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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

04/26/2006 - The Sort Poems

Very early in the process before I realized I was on the trail of the Muse, I began experimenting with automatic writing in an effort to generate written content to put into the paintings.


As records of dance, the tracing works were already transcribing content. I wanted a direct connection, language. That meant words, or at very least, sounds that would become words.

At this time, my model was my subject. It was not myself, or the work, or the dialogue between myself, my model, and a third party, nor was it the long diatribes I later would record direct from the Muse herself. Each of these possibilities became a full flesh and blood voice, as on a Greek theater stage.

Here I'll detail an automatic writing experiment I conceived and carried out very early on in the project as a way to try to discover written content without having to compose lines myself.

The theory was simple. Give Mythos a chance to 'steal a bone', from Logos.

Imagine consciousness like a pack of wild dogs. They function as a group, think as a group, and contribute as a group.

Each has a role to play.

The lead male and female, are the leaders. The correct term is 'Alpha male' and 'Alpha female' but I refuse to go further with this mythology. It is out of date and short-sighted. 'A' is the first letter, yes. it also where written consciousness begins, but as I will show, it is not consciousness! Rather it is the beginning of Mythos being brought to consciousness.

Leaders keep everyone else in line, yet alone, they would starve.

Rank and file pack members have their own hierarchy. The so called "Gamma" dogs, male or female, are the lowest ranking. Again, I don't subscribe. Yes, they are ranked, and that ranking is only sociologically important for understanding pack dynamics.

Consciousness is a flame that is fed by unconsciousness. Our fire is stoked by a part of us that does not shine brightly.

Lead dogs have the job of drawing strength in the most effective way, from the pack. Like politicians, they judge pack direction, and pack sentiment. They get their ideas from the pack. And they co-ordinate the contributions made from rank and file, hopefully, to make sure everyone remains fed.

However, as in all places where power accrues, so does ego. So does brittleness. Ego breaks, and also  consciousness.

The only thing that doesn't break is a kind of consciousness that is everywhere, diffused throughout.

This is the objective of Tantric consciousness by the way. But that's another topic.

When ego, or Logos, or leadership, becomes confident, that base from which it drew its strength to begin with begins to steal from it. Logos is constantly undermined by Mythos.

So, following the pack analogy, when the so-called gamma dogs think they can get away with not sharing with the alpha male, they will.

The rank and file, as a group, represent Mythos, dark, and non-conscious, but possessing a massive thought base. Logos does not generate ideas, only processes them. Mythos possesses calculation, (don't confuse with mathematics - that's grammar). Mythos is more intelligent, but doesn't know it, lacks focus, yet (eventually) completes everything it starts.

How does one advertise to Mythos that one is creating an opportunity for it to express itself?

Live. That's the way we all do it. Live. Our Mythos doesn't need our help.

But, if we want to examine a portion of our Mythos, we may.

We provide that opportunity, quite simply, by telling it, through the lead dog. Post an announcement! Design an experiment that is clearly handicapped in favor of your gamma dogs! Here's your opportunity!

One would think that leadership would sense an ensuing revolt, and put an end to the process. Sometimes they do.

But not usually. Heads of companies, states, and the conscious wakeful part of our brains that we rev up with coffee, are famous for appearing to undermine their own leadership, because leadership, i.e. consciousness knows, that it has to face a daily test. And how better to face a test than to administrate a game that can be controlled, where outcome is not crucial!

So just like the CEO, who calls a holiday for company group-therapy, our Logos may be set up in charge of administrating an experiment where the massive abilities of the unconscious pack mind may excel.

I designed one such an experiment that had mixed results. It was done by sorting words, and I'll try to explain it here so you may try it yourself.

Have a subject walk up and down a staircase. It is ideal to use a real staircase. I began with the staircase that went three floors from my apartment to the sidewalk on Houston Street, but we retreated to a set of cardboards ruled off into squares. It was just too disruptive to the building to try and write poetry by climbing stairs. I was working with my ladies, and sometimes we did this after the tracing work, and they were not always properly dressed. Furthermore other tenants in the building would stop puzzled to look at the little magnetic words we were putting out on the staircase. So we retreated back to the apartment. But if you live in a house with a private staircase, trust me, stairs would be best. The exertion will further distract the 'alpha' dog from trying to interfere with his gamma pack.

Have your subject start each pass of the staircase holding a number of words on separate pieces of paper, magnetic fridge words, newspaper words, words written on index cards, it really doesn't matter. What is important is that the 'subject' not be familiar with the 'word pile'!

For beginners at this process I advise selecting at least two, the more the better, articles from the web, reproducing them larger, then cutting out words with a pair of scissors. Eliminate topical words that are too time and space specific. Eliminate extra articles of speech if they seem too numerous. Making the selection of what words to include is a bias that must be tolerated into such a short time-based experiment.

Ask your subject to visualize the staircase as a series of steps, moving from one extreme, through shades of grey, to another. Also ask them to pose a question, (have him or her keep this private), such as 'which word reminds me more of my father?', or, 'which word is more ridiculous?'. Any question at all where the answer may be viewed as relative, or non-categorical. 'Which word is blackest?', 'which word is happiest?' You've got the idea.

Now, it is very important to submit every word to this question when making the sort. In a way we're interviewing the pack of dogs. We're sizing them up, and ranking them.


