties of water in motion—of water, more precisely, in extreme states of motion.

Leonardo solved the problem of using pen and ink to represent a transparent substance by depicting not water itself, but the lines of force within water. We might say that Leonardo’s depiction of the chaos of stresses occurring within and upon the body of water are really the tresses of pure energy; in fact, Leonardo, in his notebooks, explicitly compares the flow of water to the flow of hair when he writes, “Observe the motion of water on the surface of water, which resembles the behavior of hair.” The image of complexly interwoven strands of hair provides metaphorical support for the movement of Leonardo’s stylus as it traces otherwise invisible lines of energy within water. However, the Deluge drawings (I can barely refrain from calling them “traces of stress-tresses”), as maps of unrepeatable and unpredictable forms of motion, where Leonardo has obsessively blackened sheets of paper with curling vortices, look not so much like representations of water or even hair—instead, what Leonardo has given us in the Deluge drawings are the first renderings of force fields in the history of art or science.

By trying to make visible the fearful symmetries inside water, Leonardo at the end of his life confronted forms of chaotic turbulence that could not be subordinated to the laws of perspective, proportion, and harmony that he developed earlier in his career. The representation of complex, irregular motion in the Deluge drawings foreshadowed a new poetics of vision and a new understanding of nature whose significance is only beginning to be understood in our own time, especially in light of abstract and nonrepresentational art on the one hand, and the new science of chaos and complexity theory on the other.

And like the visual arts, poetic language also has undergone an evolution that brings it closer to the chaos patterns that Leonardo first observed in the movement and the self-entanglement of water. Once poetic language was released from the constraint of having to tell the stories of gods and kings and later, of having to express individual and social identity, it began to discover—or rediscover—its sources in the mysterious movement of language itself, in the manifestation of a meaning in words that goes somehow beyond words. In the modernist and the postmodernist poem, language is finally manifested as a self-exceeding system, and to explain what I mean by this, I’m going to resort, very much in the spirit of Leonardo, to the properties of water.

Now, self-exceeding systems are those systems that are capable of pushing themselves into a new state of being. A simple system, such as a clock or a pendulum, is not capable of such transformation; only complex, nonlinear systems are. Water and language are both classic examples of complex systems, and as such they have many properties in common—properties that, for me, relate directly to poetic attempts to say the unsayable.

Water and language are both composed of a great many interacting elements (molecules on the one hand, words on the other)—but complexity is defined not only by the number of elements in a system, but by the way they interact. Hydrogen and oxygen interact to produce water, but the properties of water have nothing in common with the properties of an isolated hydrogen atom or oxygen atom; in other words, the characteristics of water are not present in the constituent parts of water, but emerge only when those parts begin to interact with one another. A hydrogen or an oxygen atom is not “wet”—the quality of wetness emerges only when those atoms combine to form molecules. It’s that combination, that interaction, which brings about a breakthrough to a new level of reality where viscosity and flow and reflectivity and moistness spring into being. This kind of breakthrough, in the parlance of nonlinear dynamics, is known as “emergence”—water is an emergent property of the interaction of hydrogen and oxygen.

It’s the same thing with language: the meaning of a sentence emerges only at the level of the interaction of the words in that sentence, and is not present in any of the words, taken by themselves, that compose the sentence. The meaning of “The sky is blue” is not present in “the” or “is” or “sky” or “blue,” but results only from the interaction of those words. Now consider a line of poetry by the French surrealist Paul Eluard: “The earth is blue, like an orange.” Here, meaning emerges not only at a level beyond the individual words composing the sentence, but also at a level beyond the sentence as a whole. The sentence appears to be meaningful, but that meaning refuses to be contained within this or any other set of words or phrases. In poetic language, meaning overflows or exceeds its own condition, and a saying of the unsayable takes place. Poetry pushes language into a new state of being, and is therefore an emergent property of language; indeed, poetic emergence precipitates an emergency within the being of language.

Furthermore, I would argue that the emergency of poetry can best be understood with reference to the scientific study of emergence in complex systems—using complexity theory here not as a metaphor but as a literal description of a transformation that belongs to the same class of phenomena as the emergence of water from hydrogen and oxygen.

