PHONE CALL POEMS AND OUTLAW TRANSLATIONS:
WALKING WITH THE POEMS OF BARRY GRIMES
OVER FOUR DECADES
A Recording by Jim Bodeen
Photo of Triptych by Rob Prout
Barry calls while I’m walking the development and says, I said something this morning that’s not true. About not having written an important poem in a long time, that’s not true. My poems are not translatable to the world. I wish there was a word not so high-falutin. It’s a dilemma. My poems are not My Letter to the World, as Emily says.
Notes and a phone call while walking the development written while listening and walking.
16 February 2023
Outlaw means mine. BG
This one, written on the back of a business card, falls out of a book I take from my shelf last week. It’s January, 2023. This poem, maybe a bookmark, already a decade lost. A trigger.
THE GOBI ON MT. ADAMS
--Lovins & Bodeen
Pony on the Mt
snow and ice
and sun and stone
all year round
One way or another
that fucking horse
14 March 2013
A TOM MOORE
IN HIS OWN WORDS
the fall leaves
as the river
at your feet
BG 5 Oct 2022
On a scrap of paper at a coffee shop:
#33 WE ARE CONTAGIOUS
Three friends good choices
At a table in the sun
Hills valleys daily
12 March 2020
Let me go back to the phone call earlier in the week. My poems are not translatable...It’s a dillemna.
Tonight this message on my phone. No. An email: to Anthony, me/ Feb 19, 2023, 3:36 PM
Snyder Hunt Ling-yun
Weinberger’s Chinese into
A draw-string shoulder bag
18 February 2023
Looking forward to our Spring-time rendezvous talk. BG
Higgins, Tony Hunt, The Death Poems, The River House. Celestial All-Stars, Notebooks. A couple of short videos. What can’t be said. The untranslatable. A couple of snapshots. Ekphrastic confusions of the objective correlative. Books and gifts. A poem to his mother, Peggy Grimes, a short video. Horses on the Gobi: Room, desert, landscape, video. Back in forth in time. No ideas but in things. Coast to Coast. West Coast, and East. Walking and the long walk. My notes all over the place. Four decades. Four decades, plus.
Horizontal walking. The scroll. The mountains. I ask again about Outlaw Translations. What is that? I can change anything, drop, add, or re-arrange, as long as it’s true to the spirit of the original. It’s gotta be true to the original. Outlaw poetry. Borrowed, putting in one’s own words, ‘outlaw.’
Braided Lives on Turtle Island. Gary Snyder. Snyder’s poem, For All. Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind, a look at a notebook. Some more poems.
And untranslatable? Untranslatable. Related to the campfire. The three of us. My life. Leave camp and go up high. No explanation. Mt. Edna. Looking North, seeing for 2000 miles. How small we are in that world. I’m not interested in receptions. I don’t want to try and get someone there. I know it comes out of that. You don’t try to talk to everybody in their language.
We’ve been reading Snyder separate and together. Last year I picked up Snyder in my Honda Fit. He read Mountains and Rivers Forever to me over and over as I drove to White Pass and back. Then he read Danger on Peaks in the same way. This past summer Barry renewed an acquaintance with Anthony Hunt, begun 20 + years ago when Grimes was Studying Shakespeare at a month-long NEA Seminar in Ashland, Oregon. Hunt’s wife was one of the awarded teachers along with Grimes and Wes Hanson, manager of the Celestial All-Stars. Hunt accompanied his wife at the Seminar while doing his own work on Snyder. Sometime in July, Barry brought us Hunt’s book, Genesis, Structure, and Meaning in Gary Snyder’s Mountains and Rivers Without End. We started there. We included the brand new Gary Snyder: The Complete Poems, edited by Jack Schumaker and Anthony Hunt. Barry re-started the conversation with Hunt in the first days of the release of Snyder’s Complete Poems. Mountains and Rivers Without End gets larger folding inside the covers holding the poems of a lifetime. You want a larger world. Take small steps with 10,000 poems.
PIECE FOR HIGGINS’ GATHERING: From Barry at the River House: to Vance Thompson; with copies to Marty Lovins, Jim Bodeen, Kevin Miller
HIGGINS, 4 DECEMEBER 2021
None of them knew the color of the sky.
--Stephen Crane, The Open Boat
It feels that way
some times, Higgins.
