'A sound bursts out of me'

An interview with Paul Dutton

Paul Dutton, soundsinging with CCMC at 416 Festival, Toronto, 2012. Photo by Rob Allen.

Editorial note: Fellow Canadians Paul Dutton and W. Mark Sutherland ply the field of unconventional poetic practice in this interview, conducted by Sutherland in December 2009 and January 2010. Sutherland, an intermedia artist perhaps as heavily invested in language as Dutton (with whom he has collaborated artistically in the past), explores his colleague’s vast array of poetic practices, including visual poetry, sound poetry, and improvisational soundsinging. Dutton has released five books and four recordings of his solo work (recent examples include the CDs Mouth Pieces and Oralizations), but is widely recognized for his ensemble work as well, namely his participation in the Four Horsemen with bpNichol, Rafael Barreto-Rivera, and Steve McCaffery. Below this interview, you will find six poems by Paul Dutton. — Kenna O’Rourke

To me, poetry is a very broad multisensory enterprise that incorporates the purely visual and sonic aspects of language, as well as the conventionally verbal — the intelligible, unintelligible, the intellectual, the emotional, all of these things at play. — Paul Dutton

W. Mark Sutherland: bpNichol once stated, “There are no boundaries in art.” You expressed a similar sensibility in the preface to your poetry book Right Hemisphere, Left Ear (Coach House Press, 1979), and in your lovely little visual poem “Cross-Breeding” in your poetry book Aurealities (Coach House Press, 1991). Primarily, much of your mature creative practice is a form of borderblur that pivots on two modes of perception — the eye (print, literature) and the ear (orality, music). What role did bpNichol play in the development of your creative practice?

Paul Dutton: Most importantly, he led me to see the poem as something beyond myself, something other than a vehicle for my own thoughts and feelings, more a means of exploration and discovery. Also, he introduced me to sound and visual poetry, both of which I was primed for, and — in the case of sound poetry — was tending in the direction of. But I knew nothing of the genres as such: never heard of Dada, nor concrete poetry — none of that. I had a pretty well-developed sonic sense. One of the first poems I ever published, “Jazz Musician,”[1] is sonically based, purposely conceived of as a poem that would not be about jazz (though it was that), but would be jazz, using language in jazz rhythms and to evoke various of the music’s effects. It was a long way off from sound poetry, but there was some exploitation of sound in the sonic dimension of the words. I was primed and ready for something like sound poetry. I’d always had an affinity for the more sonically and more musically inflected kinds of writers such as Gerard Manley Hopkins, Dylan Thomas, and E. E. Cummings. When I heard Barrie [bpNichol, who was Barrie Philip Nichol] doing sound poetry it let me go that further step — no longer worry about sense per se, certainly not worry about syntax. And it meant opening up the voice. One of the appeals of sound poetry that I was conscious of right from the start was that it was a place to bring together my musical and literary talents.

Sutherland: What about visual poetry?

Dutton: I’d been aware of the visual aspects of poetry since high school, but not in the abstract visual way. I’d encountered the shaped poems of the seventeenth century — angels’ wings, altars, and such — but I had no knowledge of what was called “concrete poetry,” nor of the visual poetry of the twentieth century. And that was something that Barrie also introduced me to.

Sutherland: The Four Horsemen (1970–1988) remain a unique aesthetic experiment, encompassing sociopolitical, personal therapeutic, collective, and communal energies. Your thoughts on the Four Horsemen’s legacy? 

Dutton: Well, before I get to that “legacy” business, I want to comment on some of the terms you’ve used. I didn’t and don’t consider the Four Horsemen “an experiment”: that term, for me, too much suggests a calculated, systematic, and controlled procedure. We all just thought it would be exciting to have four voices cutting loose on sound poetry, and we soon expanded that to include other types of performed poetic works — narrative, dramatic, comic, and the like.

Now, what I’ve just said there is something that could be called a matter of opinion, and that’s a fair enough observation. But what I’m now going to say is something that’s a matter of fact: the Four Horsemen had nothing to do with personal therapy. Certain of us were acquainted with each other through involvement in a particular therapeutic setting, but that is a fact most explicitly and emphatically independent of the fact that we were four writers with shared interests and enthusiasms. We said, “Let’s get together and do sound poetry.” We did not say, “Let’s get together and ease our psychoneuroses by doing sound poetry.”

Same goes for your term “communal.” We never lived together. Probably would’ve killed each other if we had. All of us, at varying times and in varying degrees, were involved in a community, the short-lived psychotherapeutic community Therafields, in Toronto — now that was an experiment. But again, our involvement in the Four Horsemen was not by any means posited on that involvement, however much it may at times have been facilitated by it.

And so … looks like I’ve halved the opening context of your question, Mark. What’s left are the sociopolitical and collective energies you referred to, and they were sure there. Can’t say what you had in mind about the kind of sociopolitical energy that was afoot (or a-hoof), but the group definitely operated anarchically. And, of course, collectively.

But to get (at last) to your actual question: I don’t think it’s for me to say what the legacy of The Four Horsemen is. That’s for others to say. But I can talk about the Four Horsemen’s impact on me. When people rave to me about the Four Horsemen, or ask me questions about it, I can’t really say very much: I never saw the Four Horsemen. I was inside it, and for me it was a process of opening up horizons, sonic possibilities. The Four Horsemen served all four of us as a kind of perambulatory workshop, because all the time we were touring, and otherwise getting together, woodshedding (Barrie’s term for it), building repertoire and touring with it, we were at the same time reading each other our poetry, discussing poetics and workshopping our poetry among ourselves. So there was that dimension of it in terms of the writerly thing, but we were also learning from each other about different sonic effects, different techniques of nonverbal sound and of sound poetry.

There was also the collaborative way of working together in process that has benefitted me considerably. One of the ways we built repertoire was by improvising: we’d do free-improvisational vocal work, and then structure things from that. A lot of the pieces would begin with vocal improv. And vocal improv is something we got back to in a major way, after years of performing scored, scripted, and staged pieces (though always with improvisatory elements, it should be noted). The last five or six years of the Four Horsemen, we abandoned repertoire entirely. Collectively, we lost interest in doing repertoire work, and certainly in creating repertoire work. I’ve still got the remnants of the last piece of structured repertoire that we had begun working on. We had gone some distance with it, but every time a rehearsal was called to work on it something would happen. I remember one time where we decided to take a break and we never really reassembled after the break. Rafael needed a haircut or something. It turned out he was upstairs (he and I had apartments in the same building; the rehearsal was being held in my place) watching a baseball game. Steve went off to do an errand. We eventually reconvened, but that was it for any work that day. In fact, I think that was the last time we ever bothered to call a rehearsal.