In closing, I want to point out that complexity theory—really a new version of materialism—reveals the poetic-revolutionary nature of reality, and confirms Romantic and, later, Surrealist visions of the convulsive beauty of cosmic being. The most important aspect of complex systems, composed of a large number of elements far from equilibrium, is their tendency to experience convulsions called “phase transitions.” In this process, chance associations within the system, after reaching a critical point, undergo spontaneous self-organization. Here, then, is the dynamical equivalent of water flowing uphill: the system increases its complexity (and temporarily contravenes entropy) by incorporating chaos. The origins of order are vertiginous: by “riding” its own chaotic tendencies, the system propels itself to a higher level of organization. Complex systems, as one researcher put it, are situated at the “edge of chaos.”

Both water and language are complex systems situated at the edge of chaos. “A single drop of water is a seething melee of order and disorder, with structures constantly forming and breaking up within it” (New Scientist, April 2006). The behavior of water is a molecular counterpart of the way that meaning circulates within a poem. Never mind the “watercourse way” as a path of wisdom, which always seeks, following the downhill flow of water, the simplest path, arriving only at the quietude of equilibrium and death. Complexity, and especially life, requires disequilibrium. The poet-scientist, the new Leonardo, will look for signs of water flowing uphill, against all odds—those are the signs of poetic activity, of life, and of revolution.
Originally Published: October 15th, 2008

Born in San Antonio, poet Andrew Joron was raised in Germany, Massachusetts, and Montana. He earned a BA in the philosophy of science at the University of California at Berkeley, where he studied with anarchist philosopher Paul Feyerabend. Addressing the trajectory of his work in a 2010 interview with poetry blogger...

  1. October 16, 2008
     Kent Johnson

    >Furthermore, I would argue that the emergency of poetry can best be understood with reference to the scientific study of emergence in complex systems—using complexity theory here not as a metaphor but as a literal description of a transformation that belongs to the same class of phenomena as the emergence of water from hydrogen and oxygen...

    Unlike Andrew Joron, whose poetry I have admired, I have no idea how the nature of "poetry can best be understood." But I tip my hat to him for telling us how it should be. And there's certainly no harm in dusting off that James Gleick bestseller yet one more time: It's one of the best pop-science books for poets ever written.

    Still, and at risk of seeming grumpy, this post does put me in mind (though trying yet to figure out exactly why), of that war-horse haiku by Basho:

    old pond...

    Poet-Scientist jumps in--

    water sound

  2. October 17, 2008
     edward mycue

    the title FLOWING UPHILL is soundless.

    along the coast from california up through

    oregon and washington i hear there are

    gravity hills where water flows uphill--or

    appears to.

    in the early 1970's i was brought up to razorback ridge above cotati where the road did this when after the car was halted and the break released

    the car flowed up the road.

    or appeared to do so.

    and this was soundless.

    the road an analog to a stream. because of gravity it was said.

    water and language andrew says are complex systems.

    and that complexity and life require disequilibrium.

    for me that would not provide silence.

    surely a jest'll be a reply asking about sound in the urban forest where silence is not possible.

    there white noise is a blanket of endlessly malfunctioning smoke detectors.

    but sometimes it seems there is nothing there not even the drone of traffic.

    nor out at lands end the water's slap.

    edward mycue

  3. October 18, 2008
     Garrett Caples

    Why do I feel like Kent Johnson's post is about himself rather than about Andrew Joron's essay? Joron says nothing about "the nature of poetry"--he speaks of "the emergence of poetry." Johnson's misquotation means he's only critiquing his own misunderstanding. It's strikes me that this is either a pointless assertion of Johnson's own ego or that he's trying to score points with some invisible god of poetry correctness. Just because he's read one pop science book and thinks he recognizes it here, Johnson acts like he's "caught" Joron posing. Yet anyone actually familiar with Joron's work--check, for example, The Cry at Zero: Selected Prose--knows he's familiar with a wide array of contemporary scientific authors and concepts. He's not a scientist nor does he pretend to be, but he did study the history of science and knows whereof his speaks. It strikes me that Johnson isn't equipped to pontificate on Joron's scientific knowledge.

    The little Basho number is a lame attempt at humor and the fact that Johnson admits he can't "figure out exactly why" he's tacking it on here is illuminating. Maybe he ought to figure out why he's posting before he does.

  4. October 19, 2008
     Kent Johnson

    Garrett Caples's riposte is fair enough. He's right that I could have given more thought to the matter before sending the comment. I realized that myself, actually, shortly after dashing it off and hitting the send button: In fact, I wrote Don Share (before Garrett posted), asking if it might be possible to delete my remark, as I realized its tone came across as a bit on the flippant side. (Later, realizing that deleting the comment would be kind of dishonest, I wrote Don back, withdrawing the request: "It is what it is!" I said.)