Look around this table,
these friends of yours--
of your story,
back to school days,
salad days, married days,
The highways, mountains,
ocean and river.
The dark days,
the dying days,
the going-on days.
The view, down through
all of it, it is certain
and it’s not.
It’s a long and narrow
look from Manashtash,
but not as clear
as you on a road trip.
These friends of yours
brought this together,
today, your birthday--
the rule of law,
the roofs of buildings,
the children on the playground,
the sense and finish of equations.
They brought those things
and more, as old men will.
These friends of yours.
I call them and thank them
for their friendship.
In your story, you and
they are a statement.
In Crane’s story,
The Open Boat,
one of four men
lost at sea,
Is the one to go.
They remember him.
We remember you,
talking to you,
walking driving, loooking.
You saw the ground,
knew the color of the sky,
the names of Nature,
the moods and limits of men.
22-24 November 2021
24 November 2921
2 sweet potato
1 tart cherry
Barry’s poem to Higgins: “You were tested the most.”
The River Bank Poems
My first day out of isolation after Covid. 13 January 2023.
Chekhov Becomes Chekhov. On the For Sale for a buck cart at the library, it’s already gone when I check. Barry alerted me to it after our talk about the short novels. Chekhov. Man, did he love the Ukraine. Community college teacher in New York writes the book. Learns Russian to read Chekhov in the original. After coffee with Barry.
Reminded of earlier phone conversation with Barry while I was reading Olga Tokarczuk’s Books of Jacob (the one with the 8-line title). He had called while I was reading. I didn’t have my notebook by my side, I took notes in the margins of Tokarczuk’s novel. Sleeping on the couch in isolation in the Studio Room, I wake up remembering, talking to myself. I turn on phone light, get up and look for the book. I find my notes on the bottom of page 482 and 481, the pages numbered backward in this 950-page novel. Here are my notes written at the bottom of page. Quotation marks around Barry’s words. He’s talking of what he’s learned from others. (If my memory’s right, this is haiku, but I don’t have that.)
“I am because of them
“more than myself than alone
“Beholding to them, I’m because of them”
“3 things: 1: Starting a piece a day until March 20.
2: Alternate Haiku/Wanka
(Unintelligible here, my notes): (Can’t read my notes) jb:
3: Tony Hunt”
The Seaside Notebook, 1 May 2022 MAYDAY, MAYDAY.
Karen and I, guests of my brother Chuck at Seaside, Oregon
I was dreaming, but of what?
Here are lines from Ron Moen’s poem, “Dear Jim”:
soldiers hiding in helplessness
in a steel plant in Mairupol
demonic powers holding
world captive...salmon deer
coming from tombs in right mind…
Chekhov’s novellas by my side and a small paperback of the Psalms, pulled off at a rest stop, Karen asking, “What are you doing, Jim?” Before we left home yesterday Karen’s created birthday cards, I used Year of the Tiger stamp on Craig’s envelope, and wrote a short poem for Tom Moore, dying of cancer, beginning, Dear Tom:
Those two stones from you,
one white, one black,
big fancy names
escape me now
not the brilliance
their memory gives me
looking at them
Two dogs hiking into Goat Rocks
one more use of the light, love, jim
and picking up up Chekhov, “...in the chirring of the insects, in the suspicious figures and barrows,...you begin to perceive the triumph of beauth, youth flourishing and a passionate thirst for life…” and there’s more and so beautiful, and Barry calls with Lisa’s phone number, Tom’s wife, and plays a message. Tom’s dying fast. Confirmation of this. No more medications for recovery, remission. He’s on opiodes now. Sleeping. I call Lisa and she answers. She read my phone message to Tom, and I told her a poem’s in the mail. Chuck’s turned on the baseball game, talking to the Mariner’s players, “Swing the bat son, swing the bat.’ Karen’s sewing Pendleton material for a vest for Joshua. “You need only a good shake of the head—of vanishing without a trace.” Chekhov, The Steppe. p. 40. “..fear-based ideology that makes people hate each other.” Steve Schmidt, CNN, on the Republicans.
