6 ene. 2003

Right before I fall asleep every night, I play the “complete sentence game” in my head. The way you do it is to formulate every thought that you have as a complete grammatical sentence, silently speaking the thought, word by word. What is interesting is that the thought first appears “all of a sudden”—the process of thinking it out word by word is slow, at least compared to this initial flash of the thought. What is more, I articulate these thoughts so slowly, in relation to my rate of only half verbalized thinking, that I get several more ideas for other sentences before I finish the one I am consciously articulating at any given moment. By the time I finish I think of a new one instead of “saving” one I’ve thought up along the way. Some of the sentences concern the actual game, but I try to get off that metapoetic hobbyhorse fairly quickly. I might play this game for as long as 15 minutes or as short as 15 seconds before I drop off.

I am fascinated by Bernadette Mayer’s work: the idea of capturing that richness and density of ideas that might occur in a single hour or day. Even a minute would be quite an accomplishment. The essential problem is the same, except that writing is much slower even than the Complete Sentence Game. Thought can be rapid, but at the same time it feels unhurried, whereas the effort to get it all out on paper gives the false impression of excessive haste. Bernadette is able to do it in a work like “Mid-Winter’s Day.” Being really fast means you don’t have to hurry. A good quarterback experiences the play in slow motion, since the action on the field is, in fact, considerably slower than his decision-making process.

How much space can there be in a fast bebop tempo? Say, 280 bpm? Quite a bit, it turns out, even when a full measure of 4/4 goes by in under a second. The drummer might feel it in half time (140 bpm). (Not me, I have no hand speed.) On the other hand, an extremely slow tempo is all the more likely to be subdivided into smaller units.

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How much more effective is Steve McQueen’s opened-eyed, steely blue-eyed gaze than the Clint Eastwood squint.


The ideas I have for writing in this blog are only limited by the amount of time I spend writing, not the number of thoughts that actually occur to me. I could try to blog for 24 hours straight, as an experiment, to see whether I ran out of things to say. On the other hand, I am inexperienced at this mode of writing, compared to Bernadette Mayer. I am thrilled that my poetry experiments are still up at the Poetry Project, along with hers.

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