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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Song of 81 Poems, IX

Reversing to faithful
see why bold kids grave danced.
Your finest was a great psychic sculpture.

And scale the choice.
More ways are here, Queen Daughter,
     must I weld through glass?

Experiment through life's electric daughter,
     only to despair.
Discover, speak out as we faithfully experiment,
     above a sanguine picture original.
Be perfect here after. your passion in sleep,
     is to compose form.

How darkly, no sad men come yet.
     More damage lead her right behind a storm.
You did dance Sir,
     Really his garb must stink.
Throw, Share on a couch,
"Enter Vate! Go Out!"

Destroy your pride, some discovery.
     What psychedelic is found in art?
Progress, handle it! Is she free?
Good society means a serious heart.

     We represent the null.
Pull a bitter glorious night.
Avoid negative, high art.
Smear, capture space.
     "Dude! Choose! Only play!

Metaphor negatively trod in her, to model
     a kid's silhouette.
Famous, fine, for he has an insane mother.
Your partner let grace abscond
     the husband's light.
Is beautiful surf what struggles
     to mean serious art?

Try and improve - I've a database.
Why do cunning lunatics influence our many companions?
     You screamed this before, can I call nature sweet?
This is the crazy passion I was not imagining.
We are all language.
    Chant is Music.

Learn to feel married, have intimacy.
     Try a life-like vintage body, into my mean stranger,
"Choose! Investigate the wild blue."
Destroy my white part, throw nude with chocolate.
Afraid? Then, play.

Sky appears like home.
     Be a solution through night.
So important, to share a cat together, and not society.
    Take to open love at passion's bed.

Wretch, whose free toss will blood,
     some rainbow, for you, upon glass.

Song of 81 Poems:

  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36
37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45
46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54
55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63
64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72
73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81

Monday, January 30, 2012


When morning nightshade beans beckon,
It's time to make a bang-up breakfast, I reckon.
I'll have it with eggs, and or I'll have it with steak,
Or if I can't find bacon, I'll down it with cake.

What is this? . . . . AnswerCoffee

Saturday, January 28, 2012

very small paintings

Here are two very tiny oil paintings. Both were part of a larger work that I took a razor blade to, and cut out the parts I found interesting. Very little from the larger painting seemed interesting.

I glued these bits to paper.  At the time I couldn't see them for what they were, primitive experiments. I had this mystical fascination for atmosphere, the horizon. I was looking off into the distance, and must have been hearing the call of a watery world. Did I know I would be going to sea when I made these? Did I know that I would lose interest in painting, and become a filmmaker? These paintings seem to have known. The part of filmmaking I liked was editing. Creating meaning, through cuts.

You might wonder why I'm taking the time to post these here. Quite simply because I don't own these anymore. I gave them to my godmother shortly after I made them, and only have these photos. So by putting the images here I'll have them to refer to.

A blog is personal history, out of order.

Some Early Oils

As I'm building this blog, I'm asking myself, 'why'?, and I think the simple answer to that question is 'because I can!'. I have all this work, photographs of my work, pots, paintings, drawings and so forth. They need to be let loose into the world, and I can't imagine a better pond to throw them in than the internet. Google will take better care of them, at least I assume, than any conservator. My children won't have to fight over anything so long its in some kind of order. I'm putting the album in order, labeling pictures that they can't label.

Am I preparing for that day? Of course, all of us are.

These works date from 1974 to 1976. I was living on Park Street in New Haven, CT. The one of the storefront was done looking south, out of my third floor window. It was some kind of food establishment at that time, recently it was a locksmith, but they've since closed.

I had a small french easel. My friend Barney Conrad had one too and we used to take them around spots in New Haven to paint 'au pleine aire'. I hadn't been bit by recent advances in abstraction, and was caught up digesting the vernacular of the Impressionists.

It's all language. Painting, words. You work on, or with the language that you are attracted to, or are still in the process of learning. Birds do it. People do it. Everyone's tweeting these days! :)

First Three Pots

Here stand three pots. The first three I ever made.

They are heavy, of an iron-rich and heavily grogged sculpture body. They are thick enough and strong enough to drive a nail.

I didn't have a kiln at that time. My wife Ami and I were living on Mott Street, in New York City. I bought a box of clay, then hand-built these on the kitchen table, constructed around some party balloons which allowed the clay to shrink.

I took them back to the pottery store on LaGuardia Place, and let them do the firing. Amazingly, they offered a service doing gas reduction. I liked the way this iron rich clay turned dark. At that time I wasn't even really sure what reduction was.

I waited months for the results.

I think at that moment something in me changed. I found the Bernard Leach book at the New York Public Library. All I could think about was moving out of New York, getting a kiln, and starting to fire.

Fire is Life - The Firing Part II

[continued from Part I]

I wondered how my fourteen hour 'soak' had progressed. It's been cold this winter, though I had left the studio heat off. An overnight soak with pilots on would put the kiln comfortably above boiling temperature . . . safe to take bisqued glazed work up rapidly into a firing zone.

Sure enough the soak had progressed. The top thermocouple read 300 degrees, the bottom was cooler by a factor.

