Online Poetry Professor with Dr. Christopher Bursk
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Week 9 Week 10        

2015 Workshop:
"You are only a troubled guest on this dark earth" -- Goethe

Week 3 - February 18
In Praise of Description! In Praise of the Resonant Particular – Perillo, Oliver, Rogers, Raby, Goodrich

Intelligence, give me
the exact name of things
…I want my word to be
the thing itself
created by my soul a second time.
So that those who do not know them
can go to the things through me,
all those who have forgotten them
can go to the things through me….
Intelligence, give me
the exact name, and your name
and theirs and mine, for things!

Field Work in the Resonant Particular

- Doty

“Description” –one vast conjugation/ of the verb/to shine.”
description as illumination/ as imagination/ as transubstantiation/as metamorphosis
“ Green Crab’s Shell” – Not exactly green/closer to bronze…”
“Pipistrele” – “the fleeting contraption…little Victorian handbag”

- Willard Spiegelman: How Poets See the World: The Art of Description in Contemporary Poetry

“Does the ‘I’ always interfere with, interrupt, or color the seeing “eye?”
“We must do away with all explanation, and description alone must take it’s place” (Wittgenstein qtd. in Spiegelman)
“I look and look/As though I could be saved by simply looking” ( Anthony Hecht qtd. in Spigelman.
“Looking saves, but it also seduces.”
“Description is revelation. It is not/The thing described, nor false facsimile.” Stevens
“the theory of description matters most…” especially to those “for whom the word is the making of the world.” Wallace Stevens
Perception> Description>Perception
only once you’ve described what you’ve perceived do you perceive it and perceive there’s more to describe
Perception<>Imagination<>Perception Imagination<>Description<>Imagination
(you have to imagine there’s something to perceive

Field work in the resonant particular and the surprise of language
and practice in revisiting/resisting the lure of the poetical

for the following the Mary Oliver poems, identify the lure of the poetical
especially at the poem’s end --- and “lure” implies the seductiveness
of the language at the end – it seems so right, so poetic –
“August” (3)
“Mushrooms” (4)
“Lightning” (7-8)
“Moles” (10-11)
“Vultures” (37-38)
“The Snakes” (48)
“May” 53)
“The Fish” (56)
“Little Sister Pond” (64-66)
“The Honey Tree” (81)
“In Blackwater Woods” (82-83)

Field Work with Lucia Perillo “If I were a gull….But you are not gull” – “Ground-truthing

A. Inseminating the Elephant – Lucia Perillo

i. “Breaking News”
“the world has not lost the consolation of its old pain”
ii. “Notes from My Apprenticeship” (8)
“roll up your sleeve/plunge your arm in” (2) vs “see what little of yourself you own”(4-5)
vs. “immortal…mistress of the poison worm”(6)
iii. “Transcendentalism” -- “the eyeball’s heavy, riding in the bow” (7)
iv. “For the First Crow with West Nile Virus to Arrive in Ohio “State” (9)

B. I’ve Heard the Vultures Singing --gulls, bats, birdsong, vultures pages from Perillo

i. “If I were a gull….But you are not gull” (16)
ii. “how oblivious I am. To kinglets, siskins, widgeons: to all the common birds I’ve missed (18)
“So I tell myself: Okay have an experience. Two ravens swing by…This is my experience: to hear the ravens croak. To hear iii. the slow, sporadic way they say the word grok. (81)
iv. “trying to imagine bat-ness. I beam my thoughts into the sky, listening for an echo.”

Assignment: try to imagine _______-ness – you fill in the blank and beam your thoughts.
“hibernaculum – this new word puts me into a heightened sensory state” (108)

Assignment: pick a Latinate word –maybe one to do with the natural world – that sends you into a heightened sensory state.
“ I want the bats to be in some percentage rabid, some percentage dangerous.” (113)
“The bats hunt low on the water, but every now and again looking through my binoculars, I’ll see one silhouetted by the moon’s low orange wafer…For one moment the bones hang motionless caught as if by strobe-light. The body saying, however briefly, Here I am.”

Assignment: study something in “nature” till you know what it’s saying
“Ground-truthing is what biologists call entering an environment and actually surveying
what is there via the senses…” (164)
“Then it starts to seem by listening for their songs I’m causing birds to appear.” (173)
transcribing bird song by diagram(159/162), phonetics(163), translation (166)
“more than a tape will tell you” (165)
“can’t find a match in our crude human words” (167)
“Evanescence, it seems, is a universally quality of birdsong”(171)

Assignment: invent a bird, its habitat, its song (transcribed by diagram, phonetics, and English translation
“I can find no entry for vulture on the definitive tape, no song or call or chatter or whinny or drum.” (176)

…”if soul is too hokey/for all the misty goo inside us” (Elephant 79-80)

Small Workshop:
identify what you are pulled to in each other poems, what might need work,
and then consider where the language might be more surprising
and a resonant particular might be added.

For the following poems from Elizabeth Raby and Pattiann Rogers
find a surprise in the language and a resonant particular
then compose a Field Guide entry for something in the poem: “From the Garden of Earthly Delights”

Raby: “Collaterals”
Raby: “Sojourner”
Raby: “Rabbits”
Raby: “Hummingbird Wars”
Rogers: “For Stephen Drawing Birds”
Rogers: “Suppose Your Father Was a Redbird”
Rogers: “The Rites of Passage”
Rogers: “Eating Death:”
Rogers: “Berry Renaissance “
Rogers: “Apple Disciples”

Possible exercises:
inspired by Rogers” Berry renaissance”
engage in an act of immersion and
render that in a poem

“Quail” – “I’d like to believe something more/than chance ensures what will survive”
“Five Feathers” “Not a bad evening. Not a bad life.”



Online Poetry Professor is presented by The Montgomery County Poet Laureate Program (MCPL)