    Looking back, now, at Andrew Joron's essay (which I do think is very smart and elegantly written, by the way), I think I was reacting to a subtly implied attitude I sensed therein, one that's strongly entrenched, for sure, among "language-workers, poets and writers, who are not carried along by the mainstream," as Joron has it. And that attitude is, broadly speaking, that the kind of "language work" talented poets like Joron and his fellows do is deeper or truer, or closer to the complexity of the Real than the writing of those poets in the "mainstream"--poets, as Joron has it, who have descended from those who whilom told "stories of gods and kings," to now tell stories (with similar and outmoded notions of "transparency," it seems) about "individual and social identity." The more *advanced* poets today, that is, are the ones who understand poetic texts as phase spaces of complex and indeterminate semiotic emergence, or something along those lines, for they are closer to recent developments in science and theory and to what these reveal about the operations of phenomena. Such as water...

    I have no qualms at all with Joron's proposals concerning the analogies between the non-linear properties of "water"--or of whatever matter--and the indeterminate emergences of "poetry." And I think superb, even mysterious, creations can be inspired by such allegorical equations (though I realize Joron regards his analogy as more than metaphorical). But I get skeptical when scales of value get superimposed upon such tropes; or, the same, I get a bit bothered when such tropes are employed as (to draw from his essay) "transport mediums for carrying meanings" of aesthetic/epistemological worth and progress.

    Joron or Caples can correct me if I'm improperly reading assumptions into their poetic science, but I am not convinced, for example, that great examples of relatively plainspoken and "transparent" poetry from the old Greeks, Romans, Chinese, or the Renaissance, much of it quite about gods and kings and individual and social identity, is any less involved in non-linear, fractal, or phase transition dynamics than the avant, "neo-language" poetry that is all the academic rage today. (Come to think of it, and to interject this somewhat awkwardly-- to those classical examples one might add the emphatically limpid and widely read "Anti-Poetry" written in recent decades by many poets of Latin America and elsewhere, under the influence of Nicanor Parra, himself a theoretical physicist...)

    In fact, thinking of Parra now makes me think again of James Gleick, because Parra, even at 96 or 97, still drives an orange VW Beetle. (I'm not making that up--you can read about it here: ) What I mean is this makes me recall a quirky but instructive thought experiment that Gleick offers in his famous book and which seems relevant in regards to the paragraph above... Gleick asks us to imagine someone looking at an orange VW Beetle from such a height it is merely a dot, but now, as the person moves down, its odd, yet familiar and comforting form is discerned, and whose outline brings into emergence any number of affective associations in the viewer, who, moving ever closer, can't now really see the whole car, only its field of color, because she is now pressed up against the motor hatch, and who (the viewer) now moves, somehow, into the "car," ever deeper down to the smaller constituent materials of its carness, into the chaotic operations of its molecules and atoms, even, and so on. And then the viewer comes back out, and sees the Beetle, and keeps moving up, until it's just a dot again.

    Well, Gleick puts this much better, of course. But his point is that there is no more "truth" or "meaning" to the molecular, fractal stuff deeper down than there is to the "car" that flows out of and emerges from them into our cognition and conceptualization; likewise, there is no more truth or meaning to the macro-form we recognize as a car, with all its associated functions and utilities than there is to the deeper-down micro-operations that also very much flow out of and emerge from our conceptualizations at dimensions of carness.

    Which is only to suggest, if at the risk of sounding like this is all about myself, that it's great to know how to send a car through an accelerator and then show what bizarre stuff happens to all its particles, but it's also OK, as with Parra in the link above, to know how to expertly drive a car twenty miles along the winding coastal roads of Chile, trying to track down a couple of lost poets from the U.S. Neither practice is superior, necessarily, to the other.

    The same idea, generally, with water. Sometimes it's all over the place, pouring and splashing, collecting, here and there, in lovely self-organizing pools and streams. And then sometimes it's just sitting there in a glass, or something, and for no reason at all, plainspoken-like. And someone falls asleep beside it, and the water just kind of keeps sitting there, all full of light and death and mainstream stuff like that. No one knows what the hell water is, when you really think about it. Much less how poetry works or where it's going...

