restricted access Notes from a Lost Notebook
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179 Notes from a Lost Notebook For me, there has to be an absolute flexibility in maintaining a notebook. My notebooks are really scrapbooks—­ pieced together with fragments, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, long and short passages, magazine and newspaper clippings, postcards, etc. Thus, I attempt to avoid any kind of note structure. Sometimes the passages are logical and controlled, and other times they are abbreviated and somewhat improvisational sounding . Later, however, these items seem to dictate their own coherence. Some are like jump starts for the imagination; others function more like jump cuts—­ little bridges that spring up between ideas and feelings. Connectors . Accidental linkages. Surprises. It is often a ledger of emotional pressure points, and I can return to moments in the recent past that link me to the present and the impending future. I can see and feel the evolution of an image. As I view the germination of images and poems, I am a few steps closer to understanding the chemistry of the imagination—­ how each word takes on a life of its own. There is that rare poem spun whole from an image buried in the yellowing pages of a haphazard notebook, and I call such a poem a gift. •  •  • Lokman (c. 1100 BC). Aesop (c. 560 BC). How could these two have been the same man? True, they spoke a similar wit; but maybe this came about only because of the similarity of background and situation. Both were black slaves, and they relied on wit and satire to keep sane. Perhaps so. They were more than stand-­ up comedians of antiquity; each was a first-­ rate fabulist and thinker. There From The Poet’s Notebook: Excerpts from the Notebooks of 26 Contemporary American Poets, ed. Stephen Kuusisto, Deborah Tall, and David Weiss (New York: Norton, 1997). 180 are thousands of African parables with this same caliber of wit. Is there something here beneath this simple deduction ? A basic humanism. “Prometheus, in making man, did not use water to mix the clay; he used tears.” —­Aesop “The wise and prudent man will draw a useful lesson even from poison itself, whilst the precepts of the wisest man mean nothing to the thoughtless.” —­Lokman I call Gold, Gold is silent. I call Cloth, Cloth is silent. It is people that matter. —­ A saying of the Akan people of Ghana •  •  • (Two corps girls, resplendent in their white tutus for Etudes, stand in-­ front of the stagehands’ room, giggling as they read a poster which has been tapped to the wall: “Each one of us is a mixture of qualities, some of which are good and some perhaps not so good. In considering our fellow man we should remember his good qualities and refrain from making harsh judgments just because he happens to be a dirty, rotten no-­ good son of a bitch.”) —­Franklin Stevens, Dance as Life •  •  • Centro Internationale Poesia della Metamorfosi Comune di Fano Provincia di Pesaro e Urbino Regione Marche Convergno Internazionale LA POESIA AMERICANA 181 I nuovi itinerary Fano 9, 10, 11 giugno 1988 Palazzo S. Michele—­ Chiostro delle Benedettine They want me to talk about jazz and poetry, Vietnam, and contemporary African American poetry. I’m dealing with jet lag, the rich food, and this constant celebration in the air. In fact, at this moment, I’d rather be thinking of Fellini (“Il Mago”); I’m still unable to believe that the Vatican could have branded his La Dolce Vita as “obscene” in 1959. Anita Ekberg obscene? War, fascism, hatred, the ability to balance one’s heart with gold and pillage—­ well, now, those are things that I call obscene. Perception has everything to do with the lens we peer through. What we bring to a place or thing. I can almost see James Wright walking the streets of Fano, among these ancient bricks mottled by sea salt. We’ll visit Urbino tomorrow. I have no idea what the others are thinking about the infamous ancient city, if they can already see the fields of poppies on the hillsides—­ Citta ideale / Ideal City—­ I only know that there’s an unusual equation in my mind. Urbino: Florence: Africa. After all, it is what we bring to something that curves the equation, right: That “Moor,” Alessandro de’ Medici, was of course the first Duke of Florence—­ rumored to be the son of Pope Clement VII himself. After his dramatic demise (the Michaele-­ Lorenzaccio plot), Alessandro the Moor’s body was secretly stashed in the tomb of...


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