Tuesday, April 16, 2019


Many thanks to everyone at CalArts and SUBLEVEL

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Nevelson Moon To Moon

for Sarah Shin

I claimed my life long ago. I saw from the very beginning how one exploits another in the world, and saw the most important thing was to claim my life totally.

Louise Nevelson's unique sculptures have enriched my life for many years, especially the large boxes composed of many smaller interior boxes, as if we were looking at an apartment building with the outer wall stripped away, or through the wall with x-ray glasses.  My favorite way to spend time with her work is to look at the entire frame as a question, and each interior section as a different clue to the answer.  From a distance, they appear to me as skeletal remains of an ancient storyboard, bones of thought.  She has often made me see the world very differently from how I thought I knew it, and how can we ask anything else of an artist?

In Denmark at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, I fell in love with her sculpture in the collection titled, "Royal Tide III."  By a giant grandmother tree outside the museum, I buried a tiny clear crystal, set in the ground vertically, with the pointy end up.  I also planted crystals outside museums with her work in Philadelphia and Kansas City. 

At the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, her piece in their collection is titled "Cascades Perpendiculars 1," and is composed of wood painted black from the remains of New York City's St. Mark's Church organ after there had been a fire.  Her home for more than half a century was New York City, so it feels auspicious to be working with this particular piece.  At The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri is one of my favorite sculptures by her titled, "End of Day--Nightscape IV," also made of wood painted black.  I planted a crystal outside the museum in Kansas City when visiting the poet Anne Boyer.

Once I planted the crystals, the ritual could begin.  Together these three crystals became a Nevelson crystal grid creating a triangle stretching across America, and across the Atlantic.  I started on the New Moon, December 7, 2018, and ended on the New Moon, January 6, 2019. 

It takes 27 days for the moon to orbit Earth, making my ritual 27 days long.  The influence of the moon's 27-day cycle has embedded itself into our everyday lives for thousands of years.  27 percent of Earth's surface is land, and I have women friends who menstruate on the full moon every 27 days. It takes 27 days for a human cell to regenerate, healing through the full cycle of the moon, and there are 27 bones in the human hand.  In Sanskrit 27 is a Harshad number, which means "joy giver," and in the Kabbalah, there are 27 channels to communicate with God.  When is it a good time to mention that a man's ejaculate travels 27 miles per hour?  In this (Soma)tic poetry ritual I observed my body inside the Louise Nevelson crystal grid through the cycle of the moon.

In an interview once, Nevelson said, "I don't like the safe way, it limits you."  On the New Moon, I sharpened my boyfriend Tre's bowie knife until it could cut cleanly without snagging or tearing into flesh.  To trust someone to slice me for a poem is a risk I am always willing to take.  When I said it was for poetry I was able to convince Tre to be the one to cut me.  We did it outside under the bright dome of stars in Tallahassee, Florida.  The cut was quick and smooth along my arm, and I licked my blood and wrote notes for my poem without swallowing until the end of writing, keeping the metallic rich taste of blood pooled on my tongue.  It takes 27 days for the human cell to regenerate.  Each day of the ritual involved studying the wound with a magnifying glass as the cells increased, knitting themselves back together again.

Nevelson's sculpture boxes are the full moon seen at once.  Each section within is a story of its phases: crescent, quarter, half, full, etc.  The light of the moon is not its own, as we know, so I pushed the ritual into the source of moonlight by sitting in direct sunlight each day, feeling it on my face.  In my hand I clutched another crystal to adhere myself inside the Nevelson grid.  I closed my eyes, meditating on the moon, imagining how the sunlight that was hitting my face shared time with the same light bathing the moon on the other side of our planet.  In the United States, everyone seems to notice the full moon and loves acknowledging when it is, debating whether it was full the night before or maybe it is tonight or the next night.  In the US there is a dissatisfaction with anything less than the largest possible pie, no matter what it is, but at least I know I can get people excited once a month about the moon.

Nutrients traveling to Earth on the rays of sunlight can feed you no matter where you receive it.  You can hide in the backyard where no other humans can find you, but the Vitamin D nutrients will reach you just the same.  Standing in the middle of a crowded lunchtime city sidewalk, if you look up, face the sun with eyes closed, you will receive the same nutrients as you would have if you had been hiding alone.  There are 27 bones in the human hand.  In the sunlight I massaged my hands, honoring the work of writers, hairdressers, sculptors, bricklayers, mothers, carpenters, everyone grasping and lifting the world, and I said the names of the bones out loud:  Lunate, Capitate, Hamate, Trapezium, Scaphoid...