There was little to do but check positions of the switches on the main controller and press "Run". The board cycled through the program I had entered, asking the main burners to bring the kiln to the impossible temperature of 2375 in less than a minute. It would hold gas on until that shutoff point was reached, thus allowing me to manually control the firing.

The counter flickered through the numbers, and as soon as the 'call for gas' temp crossed the temperature of the upper thermocouple, the main burners came on with a bang of both solenoids.

I carefully trimmed the gas down to 1/2" of water column, set the burner blowers at 40 cfm, and let her rip. The time was 6:00 PM.

It's a joyous part of the firing. No need to be slow. All the ware within was bisqued, and fully dry. The task was to get hot rapidly, but not crazily so. The kiln wants a reasonable rate of rise, around 250 degrees per hour.

I turned my attention to some cleanup detail. Made a cup of tea, drank it.   . .

And realized . .  once again . . . I had a good five or six hour wait on my hands!

At about 9PM I heard a loud bang. What was that?

Impossible to tell. I looked through my burner ports. The cones all seemed to be in place. I could see them all, though the ones on the top seemed a bit higher than usual.

Probably nothing at all. It possibly was my neighbor in the building, walking out, and slamming his metal door behind him.

If it was something in the kiln there was no sign whatsoever of a problem.

I read. Wrote. Made more tea. The fire hissed and purred, a happy Felix.

I napped, checking first that my CO meter was plugged in reading properly.

At 11:00 PM I had a quick look at my cones. Damm Cone 010 was nearly down, time to go into reduction. I whittled the blower air down by 25%, and increased main gas pressure significantly.

The kiln became quieter. The flame from the top turned a lovely transparent orange.

For the next five hours I managed the temperature upwards, cutting back on the reduction ever so slightly every half hour or so, tweaking this, tweaking that. The kiln was behaving much much better. Yes more improvements could be made. I noticed a few problems with the air blowers, and the burner air intake vents wouldn't hold solidly in position. I rigged them with some tape.

I kept awake by taking temperature readings every 15 minutes. It's crazy, manic, and obsessed. But I needed to stay awake.

At five in the morning I was starting to feel really exhausted. This was the point when Charles Lindberg's little monoplane crosses over Ireland. He has hours of flying left to do. He can hardly keep his hands on the controls.

This firing was almost done.

I checked my cones. The top spyhole spewed a smokey flame powerful enough the singe hair from the top of my head. Where's that hairdryer? Damm I forgot it. I read the cones by blowing into the kiln. It works, . . very briefly. Cone 9 was solidly down on top. Cone 10 hadn't moved. On the bottom Cone 10 was nearly down.

I've learned that with my glazes a firing anywhere from Cone 9 to 10 was fine.

I busied myself with preparations for shutdown. Bits of ceramic to plug up the burner ports. I kept checking the cones . . . but suddenly an inner voice said, "Shut her down."

One has to listen to the voice within. In yoga it's called the 'Teacher Within'. You bow to it at the end of practice. In pottery, work, love, flying airplanes, wherever, it can guide you. Preparations, more than anything else, clear the way for hearing that voice. It will tell you things you need to know.

I shut the kiln off. The room became quiet. The kiln pulsed heat. Cracks from the burner ports showed the temperature, a light yellow heat. My studio heater hadn't been on for two days. I was in my shirtsleeves, sweating.

I plugged the air intakes with ceramic bits, and all the spy holes and side plugs with their pieces of carved kiln brick.

I slid shut the two upper vents, two small kiln shelves that closed off the exit flue at the top.

I murmured another small prayer . . and went home to sleep.


A high-fire kiln dehydrates effect the whole system. The only similarity I can think of is a long day's work in front of old style movie lights. I did plenty of that in my younger days as a gaffer's assistant. Those tungsten bulbs were hot. They suck moisture out of you the way a scale insect drinks sap from a flowering plant.

A bath. Plenty of oil on the skin. Around six that evening I mustered the energy to go back and see how things were cooling.

Not quickly!! Another good sign. The kiln was holding heat well. Still could be better. After thirteen hours the temperature on top was still over 900 degrees.

Home again.

I'll just let a good long time go by, and then go over to open it tomorrow. The hardest thing to do is wait while a kiln is cooling. One day I'll learn to turn my attention to other things, throwing or handbuilding. But I simply cannot. The kiln commands the attention. So if I'm better off leaving it to cool on it's own.


Another daybreak. I decided not to rush going over. I did errands, vacuumed the house. At around noon I took the car over and entered the studio.

260 degrees!

Slowly and carefully I loosened the clamps holding the kiln door shut and gently cracked the door. No noises, no sounds. All good. A collapse could have fallen against the door, and welded itself there. But then  . .  I'd never experienced a collapse or failure of any kiln shelves or furniture.

There's always a first time:

I looked at the arrangement of shelves and ware, in disbelief not disappointment. There had indeed been a collapse. Of sorts.

Yet, little seemed to be damaged. I removed pieces one at a time. The easy ones to get at first, those likely to be crushed if all the shelves went at once.

It was impossible to see what had happened. Somewhere on the left, a set of posts which I was sure I had seated well had given way. But why? Not a trace of evidence.

But what had taken up the load? What had saved me?

Well for one thing the set of posts which I slipped in front as a last minute precaution were doing their job! Glad I did that!

