I adore it, I need it.  I bow and paw.  I leak all over
the sheets just thinking about it—Ooh let me worship your
beautiful ass!

                                 Earlier, I told her I loved her.  I told her she
was so gloriously dark.

                                                       .   .   .

                                                     It’s Saturday night.  The slick of
softened water clings to our skins.  

                                                                            Our bath­room is all black
tile and black grout, black faucets, obsidian backsplash, with
black lights and black towels, black soap.

                                                                                          She replied that
she liked me because I’m dark too.

                                                       .   .   .

                                                                            Every time I think it has
settled, it fizzles up again, monstrous phallus silos dotting
the seeded fields.

                                         What is it exactly, that announces itself
so obscenely, like Nocturne in E flat major, at half speed and
inverted, over­driven and filtered through a resonator, blasting
from a loud­speaker?

                                               It’s true, I can’t look right at it or it
blurs defensively and stings me back into oblivion.  And I’m so
fucking tired of oblivion.

                                                       .   .   .

                                                         Take me out into the woods to-
night.  Tie me to a tree so it’s rough bark tears into my back.
Tease me, use me, pleasure me to ecstasy.

                                                       .   .   .

                                                                                            What does it take
to feel alive again?  I’ve been numb so long I can’t remember.  

She’s blacked out in the bathroom again, slumped against
the shower’s dark tinted glass.  I push the door open, lift her
up, hold her until she comes to.

                                                                      It’s okay.  I’m here.  I’ve
got you.  I’ve got you.

I’m not new to using Processing/p5.js, but creating sketches within the constraints of them being drawn using a single pen/marker at a time (singly or in layers) has presented several challenges. I am finding that that is all just part of the fun of art making with pen plotter.

Aside from the doodles and drawings I make from time to time in my sketchbooks, these pen plotted prints are the first physical art objects I have ever created as an adult, aside from the one canvas print I had made from a digital artwork a few years ago. Most of the art I have made is digital, and has been confined to being presented on the screen, and having these printed onto paper or canvas and mailed to me still feels very… not sure what exactly… disconnected? immaterial?

While the pen plotter is just a programmed mechanical arm following the instructions created by my code, something about watching it being drawn in real ink before your eyes is incredibly exciting and fulfilling. The constraints of working in this medium are also exciting. I have to think more materially from the start of the process (the choice of pen or marker, thickness of the pen tip, color, single layer or multiple), which directs me to think more basically about what process or algorithm is being applied and what all can be done with just lines, shape primitives, and loops. No shades of gray, no colors, no alpha, no fills.

Anyways, here are some images of what I’ve made so far from my first few experiments. I’m still just writing code to test out how the SVG will translate into the pen plotter’s actions, and what methods work best, on which pens etc. I want to use. Maybe in the next few months I’ll be grounded enough in the basics to really move out into more interesting works.

This is just a simple post asking a simple question (and some related ones): Where is electronic poetry / digital poetry / e-poetry / generative poetry / computational poetry being published online? Are there any journals or blogs specializing in it or making space for it? Or is it all scattered here and there and difficult to find?

And, just to be clear, the poetry I’m concerned with here is that which is composed in concert with generative or algorithmic processes, remixes existing or online text (scraped via APIs, for example) to some degree, is interactive, or is visually designed/implemented with coding or software that animates or automates some part of the work. It could also be some kind of sound poetry that uses filters or automation in some artistic way. (Yikes, is that actually clear? I hope so.) Basically, not just regularly (human-only) written poetry put in a JPEG or posted in any of the usual ways to the internet.

I pose this question as a long-time participant in this creative “genre,” if it can be called that (perhaps “endeavor” or “approach” would be better), who was heavily involved for many years with one of the few engaged group blogs that I know of that centered around computational poetry, Gnoetry Daily, and has published three chapbooks of digital/computational poetry.

I ask as an avid reader of new books and works of digital/computational poetry, as well as other areas of digital art like generative art, which I am also become more and more engaged in. There are frequently a couple of new books of poetry written by or in collaboration with computer processes published every year or so. (I plan to review a couple of recent books from Anteism Books, for example, in the next few months.)

I mean, of all people, shouldn’t I be capable of answering this question? I have Google, right? And many keywords and combinations. But they tend to just find electronic poetry centers/repositories, electronic/digital journals of non-computational poetry, or “digital poetry activities” for students. And some cool scholarly articles on “computational creativity” sometimes. That’s all great stuff, but not what I want: to be inspired, to see that there is a community of writers working in this vein, perhaps to find collaborators.

