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Organic Poetry
Lit Fuse Workshop Syllabi, Tieton, WA, Saturday and Sunday, October 9 & 10, 2010

Personal Mythology of Organic Poetry Workshop,

Saturday, October 9 & 10, 2010 (Lit Fuse, Tieton)


  • read As for Poets (Gary Snyder)


  • Outline, expectations, definition, needs.


In 1912, in the introduction to the 4th edition of his book Symbols of Transformation, Carl Jung asked: What is the myth you are living? Personal Mythology[1] is the name of that myth and you have one, whether you are conscious of it, or not. I can’t tell you what it is, but you can discover your own and, if you don’t like it, you can change it. What is the theme of your life? What patterns inform your activities? This course will help you discover a process of getting deeper into your own consciousness, perhaps to the level of personal myth.

(In my essay What is Consciousness, you can see where I put this in a model of how consciousness manifests.


Questions to ponder, What writing project do people associate with you? Is there a subject on which you’d seek to do a saturation[2] job? Do you carry a small notebook in which you can jot down short poems or notes for poems?


  • Brief explanation of Organic Poetry: A poem that writes itself, but is the product of balance, so one of the most difficult ways to write well, because it is, as Philip Whalen described it, a picture or graph of the mind moving. A nerve movie.


A use of speech at its least careless and least logical (Charles Olson.) If you have not read Projective Verse, I can send you a link.


  • Introductions


  • AG on 1st Thought/Best Thought or MM on Projective Verse


  • License Plate Exercise: Go outside for 7 minutes, work alone, in silence, look at three parked cars and make short descriptions of what the three letters stand for. Ignore the numbers. For example, a car with license plates YHM might stand for: Yuma Hates Moccasins, Your Hideous Mustache or Yellow Horse Meat. Start now. How bout TBV? Any takers?


  • (Upon return: Is your work visual? What is the sound component? Is your syntax regular? Prose chopped into lines? Any smells in the poem? Tastes?)


  • Exquisite Corpse exercise using license plate material if stuck.


  • Cover poem of Ed Dorn Tribe. 7 minutes.


Mind Writing Slogans (I) (Have group read these, two or three each.)



  • Exercise: Flesh out one of Snyder’s poet categories, or add at least three more in a poem using his as a guide (linebreaks, syntax, language, tone, etc.) Come with questions on the Projective Verse essay.


  • Play Eileen Myles cuts:


1.               Untitled (Matthew Shepard)

2.               On Proprioception

3.               On Working Class Speech

4.               Milk

5.               On Milk



  • Exercise: Grandfather Poem.




Keeping Your Hand (Foot, Spleen) In It (Tieton, WA, 10.10.10)


  • Introductions: Name, Where you’re from, Level of poetry skill & why you took the class.


  • George Bowering:


I do not compose poetry to show you what I have seen, but rather because I have seen…this poet’s job is not to tell you what it is like, but to make a poem…Not trying to use your poems to prove a point, or address an argument. Not to try to control what they’re (the poems) are doing…but rather to be a kind of audience listening to where the poem is going to go…the practice of outside…Try to forget your own voice…and listen hard for what the language is saying… you yourself are the audience, hearing a voice you’ve trained your ear to receive (emphasis added)… (Bowering 6)


§         Exercise: How I Got Here


  • Exercise: Duo Corpse exercise.


  • Reaparicion Exercise: Take 10 minutes to write a poem of four stanzas, four to six lines each, either writing based on going to a place you have note been for a long time, or imagining that return as if it happened. Perhaps a war experience, a relationship, an old city you once lived in. Be concrete like in the example of the Kozer poem.


  • Read Nate Mackey - Song of the Andoumbolou: 11


  • Play McClure – Ghost Tantras, have class read some tantras.


§         Exercise: Haibun: (handout)


  • American Sentences. (Audio – of A. Waldman & A. Schelling, Handout)



[2] In “A Bibliography on America for Ed Dorn,” Olson suggests that “one saturation job might take

14 years”—the amount of time between the beginning of his Melville studies and his completion of

Call Me Ishmael (Olson 307). Susan Howe worked at least ten years on her book My Emily Dickinson.