On Silliman, Limetree, and Breathing Fire 2: HEARTSPEAK Reaction

I was just visiting this Ron Silliman weblog that all of you talk about so frequently. It was interesting. It is evident he loves poetry. He is looking for writers and inspiration daily. That is great. It is also kind of a 'who is on my list' sort of thing. "This is what I think about Breathing Fire 2!" And then going in, and ripping on poets to say: 'this one will be good if they "loosen up here" or that will be "good in 10 years." ' I find that talk really unappealing. This idea of what is 'good' talk is rooted in personal taste. I feel that by placing categories on poets, or dealing with artists as 'good' or 'bad' pushes artists away from true innovation, or better put, reality.*

I don't know. These days I'll read anything. It's not what is published in magazines though. I have been digging hand-written-notes. I like things that are heartfelt and really, really simple. Just phrases put together. There is no messing. Just a truth. The writer's heartbeat on my retina. That's what I like. I respect very much the writers on Ron's site, as well as Ron, himself. It is wonderful to have so many writers to read there.

I feel so outside of this though. So outside, it's ridiculous. It's like poetry is about notches in a bedpost, rather than words anymore. I was reading on K. Silem Mohammad's Limetree, that he has been checking out poetry.com, and some guy is reviewing these pieces that are "bad." He tears them a new asshole, or whatever. (I am seriously paraphrasing here) Silem then talks about how he digs some of these poems that are not considered "poetry." 'That's a Sapphic fragment if I ever read one,' he says shit like that.

I dig that. I dig that he digs these poems. The things is, I really dig those poems. They are so much more tangible to me. They feel more like reality to me. I want to write like that. This is what I feel. To create characters who moan and groan in monosylablles. How fun! None of this really big talk or disjointed texts. That is what I like. I like it like a romance novel. I like it dripping with sentimentality. I like it touching the experimental. I like it humping the fantastical. This is the poetry I like. My taste. That doesn't mean I don't like poets like Ron Silliman or poets from this school or that school. I like them very much. I love their moving hearts. I love their intelligence. I love their effort to be out in the world. I also like poems that are muddy. I like it in the dirt.

I like characters in poetry. That doesn't mean I like to read narrative poetry or whateever they are calling it now. I like it to be true. I just like it to be true. The heartspeak. The giant thump. That is all. I think HEARTSPEAK needs to be taught in every school in America. I think it needs to be a global revolution. Just listen. Just go when you're ready. This is HEARTSPEAK.**

I don't think much of craft. I don't think much of schooling. Not in the poetry I like now. I threw it all away. I just dumped it on a lawn in Lone Pine, Egypt. The crows came for the little bits. They visit me on occasion. They sing it back to me in a new song. That's the way it throws down for me.

I don't like that Ron is judging poets as if he knows the future, as if he is God. You do not know. I do not know either. That is reality. I would rather you talk about what inspires you. I would rather it be personal to what you like. But the whole, this person will be a great poet in 10 years. This is not smart tennis. This is not reality. This is personal taste.

I do not know any of the poets in Breathing Fire 2, except Shane Book. He is a wonderful person. I like his intelligence and his poetry very much. Just magical, really. I am sure the others are as well, in their own way. I just wanted to put it out there to the world. I wanted to let you know here. Dirty is okay too. HEARTSPEAK is a nice path to fiddle. I will read, on occasion, these very intellectual pieces, even from a friend like Shane - I will respect this circle. These thoughts. These words. They are beautiful. I just wonder if there is anyone pushing the otherside of poetry. The one without fanfare. The romantic sparse. This golden hearse. These walking totems.

I don't want anyone to think I don't respect and like poetry that is not simple andd sparse. I respeect it all. I think people write in the modes they feel most comfortable. Whatever this might be for you, go and do it. I am not being on one side or the other. I just wanted to voice how I felt about Ron's blog on Breathing Fire 2. I just wanted to let the few poeple who read my blog to know that there is no good or bad. That because you write in the forms or styles that are going to be accepted in magazines, or thought of as a great poet by someone else, does not mean anything in comparison to the way you feel about the poems you have written in magazines, and how willing you aare to place public opinion aside and rely on your heart to acknowledge what you have created.

There is no good or bad, my friends. There is none of that. It's just creating. It's having fun. It's finding the language that is right for you. It's being clear about what you like - and how that is not a qualifier for what is good or bad - simply a marker for the moment you are in.*

Take or leave what I have to say. I had to say it though.



