This girl asked me to write a poem, “without using words”.
I paused to look at my surroundings, recognizing that I was being put up to some Yoko Ono-like antics, a pretty high bar set in a field a bit outside of my normal practice.
My eventual poem involved a blank sheet of lined paper, and a lit smudge stick of sage. I made sure to hold the sheet of paper over the smoke catching all of its essence and I imagined the lines on the paper melting off as this page was erased of all its vibe. I handed the page to the girl and she put it to her nose telling me it smelled grand.
That was not enough though.
I told her sage is usually used in ritual to cleanse a space or object, blanking out its previous state of being leaving room for a new vibe to be added. In this case a blank page of paper was blanked out even further into nothingness and beyond.
Looking at the piece of paper I didn’t really know what that meant but holding it there in my hand it felt pretty deep.
Over the last two weeks I’ve been rereading The Dharma Bums in preparation for my own western adventures. What really struck me, and I remember thinking this as a kid when I first read the book, is that Kerouac has two months of enlightenment while atop a mountain in northwestern Washington, and yet this is the shortest segment of the book (only ten pages long). The pages leading up to it actually feel like Kerouac is rushing to the end. Rushing to have his book finished and sent out to the publisher. But it’s more than that. The description of this enlightenment is mostly about the changes of weather and has a hard time making much sense to anyone because it’s written in an emotional internal non-narrative. It’s as if he has a hard time describing what he got up there, so he just starts describing everything at once: him singing to himself, the 60 sunsets he sees, the feeling of open air, storms passing by, trees shifting, the mice that live in the attic, etc.
I can relate this to my own experiences on top of mountains. After Vermont, I spent 6 months telling people about what I saw and what I felt before I finally was able to write it down. But even then I hit a very big snag. There are no words to truly describe the little death in all its glory. And even if the words can be found the memory moves further and further away from clarity as your current self rejoins society and the every day life away from your natural flow. It is like having two realities. In the one you understand anything and everything and for a moment all of it is still. In the other you are rushed around and really inconsequential things become so frustrating, the only reprieve is sometimes found in drink.
Oh Kerouac, you are my brother still. Together we are Zen Lunatics. Together we make tall tales out of the simple things other people overlook. And when we tell our stories, people look at us and tell us “Yes. Duh. Of course,” and refer us to a more “elevated”, pretentious source. But Kerouac, you and I are humble giants and we enjoy our childlike enthusiasm over dumb things others have explored.
Because this is life, isn’t it?
And life is full of joy!
via reddit: “Baltimore Artscape summed up in a single image”
From the comments, “He put his trombone down and the prerecorded sounds kept playing. People are just looking at him unphased so he starts shrugging his shoulders, like “so now what?” And people continue to look at him for amusement.. It was so absurd, but it made me laugh. Hope you got a lot of money for his collage funds”
Over the weekend, I traveled down to Baltimore’s Artscape with Little Berlin gallery. I busked and wrote hundreds of poems on an old electric typewriter for passing spectators. My dream body Ma Ja Ka was there to. His performance left the audience transfixed, hypnotized by their dreams.
Between performances at Artscape yesterday, I sat at a typewriter and wrote poems for passing audience members. This was a really exciting exercise for my own inner voice. Some of the stories that people shared with me really made my heart beat to a higher drum.
Some of my experiences:
+ I was told I look like the French poet Arthur Rimbaud.
+ I wrote a really masterful love letter, one better than I have ever written for my own sweethearts, for a timid teenager to give to his girlfriend
+ I received several anonymous love letters myself, that were much better written than anything I had written all day
+ I made a girl smile and cry as I wrote a poem about a day she spent with her family, who she doesn’t get to see that often.
+ I extolled success, hope, and inspiration.
+ I watched as multiple people smiled and laughed and felt the warmth of their own breath and the sun of a bright day rising.
I don’t know what else to say other than, this exercise was beautiful and much appreciated. I have learned it is like I always say, poetry is alive and well. So thank you!
My art is my writing and my writing is my art.
The following are photos from the dream exhibition I manifested over the last month, Plato’s Porno Cave
Plato’s Porno Cave: The Trial, a collaboration with Augustus Depenbrock. June 13-July 16, 2014 at Little Berlin, Philadelphia PA. http://littleberlin.org
TV Dinner, an installation by Marshall James Kavanaugh for Plato’s Porno Cave
TV Dinner, a performance with CB Blu, Eli Snyder-Vidmar, Ma Ja Ka, Amanda V. Wagner, Luke Leyden, and Ssengam Niloc.
, a performance by Marshall James Kavanaugh and Augustus Depenbrock
Trailer of Plato’s Porno Cave: The Trial
, video shot and edited by Ross Brubeck.
Thunder showers pass over the city
Washing away all of this heat wave
Along with the aggression
We are going to live through this summer
And this rainwater is going to nurture us like no other.
A poet’s job is to breech people’s short attention spans with a timelessness that exposes them to another layer of reality. This new layer could involve mythology. Or it could be all astrology. Mescaline or some other pseudoscience. Acid and dream theory. Meditation or just plain simple unrelenting intimacy.
The point though is that we are in fact a very closed sort of people. Poetry is the life force to open us up. The same could be said about all forms of art, though with poetry this process just happens to be the most literal.
The best poetry is that which connects the greatest amount of people to this other side. To do so, it needs to be simple. It needs to be in the same language as that which is popular at the time. It needs to do all of this and somehow still manage to stand the test of time. So that it stays current for many more generations to come.
This is what makes good poetry hard. It’s also what makes it so easy.
None of this clouded meaning, inside joke, tongue in cheek, meta drivel.
We need something that is real. Something honest. That’s got feeling.
The word on the street.
Leave no reader behind.
In Cambridge there is a house built on poetry.
Its walls comprise verse questioning reality and encouraging a move away from the norm.
Its roof beams hold the deep thoughts of a zen yogi.
Its floor bears the weight of the rain in the spring or the dew at dawn on mountaintops.
Step on it’s stoop and you stand tall on the absolute truths of creation
Smile and be productive.
Follow your heart and dream.
Its builder was a mighty dream laborer
Who years ago took his pen off the page and onto the wooden fence.
And from there gathered more energy
Spiraling out wider in his artistic sweep
Until the whole property was turned over in an expansive leap.
and the whole neighborhood enveloped in the psychedelic color of this grand cottage
this grand poet’s house
grand venture in an otherwise tight-knit portion of town
Where the benches don’t even allow bums to get some sleep
And traffic is mainly tourists from other countries seeking the lore of Harvard.