And then, on the left, that little sculpture of the man with his arms over his head, was actually jammed in! He was taking some of the weight, Incredible!

Gently I slipped another set of posts in his place. He popped out into my hands undamaged.

I remembered my poem . . "Some experiments, some accidents . . "

A few of the pieces were beautiful. Temokus broke to a deep red. Shinos turned out well too. Some bowls made by a friend were slightly oxidized, but softly so, and very lovely.

A very few pieces had slid into each other and welded together, but came apart easily without breaking into the clay body.

Not 100% success. . . but a start. The new kiln had performed. Glazes all on track. I anticipated the next firing.

I emptied the entire kiln emptied except for a few wares at the bottom rear. As I reached for the top shelf the whole structure gave way.

I never did find out which bit of ceramic post had failed, cracked or slipped.

One bowl at the very rear bottom was broken by the final collapse. The kiln gods had been paid.

I felt lucky, blessed. Things go wrong, it's a rite of passage. Auspicious it was too.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Six Letters

On a scant atoll,
six letters, caught my soul.
I cast those letters in ink, not brass,
 . . . arranged them there to hold you fast.
a nib dripped ink,
So those letters made me think . . .
of the ruin of kin,
 . . . . Oh how the soul does rub it in.
a ribbon until the end of time,
arms I knew, would soon hold mine.
so in words I set our souls . .
stories to contain us all. . . like bowls.
 . . .  be good, and call me soon . . .
 . . .  let's Muse beneath the moon,
and with me, write nighttime poetry.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wash Away

I got food poisoning. It was all very tempting.

Then they overbooked my flight and thanks to my son I fell down a flight of stairs . . .
Then I heard from the people who adopted our little darling.

He's still moist.

Everything I wanted is unfolding, even the things I hadn't ever imagined..
So buckle up. This is happening. Awards don't mean anything. SOPA's dead. PIPA's dead. You don't have to like it . . or me even . . .

Cause is not a fact. It will never be. I'm glad to know there are sensible people out there. No regrets, they only hurt . . . sing me a love song instead. Upgrade your gray matter.

This is where I do it. Oh, waves of Time!

Wash away . . .

Only 4 AM

Only 4 am. Hark!
    The revenge of the liberals is nigh!
Wow. well done. just well done . . .
    a beautiful Sunday morning,
I so love these moments -
    you helped make a human out of me.
Romance, passion, and love, the things I put into art and life.

Aliens! Don't fuck with cyber surfers . . .
    Open your arms, Open your heart.. It's National Hug Day! 
On our way back from the NYC motorcycle expo
    so much fun was had!
There's nothing like you grinning at the door
    yes, I preach, because I would.

Your skin looks good! I see a face,
    My spouse is the first one in line,
With a paw full of flowers.
    this stuff keeps me on my toes.
Look at my bitch, spinning,

Monday, January 23, 2012


The Lord of Things below,
Howls and climbs his tower,
to feed his wolverine some stew,
and then to watch it growl.

What's in wolverine stew?
A passerine or two,
bones, remains of fowl.
They stand cheek to jowl, so
Now must be the hour.


Someday the delinquent son becomes real,
And walks down the street.
You will see him. Everyone will.
They'll wonder
what he's been up to.
He was sold, not a soul here didn't profit by it.
They tied him by the mast,
And made him toil there
For eight years.
All because he drank,
For a few minutes,
With one of the Queen's men.


I'm proud to cross the earth,
proud to watch your crossing,
When your name rose up,
It lit there, high up,
In the air above her face.

Smother Us Black

Smother us in a black limpid experiment,
Manipulate in sleep, in time my peace,
to do some right process.

Free, to us all life is always dormant,
Finger him,
It won’t take an ugly score.

I'll risk mad curious will,
When childhood pressure’s up and away.
How drunk I am.

I have an insane mother!
Twinkle always. Wryly I crept through a white street.

Draw, sculpt/ Husband, process sweet model.
Up high, I better fly in pain,
her death will feel sweet like a rose.

Make a new banal music for absurd sounds.
Investigate. I'm ocean, all is that I see.

The boy sees an aggressive double,
eats the original spirit of love,
He wants hot beer.

Balance, cuddle with empty color.
Mean temper needed, enormous affect to disordered character
Surf love and you understand.

Why should a bad girl see this Rainbow?
Think here. Go there. When stuck be aware.
Brother moon, why did this young friend appear?

Hey pal . . . Press for peace.
Impress opportunity,
A girl would have me home, and have a cat together.

Vintage communes see on Crete perfect symbols. Show some guts.
A grand passive Master breaks attachment,
Screams at an infant society.

With laugh take delusions.
Glorious an amber look, for better competition,
I'll waste, wasted I'd dream relate,
Why my glass scratch can improve.

With my story of this strange doctor.
Sanity at last, empowers like space,
Cry fantasy education, histories are ok.

Cunning husband believe your still raging wife,
Some tedious ancient form
When smoke calls, gives a red smear before a blue party.
Ohm . . .  lion guards against vile art.

Brother, marry a softer secret night
Cleaner sex and fast romance
Canvas is the drug.

I can write man caught by an angel
Gold runs back to strength by earth
Represent my ugly shard.

