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Organic Poetry
The Writer's Workshoppe 10.23.10

Personal Mythology of Organic Poetry Workshop,

Saturday, October 23, 2010 (The Writer’s Workshoppe, Port Townsend, WA)


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


  • Sound: 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 or just prose chopped into lines? Any smells in the poem? Tastes?)


  • Exquisite Corpse exercise using license plate material if stuck.


  • Exercise: I Remember


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


  • Exercise: Cover poem of Ed Dorn Tribe. 7 minutes.


  • Sound: Allen Ginsberg on Whitman:


  • Sound: Eileen Myles cuts:


1.               Untitled (Matthew Shepard)

2.               On Proprioception

3.               On Working Class Speech

4.               Milk

5.               On Milk


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



LUNCH BREAK: Come Back with Two American Sentences




  • 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: Anne Waldman Sketching/Interview

Jack Spicer's poetics.

  • …Prose invents - poetry discloses… A poet is a time mechanic not an embalmer…


…Muses do exist, but now I know that they are not afraid to dirty their hands with explication – that they are patient with truth and commentary as long as it doesn’t get into the poem…


…The trick naturally is what Duncan learned years ago and tried to teach us – not to search for the perfect poem but to let your way of writing of the moment go along its own paths, explore and retreat but never be fully realized (confined) within the boundaries of one poem. This is where we were wrong and he was right, but he complicated things for us by saying that there is no such thing as good or bad poetry. There is – but not in relation to the single poem. There is really no single poem…


…Poems should echo and reecho against each other. They should create resonances. They cannot live alone any more than we can…


  • Sound: McClure – Dolphin Skull.


  • Exercise: Duo Corpse exercise.


  • Sound: Rothenberg on Duende.


  • Read Nate Mackey – Sigh of the Moor


  • Ashberry Title Exercise



  • Exercise: Grandfather Poem.


  • Homework – Flesh out Gary Snyder’s As For Poets. You can add another category (the Port Townsend poet, the Wooden Boat poet, the Rain Poet), or add to one of Snyder’s categories.




[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.