    And now that I think about it, I guess that's actually why I offered that "little Basho number," lame as Garrett (who's a really good poet!) thought it was.


  5. October 20, 2008
     david lau


    come on now. it's patronizing at the

    very least to say so and so is a good

    poet; does that mean he doesn't make

    sense in prose but writes poetry well?

    I think you are making an argument

    that's indistinct. You're resorting to

    this sort of classicist talk of forms,

    which is what you also seem to criticize

    folks for fairly often. It's plainly

    transhistorical the way you invoke the

    Greeks, Parra, Chinese poetry, etc.

    These "examples" ("the sun is an

    example") support rather than negate

    the spirit of Andrew's argument; as

    such they are nonlinear superadditions

    to reality, and do very much point to

    emergent dynamics at work in the

    history of art as such. But modernism

    represented a fundamental break in the

    history of art-- Adorno's Aesthetic

    Theory may be the description of the

    category problems that ensued and


    Now it seems to me a false problem to

    say that poets should just say, hey

    write whatevs way you want (boring,

    prosaic, scenic poems), it's all there in

    "history" to warm the "beautiful soul" of

    any sort of poet; we can do what we do

    and they do what they do, the

    mainstream poets. This is just one

    version of market ideology; and you

    are making the lang-po claim about art

    and social relations here. Incidentally,

    Andrew is a non-polemical/sympathetic

    critic of the disproportionate influence

    of language writing and a certain

    version of the New York school on the

    contemporary post-avant terrain.

    Andrew's point seems a distinct one,

    related to the ontological condition of

    art, its transitoriness, etc. If you want

    the Real, you have to pay for it with a

    dynamic attempt to tackle it--art since

    modernism has been vexed by this

    task, which is not a transhistorical one.

    Art itself will probably die in this battle.

  6. October 21, 2008
     Kent Johnson

    David Yau wrote:

    "But modernism represented a fundamental break in the history of art-- Adorno's Aesthetic

    Theory may be the description of the category problems that ensued and

    continue... Now it seems to me a false problem to say that poets should just say, hey

    write whatevs way you want (boring, prosaic, scenic poems), it's all there in "history" to warm the "beautiful soul" of any sort of poet; we can do what we do and they do what they do, the mainstream poets."


    Really, I didn't at all mean to be patronizing in offering a nod to Caples's poetry. I'm sorry if it came off that way.

    And apologies if I'm misreading your point on Adorno, but does modernism really represent what you say above? Was it really, all in all, such a "fundamental break in the history of art"? I don't know... Not to reduce a complex problem to cute allegory, but last time I went to the Art Institute, there was a drinking fountain right outside the Dada and Surrealism room, and the water bubbled out just like it did from the one outside the 16th century Flemish collection! I mean, in our "radical" poetries today (though it's not the hottest topic at Orono), can one any longer deny that Adornean claims of modernist resistance and opposition are increasingly symbiotic with poetic careerism and institutional accommodation?

    I'm bemused by your suggestion that my point makes "the langpo claim about art and social relations." To the contrary, I'd argue it's the idea of formal advance and superiority subtly proffered by Joron that casts the shadow, however refracted, of Language/post-avant teleological aesthetics. There it is, now, gorgeously quavering, under the Museum lights of this Pulitzer-funded exhibit of avant-garde art. I find it interesting, even poignant, that nowhere in his essay on the paradigm-shifting innovations of "non-transparent" poetries is the transparently institutional situation of the essay itself ever acknowledged. (I don't mean to pick on Joron in that regard: the essays by Sze and Swensen are equally silent on the matter.) And I'm not impugning anyone's motives, character, or honesty in saying that. But I'd propose the equivocation, as it were, marks something decidedly linear in the ideological equation.

    I wanted to say, too, that I certainly didn't mean for my comment to be taken as endorsing "boring, prosaic, scenic poems." That "whatev," as you put it... I *am* saying, though, and contrary to what I take Andrew to be suggesting, that "transparent" or "mainstream" poems, written in direct, quotidian language, *can* be, and have been, just as advanced, complex, and revolutionary as the kind of non-linear poetry so much the fashion of our day.

    In this regard, I'd mentioned Parra as one example. Let me offer another one: Alberto Caeiro, one of Pessoa's central heteronyms. It is not textual "form" or language that makes his writing revolutionary and culturally subversive in its potential; it's the wild conceptual gesture that gives rise to it (and to him!), one whose stakes extend far beyond any linguistic experiments on the page. Plain as his verse may be, his figure hints at the fractal and non-recuperable space our poetry has barely begun to explore.