My birthday was inside the ritual, January 1st.  I became 53 years old while writing the poems, meditating on Louise Nevelson, imagining her sculpture boxes a question of Capricorn, depicted from antiquity as a bearded, horned goat with a fish torso and tail.  Astrologers often misunderstand the relationship between our fish-tails and goat upper bodies. Our goat upper-body strength and stamina are said to be for climbing and reaching the top, which makes sense, but the fish-tail is supposed to represent our weakness, an unstable downturn to the depths of water’s subconscious which many astrologers claim we try to avoid, and this is where they are entirely wrong.  The problem with interpreters of Capricorn who are not Capricorns is that they want to focus solely on positive attributes of our goat bodies and aspects, much the way we privilege the brain, the upper hemisphere of the body.  The lower half is dirty, forbidden, dark, our waistline the border between right and wrong, but I believe that is Christianized thought and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the lower half of our bodies.  Get into bed with a Capricorn and know why the pagan gods of Europe have goat horns because we love sex and are not the least bit swayed by monotheistic dictates of "proper" sexual behavior.  The fish-tail of the goat is not dragging us down, and it is wrong to insist that this is the world of the Capricorn: torn between our two halves.  Quite the opposite in fact!  Much like the great Sphinx of Egypt, it is not that the human head needs to tame the lion body but instead needs to harness the lion, to be at one and harmonious with the muscular, wild, fierce lion body, and this is precisely the same with Capricorn.  We are learning to incorporate our deepest feelings, to harness that underwater source of potential power, to trust and allow our strong, forceful fish-tail and all it represents to drive and thrust our upper body strength to succeed.  Whenever we Capricorns prove astrologers wrong and make our two halves work together as one we are nothing short of unstoppable!  We must not allow the suspicious doubts of others to interfere with the possibilities of self-actualization, fully embracing all we have to offer our lives and the world.

I took many notes inside the Nevelson crystal grid, and those notes became two poems, "Golden In The Morning Crane Our Necks," and "You Cannot Return A Stretched Mind."

Thursday, November 1, 2018

3 poems from Resurrect Extinct Vibration ritual




Thursday, October 11, 2018

Fending Off the Night

This ritual is part of a forthcoming anthology titled SPELLS
edited by Sarah Shin and Rebecca Tamas

__________________  __________________

"Bioluminescence is the most common form of communication on planet Earth."
 -- Dr. Sylvia Earle, her talk at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia

Fear of the dark motivated prehistoric human beings to discover and invent ways of holding onto light throughout the night. We take light bulbs and electricity for granted, but for centuries we have found many means to harness different materials to make light: wood, animal fat, beeswax, paraffin, gas, electricity, etc. I wrote a list of the various ways I have used or witnessed human-made light so far in my lifetime: electric ceiling lights, floodlights, emergency exit lights, streetlights, headlights, flashlights, lighthouses, oil lamps, wood stoves, campfires, torches, candles, twinkling Christmas lights, etc.  I took notes for the poem.

Then by candlelight, I meditated on fear of the dark. What were the reasons for our ancestors to be afraid of the dark?  How have those fears transferred through the centuries to us and where do I feel it in my own body and life?  Are horror movies a conduit we employ for restimulating those fears?  I took notes for the poem.

Then I taped small flashlights to my shoulders and wore a thin, colored shirt over top, glowing in the dark while meditating on photos from the deepest parts of the oceans, where most life on Earth lives.  With their bodies these creatures create light to say Hello, to find a mate, to hunt prey, to detract from predators.  Their language of light is beyond anything we can convey or experience on the surface of the planet.  I took notes for the poem.

Then I half-filled a large bucket with sand.  After securing a flashlight inside the sand, turned on and pointing up, I filled the bucket, plunging the flashlight into darkness.  Outside in the dark of the New Moon, I slowly removed thin layers of sand from the surface, one, layer, at, a, time, until the faintest translucent glow appeared.  I took notes for the poem.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Silhouette of Whisper

When I became vegan and macrobiotic in 1988 it was when scores of friends were dying of AIDS and I was constantly urging them to join me for the health benefits.  This is to say I did not begin being vegan for animal rights, but becoming vegan changes our bodies and cleanses our formally inconsiderate perspective on other creatures.  I remained vegan for the lives and rights of animals, but as a child, I grew up hunting deer, rabbits, pheasants, and squirrels.

Whisper was the name of my hunting dog.  After receiving my first rifle at 9 she and I loved to explore the forest and meadows together.  When I shot a squirrel she would retrieve it and hover eagerly, waiting for me to toss her the heart as I skinned and cleaned it in the running brook, then secured its little body onto sticks to hold over a fire for lunch.  I now refer to Whisper as my Lord of the Flies companion and she would be very sad if she were alive today to find that I no longer kill and eat squirrels in the forest.