You give sugar, but don’t dust bad money
Under a shy bag
Capture surreal music my homely sister of beauty
We love life.

Heaven’s choice we’ll soon know
So patience, respect nude play
Daddy uses emotion on lost energy

Good days question always, take nerve
Live and try upon thin periods.

Drunk, face your party animal.
I’m sure thought must discover sense.
See the beautiful cat almost howl.

Chant she would say,
Loom open, to find more music.
Secure grace,
See how she understands silence.

Choose an old soft ritual about fresh life
Make electric picture model
Mama come here!
Heal by intimacy, sexual women!
Use sanguine perfume to calm the crazy leader.
Feel clever through freedom about death.

Bird, go out, sculpt him blind
Destroy your pride
No anger to share with art.

Mom tells that sharp sin my fear of cooking
Fiery mother don’t let yourself influence harmony
Care is above our will.

Kiss me always. Give me water tea.

The Way In

And indeed today pain was mouthed . . . .
The dance got bitter . . .
And she defeated us both. . . .
But we are like cats. . .
able to nimbly navigate . . .
through the open obsessive work.
Therein lies our way. . .
The way in is the way out.

MWP, date unknown, 5354-154-255

The Muse Poems:

   1  2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36
37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45
46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54
55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63
64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72
73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81

Monday, January 16, 2012

Heart and Mind

A scattered mind, a pile of rice.
Is a soul contained, but boiled twice.
Pains that netted misery,
Studies, school, and history.
When the heart is called, it jumps and runs,
Making art, and rhyming puns.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Of Grasses and Fish, Mobile, and Immobile Life Forms

What would the world be without grass or fish . . . . I may imagine, though grimly, a world with JUST grasses and fish. . . but cannot see the world without them, perhaps because they are part of the greater body. . . that makes the rest of us possible.

The evolution of Homo sapiens as a species, living on a microdot called Earth, begins with the story of a minute silicon spark left to coalesce from the the same solar nebula that made the sun. The vast reaches of time and space are for the most part a story of 'inorganic' matter, which according to terrestrial-chemistry, is non-life.


Humans, glib from the hubris of success in the past few milliseconds of universal time, make the assumption that intelligence is the mark of all life forms, and that only the living possess intelligence. I wish to immediately challenge that assumption, and also to blur the distinction between what 'lives' and want we consider 'non-living'.

These assumptions are so foundational, so un-challenged that they slip into our thoughts unawares. Part of the human mythos. A computer now may now easily defeat nearly all humans at chess. Is this not intelligence? Ah you argue, who gave the machine it's intelligence? Rules were set up, programs created. Yes, true. . . but so it is with any task. A child, created by two adults, knows nothing confronting a chess set for the first time. So it was for "Deep Thought" the IBM machine programmed to play, learn from, and eventually beat some of the best grand-masters of the game.

What are the distinctions between life and non life? We are born, so are atoms. We evolve. Matter evolves. Molecules heavier than iron decay into iron, atoms lighter build over universal time towards iron, which sinks like the core of a planet into the middle of the periodic table of matter. All of matter seems to obey laws of physics some of which as humans we seem to understand.

Matter engages in an exchange of energy, and mass, just as life forms do. The time is upon us when we shall be throwing aside such distinctions.

Our mythos arises from our story, our history, the tale we tell ourselves about ourselves. How "we" happened to become. How "We" were created. This history is so important to us that it is nearly essential for any believing in the story to believe also that such stories are rare in the universe, and are not concurrent here on Planet Earth. In other words only "We" are the most intelligent life form on this planet. Only we represent intelligence within this solar system, and only we are likely intelligent beings in this immediate part of our galaxy.

So how did life evolve? How did it arise, seemingly spontaneously, from what is non-living?

This question immediately divides even scientific thinkers into two camps, between the spontaneous evolutionists on board the planet - 'It all happened here' . . . from those that believe that a spore or crystalline DNA arrived from somewhere else in the galaxy. "It happened outside."

The spontaneous evolutionists have Miller's early experiements with amino acids to point to. It is possible to create an environment of boiling gases, methane, and with enough energy in the form of UV and electricity, to create amino acids in a primeval soup. Thus life formed itself out of the raw elements of the earth.

Others believe the precursors to life arrived from off-planet. DNA travels well, and for long distances, within a spore. The common fungus, mushroom, has spores that will survive even a nuclear explosion. The vacuum and freeze of outer space is a perfect place for drifting spores. Comets, those dirty snowballs, already shown to hold some residues of living materials, may have been the transport mechanisms for DNA possibly arriving from another realm.

Whichever camp you re in we still run up against a mystery. And our untested assumption - that only life may rise to life to other life.

How did life evolve? What is this history of 'evolution' without the first and most fundemental step, the creation of life? Are we talking about a distinction that came about instantly, or are there half steps, between what lives, and what does not live?

By what credo do we assume that all things move towards a higher state? And what is the use of this distinction, higher/lower/ more/less, dumb/intelligent living/dead in the first place?

Such questions lead to issues of thermodynamics, and the big bang. A universe that cools through expansion may in fact be crystalizing, and the process of forming crystals is not unlike the process of intelligence formation. DNA is crystalline in nature, so is quartz, the crystalline form of the ubiquitous silica, which along with alumina, form the mass of this planet.