A good example of performance from 1982 to the conclusion of the group can be heard on the cassette that we released called 2 Nights, when we did two nights in a program at a jazz series at the Music Gallery in Toronto. How we functioned that night, and how we were functioning through those years, was basically as a four-voice improvisational group. We would use text, but it would almost always be drawn from our own personal writing practices, and would be introduced spontaneously into the proceedings, used interstitially, or foregrounded in various ways. That period of mainly sound improv is a part of the Four Horsemen’s work that doesn’t get much — or any — attention. I never hear anyone else talking about it. All the attention is focused on the repertoire work.

But I think it’s great that people continue to appreciate what we were doing. Ross Manson, the dramaturge behind The Four Horsemen Project, a cross-arts theatre piece that reinterpreted several of the Horsemen’s collective and individual works, and that won four Doras [Toronto theatre awards], then toured Canada and Europe … when Ross and his arts partner Kate Alton, who was the choreographer of the project, when they first heard the Four Horsemen in the late 1990s on a CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] broadcast, they’d missed the intro and they came in in the middle of the piece and they were knocked out. They thought it was a contemporary group. It rocked their socks. They were surprised to learn that it was a recording from the ’70s and that, furthermore, it was a Canadian group. When they raised that production and premiered it in 2006, it was a hit. It was a hit everywhere it played. People were thrilled by it.

Sutherland: You invented the compound word “soundsinging” to describe the hybridization of your oral soundwork. When did you first apply this term to your oral soundwork, and how has your soundsinging evolved over the years from sound poetry to free improvisation?

Dutton: I started using the term sometime in the mid- to late ’90s, after a conversation I had with Mike Hansen, a Toronto visual artist, free improviser, and sometime broadcaster. In the course of the conversation I mentioned something about Lauren Newton, and he said, “Oh yeah. She sings sounds too.” And it was thereafter that I came up with the term “soundsinging” and started using it.

One of the reasons I went with that term was because I had been working for so long in both a musical and literary context, but then became more active in a very specifically musical context. There was a time when I was using the term “free voice singing,” and that was in the early ’90s. In fact I did a whole essay called Beyond Doo Wop, or How I Came to Realize that Hank Williams is Avant-Garde, throughout which I used the term “free voice singing” to refer to the musical, improvisational, nonverbal orality that I practiced. But I stopped using that term when I came up with “soundsinging.” Another term I use is “oral sound art,” which I also apply to similar work by people like Phil Minton, Jaap Blonk, Demetrios Stratos, and a number of others, many of whom have come at it from a musical matrix.

I used “free voice singing” before I really claimed ownership of my own musical-matrix background. It was around the time I came to realize that I’d always been a singer. As a kid, I was at a special school for six years where music was part of the curriculum, singing in public from the age of eight or nine; and during my twenties I worked professionally part-time as a cantor in the Catholic Church for a number of years. I was earning part of my living that way. I was a musician. I was a singer. I’ve always been a singer. All the time I was aspiring to be a writer, I was already a singer and didn’t realize it. I never called myself a musician, never introduced myself as a singer, nor claimed to be a singer. It was wallpaper in my life. I didn’t even realize it was there. Actually, before the Four Horsemen formed I spent a few years, not many, singing traditional British folk music in coffee houses around Toronto. When the Four Horsemen formed, I stopped doing that. All of that energy went into work with the Four Horsemen. I didn’t even think about it. It just happened. But there’s a relationship, at least a tangential one, between the two. There is a nonverbal element in a lot of the traditional British and Scottish folk music, and some had nonsense lyrics or nonverbal lyrics. One piece I used to do was a traditional mouth-music piece — verbal jig music.

So I’d always been a singer, but sound poetry helped me bring that together with my literary aspirations; there was a fusion. A critical step was after a performance of the Horsemen in the ’80s, one of the audience members remarked to me that he could hear two sounds at once coming from me. That was a turning point for me in terms of listening, as well as sounding. I started noticing more of all of that and got fascinated by multiphonics, really focusing on it. I started concentrating consciously on achieving biphonality and mutiphonic effects. So there were steps and stages in the whole thing, a kind of an evolution, and I was using the same techniques both in sound poetry and in free improvisational singing.

The way things developed from the late ’70s on was that I’d become more and more interested in playing with instrumentalists, and also working in an improvisational mode, playing with people like Bill Smith, David Lee, Curtis Driedger, and others. As well, the Horsemen played a few times with CCMC [a Toronto free-improvisation band begun in the mid-’70s, based at the Music Gallery]. Then in the late ’80s, at bp’s instigation, he and I started sitting in regularly with CCMC. The other Horsemen had by then lost any interest in regularly exploring orality or sonic expression. But it continued to be one of my principal focuses, and Barrie was interested in, as he put it, “keeping up his chops.” So he approached CCMC and arranged for the two of us to sit in on their regular sessions at the Music Gallery. As it turned out, he was not available for that many sessions; I was there every second week on a pattern that was established. About a year after that started, Barrie died. I continued on with the group and then became a member. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Sutherland: Your creative practice is nonprogrammatic, alternating between the automatic and the structural. Your aesthetic approach involves formal compositions and improvisation as well as all points in between these given polarities. I believe that your CD Mouth Pieces (OHM Éditions, 2000) contains three excellent examples of your compositional methodologies: “Little Sound 1: A Sonnet,” written composition; “Vive le,” a fusion of written composition and improvisation; and “Nod to Bob,” an improvisation. What were your methods in each of those?

Dutton: “Little Sound 1: A Sonnet” follows the form of a sonnet — fourteen lines. It’s a sonnet in iambic tetrameter, instead of iambic pentameter. My method in any mode, whether it’s compositional, semi-improvisatory, or totally improvisatory, is usually intuitive rather than conceptual. But there was a concept here, which was to create a totally sonic, nonverbal sonnet; it was conceptual to that degree. Why I settled on tetrameter rather than pentameter: it just felt right — “b’dya b’dya b’dya b’dya”; there didn’t seem any point in adding more “b’dya’s” there. It’s kind of overdone then. In conversation I tend to run off at the mouth too much (you might notice here), but when I’m composing I got enough time to sit down and limit myself. By the way, it’s called “Little Sound 1: A Sonnet” because I intended to do a sequence of sound sonnets; that’s why the “1” is in there. But after I did one, there didn’t seem to be any reason to keep doing any more. I’ve tried a few times, and there is no point, it’s all there in the first poem. In my creative work I tend not to repeat myself, I don’t repeat forms much. There are a lot of writers that get their formula down and then just pour content through it, but that’s never appealed to me. Essentially, I find it boring. That’s one of the reasons I like Beckett so much: it’s always changing. I should mention that the last couplet of “Little Sound 1: A Sonnet” summarizes all the sounds of the foregoing lines. It adheres very faithfully to the sonnet form, in that.