3 May 2022
Barry calls in 3d inning of game. He’s suffering. With Tom. For Tom. 30 minute talk. Another call from Barry. Different. Me, too. I’m different. Listening better. I use the word ‘accompaniment’ twice. “I will accompany you,” like that. Direct, even saying, “Accompaniment is good theology, empirical principles attached. ‘I will accompany you.’” Barry’s call, a good one for us both. When his mom died, Peg, he did it himself. Walking his mom to life’s other side. This time, he’s involved with his own mortality, writing his own death poem. Writing for himself, writing for others.
He talked on the phone of Hemingway, and Heminway’s statement of writing the true sentence, beginning each day, writing one true sentence and going on from there. And he said, “I’m doing that. I’m writing one true sentence everyday." And he read me six of them. (I’m not writing now, in the order of the conversation, but as the particulars emerge in me.) These sentences, not particularly long, were about failure and disappointment. One sentence, was long, more elaborate, with a surprise, ‘healthy dinners’ at the end.
He also alerted me to a ‘Preface’ he had just written for George and Delta, a story-novella-maybe novel that he’s been working on for 16 years, and I ask him about this. “Will you bring this Preface with you when you bring the completed notebooks you’re going to leave with me?” He said, “No.” In the Preface he mentioned that his purpose is more to bring energy to its completion, rather than, well, anything else. He asks me about my poem to Tom, and he read me his poem to Tom. He liked that part of the conversation lots. He said, too, that he called, knowing it would make him feel better, and that, indeed, he did feel better.
we also talked baseball some. The play resulting from M’s 2d baseman, Adam Frazier, playing deep, almost in right field, the play ruled a single and an error, and the batter on second base. Chuck calls it an impossible call. Barry talks about seeing the video, and the three of us reading what Geoff Baker says in The Seattle Times.
On a beach walk with Chuck he asks about the conversation with Barry on truth in a sentence. “What is a true sentence?” he asks. I say, “We’ll look it up when we get back to the room.”
“The writer’s job is to tell the truth,” Hemingway says. “I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before, and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say.”
At night Karen gets up to pee and I follow her. I couldn’t see the clock because a pile of books obscured it. Chuck did get out to the beach last night to sing Laura Daigle’s song, “Hold On To Me, which he sings each night to Lena. He sings these songs loud, facing the ocean. He also sings her song, “Remember Me.”
Peasant blood runs in Chekhov. Runs in me, too. Our family. Chekhov’s eyes look askance at Tolstoy. I hide my work. I never get over that. On the other hand, I try and make sure it’s my work, has my approval. Photography I did on the beach last night continues to dazzle. I sent that poem to Cindy Yurth and Lloyd Draper I worked on to Chinle. Finish with this haiku:
Following the wind
Return to Shadow’s blemish
Sliced Blessingway Moon
Barry calls 9:50 am: “Bodeen, I don’t know if you knew, Tom Moore died last night. Didn’t know. Lovins called me.” “When did you find out?” “5 minutes ago.” Tom Moore III. b. 28 January 1945. d. 5 May 2022.
2 January 2022
Karen’s Birthday, Two Sevens. 2 7s. 77.
Barry phones last night and reads me Emily Dickinson’s niece remembering her aunt. “Emily was not daily bread. She belonged to the stars.”
Walking back the time. Porch Conversations with Barry:
It’s Barry’s Primary Sources poem that I’m missing. I remember the phone call, and the two words, Primary Source. This comes to me after everything’s come together. It’s in my head that Primary Sources is in this essay, but it’s not in the essay. This makes it even more important. It’s the missing piece. A major thread of our conversation, said, unsaid. How Barry reads, how he writes.
Asking Barry for it, he says he’ll look.
Later he asks, Any idea when I phoned it in?
It had to have been before the holidays. Early fall, late fall? He can’t find it, and then he does. Isn’t it interesting, a piece this important. How it gets lost. Doesn’t this say something about where it came from. The deep place. The place we can’t always get to. Located here, in June, earlier. Closer to the call in March, connecting to One True Sentence. The poem and Barry’s note with the poem.
And a message from him later, “I found it.”
47. PRIMARY SOURCES
The eave’s hanging bell
Accompanies the river
These windy spring days
Written the same day from the living room, the one true sentence of the day:
A bobber at the edge of the late spring rise of the river level makes me realize my bank ashes will join my river ashes eventually and naturally.