But I am isolated in my apartment, and just crawling and scratching my way out of several years of life shit / depression / writer’s block / dark night of the soul. And I can be such a stubborn loner. I can’t do everything alone, right?

So, hey, if any of you other electronic poetry enthusiasts out there stumble upon this, please, Please, PLEASE, drop of comment or link or something. I’d love to make a list.

And shameless promotion is highly encouraged 🙂

I am working on some new poetry to use within a larger digital poetry work. The idea is to write some lines and paragraphs that can be tagged and then combined into new poems (my very loose plan for now). I am currently using Gnoetry 0.2 (and will soon be using jGnoetry and a simple RiTa function I’ve been working on that implements Markov chaining / n-grams) to write some lines as well, which are then revised and worked into my own writings. The last part of my plan may be to include new sentences/paragraphs/lines that are generated from the rest of the source text and woven into the other text.

I’ll keep you updated on this as it evolves.

The poem below (let’s just think of it as a standalone poem for now, why not) is very similar to a poem I wrote without computer processes several years ago: The Mind, Not Poetry, Is a Machine Made of Words. I will probably include that text into my project as well.

However Sincere It Is Almost Nothing (some fragments)

I’m not the story I’m telling you, however sincere. The checksum confirms receipt of these fragments. You will receive seven packages, a duffle bag full of heads–something like that.

Remember. I’m not taking this all so seriously now no more scraping & screeching about. My fear is I will not be capable of sharing my loving when the shining moment comes.

There is a story here but it is boring. A being who cannot abide its inherent innocence flirts with every transgression it can stomach and ends up nowhere really.

If I produce enough powerful statements will a magical transformation occur? If I write clearly enough, truthfully enough, sharply enough, what will happen? Imagine how the other poets have fared.

Dandelions in our hair and woven around our wrists and ankles. The earth celebrates. But artificial skin can feel enough like the real thing when you want it to.

However sincere, you can find the roots of my voice growing all over these lines, perhaps symbiotic, perhaps parasitic. It is never clear who is devoured and who is fed among these flimsy souls I summon.

There is no set order to these lines. Be quiet and listen. Quieter still. Order does not announces itself but emerges in the branching seams.

Do not tell me about the world anymore. Tell me you just dropped out at last like you always dreamed of. Show me the unstained way, I cannot see with these eyes in the way. Point me to the heart of being.

It is not in the dark and brooding brook, it is not in the dark and bristling body. The grass is shorter and shorter, the rose with an apple inside is almost nothing.

Go to the Converging Stanzas Generator!

I put this together over a year ago as a coding exercise and then just forgot about it. Since I first got Jackson Mac Low’s collection of new and selected poems Thing of Beauty in 2008, the poem “Converging Stanzas” has fascinated me. I think it’s the entropy at it’s core, the slow decay, like William Basinksi’s Disintegration Loops in poem form.

The materials and method used for the poem were detailed in the following note by Mac Low that was included in Thing of Beauty:

“Converging Stanzas” was composed by chance operations utilizing the random-digit table A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates (Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1955) and The Basic English Word List. …

In composing “Converging Stanzas” I used random digits to determine a stanza structure consisting of eight lines comprising successively five, three, one, eight, four, two, two, and seven words. When composing the first stanza, I filled this 32-word 53184227 structure with words drawn from the Basic English list by chance operations using random digits. The 32 places of the second stanza were filled with words from the first stanza by random-digit chance operations, those of the third stanza with words from the second, and so on. The method used worked in such a way that the number of different words in successive stanzas gradually declined. The poem ended with the sixtieth stanza, in which the number of different words had “converged” to one word, which occupies all 32 places of that stanza. (236)

It was all pretty straightforward and very fun to figure out. Much easier to do with code than manually consulting a random number table. I was able to download a copy of Ogden and Richard’s The Basic English Word List, and then it was just a matter of coding in a variable stanza pattern for the stanzas and letting random selection do the rest. I decided for each generation of the program to randomly choose a stanza length of between 6 and 10 lines, then create a unique stanza pattern for the lines of word lengths between 1 and the stanza length. 

I opted to use a slider to move through the stanzas because I like the visual impact of moving quickly through the stanzas and seeing the word diversity drop down to the remaining single word. Try it for yourself, it’s fun!

I hope you enjoy this little novelty program. I plan to make more little generative / interactive poetry programs in the future.