No matter which words are placed on which steps, they are arrayed according to relative strength when faced with the private question.

If the staircase has sixteen steps, draw 16 words. Sort and relativize them along the stairs. Do this 5 or 7 times.

This part of the 'task' - that's the job for the King of the Pack. Logos, our executive, has a job to do! He's thrilled. He's in power! He gets to pick the teams! He organizes the game.

[Achilles held games during a break from battle during the Trojan War, after he realized that his ego had gotten the better of him, and celebrated a return to his 'karma' as a warrior. In some of the events that were held, he handicapped his clear athletic advantage over the others, but still won. In so doing he subjugated himself to his King, Agamemnon, who was by all rights a nasty and devious man. Nevertheless, Achilles did this with grace. He subsequently went into battle, Troy was conquered, Achilles lost his life. 'Everyone's gotta serve someone', Dylan. ]

To answer questions about each word, the Leader puts feelers out to his pack. Which of the two words, 'disk' or 'pencil' reminds me most of my father? (That's my question) Well, in my case, 'pencil' does. My Dad was an artist. The Leader answers with a quick bark to his nearby lead female. The word is placed on a step.

A distinction between 'tape' and 'keys' is harder. Both were important in my father's life. Instinctively he begins to consult Mythos. He looks around the room, at his pack, for signs of how to answer the question.

The subject, walks the stairs in passes, distributing, on average, one word per step. As words are laid down, they are turned over, so that the 'history' remains hidden. This is the crux of the matter! Make absolutely sure your subject knows this it will be done this way before starting out, else there'll be a conscious rebellion, e.g. 'But I want to compose! why else are we doing this!'

Conscious mind cannot remember which words end up on which step. That's the point. The Unconscious mind, i.e. the whole pack of dogs, can. The total mind is brilliant at speed math, at poetry, at rhyme, at chess. Logos is lousy at all of these things, but understands rules, grammar, process.

Consciousness is but a tiny flame illuminating only a tiny part of a very complex forest.

Invariably the leader will be perplexed by the results. It's not his day. But hey, it's just his touchy-feely off-site conference! So he declares lunch, and generously shares more bones.

This is where the gamma dogs conspire to do an end-run on their alpha leader. They spot an opportunity. Mythos salivates at the prospect of being able to openly express itself, without censorship from Logos!

Each word that came up faces initial categorization from the question, the moment with the Oracle, and then, based on the interpretation, is asked to sit into the array, and prioritize, grouping words together, perhaps two on one step, none on another, without looking at words from previous passes up or down the staircase.

After repeating the process 5 or 7 times, each stair will have on average of five or seven words which then may revealed and 'ordered' to form the lines, of a nascent poem.

Now comes the 'interpretive' part. The Alpha Male has noticed that the Gamma Dogs have been playing with his bones. He gets interested, and tries to influence the outcome.

Here the lead dog is needed. We need grammar. The words emerge from the process, but are unlinked by rules of language. Leadership organizes!

As part of 'interpretation', there needs to be only one grammar. The lead dog's good at grammar, so let him do it!

Nouns may 'flip' to become verbs.
Singular may become plural, and vice-versa.
Articles can 're-generate' themselves, like fingernails.
Suddenly there's language. The pack has spoken.

I conducted the experiment with four gals. AP, MS , RK, and Rainbow. I wrote then wrote a computer program to 'jostle' the words, (replacing the pack leader) so that the word order on each 'step' could be made into a random event, changed by pushing a button. I jostled them, like a gold-miner, panning for gold, late into the evening hours on my Houston Street computer.

Here's a portion of the first poem I wrote with Rainbow using this method:

Yes, know your studio,
come to capture some smoke.
Though they deal death,
Be here.
Weld scale metal
doing looms from mess,
pad to mad.
Was an empty glass so dead?
How mean with junk,
Take our old cigarettes in break.


In a blast I understood the mechanism of the mind, and how devices may be dreamed up at any time, to distract our too-focused executive. It was possible to allow the pack to dream at night.

Ah . . the rub . . .

a tidbit not offered by a playful hand
what's not edible, is left in sand.

My gals didn't like it. I didn't like it. It had a lousy taste.

It was mechanical. It took their input, but ground it up with the process. Yes it brought forth subject, but it was DOA. It lacked leavening, bread that wouldn't rise.

The picture I got was my picture, since I had created the process in the first place. I was flour and water and sugar, but no yeast. It felt I had taken my subjects, and put them in cages.

She didn't like having her words in cages! I was gaining Muse consciousness.

These feel like machine poems - there was no grace in the making. No one else was there, least of all my subject, once she had broken the words down into piles she felt done for the day. My gals were bored to tears. It resembled an industrial grade psychological test. Once I had satisfied my curiosity and saw that 'content' was all over the place, I realized it was time to move on.

After all why should it be difficult to write poetry? Why should a massive effort be engineered to help the process? Yes I had learned one way to distract Logos. But ritual does the same thing!

I learned if a situation is designed for Mythos to rush in and populate with projection and 'content', then it will. 

I learned that if a tidbit is offered, and held there consistently, equidistant from the grasp of the one being so tortured, the creature tires and turns away from it. Who wouldn't.

Poetry is the reason that poetry is written. We all need it. This wasn't it.

In fact this experiment scared the shit out of me, so I stopped.

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