February 18, 2001...
Lawrence Ferlingetti's advice, David Archer's rebut,
27 November, 2005...
Pen Chant's after rebutt
L.F. - Invent a new language anyone can understand.
D.A. - Just write fifty poems a day and one
them might have a good line or two. Never give up. Keep writing every
day like a cafe-slave for the rest of your long poor chapbook life. And
steal from other poets too, like Ginsberg and Bowie.
P.C. - Blessed are the peacemakers because
they are not jealous. When a new
thought is worth more than gold and can not be repeated too many times.
Any good art teacher will tell you there are times when the same form
of creativity breaks out in one part of the world it may well break out
in several other parts in the very same period of time - like
Cubism. Picasso is considered the master of Cubism because he was the
one that excelled enough that it is still being copied - but not
quite, perhaps a new tweak. No one can reproduce a master's picture
exactly, nor write a new poem exactly like a master poet - in any
poetic dispute over copyright, the proof is in that challenge.
When a student repeats the lines of a master
he is only saying "I get it!"
When a teacher decides he is no longer a student he is also no longer a teacher.
When a master discovers a student excels him he responds "I love it!"
D.A. - Leonardo da Vinci said: "Make one
thousand drawings and ONE of them MIGHT be good". Ditto.
P.C. - Ditto, in this case, is from Master
Leonardo da Vinci - the student Ferlinghetti. But/and of course no
master (in this case of poetry) calls himself master - others do.
L.F. - Climb the Statue of Liberty.
D.A. - What, and jump? So fine, climb down
Statue of Liberty. Then what? Take the elevator back up? I know, go
shoplift a four hundred dollar Mont Blanc pen and write a poem about
it. It's a joke ... don't steal.
P.C. - Climb the Statue of Liberty is a
metaphor. Got metaphor Mr. Archer?
L.F. - Reach for the unattainable.
D.A. - Why would anyone even try that? Look,
this is the BS "they" always say after some clown jumps a pogo stick to
the top of Everest or something. It's stupid. If something is
unattainable, forget it. Reach for the ATTAINABLE and you will be
amazed where it will take you --- to the truly "unattainable". The real
question is why "wise elders" have been teaching this same advice for
the past two thousand years. Could it be they are protecting job
security through misdirection: THE OLD: Established Artist's Secret
Snipe Hunt Sidestep.
P.C. - Oh, shades of Johnathan Livingston
Seagull! Or, shot for the stars you might land on Mars!
L.F. - Kiss the mirror and write what you see and hear.
D.A. -This guy is a narcissistic Beatnik ...
watch out for him. If he ever invites you to City Lights Bookstore and
tells you take the stairs to the basement and whisper, "Larry, Larry"
decline. Go to a movie instead. You can get ten good poems from one bad
P.C. - Blessed be
a poet who can sit naked in front of his audience and read his own
When we reach for the unattainable, at least that which is attained is better than a bad movie.
L.F. - Dance with wolves.
D.A. - Speaking of wolves: the Beat Poet
Laureate of San Francisco "borrowing" from Kevin Costner?
P.C. - A better question: Did Kevin Costner
feel complimented? (I thought titles could not be copyrighted.) There
was no monetary loss to Kevin Costner (that which
copyright laws protect). Most likely Kevin Costner wants us all to
learn to dance with wolves - perhaps because he wanted to undo Grimm's
maligning wolves to children.
But yeah, sometimes writers and wannabe
teachers use lies when
they fear for children's safety. The problem with lies, lies in when
truth comes out. Or as Roger Ragtime says, "The closer we come to
speaking truth, the less predictable the reaction to it."
L.F. - Count the stars, including the unseen.
D.A. - With a computer telescope I hope.
young poets like counting stars, that's true. One, two ... buckle my
shoe, three, four ... shut the door ... five, six, pick up sticks,
seven, eight, lay them straight ... nine, ten, a big fat hen ...
P.C. - Three, four...shut the door. In
poetry this is known as a limerick. "Count the stars" - if he said
yourself the pleasure of going out at night and look up at the stars,
try and count them you can not. Imagine some so far away you cannot see
them with the naked eye." (I hope not with a computer telescope). There
are real telescopes that give you a sense of the vastness of the
universe - and you can still imagine there are stars beyond the stars
of our strongest telescope. Space flight has given us more knowledge -
but ask any astronaut if it feels the same looking at the pictures.