    Is this in the ballpark, David, of your comment?


  7. October 21, 2008
     Henry Gould

    Andrew Joron writes :

    "It’s the same thing with language: the meaning of a sentence emerges only at the level of the interaction of the words in that sentence, and is not present in any of the words, taken by themselves, that compose the sentence."

    This is not exactly new science. It goes back at least to 19th-cent. pioneer philologist Wilhelm von Humboldt, who described how meaning inheres in sentences and phrases, not in lexical units.

    Water can mean a lot of things. For many centuries, finding water meant survival - wells, oases. It meant purification (say, baptism).

    I tend to align with Kent's suspicion of "special case" poetics, in which poets are special kinds of language-workers. Poetry is not reducible to its diction or language - especially not to a unique "poetic language". In my view, poetry is a particular mode of artistic making, and a finished poem has a unique (poetic) form, which is more than the sum of its parts - including its language part. I like what Kent is saying about the imaginative gesture which grounds the language - this is close to Aristotle's notion of the unique properties of poetic form.

    This is not to say that I don't find A. Joron's musings here very interesting - I do. I just think Kent is getting an unfair pounding.

  8. October 21, 2008
     Gary B. Fitzgerald

    “Never mind the “watercourse way” as a path of wisdom, which always seeks, following the downhill flow of water, the simplest path, arriving only at the quietude of equilibrium and death.”

    I believe you have misunderstood your Lao tzu.

  9. October 22, 2008
     edward mycue

    hey, how come nobody savaged me! what am i, chopped liver?! edward mycue

    (just joking. rime mycue with haiku.)

  10. November 2, 2008
     edward mycue

    i think i should add here some comments on how i feel abt writing when after age 71 i get stung into commenting. i value andrew joron's ideas and his life experience as a poet at least 20 years my junior. he has lived his art and what he says is grounded in his experience.

    here's a series of pieces i have posted to anny ballardini in northern italy on her website



    i look at a few posts on anny ballardini’s poetry site-- maybe not every day but often-- and am rewarded indeed. often i go back and something that i passed by in a ho-hum (mine) on a later visit comes up a shin-licker

    or a thigh-surpriser because my attention(s) drift off with my lazy and wonky mind-eyes. then these poems swing from behind my left ear or left of my solar plexus and start my pleasing into focus. it's amazing all the good writers who are out there.

    elena karina byrne is one, larissa shmailo another. nico vassilakis i knew before. ivy alvarez is new. but good things when my exhaustions lift and my mind has no age and my body is insisting on no organ recitations and my feet just friendly helpers.


    the post of lanny quarles, portland, oregon fetches attention

    never before heard of this poet who has plenty going on there full of vim vigor & joy of llfe. great site this fiealingue is--quite an anthology to dive into and get surprised

    and so is definitely a tongue fair where the tongue some days is like a flame that

    shoots up as in those little plastic statues of saint jude with the tongue of flame

    coming out of the top of his head

    abt janet mccann (& joseph duemer): examples

    just to get this off while still an insight while looking again at janet mccann's poems i thought this is REAL stuff and then thinking a lot of poems are full of real stuff but why this works SO WELL is because there is no bad writing here to interfere with the poetry and that a skilled poet is a better channel for what wells-up.

    skill can be learned. (and can also sadly become a end.) that poem of hers abt the 7 dwarves and multiple perspectives and the idea of resurrection of something/one outside the frame being impeded is called 'restructuring the poem's arguement' is really complex and presented i suppose as simply as it can be done. its a masterwork.

    i dont claim to really understand it but i feel its power it poetry. (she may have many such.) my eyes lit on that one this morning. and it's an exception for me of my aversion to writing about writing.

    suppose the narrative permits a kinesis that along with physicality of the presences of the students and the poet/teacher as well (that helps as george oppen instructed to have the readed understand who is speaking here) enlivens and lifts it into a lived more than merely a perceived reality.

    many poets w/even elevated poetics and years of study and thought can't come up with any real poetry because their wells are dry.

    with others there is an oozing from below and w/o a channel just makes a muddy mess. (but even a muddy mess is better than a polished hardpan.)

