top of page
  • Writer's pictureRyan Nowlin

Notes from an Open Channel ( in progress).

Notes from an Open Channel


When visiting the 2012 summer writing program at Naropa University’s “Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics”, I began to wonder what sort of material practice was free from ideological bias? How does one go about making one’s poetry practice real in relation to the world? Viewing the 60’s counter-culture from the vantage point of someone born in the early 70s was really eye opening, especially in light of historical/generational signifiers such as how the military industrial complex opened up channels of work force as women shifted from the domestic to the public sectors. The baby boomer generation ran counter to someone born in the early 70s in that capital free markets did not necessarily mean “equitable certainty”.

There seemed to exist a binary split between assimilation and anarchy. With assimilation one strove for integration with the mainstream even it meant accommodation of hierarchal values. Thus Re: Plato’s “Republic”---The founding of any land had as its culprit the “pure” objective truth, consistent with what was productive or constituting a professional apparatus. As one forgives ones cognitive companions their mutual brain pickings so too must we forgive and go on to the next thing. You know writing about such a huge amorphous subject such as the state was bit like walking along the beach and coming upon a dead seal you grew curious as it how it died. You could either make a hash out of what little nature provided or take a piece of drift wood and sharpen it’s edge until a single point has been made. July through August the beach remains grossly closed in by a muddy vesture of decay.

As per Plato the soul is “viable apparatus”-- “more important to save than ten thousand eyes”. Thus, the chain of associations as found in the Net of Indra and the Diamond Sutra where each link in the chain of being is of equal importance. Words are a point of entry to indicate directionality. Is there such as thing as an irony-free zone? Is it possible to have a relationship with every living thing. At some point there is nothing else to express. Thoughts/Emotions become postures or gestures all of which have something to do with how we use words and what we are able to articulate by going through the correct channels as in committees or communities of practice. I might feel a particular kinship with the interesting coveys of the New York School, their speech acts and interrogatives into the nature of existence. Some early glimmers of poetry, a few islands of camaraderie appear in an otherwise sea of gray. My poetics seem best articulated as a juncture of collapsed routes, closed off from moments of gravity, but it is also really dependent on the mind of the person just as much as speaking about how a person in love is often drawn towards exciting situations.

Can we map ourselves in the gaze? Split and divided versus merging oceanic. Can the poem be restructured or surpassed by “reactivating” its meaning as though it were a structure buried in the past? Oedipus Rex’s exile was a way of finding out that “ I don’t love you as much” or vise-versa. But the poet with his métier of identification, in the end the work is never complete. Socrates was quite right to find fault with the poets for conflating fancy with the true forms of reality. After all mimicry implies a lack of identity. Desire is always based on self-consciousness and the poet can know himself/herself only through “negative capability” that is as Keats’ wrote one is “ capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact and reason”. I know myself through this negation and because I can not deviate from what it means to be a human subject.


It is a true story. I was in my early twenties or thereabouts when I came to the United States. And at that time, of course, being a young poet, I wanted desperately to find love, to see something different, throw myself into something impractical such as the creative writing program at Temple University, Philadelphia. Something compelled me to remember ex-girlfriends such as Ruby who placed a restraining order on me after I threw a plate at her. How I loved her body in the country way, say Asheville, N.C. ( the Blue Ridge Mountains outside contrasting with the yellow of my apartment) or at the sea--Wilmington N.C. pining for my second serious girlfriend, Anna, who still called desiring sex after there was no more love. And so I learned to experience sex instead of love. It was this risk, this danger that I loved to share. But it was not all danger and excitement. There were often fine days both in sexual union and in the struggle to the death.

How easy it was to give up one’s will as though it were a bucket one had kicked out of the way and given it no more thought ( Pessoa). Meaning I can still remember what it was like to be thirteen, that is a bit bored and withdrawn. Many crucial experiences have occurred in my life since then both in Europe and in the States. Because I am essentially an ex-patriot in reverse. Remember that night in Vienna in that hotel when no one else was around and I tossed the bucket of my will into the pool and watched as it floated underwater like a submarine. As when skaters score their white records on ice, so to Mozart’s music was the unity of individual movements: “Il Filo” or the thread is so dependent on the right beginning as though one were writing a letter.

For Burke, the “imagination” or “ a sort of creative power” what Coleridge later called the “Fancy” operates in two ways: by “received” by the senses and by “ combining those images in a new manner, and according to a different order. What is the sublime? What ever is fitted to any sort to excite the ideas of pain and danger, that is to say, whatever is any sort terrible, or is conversant in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is it is productive of the strongest emotions which the mind is capable of feeling, going beyond all limits. And so the capture of the desired object was a ruby dissolved in a cup of wine followed by a dispute between lust and socialized consensus. To make a thing of beauty is to participate in the social arena--Naturally beauty socializes when raise to the level of sustained attention. Nearly everything slipped away, including the waiter, who was abstractly preoccupied by how little time there was. “Can someone tell me where he is or isn’t, how many pen points away at this moment. I’d prefer a less despairing cup commemorating my birthday rather than one broken and pieced back together again.

16 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Notes from an Open Channel

Notes from an Open Channel Sonnet and Sonnet 8 1/2 — I owe the thematic material at the outset of this sonnet to Joan Accella’s well known article "Blocked" in which she references Paul Valéry’s famou

Some Notes on Versification

Some Notes on Versification ---Shakespeare’s sonnet 18 is deservedly the most famous of all the sonnets, sometimes so much so that one takes it for granted and/or one fails to see it afresh; to this e

The Cathedral

The Cathedral 1 In Central America’s leafy parenthesis some sliver of light appears from that magnificent jungle edifice, the famous submerged cathedral These are the gauchos roaming the pampas and th


bottom of page