That's the spelled-out version for those who
L.F. - Be naive, innocent, uncynical, as if you had just landed on earth, as indeed you have, as indeed we all have, astonished by what you have fallen upon.
D.A. - Like Larry's lap.
P.C. - Do I sense a phobia?
L.F. - Write living newspapers.
D.A. - What, I should be a tattoo artist?
But, you said I could be a poet.
L.F. - Be a reporter from outer space, filing dispatches to some supreme managing editor who believes in full disclosure and has a low tolerance for hot air.
D.A. - And hope he never sees the advice you
gave students at the City Wide School Poetry Festival.
P.C. - Funny thing about projections...it
often turns out the projectoree is projecting their own bias. Kinda
like a gossip finds himself offended by others that reflect his/her own
L.F. - Read between the lines of human discourse.
D.A. - Read between the LIES. Hey, we're
smart-apes, okay. Art-apes. A bunch of liars, especially poets. Don't
mess with me. I know the Poet Brothers and they'll finish you.
P.C. - Yepper. Another ditto. Reminds me of
Bill O'Reilly's Fox news presentation, and on this past thanksgiving
no less, he read an email from one of his viewers that disagreed with
one of his pontifications and Mr. Billy said "We know who you
are, we know where you are, so just watch what you say!" As if the
words were not enough, he had the camera come in for a close up -
pointing his index finger at his audience as he spoke. (An old
authoritarian trick upon learning his jig is up).
L.F. - Avoid the provincial, go for the universal.
D.A. - Bull-shovel. Go for the provincial
gritty detail. The waitress with a mole on her eyelid that flashes when
she blinks. We identify the so-called UNIVERSAL, in Literature's gritty
details --- the chipped shell, not the ocean.
P.C. - Hog-swallow. Get past the eyelid into
the the universe in her eyes. When one "goes for the universal"
poetically they find that which is believed to be personal is much
larger - like Guernica - Picasso touched the pain of those who
experienced that dastardly act and they cried openly, releasing some of
their pain. (Oh no! Not the ocean - the waves the waves crashing
crashing powerful powerful tooo scarry).
Think subjectively, write objectively.
D.A. - Like IMAGINE riding a camel to the
Great Pyramid and writing your name on it with a can of spray paint?
L.F. - Don't bow down to critics who have not themselves written great masterpieces.
D.A. - Well, if you are lucky enough to have
critics, pay attention to them --- they're probably right.
P.C. - Well, if you are lucky enough to have
critics, pay attention to them --- they're probably right.
L.F. - Work on a frontier if you can find one, go to sea, or work near water and paddle your own boat.
D.A. - Paddle your own boat? There's one for
P.C. - And here's one for David Archer: do
you want someone else to paddle your boat?
L.F. - Associate with thinking poets, they're hard to find.
D.A. - Um hum.
P.C. - Um hum. (Where is poet David Mitchell
when I need him most? Oh yeah, I remember, translating Russian.)
L.F. - Don't be so open minded that your brains fall out.
D.A. - Luckily all the young poets sitting
in the audience that day were thinking, "jeeze ... are we getting lunch
out of this?"
L.F. - Be a poet, not a huckster. Don't cater, don't pander, especially not to possible audiences, readers, or editors, or publishers.
D.A. - Or young poets.
P.C. - Homophobia, homophobia, stay away
L.F. - Come out of your closet, it's dark in there.
D.A. - Go back in your closet, it's dark in
P.C. - ooo fear, stay away from me
D.A. - Which is, of course --- and man oh
do I have to explain everything --- yes, the mystic source of poetry
and art. From the dark into the light. We know that. A tree sends roots
into the black blood of the earth, where the slimmest nutrients are
sucked up into The Tree of Life and Light, making all those trillions
of shimmering Aspen leaves.
P.C. - ooo no mystic i know would call
nutrients slimmy, but they might say "Fertlizer has no rights." (a P.M.
L.F. - Be committed to something outside yourself. Be militant about it. Or ecstatic.
D.A. - Be committed to having the office of
Poet Laureate of San Francisco abolished through a City Wide School
Poetry Contest where the winning student gets to fire the Principle
Poemster, with a poem, of course .
P.C. - ah, poetry contests, oh teachers of
poetry, oooh PhD's, where is where is Aeschylus when when...
To be a poet at 16 is to be 16. To be a poet at forty is to be a poet.