* I have marked SHORTSPEAK in purple for those who dig it shorter.
** I have marked HEARTSPEAK in red because I like that color.


JWG said...

Does Silliman use/write in heartspeak on his blog?

Pirooz M. Kalayeh said...

I don't know. Heartspeak is such an elusive thing. I would say that when I am as honest as I can be with a particular moment, that HS usually comes through, It results in a good cry, or an extreme juiciness - a sense of wholeness. It's really an amaizing thing, I have even been working with experiencing my life with this type of integrity, This is very different from the creative experience. Especially when it involves deep relationships. I can really be in heartspeak with the people I love, and then peeter off from it when I start having expectations for what will happen in a given conversation or moment. Then I am in a state of awkwardness where I have to talk myself into a state of comfortability before I can speak my Heartspeak. I think a lot of literary criticism, or "what is poetry" speak ends up falling into this place of a 'search for what language is,' or at least, the space where language is comfortable enough to inhabit the truths each of us have to offer. I think we all (ron included) have moments of Heartspeak. (It might even be that to find a place where one is comfortable to speak about poetry in a very logical headspace places certain individuals closer to the heartspace where they can communicate the Heartspeak that is inside them. I don't know.)

For me, talking about poetry is not as appealing as doing poetry, reading such a dialogue is also not as appealing as reading the actual poems being discussed. This would be my marked difference with certain writers. This doesn't makke me any better or worse. It really is the same place. I just know that 'talking about poetry' doesn't get me on the page. It does not inspire me as much as the page itself, as much as the world around me, as much as my personal experience of living life--of dying daily.

So, in SHOrTSPEAK, yes I believe Ron, and the rest of us, have moments of Heartspeak.

Of course, when an artist's intention is outside of HEARTSPEAK, when they want to place the poem as more important than the experience of writing the poem, I would say (in MY experience) that the pieces will hit and miss the magical quality of someone who is writing with an intention to expereince rather than achieve.

JWG said...

I don’t trust a poem that comes from the heart. Don’t trust a poem that comes from the head. Both of these places have intentions. Both a need to communicate. Both believe that they have the ability to create exactly what it is that they want to say. I much prefer the typo, and mistakes, and words that sound like other words. I like it when the finished poem has so little to do with the initial impulse. When the poem is allowed to come out of this nothingness. When it arises bc it needs to arise, and maybe, like that Cheech and Chong hitchhiker, bluffed us to the computer. I guess that first impulse is not always the true impulse, just the alarm that gets us out of bed.

Matthew Henriksen said...

Good stuff, Pirooz.

JWG said...

But all I've said is about poetry and I'm not doing it (though i have, but not on a public space). Poetry should talk poetry, and I'm ok with that.

Heart speak in relationships with people. Yes!

However, not sure how it works in the relationship to the page. Sometimes i like to lie (not fake, but lie, don't know if this is like an actor).

JWG said...

I don’t care anymore, I just want to wrestle.

Pirooz M. Kalayeh said...

Wrestle? Those sound like HEARTSPEAK words to me.

Jim it's so funny that we both had fathers who were these wrestling champions. Everytime I see that word I think of my dad shouting, PUSH PULL, and then pinning me into some pretzel by pressing a finger or kneading a knuckle.

I think I could have been a good wrestler. There wasa lot of pressure though. I was already rebeling at 10, when I sort of checked out of the experience.

The best was my first match. I wasa chubby, little kid - a cute, protruding tummy. My weight got me matched with some kid 2 years older than me and twice my height. It was a sad situation. He just fell on me. I couldn't do much after that.

I remember how ashamed I was. My Uncle Arjamand had come to see me. My dad was watching. I just cried. I told them I was sorry.

"He was just too big," I said.

My Uncle and Dad didn't say anything. They just sort of stood there. I could see, at least in my Uncle's eyes, this strange amazement that I was exhibiting tears over losing. His eyes said, "This is fascinating."

In my mind's eye, I don't see any ill will in that look. I didn't feel less because of it. It was just a genuine curiosity for what I was.

Recently, my dad and I had these great moment, where we were playing tennis, and there was a young father and son rallying next to us. The kid starts railing his dad (I think i've told you about this), "You stink, Dad. You are just so bad. You are the worst partner. I can't play with you. You're not good enough."

Okay, so, this is at the top of his lungs. He is just screaming it.