Once assumptions about 'evolution' on a physical, not an organic, plane have been resolved, we have the groundwork out of the way for considering intelligence, and the possible evolution of intelligence.

The troublesome distinctions disappear the instant we concede that the little silicon chip that we are living upon IS in fact living, not partially, but entirely, and the little skim of what we now call 'life' that is on it's surface is merely a brief story or episode in the greater inorganic evolution of this earth, sun, our galaxy, our universe. All of it is alive.

The earth is pursuing a cosmic self-organization through phases of organized cooling just as algae forms on a stagnant pond.

The notion "I am a free being" is hatched by an illusion that we are free beings. Whether to have coffee or tea, whether to stand or sit, or what career choice we make.

That freedom of choice-making is not something that we can get rid of. So where is the freedom? Every fish in the sea must make 'decisions' about which way to turn, right left, up down. True this is part of it's thinking. And each fish, when reacting to danger or a promise of reward, will react slightly differently. But all react, else they aren't fish.

Think of this for a moment. You have choices, but you cannot rid yourself of your choices. Even a prisoner locked in the darkest cell has choices, which haunt his brain until his heart stops and his cells die. Then if he is left to rot as was the case in many 19th century prisons, even the rats and flies that take over his corpse have 'freedoms', about which way to turn, which way to fly.

I am free to act, yes, but that freedom is not gained freely. You inherit this, all beings do. Even quantum science is seeing that this fact of nature is mirrored the smallest behaviours of leptons, as if they were thinking alongside us!

Cognitive science has for the most part focused on a study of intelligence, as if it were the result of a process and organization of matter for the express purpose of intelligence. What is a brain but a dedicated pile of neurons, whose purpose is to guide the rest of our bodies, intelligently.

For centuries, science only admitted intelligence to be present in the higher mammals, now however the vast body of science 'intelligence' anywhere neurons or neural networks, are to be found, even, or particularly in laboratory research, in worms, but for the most part it is a science that studies cognition in animals. The notion of botanical intelligence? That is on the outskirts of present study.

What of inorganic intelligence? . . .

Cognitive racism, admitting intelligence only in neuron-possessing anima, comes about I believe due to the uniquely human need to define boundaries with convenient categories of language, that are grafted off our own evolutions of language. This limits the search for intelligence to beings that are mobile. Think about it. Who is studying consciousness in trees, in fungi, in grasses that feed the animals and humans in vast plains across the globe.

We have this inbred tendency to think that which is immobile is dumb, and without capability of thought or perception, and that which moves, is possesses consciousness in some degree. Consciousness and mobility, are therefore viewed as analogous. If I describe someone met at a party as 'quick-moving' the assumption will be one of intelligence, relative to someone described as 'slow', ponderous. "Oblamov" by the Russian writer Ivan Goncharov was one to superbly explore the notion that intelligence could reside in a massive, immobile being, consigned to a bed!

Using linguistically derived categories has led us to a study of relative ''intelligence", and that has meant the study of intelligence within ourselves as compared to that of our evolutionary cousins, the mammals, fishes, birds, insects, and worms.
As humans, we’ll admit to possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence much more quickly than we'll admit that the bedrock of this earth is alive.

Yet an exploration of the neurons of all of these animate forms reveals a similar level of evolution. In fact every animal on the planet today has within it's genes the same degree of evolution, in years, as any other. In fact the shorted lived organisms have had more generations to evolve, and perfect their code for survival.

So by what metric do we measure intelligence. The winner at a game of chess? Or the survivor on the planet? If intelligence is a measure of evolutionary ‘fitness’ then extreme intelligence should then uniquely qualify it’s possessor to survive. Yet looking at the race currently it does not seem that we shall outlive either the grasses or the fishes, or the mosquitoes.

And if survival is to be any measure of ultimate intelligence then humans should be swift to lower their banner of supremacy, for the grasses and fishes as are sure to outlive us as a virus or food shortage is most likely to do us in. Let us not forget the continuum of primates that have evolved and yet died off. .. . perhaps our time is as brief relatively, as Australopithecus.

Our definitions, or rather categories that seek definitions, with 3-D maps of skin surfaces, or today, increasingly, via internet communications "I am what I emit and absorb on the web!" . . . . . are all, whatever definition we use to describe 'you' or 'me' as an 'individual' seem unsatisfactory.

The Ancient Vedic philosophers considered the cow, sacred to all Hindus today, liguistically as an extension of the grass that it ate. . . the root for cattle, is 'grass-ness'. As we are but expressions of the earth perhaps we should re-title ourselves from Homo sapiens' to 'Earth-Ness'. Mommy I saw an Earth-Ness monster!

A momentary image made by the light that falls on a coffee-mug on a tabletop in the morning, unveils an event of organization and intelligence that itself might challenge any definitional notions of a cognitive science.

The image may be captured, and appreciated, by an eye, or by a camera. Or by multiple cameras from multiple angles and multiple distances. Or multiple cameras at multiple distances taking the image at multiple times. So it may be seen from a satellite!. . . or by a supremely organized lens at the other end of the galaxy. In fact the notion of the coffee mug ever being 'lost' as the rays of light float away from it, is nonsense. The image of what has happened is never lost, because the photos are not lost, and if they are, there is mass to show for it.

