Prologue: Guru

When I think of form in poetry, I think primarily of rhythmic movement.
In a general way, the rhythm of poetry—whether in a sonnet, a haiku or
a longer, more complex contemporary work—can be thought of as a series
of steps, much like a dance, which cuts a pattern in time.

I find that one of the remarkable things about our experience of this process
is the relationship between time and space. Whereas the poem as we say or
hear it dances its way from beginning to end, sometimes as fast as a rabbit
darting across a path, or as slow as a drop falling from a tightly closed faucet,
form has a more spatial, object-like quality about it. We think of rocks or of trees.
But unlike the water and rocks of the physical world, with our perception, the
boundaries between time in space are mysteriously much more fluid, both
easily flowing into and merging with one another.

The poem Guru plays with this idea. Unlike many of the texts featured
in Picture/Poems, I have not brought Guru together with any particular
photograph. For me, the beauty of the image-text form is that the picture
creates a context in which the poem might flower. It's limitation, however, is
that the image can be too specific, thereby constraining the movement of meaning
in the poem in a misleading or even arbitrary way. This would have been the case
with Guru, so I've presented it here in text-only form. 

What is really primary here is a quality of large-scale musical space.The poem is
as heard about 4 1/2 minutes long. In music, this is about the duration of a short,
yet substantial, piece, but in verse—at least as I conceive of it—more like a journey
of an entire day. Without going into any detail here, just let me mention that the form
of Guru emerges out of a new approach to syllabic verse, where the steps made by
each sound are counted and various larger patterns are repeated. These patterns are
both regular and irregular at the same time, the most important of which is an eight-
line stanza which appears six times altogether. Here's an example:

The berries of the mountain ash
are almost too big
for the tiny winter wrens. He
stops, amazed, counts seven or more,
all on the same tree;
they show no fear;
ecstatic with fall, they are gone.
The limbs of the bare...
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _

(In contrast to the static form of the printed page, you can watch the rhythmic flow
of the piece, from beginning to end, by scrolling through the (unbroken) computer
display-page quickly, from top to bottom.)

The central theme of Guru—our attempts to observe consciousness as a whole—seems
to fit this movement, with its highly surreal, disjoint continuity, quite naturally.

| listen in to the poem in RealAudio [4' 27"] |

| go to text of Guru |

| go to Picture/Poems: Central Display |
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