My dad and i are already losing it. We are so funny like that. It's our weird sense of humor. We can be really serious in our awkward moments, but if somebody else is going through some serious awkwardness, we'll start bagging up left, right, and center.

So, he starts it off. Just one of those big laughs that's stuck in a bag and played through an armpit. Just a Phhhwww BLppt!. e tries to cover his mouth, but it's out there. It's a tennis court. Things resonate.

I am not doing much better. I mean if this kid was 15, it'd be kind of serious, but he's 4 years old tops. 4 YEARS OLD!! And he's just tearing up his poor old dad.

Dude, I could not stop laughing. So good.

Now everytime my dad and I play tennis together, he'll eye any father-son duo (because this was a couple years ago), and he'll say, "Is them."

"Who?" I say.

He motions for me to come closer.

"Is them," he says and points with his eyebrows, that cant really point, so it's just like he's really surprised that he's said something. "Is the boy."

"What boy?"

"Remember," he says.

Now the grave way in which he says remember just pulls me like a rope of fire back to the Pbbbllt! and we're cracking up again.

God, I love it.

Anyway, I think the 4 YEAR OLD was different from me. He was just mad that he couldn't do it. He was real pissed. I took the other route. I was sad. Real depressed. But these aren't that far opposed from one another. They were both HEARTSPEAK, and what had to come up naturally for us.

A kid doesn't have boundaries. They just go for it. I'M MAD! I could eat you. Let's wrestle. Just because it's anger or sadness doesn't mean that it's not part of HEARTSPEAK. That term is an all-inclusive thing. It's a phrase - a shortcut really - to describe what it is that I do as an artist.

If Cuba Gooding Jr. didn't say he was 'the ambassador of Kwan' in JERRY MAGUIRE. I would probably use that. Well, that's not true. I am very much about making my own clothes, feces, transportation vehicles, computers, etc. (If I could make a log cabin, I would, believe me.) HEARTSPEAK is just a phrase.

Certain things can have HEARTSPEAK for you. You get to define them.

For me, HEARTSPEAK is inclusive to all the things you mentioned. It can be acting, something rising within, from nothingness, or just wrestling.

I prefer wrestling.

I grit my teeth now.
Grrrr, says the might pirate. Grr.

But that's a Grrrr with only 2 r's, little Jo-Jo says.
Yes, I remind him. Grr can be a poem too.


That's a poem.

Pirooz M. Kalayeh said...

Just to offer some SHORTSPEAK on a definition of HEARTSPEAK. It is...

HEARTSPEAK: v. To listen; to go when you're ready.

It's that simple as a universal term. A universal verb. The subject definition, as stated in the previous comment, is left to the discretion of each individual artist.

HEARTSPEAK, the noun: ____________________________

(fill in the blank)

Anonymous said...

This blog has some great information, I am glad I ran across it.
I have set up fountain as an info source for fountain.
you should give it a try.

Anonymous said...

Awesome Blog! I added you to my bookmarks. Feel free to check out my Xbox360 Blog anytime!

JWG said...

Those bastards are not doing the heartspeak.

I hear yr post. Dont even really know what i was talking about. Really, just kind of wanted to hit the ball around. not really caring about right or wrong, just wanted to argue. Sometimes i get like that. Just want to play.

Stacy Elaine said...

my dad was a champion wrestler too. he got a scholarship for it, if it weren't for wrestling, he'd have never gotten his PhD.

i like wrestling too.

Pirooz M. Kalayeh said...

I find that amazing that all 3 of our fathers were seiouss wrestlers. My dad also got through school on a wrestling scholarship. This was in Iran, but same dilly.

I dig dirt kicking. I dig questioning.

Do you remember being out on athletic fields, right before a game or right after? It's like the family softball team, or maybe you're taking a walk and come across this empty ballpark or soccer field? Yeah, that's what I feel about dirt kicking. I would be in there too. Just walking up to homeplate. Touching it. I wasn't even much of a ball player. Same with soccer. Just touch those goal posts. Brush my feet against the out lines. Let that white powder make a little trail up the hill that connected the soccer field to the ball one. Some brambles on the pant legs. This dirty. This forest dirty. Those dirty mags frm the older kids. My fear of God. My hiding behind the bushes. My so much. My so much.

Anyway, work is done. People are congregating. I will write more later.

JWG said...

