OCTOBER 15. I am going to risk resuming my love affair with Maine, which is to say, flirt with the danger of never returning to Ohio. I have been reading about Theodore Enslin, whose work I love: Enslin moved to Maine in 1960 and has lived in Washington County ever since, working at odd jobs and making and selling handmade walking sticks. The Maine landscape forms an integral part of his poetry, as does the isolation, both geographic and in terms of distance from literary fashion and the academy his life on the physical margin of the United States allows. Hooray for physical margins. I sometimes forget the United States has them.
OCTOBER 19. We spent a couple days with Phil in Northampton, and up on his farm in Deerfield—loaded up three boxes of vegetables, 50 lb. of carrots, which we're bringing with us to Maine. Phil's working on a big handmade book of trash—found receipts photos greeting cards, scraps of paper, detritus, pressed into a sheaf. No text, yet clearly a poetic document. Now we're in the hills outside of Townshend, Vermont, visiting with Luke and Louisa on their sheep farm—talking about transmuting (transsubstantiating) waste into delicacy. The land is yielding much, and we're slowly making our way.
OCTOBER 20. What is not a poem. I don't know. Poems for the dead and I don't know—Bernadette Mayer
OCTOBER 20. The trees have surrendered to darkness, the darkness has surrendered its concentrated burden, giving itself to us now, here in western Maine, the sun is a soulless sentry—warmth has no center. We've made it deep into the woods, with our cord of carrots. We're fronting a lake, with the advance of the woods at our backs. The silence is long and full, and hopefully to get some thinking done.
OCTOBER 20. Everything is not a poem. How could there be any solidification? My recent feeling is that poetry is nothing more (or less) than the attempt to make a thing called a "poem," which means that nothing is actually a poem, and everything is not. Nothing short of our last day on earth, the one we will not remember, for having quit life on its heels. And so it is, simply, life, another way to spend it. Consolation is often confused for salvation. But poetry?
OCTOBER 22. We are here—it is wild, with a mythic advance of trees outside. We've set up our working spaces—books spread—a few—poetry and art face-up on the spare bed, Hiroshima on the ledge leading down to the garage. It feels good to SEE these friends again, after so many months shut away. Our candles are on and word-by-word some fashioning of catastrophe.
OCTOBER 23. The feeling that my fingers have hardened lamentably against writing verses; I’ve abandoned them for so many years. Suddenly you discover that you’ll spend your entire life in disorder. It’s all that you have; you must learn to live with it.
OCTOBER 27. It is perfect night here in Maine—the well has descended around us. We went out into the lake today, where it began to rain. The lake became a kettle, and where not night, it was a perfect mist. Just us, and leaves, and three ducks swallowing the rain.
OCTOBER 30. It is agreed today to call "poetry" something which, in its most advanced developments, has moved so far from the territory believing to know, has moved so far ahead by jumps and leaps and bounds whose determinations cannot understand, that literally am no longer able to recognize the language it is written in. It is as if wearing those glasses which are made of black panels full of little holes and which some believe ease the eyes when looking at a screen. Or listening to disconnected messages from submerged scientists studying the most secret life of octopi—the water has ravished the interfaces of scientist and octopus. As for those who, again and again, attempt to speak the Everest. Which is not to say that there are not places in THE ALPS where the waters part reading a message addressed to me. And which is not to say that as long as there is breath shall not be trying to listen to the voices of those peaks.