It’s not the only adventure in sonnet form that I undertook. There is the “so’net” sequence. That title is intended to do two things: first of all, by only once using each of the letters of the word sonnet, to present the five letters that will be used exclusively in the sequence; also, by leaving out one of the n’s and putting in the apostrophe, to seduce the Anglophonic tongue into approximating the French pronunciation of son, French for sound: so, so’net — a net for sound, an intentional cross-lingual pun that’s there in the title. I don’t know how many people get that, and I must admit I’ve considered more than once that I’m too subtle for my own good. I try to avoid literality, but then what I’m doing goes over the average person’s head — or maybe any person’s head. But then, so much poetry is a private joke anyway. I think the Cantos are a long sequence of obscure personal references — not just that, obviously, but definitely that, among other things. In the “so’net” sequence, there are eight poems, each constrained by using only the letters of the word sonnet. The first seven are basically Shakespearean, and pretty much iambic tetrameter. The eighth is an anomaly and not really a sonnet, except for having fourteen lines, arranged on the Petrarchan model; and it’s not metric at all, but lettristic.

I have to correct you about “Vive le.” It is thoroughly composed, not improvised. I might not always repeat the exact number of phonemes as in the text (or score), but that’s the only thing about it that’s in any way improvisational. It is a fusion, all right, but a notated and repeatable one, of verbal and nonverbal material, of linguistic sense and pure phonetic abstraction. A better example of my fusing the written and the improvisational would be “Jazzstory,” which is likewise on Mouth Pieces. But because you’ve asked about “Vive le,” I’ll talk about it more before commenting on “Jazzstory.”

“Vive le,” which is dedicated to Henri Chopin, plays with the phonemes and letters of Henri’s first name and surname, also playing with the concept of nothingness, which is conveniently embedded there in his name: Hen-ri, with its silent h, reversing nicely, with a bit of a shift in pronunciation, into rien, French for nothing. The compositional method is to use the phonemes of Henri’s name, playing with humor. Henri was always known for his puckish sense of humor, and I think that’s reflected in the poem, which has en-ri morphing into on rit, someone’s laughing; and ri-en — again, the syllables of his name reversed — into rions, let’s laugh. It’s very much a linguistic poem, in addition to all the sound elements in it. It’s a hybrid of punning and using the sounds abstractly, a device that suggested itself to me as I moved through the composition of the poem. There is a very subtle thing — again, too subtle for my own good — a private joke in there nobody would ever catch. In the middle section, when I do “o ee o ee,” and then a couple of lines later, I make an “ee o ee o” sound, it’s a very purposeful and representational parody of a donkey’s bray. That is an allusion to Molière’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, where a pretender to nobility, a rich guy, nouveau riche, with his pretensions to cultivated practices, hires a speech therapist to teach him elocution so he can do it right; and the guy is working on his vowels in the play, going around sounding like a donkey. Purposeful ridicule. Not that I’m ridiculing Chopin; just having fun with the vowels in his name. Anyway, I don’t think anybody’d ever catch that Molière allusion in my poem. There should be a superscript and footnote for anyone reading the poem. These vowel sounds logically led to an approximation of the word ennui. “Vive le” just came up intuitively by letting the concepts work. The ending of the poem always amused me. For anyone who knew Henri, and especially him speaking English, “Oh ye-se” — yes, with a little concluding vowel sound — was something that he said frequently. So the poem ends with “oooooooooooohhhh ye-se,” and every audience, without exception, breaks up on that, it always ends with people laughing. I want to say, “Did you know Henri? Why did you find that so funny?” Because the only funny thing about it to me is that it’s so quintessentially Henri-ish.

Okay, so Jazzstory” [see below for text] — a fusion of composition and improvisation; also, another poem with a dedication, this time to Toronto guitarist Tim Posgate, who commissioned me to write a poem to be linked with his quartet Jazzstory. I accordingly cited the band’s instrumentation in the first line of the poem, along with what I considered appropriate verbs (“bass line drums support trumpet speaks guitar”) creating a kind of verbal “chord,” and then, in a linguistic move analogous to a jazz player’s changing the order of notes in a chord, shuffled the order of the instruments’ names in three succeeding lines, linking those lines with the verb is. That served as a kind of chorus, followed by a number of verses, the entire poem consisting of words spelt exclusively with the letters of the poem’s first line. Then the chorus comes in at the end, but this time in mirror mode, with the words of each line reversed. So, all of that makes up the compositional part, and very compositional it is: the establishment of the first lines’ letters as the only ones used in the poem is the literary equivalent of a musical composer’s selection of a tone row as the series of notes on which to base a composition. The improvisational component occurs only in the performance of the poem, which has two improvisational breaks. The first is at the end of the first chorus, and begins with the final letter of that chorus, s. I then take off on a free improvisation — well, perhaps more accurately, a constrained improvisation, because it’s made up exclusively of the letters and phonemes that constitute the poem (harkening back to that tone-row element of serial composition). That’s the constraint. The free part is the improvised organization of those components within the break, which ends on the first letter of the poem’s first verse — s, as it chances, the letter the break started on. The second improvisational break occurs after the recitation of the verses, and begins with the last letter of those verses, p. This break progresses through a differently developed improvisation on the constituent letters and phonemes of the poem’s first line, ending on the first letter of the “mirror chorus,” which is g in the word guitar.

“Nod to Bob,” dedicated to Bob Cobbing, was a studio improvisation. I was in Quebec to make a record at Avatar Studios. Part of the process of that record was just cutting loose in the studio. I was cutting loose one day, and in the midst of it I found myself doing this soma haoma thing, which was the term in the ancient language Avestan for the magic mushroom. Bob had picked it up from somewhere and he chanted on that phrase as long as I knew him. I heard it on recordings before I met him. I was fascinated with that phrase. He used it a lot in his chants. When it came up in the course of this improvisation, it led to a whole development that just seemed to work. I’ve since done with that improvisation something I’ve done with no other, and that is to try to score it. I’ve made a few stabs at it, but none are really satisfactory. I have attempted to perform it since, with varying degrees of success, but it’s an improvisation, and the thing about improvisation is that it’s a one-time-only thing; you can’t repeat it. I’ve been able to get a bit of the flavor here and there, enough for my own satisfaction somewhat, and enough to impress audiences, but nothing, I think, as effective as the original.