    thus the what and the how. but even if you are hamhanded and are able to write your poem however imperfectly you are much better off --AND A POET--than some really fine theorizers of poems who have no 'what' and are all abt how/SHOULD and so end up with sometimes i must admit a really attractive paper pinata varnished to a licking spit or a swollen nipple. but no poem. something else perhaps. maybe a 'treatment'. bless em: at least sometimes i feel they value the 'game' of it, and even get a good living from it.

    p.s. that piece of joseph duemer's on the autumn magazine abt rainstorm--thats so naked true not a shocker it doesnt have to be. the poetry wells-up, and as a skilled and also in his case educated writer (and i suppose it helps to teach for years as does janet mccann) he takes and doesnt misshape the angel of breath that emerges..

    not to say much isnt lost in the process.

    it's the nature of the beast, writing, how you destroy a lot to discover a little (or is it you are only --of a cosmos--left with a handful of stars. a handful is nice).

    with so many good posts on the site and the autumn magazine (you find listed under the “Poets” part) i havent made a point to look at all of it yet. but i'll get around to it. without forcing. or not. life is short and breakfast beckons.

    besides i dont 'KNOW'. but i know i dont know and as the kid said in justification "my mother never told me". and try not to be a gusher with all that gravel and dirt mixed in with the surface straw and animan dung. as much as i try to get out of the frame! so it goes.

    thanks to anny anny ballardini for helping to tack up my quilt. it seems like a quilt doesnt it? when i look at it that way. but not arranged but more discrete series maybe in a scattershot pattern.

    i never had a career. just dribbled pissing into the wind pressing on not necessarily forward becoming invented by existing and unfolding in time etched and shaped by emerging and surging even when i didnt know it: i have persisted and absorbed and attempted to understand what was and had happened without stopping being the being i am still becoming. that quote from virginia wolfes jacobs room in front of my book mindwalking poems new and selected 1937-2007 (philos press, 2008, lacey,wa,usa)

    is a saying totem.

    have you ever read the swede wilhelm ekelund? 1880-1949. agenda is the only thing in english i've seen (trans 1976 by lennart bruce & publ by cloud marauder press in berkeley, ca—lennart a poet friend long dead now)

    ekelund was the one who wrote:

    to read fast is as bad as to eat in a hurry.


    wanting to needle, hurt, annoy--that's the inspiration of the know-it-all.


    the day is like a stranger of divine origin, wishing to pay you his visit. you're fortunate, if he finds you at home.

    and, lastly (w/ref to nietsches idea that only those thoughts which have proven themselves in ones life are of value):

    the same goes for thought as for art: it is only the necessary that cannot be refuted. this is precisely referred to as: 'die ergangenen Gedanken.' and therefore only ONE disease is sickness to death for the thinker: the one that comes from having evaded necessitys love.--the systems do die, but never the inviolably effective thought.

    well, now how did i get here. must go with richard and meet marty at the chicken coop for lunch at 1pm and its now twelve oh eight noon. and im still in my skivvies.

    dan waber's float into fire in the autumn magazine gathering on fieralingue

    how lucky i am to read that poem. thank you anny for being there to post it. ed

    my mother would call me an 'itch' when i'd keep going on

    itch was not as bad as being designated a 'pill' a term she didn't use abt her kids--well at least not as PERMaNANT pills. thank you.

    'compulsions"--i guess that what itch referred to--when a kid keeps on with a thing and it begins to become annoying: the parent says 'cut that out' until the moonfaced little moron--a sibling's term for the vacant creature-- tilts its surprised face up into the mother's consciousness and surprised, perhaps into awareness, stops.

    so i'm stopping the itching or working the itch. soon.

    just let me send these that you may just, or not, just squirrel.

    maybe for another day when the mind's like liquid paper setting into a new project of a topic.

    because you se it's the gift that lewis hyde wrote about that wants to stream.

    edward mycue


    Edward Mycue TALKING TO ANNY from Oct. 16-19, 2008 email about where Anny Ballardini the editor/publisher includes

    poets and their poetry under the designation “Poets” and a seasonal magazine

    under the designation (within that list of “poets”) ‘Autumn’

    Edward Mycue is a listed at website in London, England

    with a personal email [email protected] in San Francisco, California

    Anny Ballardini’s email is [email protected] in Bolzano, Italy

    To read an in depth discussion by Jack Foley, KPFA-FM, Berkeley, California

    of a single volume of my poems, Because We Speak The Same Language,

    go to

    Edward Mycue, P.O. Box 640543, San Francisco, CA 94164-543

    (415) 922-0395