The essence of the coffe-mug's existence could in theory be reassembled photon by photon, at any moment in time or history, and for that matter, were there a supreme enough being with a supreme enough technology, could be reassbled before the coffee mug was even produced or fired, or before the table was made. The technology of cameras is only one level of what 'intelligence' can do to render as an artifice, what is fleeting and immaterial, yet also permanent, and immortal.

So where is the driving intelligence to begin with? If I give you a thousand sums to do, chances are you will make errors with a certain percentage of them. However a beam of light from any source, hardly makes an error at all. Yes, it is shown that a single photon, may erroneously pursue a seperate path from what predestiny it seems to inherit, but that depends on what you the observer are thinking at the time. So the photon behaves according to rules, but also listens to it's neighbors.

Light beams don't lie. They don't err, and so they ultimately must be the most pure form of intelligence. And the most universal, and the most ubiquitous . . light, or energy, is everywhere.

But what of my own intelligence, my self-defined notion of thought as existing within my hot brain, a locus of temperature higher than it's immediate surrounding shell and environment.

If the forgoing is true then I am nothing but a brief solar flare, a finite fractal form defined and separate in temperature locus, from that of the earth itself, like the spume that breaks from the sea and falls back, or the sparks that fly from a fire and is swallowed up by the night. For just as the earth is a spec of silica preserving itself until a date of oblivion with the sun itself, and just as every worm and man is on a date of oblivian with the earth, so even our sun has a date with supernova extinction or red dwarf death.

Cognitive science prefers to study the intelligence of mobile organic masses simply because the categories of them are convenient to describe. They are topologically disctinct from other forms. Finding the end of a root mass of an individual oak tree is very difficult, nearly impossible. . it is formally, and practically inseparable from the earth. Grasses, which share roots, are they one being or many?

A swirling ball of fish in the sea. . . one being . . .or many.

The masses of humans in todays cites, miraculously seem to thrive on a technology that is gradually consuming the surface of this earth. One being, or many? Seem to thrive is the key phrase here. . . . seen in long-time, in Earth time, perhaps we would notice that 'thrive' is an overstatement. Yes we have exploded in population, and so we are likely to crash as well.

So to my son, I applaud your interest in fishes and grasses. .. . being much closer to the lives of the earth and sea.

But that which moves through it all, just as the energy of the sun still moves through you and me, and through every blade of grass and every fish, and still is pulsing from the center of this iron-cored earth of ours, that which moves through it all, and the supreme intelligence of all, is something I believe based in light, in energy, and the interplay of energy between all masses.

What am I but a brief story, that might be told, or might not be, a history, a cv, a catalogue raisonnee, of deeds, misdeeds, works, thoughts, sounds, smells, digestions . .. that may be catalogued and thought of as within the category of a certain Mark Potter.

What is the town where I worked summers as a youngster but a brief story, a tale of dispossession of a valley by one creed over another, a story of brass and copper fortunes built, and buildings and labor unions and societies formed.

But whatever will, or desire I distill and attribute to a unique and solitary power over my own fate, I believe is a huge mythology that is nevertheless convenient and useful to me as a surviving, (thus far) unit of organic mass upon this earth.

This mythology is not of my own making. Nor is my response to it. . . .

The cosmos invites us to dance - it has the steps already memorized. We dance it's dance. Sometimes perfectly the way Leonardo did a few times in his life. Most of the time imperfectly. But we dance. Only the dance is immortal. Only the dance is intelligent. The lullabies that we sing to ourselves are just mythologies that disctract us from the real vision, the vastness and greatness of everything that is out there and everything that in fact sees and feels on a scale that dwarfs our own, just as we imagine our intelligence dwarfs the intelligence of a mosquito. It doesn't at all. The mosquito dances just as we do.

The dance is one of light and mass, and there are dimensions beyond light and mass as well, realms of being yet undiscovered. Every atom contributes to this overall intelligence. The galaxies may view each other as brothers and sisters, just as the earth may scratch at the itchy rot that abrades it's surface, the little elves that doggedly seperate one metal from another, iron from iron ore, makes piles of gold, and refines this silicon chip of ours to what end?

Are we but individual tasks, sons and daughters of a greater task. . . . . . . . if so what task is that? If our topological fractal definition of self has forgotten the parent that made that self.

Who is the wiser here?


Today I made some pots,
No cash money though,
Then with a flash I saw,
Clay pots don't matter, much at all.

I'll pour my sadness into my heart
And release it, wild bird into the world.
And find another sad bird longing just beneath it
And let that one go too.

Shadows of Winter

The autumn sun hid months ago,
       beneath moist red leaves.

Tired, I lie in a patch of snow.
I go digging for it.
Snow, leaves, twigs, dirt . . .

Thoughts and dreams,
   fire, tea water.
My kiln trails smoke,
   . . . into a grey sky.


My old typewriter waits,
   with faded paper.

I have no intention to write,
yet how easily thoughts become words,
   above her little face.

My fingers hover in a realm,
   dividing present and future.

Guttenberg's thoughts
   remain private.