If you’ll indulge me in a bit of a digressional reminiscence that’s associated with that poem … at a performance at Polyphonix in Paris, 2002, I concluded the performance with “Nod to Bob.” When I got to the lobby after the performance I was greeted by Martin Bakero and Andrés Anwandter, two young Chilean poets I knew through Bob’s Writers Forum Workshop in London, and they told me that Bob had just died a few days previously. I’d been on the road and hadn’t heard. I think if I’d known of his death before I performed … well, I think I’d just have to have changed my program, ’cause I don’t think I’d’ve been able to make it through the piece without breaking down. He’d been ailing, and was clearly not long for this world, but still, it came as a real blow, a shock, nonetheless.

Sutherland: What of your personal relationships with Henri and Bob?

Dutton: I met them both for the first time in 1978 when Sean O’Huigin and Steve McCaffery organized the eleventh International Sound Poetry Festival in Toronto. I didn’t have much to do with Bob at that time. One thing I remember about him was that one day when the festival was on there was an election, so of course, as is (or anyway, was then) the law here on election days, the bars were closed until after the polls closed. Can’t have anybody voting when they are drunk; they might do something right. So the liquor stores and the bars were all shut down, and I remember Bob and Bill Griffiths in particular were grossly offended. Bob was an alcoholic all his life, and in those days he was pretty juiced. For both those guys, Bob and Bill, it was almost a source of daily nutrition. They were so pissed off. They were outraged the bars were closed, and it was like they took it personally.

The funding resources for the festival were such that the only other performances that Sean and Steve were able to put together was a program through the League of Canadian Poets called Poets in the Schools (which, incidentally, is still in place today). It provided funds for poets to perform in high schools in the province of Ontario, so tours were set up involving both a Canadian poet and a European visitor. I was paired with Henri for a little tour of southwestern Ontario high schools. I got us lost on our first part of the trip, and Henri took over the navigation after that. For four or five days we traveled around together and we had a great time. We got to know each other, like each other. Henri very much respected what I was doing, though it was different from what he did. I’m very proud to say I still have a score I wrote for us then, and our performance of it was recorded, and I tried to get a copy from the paranoid little high-school kid who recorded it. It was an acoustic duet with Henri, and I did not realize at the time how remarkable this was. Henri, I later came to realize, did not perform with anything but his tapes. He strictly did his poèsie sonore tape-recorded poems, adding to them in performance some vocal effects. He did not perform without a microphone. But I convinced him to do an acoustic duet. He thought it was kind of silly, but he did it. I’d give my eyeteeth — well, my remaining eyetooth — to have that tape. It’s gone. I asked the kid at the time for a copy of it, I got his address and I wrote to him afterwards to send me a dub of it. But …

So that’s where our friendship bonded. Then we encountered each other when I performed in England in 1984. Henri came down from Essex with his wife Jean to hear me when I did a performance at the Canadian embassy. I visited him in Essex, and after Jean died, anytime I was in Europe, and he was in Paris, I would visit him there. The friendship just went on through the years.

I got to know Bob in 1984 at the twelfth International Sound Poetry Festival, to which Barrie had been invited, and when he couldn’t make it because of a scheduling conflict, he suggested to the Department of External Affairs, to which Bob had applied for funding, that they invite me, which they did, and which Bob agreed to. That’s when I really got to know Bob, and he was very impressed with my performance. Subsequently, he published some things of mine, and I returned to England several times for performances and launches that Bob set up.

I was very good friends with both Henri and Bob. And they, as it happened (and I eventually came to learn) famously hated each other. There is a very funny little anecdote I wrote about in a verbal portrait of Bob for an issue of Open Letter shortly after he died. There is this one point when we were sitting in his kitchen, and at that time Bob was into researching his family tree. In the middle of doing all his literary publishing and performing and making visual poetry, he was doing a little family newsletter that was going out to all these Cobbings. In the course of his research he found that the English name Cobbing and the Polish name Chopin were distant branches of the same family. Bob said something along the lines of, “So it seems that Chopin and I are related. Distant brothers or something. Probably why we hate each other so much.” Later, I was surprised to find amongst the shelves and shelves of books with varying accumulations of geological dust at Bob’s place a Chopin book. It had visual poetry and maybe a record in it. I said to Bob, “I found this on the shelf. I’m astounded that you have a Chopin book.” And Bob said, “That’s a good book, quite a decent little book. I told you: when I have money I buy books, and when I don’t have money, I sell them.”

Sutherland: Like your oral soundwork, your visual poetry exhibits both automatic and structuralist tendencies. The Plastic Typewriter (Underwhich Editions/Writers Forum, 1993) is a conceptual and improvisational masterpiece — a winning combination of form and process. On the other hand, “Narcissus A” is a serialized pattern poem based on the graphic power of a single letter, A. Tell me a little more about these two works.

Dutton: The Plastic Typewriter began at a Flamenco evening. Back in the ’70s there was a place in Toronto on Bloor Street between Bathurst and Spadina that had Flamenco floorshows. I’d been to see a couple of them and I was really taken with Flamenco. I wanted to capture Flamenco rhythms in type, and the only type I had at my disposal was on my typewriter, but the rigid constraints of the typewriter were a problem. I’d already done a sequence called “Mondriaan Boogie Woogie 1–6,” where I’d been able to achieve a plasticity with punctuation marks, a free-form kind of impression created by moving a small piece of paper around on the typewriter while the roller and carriage were running free so that I could move the paper around at will. But I wanted to get a kind of free-form freedom with some control, because there was very little control over the parameters with the roller: it was a lot of chance, moving a piece of paper loosely through the roller and whacking the keys to smack the type hammers on the page. I wanted something with which I could get more control. The same freedom but more control, less totally a chance operation. So I conceived of ripping the hammers out of the typewriter and using them freely on a piece of paper.

The opportunity arose in 1977 to go on a therapeutic art retreat at a farm in the countryside in Dufferin County near Orangeville with the organization called Therafields. It was a combination work and therapy retreat for artists. I decided I was going to work on this idea for capturing Flamenco rhythms on paper with typewriter elements and that was the genesis of The Plastic Typewriter. I found a typewriter for five dollars in a Goodwill store. I wanted to find an old typewriter that I wouldn’t feel bad about ripping apart. I didn’t want to damage my little portable Olivetti, which was my principal writing tool. So I found this little typewriter with a plastic body and all kinds of plastic parts, everything except what had to be metal, like the hammers, the roller (well, metal and rubber, that) and various working parts. And, there was the plastic typewriter. It was the perfect double entendre. I was going to create plastic art with a plastic typewriter. It was a gift. So I worked on the pieces up at the farm. There were a few that were duds, but eighteen pages made it and became the publication (finally, fourteen years later). The process, means, and methodology were developed in the course of the week at the farm.