I wish there was a uniform for poets. Think that was as much fun as anything. Shinning up the shoes (all black of course, black shoes polish over the swoosh etc). double wrapping the stirrups so only a little sock showed. Belt buckle. shirt. all perfect. except the hat. the sweatier the better. loved that dirty white line that got around it.

so we need a uniform.

My dad wrestled at the University of Arizona. My brother wrestled in high school in Az. came in 3rd in city when he was a soph. Somehow that whole thing passed me by. I liked the ball sports.

The most difficult thing about poetry, and this life, is the lack of competition. There is nothing definite. All is taste. You cant smack the ball 400 ft and round the bases real slow and know that you just did something, something the other guys were trying to prevent you from doing. Or striking a batter out with a man on third and running to the dugout. high fives. ass slapping. that is the best.

We can cheer for each other just as hard here (I do). But I want to beat someone. What should I do about that?

Stacy Elaine said...

put up yr dukes. we'll get down to it. hit me with your best shot, come on and hit me with your best shot, hit me with your best shot-- fire away!

damonesque said...

My mom made me try out for wrestling when I was in 8th grade. I was scared as shit, so I convinced my best friend Andy Finkleman to come do it with me. It was more like Navy Seal training than wrestling camp. We ran about six miles for warm up, then packed into a sweaty, 14X14 room in the basement of this catholic church. Immediately, the coaches (or, shall I say, SS officers?) started barking orders at us, calling us "swine-eating dollops of poo and vomit" and "bastardized vulture fuckers" and similar obscenities. When the two and a half hour ordeal ended, Andy and I walked outside into the brisk Wilmington winter night and began bawling furiously. It was the first time I cried in front of a friend since I was seven or so, and ever since that moment our fates have been inextricably linked.

Pirooz M. Kalayeh said...


How fun to imagine a good old brawl. A bawl too. In Wilmington, no less. Is this Delaware or the Carolinas?

I have not been drawn to tears in a physical exertion sort of way, since I was playing soccer one day, and my dad kicked me in the ankle.

"Get up," he said. "Is fine!"

I walked around on crutches for a couple weeks. No scary coaches though. I pretty much lucked out except for Mr. L. He really hated me for some reason. I think it had something to do with going out with E, who was also a student, but belonged to his church. Like a true player, or 16 year old, I went out with a cheeleader, and left E in the dust. Mr L. was pretty snappy during the season.

I remember being made to run laps after cussing on the court, which was outrageous balderdash, considering swearing was the most normal act on the courts. It was his way though.

I ended up having mine. I just kept running laps the whole practice. I debated quitting, then decided, "Nah, I made my point."

I think he got it too, because by the end of practice all the rest of the team joined me. They knew it was wrong, and they filed in. We ran until Mr. L just broke down, and sort of had a heart to heart with me.

He didn't apoligize or anything. Just tried to explain himself and why he made me run. I stood up for myself, and told him how it was a double-standard.

He didn't bother me after that. He tried, but it didn't really phase me--not even his award to me for "Best Bus Minstrel" while everyone else got legitimate trophies, and my name was spelled, "Piroade Kageyah."

I just took it. My parents still have it. It's my reminder. I look at it. I see the state championships. I see my great season. I see that band of brothers joining me to sprint across the field. I see L. I know he meant well. I see E. I think, "Yeah, she was a great person. She deserved a better farewell."

I got mine though. The cheerleader dropped me and broke my heart.

I'm sure Mr. L got something from seeing us running.

I'm sure the world gets something from us running now. We are a band. It is the individual. It is their in our HEARTSPEAK. It's right now with our comments. In Wilmington, Tuscaloosa, Greenville, Yonsei, Thai Town, Frisco, you name it.

HEARTSPEAK is the uniform. We get to choose whatever we want. Then with my tophat or your sweaty gym shorts or riding socks tucked oh so--we zoom out to a FS of the earth, and realize the uniform is this skin, teeth, and bone that pumps our lives full of life.

You humans ever play BONKERS? KICK the CAN?

Sean Mac said...