For several years, this blog, which was originally titled what light already light, was renamed to !poi4′:;!poe’!’;;!mbassy::!oip3′:: [Poembassy Bombing]. It’s been a while since I’ve been writing anything really (including blogging), but the feeling is returning to me. And I think the days of bombing the poembassy are over now.

I have moved all of the blog content over from the WordPress.com site to this new home on my own website, but you can still visit the old !poi4′:;!poe’!’;;!mbassy::!oip3′:: [Poembassy Bombing]. That twitter feed is priceless.

It has been dark for me for a while (depression), and I will take the old title again as my mantra. Maybe this is all delusional. Maybe. But lately projects have been finishing after years of stagnation and new projects are starting to call to me. I hope to share these projects, as well as my new generative artwork, my experiments with a pen plotter (soon to come), and some poems and blog posts about my thoughts and feelings.

I mentioned in my last post that I have long suffered with migraines, and suffered from chronic migraines (more than 15 migraine days a month—I was around 20) from roughly October of 2013 until July of 2016. So, this post will tell my story about what my migraines are like and what methods I went through over the course of about a decade to mostly rid my life of them (or at least reduce them to an occasional disruption in an otherwise healthy life).

About My Migraines

These migraines were truly terrible. If you have migraines, you understand; if you don’t, imagine combining your worst dental headaches with moderate food poisoning or the flu. From before the chronic migraines, and for some of my migraines even now, episodes generally extend over a three-day period in 8-12 hour waves, with the first day being most intense, then each subsequent day stepping down by about 25%. For the first two days, I would be in intense pain with disorientation, sensitivity to light, sound, and touch, some speech issues (aphasia), and nausea that would build until I managed to empty everything from my stomach into the toilet, after which it would somewhat subside. The third day tended to just make me irritable and distracted. Each episode would leave me exhausted and emotionally drained.

My migraines have always been hemispheric, shifting from one side of my head to the other each day. The pain usually begins as a tension in my neck that becomes painful then begins to resonate and merge with a sharp, throbbing pain in my eyeball or eyebrow on the affected side. Pain medicine usually did not work, although for several years in my 20’s I used Excedrin migraine and ibuprofen too much (NOT advised). Eventually that stopped working. Occasionally now Tylenol will help temporarily, but use of any pain medicine can just push the episode into the near future, or even trigger a “rebound headache.” I generally just avoid pain medicine at this point.

Not Everybody (or Every Migraine) is the Same

I want to stress one point if you are struggling with migraines: not everybody is the same, and your migraines are probably not going to be exactly like other peoples’. My mother’s migraines are very different from mine in duration and constancy throughout an episode, but similar in other ways. What this also means is that what works for me may not work at all for you. While this may at first seem to be a problem of its own (Oh no! Now I can’t rely on anyone’s recommendations!), it really is the most crucial mindset to cultivate, because it’s true. One must approach and judge everything through one’s own experience with it. Be skeptical while being patient, methodical, and optimistic until some results become clear. Test different things out, and if they don’t work, try some others. Just don’t give up without pursuing every possible, safe (relatively speaking) option.

Prescription Medications

I have always been reluctant to deal with prescription medications for this. My first experience with migraine medication was with a blood pressure medicine that dropped my blood pressure so low I could barely walk uphill, had violent mood swings, and nearly lost consciousness. Later on, when the chronic migraines started, I saw a neurologist who prescribed a different blood pressure medicine (which made things worse over the course of a few months), an antidepressant (which made me impatient and gave me an “angry sweet tooth”), and an anti-spasmodic medication that put me in a constant drowsy haze and, again, didn’t provide relief.

For about two years, I tried that approach and found it didn’t work for me. It didn’t deal with the root of my problem, and in my case, it didn’t even alleviate the symptoms, all the while giving me a range of horrible side effects to deal with.

Experiments with Supplements

After that, I tried some supplements to see if they might help. This can be a bit dangerous, even if they are over the counter, so you should always do some research and be careful, even when desperate for relief. For a year or so, I took 5-HTP, which did seem to help a little. However, at the same time, I was taking Zyrtec for allergies and to keep my sinuses clear, and I was wrapping a cloth with ground nutmeg around my forehead (more on this later) during migraine episodes. After about nine months of some improvement, the migraines began get progressively worse and worse, until one afternoon, dealing with some of the worst, stabbing pain and nausea that I have ever experienced during a migraine, I screamed out, “What is this! What is this!” Something had to change.

Doing more research, I learned that, in addition to the serotonin boost from the 5-HTP (which I was well aware of, since it directly metabolizes into serotonin, and that is why I was taking it), both Zyrtec and nutmeg increase serotonin levels as well. I had been, in effect, slowly poisoning myself with serotonin syndrome.