One of the things I was doing to create the poems was hitting a typewriter carbon ribbon with the type hammers I’d ripped out of the machine. This was done on a piece of normal bond paper. Consequently, The Plastic Typewriter originals are all yellowed, and within 100 or more years they’ll disappear entirely, they’ll just be dust. What will last is the carbon — if anything lasts, ever. So it started with the carbon ribbons, which I was hitting with the hammers and creating an impression on the white-bond page. It didn’t occur to me to get acid-free paper.

So, I’m hitting the ribbon with the hammers, and something becomes immediately clear: why am I not seeing the whole letter here? And it took a minute to realize that the hammer that I was hitting had a letter on it, but that letter was normally striking a curved surface, the typewriter roller — and in striking a curved surface it created a letter that looked like it was a flat imprint, so the letter on the hammer was curved. What I was getting was the top and the bottom of it, right? I realized that I needed to get more weight on the hammer to get the type character to make the full impression of an A there. I was using the hammers M, A, L, G, to create the word Malaga, which is the name of the province where Flamenco originated in Spain — or so I had read. I tried hitting with more force, but to no avail. So I thought, How am I going to get enough pressure to get the full letter? And then it occurred to me that I should hit the type hammer with something heavier. And I was on a farm and there were tools around, so I managed to acquire a metal file and I used that to hit the hammers.

On one of the pieces, I was whacking away with the file and it slipped. Now on this piece I was not using the carbon ribbon, I was using carbon paper, since I didn’t want to have a whole bunch of pieces that were just straight lines, which is what I would get with just the carbon ribbon. So I was using carbon paper and striking onto the carbon paper, having a larger field for the image. When the file slipped, I didn’t know what was behind there because I’m looking at the back of the carbon paper which is opaque, with the final image going on to a piece of bond which I can’t see. And after the file slipped I thought, Oh shit! That’s going to show through. Then I thought, Let’s just see what happens if we use that. Then I started just smacking the file directly on the carbon paper, and that turned out very nicely. That image wound up on the cover of my 1991 book Aurealities.

Then various things fell into place as I went along. There are some lines I made by using my fingernail, running my nail along a piece of carbon paper or carbon ribbon. I crinkled up carbon paper, shook the carbon dust over a piece of white bond, then ran the white bond through the roller, typing on it. All kinds of different things.

For “Narcissus A” I had access to a laser printer in the Musicworks office (Musicworks magazine has been a longtime freelance copyediting client of mine), so I ran off a giant A and then ran it off-center to create an overprint jogged over to the side. That pretty much exhausted my limited knowledge of things; I couldn’t think of anything else to do with the laser printer. So I started cutting up the images and waxing and pasting them. Part of my work in the publishing field had been writing and producing catalogues for McClelland and Stewart. I worked in publishing in various capacities for fifteen years or so, mostly during the days when printing plates were made from what were called “mechanicals” — type printed on paper that was then waxed on its back and stuck down on boards, the wax being melted onto the paper, where it cooled into a tacky, impermanent adhesive that allowed easily for any lifting and repositioning that might be desired, and then the whole thing shot on film, from which printing plates were made. So, pre-digital, pre-computer. Now, when I started work on Narcissus A, it chanced that living directly across the street from me was the guy who’d been head of the art department at a publishing company we worked together at twenty years before. We’d bumped into each other around the neighborhood. So one day I went over and said, “Tom, you wouldn’t happen to have a waxer hanging around would you?” There were two kinds of waxers, a tabletop flat-bed waxer and a handheld one, and Tom had this little handheld one, which was ideal for my purposes. So I used that, cut things up, and I waxed and pasted, and that’s “Narcissus A.” Why the title? Because there were mirror images of the letter A used. So it’s A reflecting on itself. It consists of nothing but components of the type-character letter A.

Sutherland: As a novelist and poet, your debt to Gertrude Stein is obvious in your texts “Change: No Change,” “Thinking,” or some of the poems in your work in progress The Book of Uncertain Values. However, I believe that Gerard Manley Hopkins’s concept of “sprung rhythm” (the play of stressed and unstressed syllables resulting in compressed metrics) is another important source for much of your text-based art-making. The musical qualities of written language are always prevalent in your poetry, and I marvel at your ability to integrate the ear and the eye in poems such as “Kit Talk,” “Smile,” and “T’ Her,” the latter two in the “Jazz” section of Aurealities. During the process of writing these verbal texts do you use diacritics as a guide, or do you voice the work out loud and/or simply intuit the rhythm of the words in your head?

Dutton: I intuit. I don’t use diacritics (well, once, and long after the fact, after the intuitive creation; that was “Little Sound 1: A Sonnet,” discussed earlier). I voice the work out loud, and I intuit the rhythm of the words. Certainly I’ve been influenced by Gerard Manley Hopkins. He was an early, powerful and continuing influence on my writing, but I never understood the “sprung rhythm” thing. I don’t have an analytical mind for all that metric stuff. I suppose if I really wanted to I could work on it and figure it out, but I find the effort is never rewarded by anything tangible. At the same time, however, I don’t consider myself to be an idiot savant in this matter. When you are working on a poem, you don’t say, “Aha! I’ll produce some metonymy here. I think metonymy would work well at this point. Wait, no — better use some synecdoche, it’s been a while since I’ve used any synecdoche. Oh, hold on a minute. These are trochaic. No, I want some spondees happening here.” Has anybody ever written that way?

In sports, it’s a compliment to tell somebody that they were unconscious. When somebody screws up in a sport and they say, “Well, I was thinking …,” the response is, “Don’t think!” In other words, analysis can be beneficial in some ways, but if you are doing something and analyzing it at the same time … well, my brain — anyone’s brain, I think — can’t work that way! I defy anybody to convince me that athletes, when they are working their magic — whether it’s Pelé, Gretzky, or Bo Jackson — are thinking about what they are doing. Obviously they are aware of a strategy, but the mechanics of things, no. That’s what drilling is about: a thing’s so hard-wired into the person that they don’t have to think about it, and in fact don’t have time to think about it, it has to happen so fast. And the old expression, “He’s forgotten more than you’ll ever know about” such and such, means that it’s so embedded in him that he doesn’t think about it. He doesn’t have to actively remember these things, because they are just burned into the neurological paths.

