Jackson Mac Low: The poem I've been futzing around with for c. 16 days

[The following letter & poem are as found in our email correspondence from 2003.  The Naropii reference is to a question I had raised about using some of Jackson’s aleatory procedures in a workshop at Naropa’s Jack Kerouac school that coming summer, & the initials LP refer of course to Jackson’s Light Poems.  A small portion of the formatting has been modified or distorted in the transfer to blogger, but may be better viewed in the Jacket2 version. (J.R.)]

From: Jackson Mac Low

To: jeromerothenberg@hotmail.com

Subject: the poem I've been futzing around with for c. 16 days

Date: Wed, 04 Jun 2003 15:44:21 -0400

Dear Jerry

I'm attaching "Touching Chickens the Don until It Doesn't" to make me stop messing with it. The source is a mix of verbal materials I gathered from works by GM Hopkins, Charles Hartshorne, Gertrude Stein, and Lewis Carroll--with a lot of choices etc. during the making time. (That started on 20 May and just ended today, 6/4/03.)

(Once in a while I get bogged down this way.) 


The form is sort of a bow to an old friend I met the day I got here on my 21st birthday and by happenstances turned out to be an old friend of the lady I lived with in the village and a friend of someone he introduced to me after an anarchist meeting who became one of my closest anarchist friends who lived near Woodstock. Both dead now. 


As for naropii--why chicken them by harnessing them with one of my ancient complicated groups of methods? This way they won't get the idea that all they have to do is just pop something into a machine and thereby make a poem. 


The old complex methods won't make them write any better, and they know nothing about their quasi-Buddhist roots + humanism + anarchism + unfashionable metaphysics & poetics & all the rest of my craziness. And they don't need to. A simplified LP method shd suit them much better. Tell 'em to each dream up a genus of "things" with some resonance for that particular person and bring names of members of the species thereof into one or more poems, writing in sentences etc. that include one of the species' names, thus designating an individual of that species (e.g., an instance of "arclight"). Otherwise I'd give them free rein as to forms of the poems and burdens thereof. A list poem such as LP 1 shdnt be encouraged. 


But all that's up to you. The mix of the humane and the machinic, the intentional and the quasi-nonintentional is where I'm at. Nothing a human being does can be nonintentional & why shd it? But the attempted mix is a good thing. We have to leave the door open to the fact that we're nothing and our identity's a dream, but one that's not only unavoidable but necessary for us to do the slightest thing. 


God bless Malevich! But he done his bit and got bit for it. Shittin' Bolsheviks! 


love to you both and to Matthew  




Touching Chickens the Don

until It Doesn’t


 { Hopetc 1 } 


                                                 It’s in a way touching

                    said Don to Andrea

                                                that you’ve been calling Schwitters


             and his scarless


        discontenting and delusive

                         as snowflakes in a summer atmosphere. 


Are sunbeams’ living spirits a-dwindling?


                    The motionable shadowy selves of patience



                                        seemingly immaculate

                                                have never selected motherwords.


                                                                 Three banded canine bodies

snap at timbers overhead.       


                 Time developed

                                      corresponding discontented frights

                                                   with perfect navels.



                         thoughtfully blue

                                                            conceived a blinding wince. 


                                                                           Dispensing with days

                                           they motionably lifted


           beating welcomes to the morning. 


Between impatience

                              and selection                     

                                    behavioristic discontented bandits

                                      snatch up violets. 


Aren’t you enjoying

                                       your new behavior’s singularity? 

Who was it called


                             beating patience

                                                                        miniSchwittersistic behavior

                                     of nonbehavioristic body tops? 


    Rooted be the healing glass of humankind! 


                        Spiritmystery light

       riddles all allaying pseudoimmaculate breath. 


                                                                         Time and sunbeams

                                                      always moving

                                                                                      never motionable

                                                            hymn a dwindling sweetness

                                                                                     coloring breath. 



      beating praise

                          cannot cap a scarless navel. 


Living minimotionably

                    ever moved

                                                                                      banded trees

                                never wink or blink at lilac erections. 


        Who conceived that chimney voice

                         winking at mothers’ patience?


                                                                        Who’d riddle a scarless navel with infinite light?

Infinity isn’t witty. 


                            Are you
           Beth and Mellie’s intellectual mother? 


they say you’ve mothered three                                                                   timberless mysteries!


      Hand the golden glass no more to Mother.

                           What caps a mother's  mothering?


No mother is scarless.

                                                                        Timber’s dwindling’s inconceivable!


      Who could’ve conceived

     or composed

           a conception of that dwindling?

breathing between three laws
on snowflakeaccumulating skydays


                        would share the timber overhead? 


        Your mother’s


 conceived your heart. 


Yours the breath your mother's heart conceives.               


When morning's wincing fingergaps share living blackness

                        the day



    is right as sightlight. 




 disperses the light of glowing flesh                                    


                  Who is the banded bowman

                              snatching a longedfor wink? 


                                           Patient allayers look at him through immaculate fingergaps. 


All through the breathing world

                                             the day


                           dear and healing light

         arrives through vast


                                     distances from a swirling sphere of unimaginably fiery gases.



                                                            beating praise

                                              is panning around in our blackness. 




                             from bearing and nursing humankind                                                                                                                                         are shared by humankind. 


                                         Glass must often cap


                 before they can sweetly heal.                                           


                                                                     Lightly breathing mystery

                                                                                    riddles the infinite rightness

of sightlight. 


Is any bare and lightless world

                                               dearer than the daystar?


                                                                                                            Your mother’s

                                                                             breath conceived your heart.

What is the richness of a flash?

                                                            However vast

it never is dearer

                           than the daystar. 


       Unnumbered painters


                                                              with patience and impatience


                                                                               mystery light.


Not in a vast


                           do the mothers conceive all humankind.  


                                              Is Bethany’s healing mystery

         lighting more than breath?     


       What savior might conceive the infinite healing

                                                                  beggedfor by the world’s

                                                                                                     elemental wound?


                                             Always being moved

         wounded and unwincing

                                                  the unmotionable atmosphere is dying.                             




                                                                                          heaven will harbor


                                                                           living spirit.

   The daystar


            unobservably maculate

          will glow unseen

                                                    until it doesn’t.      

Jackson Mac Low
New York: 20 May–4 June 2003