8 June 2022
Email to Tony Hunt/Copied to me:
Snyder Hunt Ling-yun
Weinberger’s Chinese into
A draw-string shoulder bag
18 February 2023
Looking forward to our Spring-time rendezvous talk. BG
Feb 19, 2023, 8:47 PM (3 days ago) to Anthony, me
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. 60th piece in a winter-long, daily, notebook
On Feb 19, 2023, at 8:04 PM, Anthony Hunt wrote:
Snyder's wanderings among Mountains & Rivers
Hunt roaming around in Snyder's mind
Ling-yun the errant Chinese poet
Eliot Weinberger describer of New Directions
Books knocking around in your shoulder bag
... such heavy lifting.
PS: 60. ??
Returning to my notebooks, rifling them, transcribing them again, here, now:
Barry Grimes and I on the front portch, 27 April 2022:
These are the pieces when I’m at the River. I write a riverbank piece.
What I didn’t remember...I didn’t start daily pieces until 25th of July. First daily away piece La Connor, looking at Yard Arm sign at lodge, sign swinging….between 12 April and July 25, no away pieces. Go to Black Notebooks...from Black Notebooks of lines I wrote that I’m interested in from the time...I would have had NB entries next to river bank pieces side by side in columns...Black Notebook, lines interested in, next to riverbank pieces...Title page—This is page you need to read as carefully as you can before going further.
There’s the Preface, three kinds of pieces, Notebook, Riverbank, Triangle [hand-drawn triangle here] Away from river daily piecees.
Riverbank, House, Stonefly. [? Check ‘stone-fly’]
25 July 2021
1. CHANNEL LODGING
The bird-spackled yardarm
Swinging outside the second floor window
Accordion screens secure in the sills
Brass lantern cut into the lodge placard
Gray paint and gold lettering
Hanging by two rusty chain lengths
Shimmying in the morning wind
The channel moving northeast
Cloud cover thin and breaking
Pleasing settling in the call
Of seagulls and birdsong
The River joins words together. They join river and bank, joins stone fly, joins river grass, joins river house, river responsible for all this. Constantly dealing with something still, something moving, and that makes, in my mind, my only attempt to write Joyce’s equivalent of Ulysses, that’s what that is, in the telling of it. This brings up a subject that’s huge, what a radical fucking book that is...Williams’ Spring and All...I bought a Grover Press edition of it...[Barry laughs]...it’s all about the imagination and cutting yourself off from art, raw shit, edited around and down, I want to get that...[my final notes are unintelligible].
...the Japanese Death Poems..I’m trying to get to these lines in the death pieces, aways pieces...looking, memory, imagination...it’s gotta be raw, or I’m not interested, and for me, it has to be hand-written, because my hands hurt...[from] arthritis...
Barry as visual poet-practitioner. Triptych of Tao Te Ching hand-written on cardboard.
Barry as visual poet-practitioner. Triptych of Tao Te Ching hand-written on cardboard. Lost pieces, such as Primary Source often reside in the listening mind, from conversation. Or telephone calls. There are daily poems from Barry all over the place, located in my head. Sometimes in the couse of transcribing, remembering, I have actually believed that a piece had already been put on paper, when in fact, it wasn’t anywhere but in my head.
And the numbering of his manuscripts. Sometimes outlaw manuscripts follow traditional seasons of the year, equinox to solstice, for instance, and sometimes they may follow an institutional calendar, such as the 40 days of Lent in the Christian calendar. The numbers are daily pieces. They may, or may not, derive their breath source directly from the Tao, Cold Mountain, the Psalms, or other scripture transcribed into different notebooks. The numbers I have access to do not correspond to any single calendar year. Consider this enigma, or charm.
Sometimes this is also mirrored in the poet’s mind. Poems that emerge from raw data, the deep unconscious, are not remembered, or recalled as precious objects, and in fact, these pieces may be impossible to locate or retrieve. They exist as gifts if found. Such is the case of Primary Sources, offered here.
Listening to his truth: His poems not translatable to the world. I put it there to note that it was heard.
A validation to the seriousness of the charge.
How do I account for the fact of been on the receiving end of his poems for 40 years? Their accessibility. Am I not part of the world? His poems contradict, and transcend his own statement of truth. This is my thesis.
His poems fall from books. They refuse cataloging.
Not an essay, here. A recording.
January/February/March 2023, and in the notebooks.
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