Judith Roche


Study Notes for a Poem Beginning to Write Itself

by David Meltzer
Trigram Press, 1969

"Study Notes" is a tribute to my teachers at New College -- especially David Meltzer. I have italicized direct quotes from David, Robert Duncan, Diane di Prima, and Charles Olson. All of it is a compendium of what was called "the poet's lore," that rich broth we were privileged to experience at New College of California, 1984-1985, with Robert, David, Diane, Michael Palmer, and Duncan McNaughton. I am eternally grateful I was so fortunate as to be there.

* * *

In telling the beads on a rosary
        you get the story deeper than the telling.
Homer is not singing, he is chanting.

You can ravish the soul by song.
You can unbend the mind.
Serious means to follow through the series
        in the beginning was the word and the word was God
-- but before the beginning,
                before God --
were the letters: the task
is to form the letters into words and take them back to God.

        All kinship is vertical.
Olson is hovering again like a giant angel who's lost his landing gear.

All angels are terrifying, says Rilke.
Especially one with such Titanic mass.
Mass is nothing but stored energy.
                        ... the whole business,

        keep it moving as fast as you can, citizens, one
        perception must move instanter on another ...

.....................there is the dogma.................

of twentieth century poetry. My daughter,
the scientist, tells me
The Central Dogma, stringing its spiral strands in every cells is

        replication        transcription        translation

If you believe that you believe all of modern biology.
        (kinship is always vertical)

The field is flooded, laced
with lattice of vectors.
The boundary stones are moved,
the mounds do or do not contain the dead.
The stories they tell are muffled.
How do I know when I am in a field?
Am I projecting in or out of bounds?

Eternal Persons of the Dream move in the poem
in time as a past-tense river,
swim on a vector of interest,
the boundary of the field,
periphery of force
just out of hearing.
And who am I, an event in the field?
How much can I plow in a day
of running rows back and forth?
Do I follow vectors or lay lines?
Am I out of bounds yet?
        (my #2 round-point shovel projecting layered rock and loam)
Each entity has its boundary
        only in the complete universe.
This field is full of lunatic geology we only wish we could study.

Eternal objects can enter a life
and become vectors,
then become events.
The vector can go anywhere.
If it's in the world, it's in the psyche,
if it's in the psyche, it's in the dream,
if it's in the dream it's in heaven, it it's in heaven
it's in hell.

In every fragment of the image
the image exists whole.
Dante says we never get an answer from God.
The most we will get
                is a hearing.

Olson learns the world by ear.
Dante is a visionary poet,
he uses the eye.

Follow the tone leading of vowels,
writes Pound to Duncan.
The riddling mind produces puzzles, says Duncan.
He comes too close who comes to be denied.

Breath unstopped, open awed flow
forever "river that must turn full"
after I stop sound
and wait in space of silence
for something to come forward
and carry me to water
journey unending swirl
of sound and stop
spaced in dark river song.
Flourish blest,
hurt nursed
like trail of milk
curling into water flow
and fall of dying hum
in song of leading on
and on to turn of grace granted
over end of land.

The deepest ground the ground of sound.
No verse is free.
Nobody knows what composition by field means.

You can't get all the references.
Ghosts are my referents.
An enigma is not a symbol.
The Cantos primary condition is with the gods,
which, Pound says, are states of mind.
Paradise, purgatory and inferno
are co-existent and synchronous.

Sixty thousand years ago we buried our dead
under the kitchen floor
with flowers
so they could charge and vivify
the life of the living.

Willed participation in the path
included the dead and the unborn.
The oldest art we can find
are cup holes carved in rock.
We listen to the babble of babies
for they have every sound in every language.
We try to re-member the oldest
tone leading of vowels and follow it out of time.
Nobody knows what the tone leading of vowels means.

The mask is the path of the star.
The body is the path of the god recorded.
Water always falls in spiral shape.
The road belongs to Hermes,
the labyrinth to Dionysus.
Sound hums in the letters
along the central dogma,
        replication        transcription        translation
It happens more million times a minute than we can count.

The moving light in the cave
tunnels deep in the dark.
Each time she sang sounds fell
in new translation.
The narrow bridge to nowhere
stretched sunlit with speed of light,
burned coppery with sudden song
that broke the border gravity had held.
I lean for the sound of the field --
slow smell of spice in sunlight
        the flowers of the field.
Standing stone on rock strewn soil,
cairns gathered of carried rock ...
who has been here before me?
running river mirrored in sky,
an empty boat left on the bank,
the land runs on and on
as long as river flows.
I am building a tambourine
of stretched skin,
        wooden hoops and rattles.


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