But become duplicate,
   when I sit at his keys.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Courts of the Dead

Falaknuma Court,
now a Taj for snakes.
Once a lakebed, now a bowl of dust.

A white marble-dust court,
a courtier's gold-inlaid dagger
rusts in a desk drawer.

A pariah dogs court,
yards from many dreams,
a wasteland courted.

No one could afford you.

Court of Shahs, Nizams,
Nawabs court of kraits,
thieves coiled in dust.
Beggar court, Lepers court,
court of Locusts, court of Crows, court of Kites.
dog court
barren Brahmin Cow court.

Court of Skulls.

Udaipur Court,
Your warrior princes
ridden flames to the chhattri,
wife's silent suttee joining.

Horse guts into the Court of Allah,
Jaipur Court, 'Hai Hai!"

They followed on,
thrown onto their lord's sword,
elephant ivory hacked from heads,
charred mistress smiles,
flames of brush and ghee.

A court for dead songstresses,
Fatehpur Sikri, a mute dessert,
sweet memories,
A sandstone court of sand.
a court for old courtyards,
and the Durbar courts therein.

A fast falcon court, hooded, alert.

Poet court, closed, a dream shriveled by thirst,
parched from land and courtly love.

Your Urdu courtier's flourishes,
tiring Sanskrit translations perished,
you abandoned your nightlong fantasies,
and stole the child of imagination.

Letters, poems, silk languages,
now a howling Radio court.

A small insect thirsts
for a courtly drop of dew.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Fire is Life - The Firing Part I

Long before wood-fired kilns, which have been used since classical times, ceramic works were fired by heaping wares with burning fuel in an open pit. The first kilns contained the heat by covering the mixture of wares and fuel with heaped-up earth. Air holes were created and the whole affair was lit. The burning grass inside heated the ware. There was no stoking. When the fire burned out the clay objects had hardened enough to become useable.

The modern gas kiln, or it's electric powered relative, is a complicated affair, filled with electronics and safety features, designed to protect the user and the architecture that contains it, from an outbreak of fire, or leakage of poisonous fumes.

It is a device designed to create, contain, and control fire, but not let it get out of hand.

The kiln I use at my studio is not unlike many installed in schools around the country. It's a rebuilt Alpine updraft with two burners, with a set of controls. In order to pass inspection, the vents in my studio were hard-wired to the kiln itself, so that it would be impossible to start firing without obtaining fresh air from the outside.

So while the flame that courses though a gas kiln, is part of the same fire that moves through the sun, or the other stars in our galaxy, or a furnace or stove-range at home, it is in this instance a heavily controlled apparatus designed to minimize danger.

The wood-kiln that I fire with in Cold Spring New York sits outside and has effectively no moving parts other than hand adjustable vents and stoking ports. The stoking is done by human effort, one or two people remembering to put a log or two in every one to five minutes. The only electronics are a few pyrometers stuck in to various parts of the firing chambers.

That act of feeding a gas fire, is done automatically. No effort is required on the part of the user to bring fuel from below the earth to the burner ports. No effort other than installing this insanely complex piece of technology, maintaining it, passing inspection, and paying the gas bill!

It's all part of an immensely complex machine for delivering the power of petro-fuels to end users in our modern society.

Wood-firing releases the blasts of energy from quadrillions of photons that struck one of the trees nearby that got cut up for firewood. Photosynthesis, links sugars to form cellulose, and traps the energy of the sun. Natural gas is the same energy, but trapped and transformed in the earth's crust.

It's all solar energy.

I usually manually control my gas-firings. So while my kiln has an auto-pilot, that can be called upon to fly a certain course and pattern, i.e. a 'ramp' up temperature at a certain rate, I've learned that my firings turn out best when I make those adjustments myself. 

I have my hand on the tiller at all times once the main burners are lit.

I busied myself with early preparations:

a) Prepare a place to snooze. Sheets and blankets brought over. Hauled a small mattress out from under a table.

b) Bring milk, tea, and snacks to keep me energized.

c) Start a kiln log to record kiln temperatures from two thermocouples, one located at the top of the kiln, the other at the bottom.

d) A welding shield for staring in at the cones at high temperature.

e) A Hair Dryer. This is necessary to blow the fumes out of the spy hole so that it's possible to look in at the cones. 

Cones? Potters please indulge:

A very bright fellow named Seger came up with the idea of creating small cones of different clays that would melt at different temperatures, to use as a gauge when firing. This was an old idea, reworked. Dr Edward Orton standardized the manufacture around the turn of the century. His cones are still in use today.

The genius of pyrometric cones is that they indicate total "heat work", rather than just temperature. A cone will bend from a low heat for a very long time, or a very high heat for a short time. Since cones are the average thickness of a typical pot, this means any clay or glazes formulated with similar stuff will bend or melt at the same time.

The most important indication that cones provide to a high-fire potter is not determining when to end the firing (in this illustration the firing ended at Cone 10, with 8 and 9 flat and 11 on the right tipping), but rather in determining when to put the fire into reduction, from oxidation. This process, called body reduction, occurs between Cone 012 thru 05 with another set of cones that are calibrated for lower temperatures.

To give an idea of what those temperatures are . . a Cone 10 firing will terminate with the kiln at something like 2300 degrees F. Body reduction often will start at around 1600 or a little later.