The Miracle Migraine Diet

It was time to stop looking at what else I could put into my body and start looking at what I was already putting into it, day after day. For years I had been resistant to making changes to my diet, and to exercising regularly, but really, these two things—diet and exercise—should always be the first things to examine with any health issue.

So in my case, a diet has worked wonders to prevent most of the migraines I had been experiencing (90% effective at least). Moderate exercise has helped reduce my stress a bit too, which has probably also helped reduce my migraines (and certainly my depression, which is probably comorbid for me), but it was definitely the diet that did the trick for my migraines.

This dietary advice came from a book called The Migraine Miracle by Josh Turknett, which I credit for turning my health around. I was skeptical at first due to the title (sounds kind of New Agey, and I am always skeptical of the hyperbole that is everywhere with books about chronic illnesses), but I gave it a try and I went from having chronic migraines (about 20 days or more a month) down to a couple of migraine days on average a month, sometimes less. Related to this, the book Wired to Eat by Robb Wolf is a great book about creating a personalized diet which follows pretty much all of the same rules that The Migraine Miracle follows. I haven’t put Wolf’s specific 30-day reset diet into effect for myself, but his meal advice is helpful for those transitioning to a more paleo-style diet, which is what this is.

Here are the highlights of what helped me:

  • I stopped eating/drinking nearly all added sugar or honey, which includes all juice, candy, desserts, or foods with more than a few grams of added sugar/honey. I can tolerate some sugar, but it can only come in very small doses, and mostly from natural sources like fruits, tubers, and vegetables. Best to just avoid everything sweet except for whole foods (the sugar in whole fruits and vegetables is better because the fiber content helps soften the impact of the sugar on blood insulin levels, I think). Also, I found it helpful to not eat even fruit alone as a snack. I always pair it with something with protein, additional fiber, and/or fat. Eating fruit as part of a meal is great, and if you are able to eat dairy, fruit parfaits with whole fat yogurt are wonderful.
  • I have reduced the amount of carbs in my diet to a more moderate level (between 150 and 250 grams a day, I would estimate, though I have not been counting for a long while). I would generally advise when trying this to cut down to a true low-carb diet for a while and see if it helps, then even try a ketogenic diet if that doesn’t work. Cutting back severely (or entirely) on breads, pasta, and white potatoes is a huge part of this. Eating small portions of unsweetened sweet potatoes and other tubers that are higher in fiber is fine (my wife is Caribbean, so I eat things like plantain, green (not sweet in the least) bananas, taro root, and African/Jamaican yam). Gluten-free oatmeal for breakfast is great too, as a bowl is about 30 grams of carbs. Put some fruit (banana or raisins/dried cranberries) in it for some sweetness. If you boil it with some nutmeg and cinnamon, that makes it a bit tastier too.
  • I am personally very sensitive to even small amounts in caffeine, so giving this up was a no-brainer on my part. I would suggest removing caffeine to see if there is any improvement, but many people with migraine are fine with caffeine, and it even helps some people. Again, this is individual.
  • Maybe related to the caffeine issue, I have found that chocolate is also a trigger for me. I mourn this as much as the loss of coffee, but the loss pales in comparison to positives of not have life-destroying migraines all the time.
  • Another big thing that helped me is removing gluten from my diet. This is really a difficult thing to do if one is used to eating out or has a typical American diet (I certainly did), but you should find out within a month of strictly avoiding gluten if there is any benefit. It is found in bread, but also in many sauces, some rice [yes, they add it often to rice at Chinese and Sushi restaurants], prepared foods, fried foods (they often fry everything, breaded or not, in the same oil)—essentially anything made from wheat, barley, or rye or which has been in contact with it. It is best to just avoid eating out or eating prepared, processed foods altogether when testing for a gluten issue.
  • Finally, a really important thing is to avoid/reduce your intake of omega-6 fatty acids and increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids come almost entirely from vegetable and seed oils (vegetable oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, grapeseed oil, corn oil, canola oil, etc.). In terms of cooking, use coconut oil, olive oil (check online to make sure the brand is really olive oil and not a vegetable oil substitute), and butter. 
    • Also, related to this, I have also found that peanuts and especially peanut butter are triggers for my migraines, although not if I only have a little very infrequently. I think it has to do with the oil in it.
    • It has also helped me to supplement my omega-3 intake with a Fish Oil supplement. Here’s a really highly rate one (Viva Naturals) that I use from Amazon. One a day after a meal is fine to help counteract the omega-6 fatty acids.

