Robert Gibbons: four poems newly sighted
An Act of Bricolage
Wake up to the train, again, running right through town at 6:30 holding up a whole line of 7:00 workers. Just flashed on how Seattle woke to the sun curving round the mountain as I watched the homeless up before workers in the stained-glass dawn. In the dream the woman in my arms remained elusive. I remember hunkering down last night feeling good about myself, but by morning had the task of reassembling all of that. An act of bricolage: place this stone here, try abandoning that pattern, bookmark the page where Freedom calls for novelty, brush the dust off the gladioli, garner a certain selflessness in reassembling the Self.
Writing on Goya
One doesn’t simply run head-on into Goya snorting some interpretation, or other. Nor stroll through the gallery of history as Nietzsche warns against in his Untimely Meditations without suffering life from the ground up. Rather, run gauntlet. Fight against one’s Time. I’m not gazing at any specific work, but Goya’s vicious brushstrokes, fierce blacks, penetrating vortexes, barely audible grunts & barks as titles swirl, hurt brain & viscera, make black blood blue. To get to Goya is to go through Lorca through Guernica through gore of bull & sword, peasant & starvation, through that which is unimaginably worse. One doesn’t simply say rape, torture, mutilation without potential disastrous ramification, but blood is in the veins till running from gash & wound into the ground, when Death grants another pardon in order to lift pen, & crack voice open as vessel. Stark, raving, angered at injustice, typing on the keyboard till fingerprints are raw, then gone.
Snake of Time
She knows I do, I do, that is, function quite well within the realm of chaos. Contrast that with any kind of outside forced regimen, well get me the hell out of there! Which is all well & good, the way things went recently at the gathering, where everything seemed to want to implode, whereupon I took a deep breath, got up on stage & turned the whole upside-down right-side up, instinctively, jazzed, a prime pithecanthropus erectus Mingus taught to walk saying to the audience, “I’m going to try to shove the tail into the mouth of the snake of Time, & read what I planned to read last, first!” The improvisation worked; the moment became a strong bass line carrying the whole piece on the newfound round legs of the snake of Time.
The Merlin Bird
Last night’s dream: archetypal, premonitory, erotic, all at the same time, but I’ll keep that to myself. It’s validating, nonetheless, for any venture forth into the real world. A kind of confidence one is on the right track, path, way. Don’t ask me why I turned & faced the cliff rather than horizon at that exact moment today. When I did what I guessed was a young pigeon hawk slid between stone & arbor with the kind of winged lordliness any prehistoric man or woman would call a god. Almost secretively, it may well have been invisible, in fact, if one didn’t believe in mystical occurrences, it would have remained the impossible. I was alone. With the image. I looked heavenward. A kind of grace, a gratitude for what this life offers. What life offers. It’s not as easy as it sounds, I know that. You know that. If it’s merely a matter of paying attention, so be it. Pay attention. Now, I didn’t just steal that from Frank O’Hara, but it rings a bell about how poets approach things. Carefully, filled with risk, nostrils & eyeballs & gonads, first. It’s not easy. The difficulties. In love with the difficulties Yeats learned from Beardsley, Olson learned from Yeats, Robert Frank learned independently. Nothing easy in the act of art, & if there is, it won’t last. I’ve heard from friends in Lyon, Madrid, København, Oxford, Perth, Salem today. Jane Harrison wrote that any form of intense concentration is prayer. She was British. I am American. The pigeon hawk is really the Merlin bird, a falcon. While writing this, an instrumental came on the radio by Lara & Reyes titled Dulce Libertad (Sweet Freedom), which hard-won, I wish for you.
[NOTE, Robert Gibbons’ work, still not well enough known, revives & continues the genre of the prose poem from Rimbaud & Baudelaire into the present. His two recent books from Nine Point Publishing, This Time and Traveling Companion, appear in covers adorned by images from Goya and satisfy the older appraisal directed to him by Guy Davenport: “It is admirable, and astonishing. You are where Rimbaud was when he wrote the Illuminations.” Or as William Heyen cites him in A Poetics of Hiroshima: “Gibbons’ learning is capacious and humble, the light of his mind breathtaking, and the self-effacing homage he pays to the places and to the authors he has inhabited in writings ranging from the domestic to the cosmic is at once brilliant, poignant, and silent.” His latest book, Olson/Still: Crossroad – “prose pieces on the similarities & distinctions between art in paint by Clyfford Still & art in language by Charles Olson” – has also just been published by Nine Point.]