Not all high-fire potters reduce their ware and glazes, but many still do. In recent years, Cone 6 glazes and clays have taken off in use, and most of this work is fired in schools, or by small studio potters in electric kilns. Electric kilns, unless contorted with the addition of some burnable fuel, always oxidize the work. While some glazes thrive in oxidation, such as Temoku and Oribe, most high fire glazes need reduction to develop colors. Many earth oxides remain a white or bland color until giving up their oxygen, this requires reduction. Without a reducing environment they look terrible.

The ceramics world abounds with exceptions. Bright colors are rife through today's ceramics media and most of that work is oxidized. The formulation of high temperature mason-stains, and compounds resistant to oxidation,  have aided the oxidation potter in keeping colors bright.

To me, unless some fuel is involved, the resulting colors 'pinch the eye' as one artist in India put it.

The key with reduction is knowing when to initiate it, for how long, and how intensely. For timing, I use cones, and I glance at my pyrometers. For the duration, I again use my cones, since invariably I'm reducing but also slowly increasing the temperature, and for the intensity I use my eyes, to examine the color of the flame exiting the kiln, and through the spy-holes the quality of atmosphere that is circling the wares. Other potters use a probe designed to measure the levels of carbon monoxide, since a reduction atmosphere is just that, incomplete burning of fuel, from gasses that are starved for oxygen.

My countdown continues:

a) Shut kiln door tight. Cones all visible through spy-holes? YES.

b) Flammables away from Kiln  (boxes, buckets, etc.) - YES.

c) Vent to Roof Open (take the insulation off!) - YES. (At this moment I feel my studio starting to become cold as the warm air rushes up the enormous stovepipe above the kiln.).

d) Main Gas Switch - ON.

e) Enter Firing Program - (To fire my automatic kiln manually you have to enter a program anyway, but rather one that asks the kiln to do the impossible in an impossibly short period of time. My program had only one step. Get to 2375 degrees in one minute. The kiln would try to do this and leave me to 'steer' the valves and vents, thus 'flying' the kiln atmosphere myself without automatic intervention. DONE.

f) Alarm Shutoff Programmed to 2375 degrees. (In no event would the kiln get over 2375. Once that temperature was reached, or if the fire went out completely an alarm would sound. My kiln has a very loud bell on it!! DONE.

f) Reset Gas Solenoid Switches - (two buttons on top of the two burner solenoids that open the gas to the kiln). CHECK.

g) Mode Switch to "Soak". DONE.

'Soak' reminds me of a tired laborer soaking in a hot-tub. The pots are allowed to heat up during a 'soak' cycle, or a 'soak' at the end of a firing simply means 'maintain temperature'. It's another way of saying "Go on vacation. Take a hike. Give it a rest!'

    Don't mess with me,
     I'm firing manually.

h) Turn Kiln ON - I turned the key and flicked the switch to start the Pilots.

Pilots. Berth. Refreshments. Check-in. Closing the door. All rituals. Main engine start. Countdown.

The 'Fire-Eyes' went through a series of sequences to light both pilots (Pilot and Co-Pilot!) . . joking, actually the pilot for the Left Burner and the Pilot for the Right, same thing. . .  The Fire-Eyes are safety devices that make sure the pilots are burning. If not, they shut the whole thing down. The main burners, i.e. the engines, may be on or off, but the pilots must never go out!

It had been ten years since I brought this rusted hulk of metal back to New Haven with me from Lawrence Kansas. It barely functioned, but I fired it a dozen times or so during those years. Stephen Rodriguez, God bless him, used to bring over bits of hardware in the middle of the night to help me keep things going.

After River Street, I moved my kiln to New York City, where she lived with me behind my Park Slope Brooklyn apartment. And then I moved her back to the New Haven area, to my present studio. My good friend Joe Catenzaro sold me a new set of controls. We rebuilt the entire burner system.

The kiln sputtered to life. It took a few moments for the gas lines to clear themselves of nearly sixteen months of non-use during which time I rebuilt most of the kiln. During that time I made a lot of pottery, bisqued it. . . and wrote poems. But no glaze firings other than the ones I did in Tony's wood kiln.

I heard the sequence of relays first convey gas to Pilot 1, a spark flashed to ignite it. The pilots were lit.

All lights were green. Only one switch remained to be flicked to start the main burners.

It was 6:00 PM, Tuesday January 3rd.

Overnight, the warmth of the small flames alone would bring the kiln slowly to just over boiling temperature.

I went home! It was my wife's and my 25th Wedding Anniversary. She prepared a delicious venison roast, which we washed down with a wonderful bottle of wine.

Late that night I drove back to check. The pilots hissed like two baby dragons coiled in a feather nest.

I returned home, exhausted, and slept until eleven the following day, then I awoke with a start. It was already late. Today I would fire. The burners would light, and I would fly her across the Atlantic.

Continued . . . Part II


[Those reading this may wonder why all of the concern and preparations being devoted to this particular firing. I after all have done this many times before. The reason quite simply is that I recently rebuilt a good portion of my kiln. I replaced the refractory insulation at the top and repaired major damage from age to the sides. I also rewired a good portion of the electronics. ]

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