Sutherland: Visionary Portraits (Mercury Press, 1991) was your last published book of traditional lyric poetry. Recently, however, you’ve been performing at literary readings a new series of improvisational poems entitled Antilyrics. Do you still write what is commonly referred to as lyric poetry, or do Antilyrics embody the more immediate aesthetic interest of Paul Dutton in the early twenty-first century?

Dutton: Visionary Portraits is less traditional lyric poetry than it is serial poetry. It’s a sequence, or related series, of poems. Some of it is lyric, some of it is not. The first two poems are very specific, personal, lyrical, familial kinds of things. But the rest of it takes a very different direction, with some lyric elements in it. One of them is very intentionally impersonal lyric, if it’s lyric at all. So, there is my quibbling over the terminology. In answer to your question, I still write verbal poetry.

Sutherland: Verbal poetry?

Dutton: Yes. Poems consisting of words, as opposed to ones consisting of abstract sounds. But then lots of abstract poems, sound and visual, are also verbal, so in fact, syntactical poetry is probably a better term here, and is my more usual term for what you’re calling traditional lyric poetry, because lyric is a bit of a problematic term for me in this regard. Lyric poetry implies a kind of a personal aspect to it. You wouldn’t call Gertrude Stein’s writing lyrical, for instance. There is a depersonalized aspect to it. Lyric poetry conjures up for me a poetry that has I at the center, has the me of the poet at the center. It’s personal, it deals with personal emotions, personal perceptions — not that anything we do doesn’t. You don’t have to be using the first-person plural for it to deal with your perceptions, obviously. But would you call “Kit Talk” lyric poetry?

Sutherland: No.

Dutton: Would you call “Boots On” lyric poetry? There is a lyric element to it. The “he” that I’m writing about could be, or maybe not be, a specific individual. I could be writing about myself in the third person. You could bring any number of perspectives to it and it could be perceived as a lyric expression. But I don’t think of it as a lyric poem. Anyway, neither lyric poetry nor the Antilyrics determine my aesthetic interests. My aesthetic interests are disparate.

The Antilyrics are total improvisations, and I call them Antilyrics because their basic underpinning is a conscious use of the lyric form, but their content, which is exclusively nonverbal, is completely antithetical to lyric poetry — except possibly insofar as there may be any personal emotional content in them, however much I intend to avoid that. The idea of the Antilyrics is that I’m using the sort of architecture of the typical short lyric poem, but I’m using it without words.

I have another series of soundworks that I call Imp’s Roves. The basis of the Imp’s Roves series is that before I open my mouth to do one, I attempt to empty my mind of all thought. I don’t know if this is mentally, psychologically, or neurologically possible, but to the degree that it’s possible to empty my mind, I try to. They all begin with an extended silence. The extended silence is me attempting to arrive at a point where I make a sound that is completely involuntary, which is perhaps not even literally possible in the circumstance, because how can one make a sound involuntarily, if one is intending to make a sound at all? There is a conundrum here that goes beyond personal aesthetic taste. There is a question here about where volition comes into effect, and at what point, if any, you can be not thinking. Whether I’ve ever achieved the goal of making a sound that I didn’t know I was going to make … well, we’re talking nanoseconds here. Anyway, I reject any idea that occurs to me as to how to begin the piece; I immediately reject it and attempt to surprise myself. At some point, a sound bursts out of me. Once the piece starts, I then give myself over to it. I’ve said this in more than one context, and plenty of times: I’m trying not to think. When I’m improvising I am very specifically trying not to think. To me, thought is the death of improvisation. If I’m performing with someone and I start making lip sounds and I hear them suddenly shift from what they’re doing and come in making lip sounds too, it throws me off completely. To me the kinds of unisons that happen in improvisation, where they occur, they occur because you just happen to be doing something at the same time as I happen to be doing it. The purpose of improvisation is to have something emerge that’s basically coming from the unconscious. What I’m talking about here are overlaps of consciousness, and overlaps of the subconscious and possibly the unconscious. When I’m improvising, generally speaking, in a collective environment or when I’m doing one of the Imp’s Roves, I am attempting to, as it were, be taken over by something. I’m attempting not to give form to a preconceived content, but to let arise an inconceivable, or at least unconceived, content and form. In other words, we’re not going to shape a simulation of motor sounds. No: we’re going to make sounds and see what they shape, see what comes out of it. If they happen to simulate motor sounds, that’s fine, but that’s not the plan. So it’s a matter of following where your psyche is leading you, instead of directing it here, there, everywhere, or anywhere. It’s surrendering to whatever formulation might arise in the course of the improvisation.

The thing about the Antilyrics, and the reason why they are antilyrics is that, just as antiheroes take the position of, but are in contrast to or diametrically opposed to, heroes, so the Antilyrics take the position of, but are diametrically opposed to, the lyric poem, which is essentially an expression of some personal emotion or consideration. The Antilyrics are nonverbal, while the lyric is typically verbal. The difference between the process of creating an Antilyric and creating an Imp’s Rove, or participating in a collective improvisation, is that with the Antilyrics I’m purposely thinking. I permit myself conscious decision-making on how I will begin a particular Antilyric, sometimes even preplanning something before I start the reading.

The Antilyrics arose partly as a means of incorporating nonverbal sound work into shorter literary readings. One of the basic principles of my artistic output, certainly in the literary sphere, is that nonverbal sound poetry, nonverbal expression, is a valid part of poetic practice. To me, poetry is a very broad multisensory enterprise that incorporates the purely visual and sonic aspects of language, as well as the conventionally verbal — the intelligible, unintelligible, the intellectual, the emotional, all of these things at play. Sound as a poetic medium independent of sense or meaning is as valid a part of literary practice as anything else. So I make a point of incorporating into my literary performances, however short they might be, at least some suggestion of the range of types of poetry that I do. I will attempt to present some formal piece, some freeform piece, and some nonverbal work. Now when I’m asked to do five minutes in a program, I have pieces of longer and shorter duration for the verbal material. I have pieces that are three seconds long and others that are a matter of ten or twelve minutes long. But most of my structured nonverbal sound works are from three to five minutes long. The Imp’s Roves are indeterminate, but average seven or eight minutes, though they could be as short as five minutes or as long as ten. So if I’m assigned five minutes at a reading, I don’t want to stand up and do a five-minute sound piece, because that’s how you get to be thought of exclusively as a sound poet. The Antilyrics were devised as a means of permitting myself a representation of the sonic aspect of my poetic output within a time-constraint framework. The Imp’s Roves go where they go and end when they end. With the Antilyrics there is more conscious control being applied. First of all, I’m consciously tailoring them to more or less the form and structure of a lyric poem: it’s not going to be very long; it’s going to have a fairly restricted range of sonic vocabulary (to speak metaphorically); It’s going to conform to the rough guidelines of a lyric poem or the lyric form in terms of brevity, limited content; and it’s going to be more focused on a specific development of a specific idea. There is going to be more conscious application, more ratiocination in the course of improvising the shape of it. It’s still an improvisation, but it’s a more thinking improvisation, there is more of the intellect in it and less of the total giving over that I strive for in a longer improvisation, which, to the degree that it’s possible, I endeavor to let shape itself. Antilyrics contain elements of the lyric composition, but they are completely nonverbal. Basically the Antilyrics are sound without sense, and that is in opposition to the lyric convention, which is committed to verbal sense. Lyrics to a song are, after all, words to a song.

