Posts Tagged ‘ars poetica’


October 5, 2013 7 comments


structure and tension, meaning and motion: we are balanced between absolute truth and pure fluency. poetry.    RT

RT’s Related Posts: 1) Deer Sanctuary (Wang Wei); 2) Bamboo and Morning Glories 

Chinese Character: Qi (or as RT is familiar with it, Chi), meaning “natural energy” or “life force.” Author: Kbarends. WikiCmns; Public Domain.



Integrity–Poetic Advice

July 9, 2013 1 comment



RT’s latest book recommendation is Mark Strand’s 100 Great Poems of the Twentieth Century; he has just started reading, but has been impressed by the range of styles and content in the anthology.


By this point, readers may have gathered that one of RT’s poetic criteria is integrity, a term that he freely admits is difficult to define. If pressed to give a definition, however, RT will say that integrity is the degree to which a poet is personally involved when writing a poem. Many masks are available at the moment of composition, and while some may be useful or necessary to the poet’s goals for a particular poem, it is all too easy simply to hide behind them. Urgency (another abstract term) may be a trustworthy sign of when a poet is delivering the best he or she can.

Consider the story (perhaps recounted in these pages before) of a Russian poet who was so angry at Stalin he had to sit down and write out a satirical poem. Stalin, upon learning of the offensive act, threw said poet into the Gulag for some years. When he got out, an interviewer asked if it had been worth it; the poet said yes.

That’s integrity. (And would that we all had the strength for it.) But whether or not any particular poet can get all the way there and speak truth to power (or just to share how he or she is feeling), we should all strive for the courage that will allow us to.


Here is RT’s brief poem on the subject:


Strategy has been their entire study


i see no life

i feel no heart;

poets do not exist


until they share

the dangerous business

of being themselves.


© 2013, The Rag Tree.


PhotoCluny, remaining pieces of gothic architecture; WikiCmns; CC 1.0 Generic; users: Rotatebot and Ziel.



10 things about being an artist that art teachers don’t tell you

wise words… RT

(reposted from The UrbanStout)

10 things about being an artist that art teachers don’t tell you.

Le Digestif–How to Eat an Essay

File:Cheret, Jules - Quinquina Dubonet (pl 29).jpg

Believe it or not, eating is work. This fact of digestive exertion was recently impressed on RT when he ate not one, but two, breakfasts at a local grill. Hunger can build up, and after a hearty meal, one may find oneself engaged in a postprandial walk or other strategy, as seems appropriate.

The French have known this for ages. One of the signs of health and worthiness among its kings, for instance, was the ability to eat extraordinary quantities of food at a sitting: Le Roi Soleil, Louis XIV himself, was known to consume up to five courses, each consisting of two to five items, at a single meal. The menu was diverse, including deep-sea oysters, chestnut soup with truffles, wild duck, rabbit stew, salmon, iced cheese, and fruit.

Lesser mortals, however, will need to avail themselves of help when indulging at the dining table. And the French answer to such problems is the digestif, an after-dinner alcoholic drink such as brandy, eaux de vie, and various bitter or sweet liqueurs meant to help digestion.


So what does all this mean for the writer of essays? The writer needs to bear in mind that his or her essay should be helping the process of analysis and enjoyment throughout the piece. Some ways of doing this: 1) organize your writing so that your argument and other thoughts are clear; 2) use deliberate contrast in style and tone to help keep your readers alert and on track; 3) withhold some parts of your argument so the reader can make the connections by him or herself; 4) use humor–especially at the beginning–to relax the reader; 5) make the stakes clear–explain why the essay and its subject deserve further consideration and even a second or third reading. This last item is best saved for the essay’s conclusion.

Readers should finish an essay smacking their lips, savoring the bite of good calvados on the tongue…    RT


PosterQuinquina Dubonnet, Jules Cheret (1895); WikiCmns; Public Domain.


365 Project: Day 163

February 25, 2013 Leave a comment


amid a day stuffed to the gills with practicalities, RT is happily practicing the poet’s privilege of seeking inspiration; do what you do well and, like as  not, you will do it with grace…  RT

(reposted from Words + images)


365 Project: Day 163.

Chainsaws & the Rewards of Writing

May 23, 2012 6 comments

RT has found respite in a worthy activity: this weekend, for the first time in more than a couple of years, he has gone out and earned honest money. The work, however, has been highly unusual for him: he is helping a friend and her son clear their sizable property of fallen tree trunks and branches. He freely confesses that part of this work has involved the use of a chainsaw (in fact, more than one), by far the most powerful (and dangerous) machine he has ever operated.

Saw and axe (and while we’re at it, hammer and nail) share a peculiar place in the human imagination. As anyone who has read Gilgamesh has probably realized, this hero’s expedition to the Cedar Forest is merely the first recorded incident of mankind’s absolute obsession with felling trees. Why we must cut down the most beautiful forests (or climb mountains or erect standing stone pillars) is anyone’s guess, but the motivations seem intertwined with our deepest spiritual impulses. To panel the Sun God’s temple in cedar, to reach the habitation of the gods, to compass the stars are all ways of connecting with nature and the absolute, of rendering homage to the unfathomable.

And yet there is also no denying that these activities are among the most destructive we engage in. Perhaps the problem lies in stripping the sacred from human activity, of turning a temple into suburban sprawl, of creating traffic jams of people waiting to get to the top of Everest, of littering low Earth orbit with space junk. What began as worship has transmogrified itself into mountaintop removal.

I enjoyed working with the two chain saws–neither of them especially large and one adapted for removing low-hanging tree limbs. I am reminded of Rita Mae Brown’s advice–the intellectual work of writing should be balanced with physical labor. Or again, I think of William Faulkner’s sabbatical spent working in a factory–as Benito Juarez spent his exile from Mexico in the United States. For their own sanity, writers must occasionally engage in the first worship of physical exertion.


Latest update: i’m still helping my friend clean up the house, but now the work is decidedly less glamorous (but all the same, safer). Two weeks further into this gig I’m cleaning up several rooms that will be rented as an apartment. & these rooms have not been well-tended in some time: dirt, grease, dirty fridge…you get the picture. On the other hand, my boss is ADD and has *no* problem with me getting up to blog at 2:30 in the morning, since she (and often, her son) are up at the same hour doing whatever. & it’s nice having a room w/ a door i can shut & kitchen privileges.

What does this have to do with being a writer? I guess every writer needs to discover that an alternate universe exists where such things as ADD, writing, and the willingness to do manual labor are assets.      RT


Image: Early Mechanical Saw, 1860; Hamilton; WikiCmns; Public Domain.