Here's one from that diff. world of people who never wrestled and neither did their fathers: i dont mind particularly which chakra a poem/work of art pours/seeps/runs/screams out of, but i do care for a sense that it is alive, that it has some work in this world, that the very act of writing it was a practice of edge, was a revolution. one where the very act of reading changes me, the reader - some slight shift or bump. then i can look at the bump and see where things stand from here.

sometimes its a bump into some murky frustration.

sometimes its a bump into deep fascination.

sometimes its a giggle.

sometimes i shut the book and stare off into space.

i constantly rate and sort these reactions. i think that is bad tennis. i am thinking of guitar solos stuffed full of notes. you can take some of those out. i can trust that i will notice what i notice, and that conclusions and verdicts are not the point. if there's still something in it for me, some karma to explore, i will find myself reading it again.

and someitmes we can work it - push harder, keep the focus up. but we have only so much energy, so much time. i think silliman pushes himself into poetry so hard that at this point he lives there, its habit, he's so comfortable in the gym that he can coach the rest of us while he's working out, or after he's worked out, really its all between workouts for him. me, i come and go from the gym, and my stamina goes up and down. his coaching observations and insights might not be welcome/solicited, might make us feel uncomfortable, but i definitely get that relaxed yet intense analytic eye sense from him. in a weird way, it encourages me when my reading is all frustrated, backed up and "dead end". other days i cannot finish his entry, so i scan or cut loose.

of course, there are many coaches. metaphors are like venomous snakes, and here i've conjured a whole room of them.

what have i said? i do appreciate poetry as moving into something scary, raw, an edge. and what that is varies, but all i can do is trust my own sense reading it, and check in with friends.

this is what makes "best american poetry" such a laugh.

Delia True said...

One time my dad had a big wrestling meet in high school, and he had to starve himself literally to get down to competing weight, which is no small feat for a constantly hungry growing adolescent teenaged dude with lightening quick metabolism...anyway, so after weeks of depriving himself of basic nutrients for the sake of being a champion, he finally got down to his weight class and competed in his big meet (state tournament of something). Afterwards, he was so ravenously hungry. he went straight to the bakery and bought a dozen chocolate eclairs, sat down on the curb, and ate 'em all, right there on the curb. You can guess what happened after that...

I know that story has nothing to do with poetry, but I'm no poet, and there was some sort of wrestling thread way back there somewhere.

Pirooz M. Kalayeh said...

I'm not a poet either. Neither are they. We're just wrestlers.

In fact, that's the name of our band. THE WRESTLERS. Quick! Hurry up and write some songs you WRESTLERS. Send them to me at p.kalayeh@att.net. You don't need to have instruments or anything-just sing, stomp, or cough a ditty. I'll accompany you, or just leave it as dry toast. Then we can put up our album on The Shikow Online Store, or wherever else.

And no, I don't make any money from that. But it would be great to make a record with whoever's out there. The only qualification: you're human.

Pirooz M. Kalayeh said...

Actually, I won't speak for anyone else. I am not a poet. I'm a wrestler. I am also more like, "Human, yeah." So, in SHORTSPEAK: I am amazed that there are so many people with wrestling fathers. It must be some kind of Tom Foolery, some good old chink the chink in my chain-link-fence. I'm not sure.

I hear you, Kyle. Do not think my THE WRESTLERS album post disavows you from my retina's satellite. Interesting thought that Ron is somehow a master. This places him in a hierarchy though. Is this true? Is he all the things you said?

"...that at this point he lives there, its habit, he's so comfortable in the gym that he can coach the rest of us while he's working out, or after he's worked out, really its all between workouts for him..."

How do you know? Why does it matter?

It sounds like you dig his analytical mind. It gets you going. That is right on. I hear that. But as your brother and friend, I question the former.

Bobbie Hawkins and I often had discussions about this (Keith too [in his own way]). She wouldd say how important it was to see teachers on the same playing field. Other writers, artists, humans. This same playing field opens us up the possibilty to hit the homerun. It may even be the only homerun necessary.

By seeing the quality of self to self, the interconnected whole, where is there room to beat anyone? Do the bases in the ballpark suddenly start foating off into oblivion?

SHORTSPEAK: I hear you. Ron is just like you. I am just you. You are just like you. There is no difference. There is no hierarchy. This is the homerun. This is the end to Jim's wrestling career.

JWG said...

Gotta pin me first, sucka, and I am mighty quick. I love this thread. This might be the heart speak. All of us are wrestlers. We really are. Little victories. late night pins. by myself. no one cheers. But I know.

This is what I wish though. I want silliman to be the all-star pitcher, and I want a shot at him. Sure I could hit it. Throw it in there hoss. I don’t want anyone’s approval, I just want to slide into second nice and hard and send one of the established tumbling. Want to let them know that the game is on. How is that announced without hustle?

Sadly, my wrestling career never began. that is another angle. though our pops were wrestlers, none of us were.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I heartspeak cats