Sutherland: Your impressive career, spanning forty years, includes many personal and collective triumphs: international solo performances, collaborating with R. Murray Schafer and performing in his “Princess of the Stars,” the Four Horsemen (Nichol, McCaffery, Dutton, Barreto-Rivera), CCMC (Snow, Oswald, Dutton, and, since 2012, Kamevaar), Five Men Singing (Blonk, Makigami, Dutton, Minton, Moss), etc. What inspires your intensely passionate commitment to your ongoing creative practice?

Dutton: It’s what I do. Performance is always exhilarating when I find something else that can be done with the human sounding apparatus that I hadn’t heard done before. Yes, you rely on devices that you’ve already found, or effects that you’ve already used, but there are always new ways to apply them. My improvisational work is principally dedicated to discovery. And not just my improvisatory work. What lies behind my verbal writing practice is an exploration of the potentials of language. I’m always looking to surprise myself and to find things that I hadn’t known were there or hadn’t consciously realized were there. Sound work is dedicated to bodying forth, and I choose that word very advisedly, because it’s very much of the body, bodying forth forms and content that were quite literally unthought of, certainly by me. I quite honestly believe that it is a means, very much as the Dadaists intended with their nonverbal expeditions, of dislodging material from the unconscious. So it’s a means of bodying forth forms unthought of and forms I can’t arrive at through any other process. This is an ongoing revelation for me. It’s a spiritual enterprise. It’s spiritually nourishing. It affords me personal growth in subtle ways that I don’t know if I could articulate. And that is very much the point: my creative practice is a process of uncovering unknown things, and because they are unknown they are literally ineffable.

Six poems by Paul Dutton

Jazz Musician

for James Moody

Adrenalin pusher
buying me dreams for a thought
selling me (thank you)
my own feelings I couldn’t buy elsewhere
                   and for payment only honesty that anyway
                  you opened in me like a bloom
shoving them to me with (thank you)
enormous adornments
saying they’re more beautiful than ever
                                                                        than even I’d thought

and secondhand better
when writhed through a golden torture of —

You’ve taught me them
you
searched them out from
within you
and punch my brain with them

                        magnified

                       mutated

                        to purity

arpeggio river of saxsmooth velvet
hammering out metal to sumptuous smooth with only breath
rapids now over the drums’ riff stutter
                                                                                          into eloquence
and float like a flower on thrumming bass pond

while (check) a grin (right) Amens your millennium (solid)
with (tell’em, Preacher!) key chord
“Au’m hip”s.

                   And I’m hip:

my head can’t divide it
but the rest of me can tell
knows you’ll have nudged when I’m sleeping
from their diamondhard settings
the most shattering dreams I’ve kept hidden:

tell it to me now
tell it to me now
tell it to me now
                                                     now
                                                                       now
                                                                                          now

    broken rhythms, cacophonic order
    each
    smashed riff
    angerstroked
    bleeds beauty

    proves fallen
    with each building blow
    what
    who? me? yes. what? us? yes.
    had (why?) thought sure

    most daring
    you balance on the razor-edge
    of time
    with a horn
    and hellfire
    resplendent
    uncompromising prophet

               time your measure
               time your master
          knitting you together time
          being knit
          time folded
          unfolding you
               time’s master
               time’s measure

knocking out barnacled emotions
from some ships’ graveyard
for the stifled primal
oh! to set them swaying in an ocean of notes

                                  (I’m carried up leagues of sound
                                    forced to use music for breathing)

they’re body juice now
running thick
intuitive groove

 into it I’ve grooved
knocked out
taught
what was all unlearned
now know like a river

               Oh! didn it rain! (Oh! didn it rain!)
               Oh! didn it rain! (Oh! didn it    didn it    didn it


Jazzstory 

for Tim Posgate

bass line drums support trumpet speaks guitar
is
bass drums trumpet line guitar speaks support
is
line bass guitar speaks support trumpet drums
is
guitar trumpet line support drums bass speaks

      strum peaks pet line
      pumps out a gut art

      drum sum, traps a part
      rump air a sport

      bass gets tugged
      gets gutted
      gets mud dump

      drum murders beats
      spurts pus
      raps a lass as tar leaks
      lines outta time

      a glass part spits spots sputtered at
      rum murmurs names o’ ports a nipper got potted in
      bump ’n’ grind lined up ’n’ out
      pout past pumped garter
                                                          art or
                                                          ardour

       an eager leap
      a tumble, a gulp
      an ultimate mustard
      a lapsed map

guitar speaks trumpet support drums line bass
is
support speaks guitar line trumpet drums bass
is
drums trumpet support speaks guitar bass line
is
speaks bass drums support line trumpet guitar
is

Performance notes: The words are read throughout with forceful staccato drive, in rhythms as indicated by line lengths and breaks, with micropauses at stanza breaks. The last phoneme, [s], of the first stanza is held for an extended period of time, at the reader’s discretion, and initiates an improvisational break exclusively employing the phonemes of the first line (which are the only phonemes used in the poem), which are spontaneously treated with variations freely applied in rhythm, dynamics, pitch, timbre, duration, and coloration of whatever kind. Because the poem consists only of these phonemes, the text as a whole can be used as a visual field over which the reader’s eye can play for stimulus to improvisational invention. The reader determines the overall duration of the improvisational break, which concludes with the first phoneme, [s], of the second stanza, which stanza is then read, along with the following five, as specified at the start of these notes.  

Once the last phoneme, [p], of the seventh stanza is pronounced, it is repeated ad libidum, at the reader’s discretion, and initiates a second improvisational break performed on the same terms as the first one, and concluding with the first phoneme, [g], of the final stanza, which stanza is read in the same manner as at the start of the poem.