I drew a rough sketch of Whisper and filled in the drawing with black ink.  Then I made a kite out of sticks and paper, gluing Whisper's silhouette on the front.  I made secret notes on another piece of paper with words she knew for hunting and running through the forest, then glued it to the back of the kite, or rather the side that takes the wind. 

Sending it up, her rough portrait facing the sky above me, the wind pushing my secret messages through the kite and into her image.  Because we lived in the country she never knew the tug of a leash, so it felt odd having the pull against my wrist, but at the same time I liked it, that tension, getting to feel the weight of the wind upon her drawing.  I took notes for the poem while flying my old friend above me.

In the evening I cut her silhouette from the kite and placed it under my pillow.  The dreams were beguiling, being led into a realm of moss on tall trees, lily of the valley, and many pieces of light dancing on everything.  Whisper was not there as I knew her but somehow all around me.  It was a place where I felt myself relax in the dream.  Then I realized that I was resting in the spot where I had buried her when I was a young teenager.  I was, in fact, visiting my old friend all along in luxuriant consolation!  After waking I took more notes for the poem.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

New article on (Soma)tic Poetry Rituals

Please click THIS LINK for article.

MANY THANKS to poet Caspar Eric and
to everyone who brought me to Denmark!
MANY THANKS to Line Kallmayer for
translating The Book of Frank, and to
Rasmus Graff for publishing it on OVO!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

US-American Crystal Grid Ritual

US-American Crystal Grid is an ingredient to a larger ritual, Resurrect Extinct Vibration.  The crystal grid was designed and constructed in the early spring of 2018, the first poems resulting from writing inside the grid came in May.

The grid's ingredients: Four solid copper 16-ounce water bottles, each containing 9 crystals of 3 pieces of amethyst, 3 pieces of carnelian, and 3 pieces of rose quartz. Each bottle was then filled with crystal-infused water and sealed.

The grid is a triangle connecting Minneapolis, Memphis, and Cheyenne.  The copper bottles of crystals are buried at each location.  The fourth bottle is buried inside the triangle in Omaha, which is the seat of the grid.  (See the map at the bottom of this post.)

How the grid works:  I sit on top of the buried copper container of crystals in Omaha.  With a compass, I align myself with Minneapolis.  Once I have aligned myself I eat a small amount of dirt from the Minneapolis location and listen to ambient recordings of the site.  After meditating and tuning into Minneapolis from my seat in Omaha, I begin taking the raw notes which are later shaped into poems.  I then face Memphis and repeat with eating dirt and listening to sounds from Memphis, then after that, I do the same for Cheyenne.  I repeat the whole process a second time, then again a third time.  It is almost exclusively from the third round where most of the harvested notes become poems.  The grid winds clockwise, winds tighter with each turn, the first round making the base of a pyramid.  The second round is the midsection, then finally the third round brings the peak of the pyramid, and the feelings of writing are a most extreme euphoria during the third and final round.

The grid crosses and touches eleven different states:  Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming.  The Mississippi River touches the triangle three different times, charging the eastern wall of the triangle as the water and the grid's energy pushes from Minneapolis to Memphis. 

Minneapolis gets its name from the Lakota word for water, "Minne," fused with the Greek word for city, "polis,"  Water City.  Memphis is named after the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis, a dozen miles from the Sphinx and pyramids of Giza.  Memphis, Egypt sits at the mouth of the Nile, while Memphis, Tennessee sits at the jawbone of the Mississippi.   Both Cheyenne, Wyoming and Omaha, Nebraska were named after Native American tribes and named so at the time when all migration of native peoples and the seasonal routes of the many herds and flocks came to an abrupt end by the white colonial genocide and theft.  The footfalls of millions replaced soon enough with barbed wire, motorways, giant shopping plazas and many miles of genetically modified monocrops grown by mega-corporations with pesticides and fertilizers poisoning the air, water, and soil.

My sleep after performing the ritual and writing inside the crystal grid has been a deeper state of relaxation than normal for me where I wake revitalized and feel happy.  My dreams these nights have centered on life inside the triangular frame of the grid, especially on my birth city of Topeka, Kansas.  I was born on the Forbes Air Force Base where my biological father Dennis McNeil was stationed.  The base was built in response to the start of WWII, then later became the home of the 90th Bombardment Wing during the Korean War.  When I was born during the Vietnam War the Titan missiles had been decommissioned and the base was being used as a Tactical Air Command facility.  These mornings waking the day after time spent with the grid are filled with meditation and writing focused on how the grid crosses the direct path of Manifest Destiny: that 19th-century belief of the white supremacist power structure that they did not need to share the North American continent with native people.  My birthplace later became a home for the military industrial complex to take the premise of Manifest Destiny and spread it beyond our borders to kill and thieve in other nations of people of color.  I may wake relaxed and happy, but I insist I keep a close focus on the crimes that made my life possible.