 

Kit Talk

mutter to tight head stutter at stick-tip pepper past rim-pulled skin held taut. got a little. got a lot. got a metal-splash sizzle as excess is, as is a zero’s eyes assessing assizes. put. put put. put. pause. put in a pause. put in a pause ’n’ snap. put in a pause ’n’ snap off a sizable bit to tip a put-up past a pot-head patsy whose tight-lipped two-timing’s tapered off. tapered-off top-spin whispers hisses at a brush-back pitch sent to size up what type o’ sissy’s up to bat. tough tit, kid, but suck it, suck it, suck it till it’s tender, ’n’ suck it, suck it, suck it till its tip is stiff as a stick, ’n’ suck it, suck it, suck it, suck it, suck. suck at it. suck at it. suck at it till it tingles. suck at it till it tingles and its spit-wet tip can’t take it. shhh. shhh. she’s sighin’, sure as shootin’ she’s not shy shit no she’s shirtless ’n’ shameless she’s shorts-down dyin’ to do it ’n’ here’s to it. to it ’n’ at it. to it ’n’ at it ’n’ overnight. good night. good good good good good good night. good good good good good good day. good good good good good good time. good. good good. good good good good, good ’n’ gooder. gooder in the gutter. got ’er gooder in the gutter ’n’ took it up top to clatter that tick on a metal bit clatter his stick on a metal bit tip took off on a pulled down pop-pulled pow paid pat paid peter paid paul paid cash-strapped fish-store short shrift for switching from fish-stick sales to hash-stick pushing to doped-up wish-merchants waiting by wash-stands in run-down walkways past push-stick talk, paid pull-down pow-wow walkway west, way hey-down, hoe-down, who got gone gained getalong ghost, gained go round goalie has got that puck, has got that puck and won’t let go, has got that puck and won’t let you, let one, let all, let no one in, let this be it till dream-drip trickle-up pushes past top-down tail tipped sold out sin-fest lips slide slipping off flesh flaps flipped for fuller fooling ’round with chunk of punch-drunk monkey-mind spun down, wrung out, hard-held think unthunk. plunk.

 

Boots On 

Someday he’s just going to be just someday doing something he’s just someday going to be in the middle of doing just something he’s going to be doing what he does someday just someday going to be doing something he’s in the middle of some day when he’s just going to be doing something he always does he’s just going to someday be in the middle of doing what he does, what he’s always someday doing, when what he’ll be doing is going to do what he’s someday doing, doing what he does when he does what he’s doing, doing some day in the middle of being what he is he’s going to be doing what he’s in the middle of, he’s going to be doing what he’s going to be in the middle of and in the middle of doing it he’s going to stop. He’s someday going to be doing what he does when he’s in the middle of some day when he’s doing what he does to be what he is when he stops. He’s going to stop. And he’s going to stop someday when he’s in the middle of doing what he does or when he’s going to do what he someday does when he’s doing what he does to be what he is and he’s going to stop. In the middle of someday being what he is in the middle of some day, he’s going to be doing what he’s usually someday in the middle of doing and he hopes it’ll be in the middle of some day when he’s doing something he usually does in the middle of the day when he hopes he’s in the middle of doing something he usually hopes he’s doing someday what he does when he hopes he stops. He hopes he someday stops. He hopes he someday stops doing something he always someday does. He hopes someday in the middle of doing something he’s always in the middle of someday doing in the middle of some day he stops. Someday he’s going to stop and hope. Someday he’s going to stop and hope he’s someday in the middle of doing something and stops and hopes and in the middle of hoping stops. Someday he’s going to be in the middle of hoping and he’s going to stop in the middle of doing it and he’s going to stop in the middle of being what he is. Someday he’s going to stop hoping. Someday he’s going to stop doing. Someday he’s going to stop being what he is.

 

Change: No Change 

I figure I got to know myself some these last few decades. Figure I figured out more than two or three things. Like, I know I got a basic inability to lie and a general repugnance for violence. Course I know I’m selfish and a bit vengeful, too. And I have my excesses, which I’m not keen to curtail. But as much as I know, it seems I got enough still to learn, given what’s happened this last little while: been being unlike me — or what I thought was me. Oh I don’t mean anything dramatic, like becoming a politician or maiming random victims. No, no. Subtler stuff, hard to say exactly what, but there all the same. All the same and still. All the same and still somewhat different, like a few degrees off what used to be, off me. “A change?” you ask. “Not a misconception, but a new element?” Well, one of the things I know about myself is that I’ll consider any possibility, so I won’t just reject that one. But I won’t pretend to believe (I can’t lie) that it’s always been there. Maybe it has: it’s always been there and I’ve always been here. Both it and I are here and now and now and then are neither here nor there but somewhere all the same. Where is there a here and now that could’ve been the same — was, anyway, I don’t know; as someone said once: “Could’ve been.” Which once I said, or if I didn’t, could’ve. And since I could’ve, will. As you will, and as I was. And am. And could’ve been. Probably am, and for sure will be, as I will will be — as I am. And I am and I was and I will be — as I was. And I was and I am as I am — and I will be. As I am, I can’t really be more than I am. Nor would I want to. Not that I can say for sure that I wouldn’t want to. Not that I would; I just can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t. Which is the kind of thing I would do: not say flat out that I would or I wouldn’t. Because I’m aware of possibilities and I won’t say I always will when I know there might be a time when I know that I always won’t. Not that I’d want there to be a time when I’d want to be anything more than what I am. It wouldn’t be like me to be like that. But it would be like me — and it is like me — to be aware that even though that’s just not like me, that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be me, because it could. Though it’s not like me to not want to be what I could be, which is just like me; it’s just like me to want to be just like what I could want to be just what I want like just what I am. And I am, as I said at the outset, lately being unlike me.


Thinking

Language shapes thought, not thought language. And language shapes thought not thought to be language-shapes. Thought not thought to be language shapes language, shapes thought, shapes shapes. Thought thought to be shapes not thought to be language shapes thoughts thought not to be shaped by language. Thought language shapes thought-shapes shaped by language thought to be thought. Thought thought not to be language-shapes shapes language, shapes thought, shapes language-thought. Language thinks. Language thinks shapes not shaped by thought, shapes thoughts thought thinks not shaped by language. Language thinks thoughts thought thinks think language. Language thinks language.


1. Paul Dutton, “Jazz Musician,” Right Hemisphere, Left Ear (Toronto: Coach Horse Press, 1979).