The only other things I do currently is take a Vitamin D supplement for energy (5000 IU a day in the morning) together with one Vitamin K2 supplement (100 mcg; if I don’t take that, that level of Vitamin D gives me vertigo for some reason), along with Nasacort for my sinuses (no more Zyrtec!). I take the full dose of Nasacort (2 sprays in each nostril, one a day). This helps keep my sinuses more open and lessens the impact of changes in the weather on me, since this is a big trigger for me personally. If you find sinus pressure or weather systems trigger migraines for you, it’s worth a try. Best to keep the number of pills/medications to a minimum though. Not sure how much the Vitamin D affects the migraines, but if you find you have symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency, it might help. It really helped bring up my energy level and base mood.

“Triggers” Warning: Thinking in Terms of Threshold Instead

You may have some other triggers in your diet to deal with that differ from mine, too. Or possibly no obvious “triggers.” I put this in quotes because a fixation on ridding yourself of the triggers which, as the metaphor goes, initiate a migraine like a trigger initiates a gunshot, can be misleading and anxiety-inducing.

Turknett, in The Migraine Miracle, argues for a different way to think of how migraines start: the threshold. His theory, which I think is a helpful way to think about this, but maybe not completely the case (I really don’t know for sure), is that there are a range of things that, in combination, add up until they reach a “threshold” where your brain reacts by launching a migraine attack. Diet may only account for half of this, maybe more or less for different individuals, and it is one of the few factors we have a great amount of control over. For example, stress and anxiety are major factors for me, as well as large changes in the weather, and they have been responsible for many migraines–in part. Overstimulation (or just getting too excited) is also an issue with me that contributes to my migraines, I have learned. However, in terms of breaching the threshold, in this theory, if you can lessen the impact of your diet and, maybe, your stress level, then the other factors beyond your control will be less likely to reach to a combined point that will trigger a migraine.

One Very Welcome Side Effect of the Migraine Miracle Diet

Oh, and I lost about 30 pounds over a three month period by shifting to this diet. I was a bit overweight, so this was great for me. This was an unexpected side effect of the diet, and I still haven’t put any of that weight back on after two years, and have since stayed roughly 45 pounds beneath my previous weight, which puts me in a healthy weight range for my body size. Diet is, also, a very individual thing, so it may be different for you, but for many people, low-carb, higher-fat diets lead to weight loss or healthy weight stabilization.

Recommended Natural Remedy: The Nutmeg Head Wrap

I also have one more suggestion for helping endure and sleep better through migraines. This is the single most helpful treatment I have used for alleviating the agony of a migraine episode, and it came from the folk remedies of the Caribbean while visiting my in-laws one summer in St. Lucia.

Instructions: Onto a very thin cloth (like a head wrap or neckerchief), grate about half of a nutmeg in a line about as wide as your forehead (along a line running diagonally across the cloth between two corners), then wrap this around your head so it covers your forehead, just over the eyebrows or wherever pain is concentrated (just not directly on your eyes). Be sure to use whole nutmegs, not the stuff that has been ground already. Freshly ground whole nutmegs are much more potent than pre-ground nutmeg.

The fumes of the nutmeg are very helpful to breathe in, as they are a sleep aid and act as a muscle relaxant. Additionally, the nutmeg against the forehead will also numb the area quite a bit (I’d say 30% or so) after 15-30 minutes.

When I do this, I find that my muscles and body are much less sore after the migraine, and I feel like I have had a least some rest. I leave it on for 4-8 hours (as I am sleeping with it on). It will have a lingering effect after you take it off, and if you find it to be too sedating, try wearing it for less time or grating less nutmeg in the cloth. For the first use of the wrap each time I grate the nutmeg, I usually only keep it on for 4–5 hours.

Caution: Don’t do this too often, though, especially if you are on anything that already increases your serotonin levels (which includes some prescription drugs, supplements like 5-HTP, and pretty much all antihistamines). Four or five times a month, even if you were on those medicines, should not cause any harm. Doing this too much in combination with other serotonin-elevating medicines, supplements, or foods, though, could lead to overly high levels of serotonin in the brain. As I mentioned above, I once got sick (as well as some rebound headaches) from using this 3 nights a week for over a year in combination with 5-HTP and Zyrtec. I now use this method just for the migraines that are bad enough to warrant it. I can reuse the same grating of nutmeg several times, too, although the effect becomes progressively milder.

Other Recommendations

Finally, it is also best to give up on NSAID pain killers, and even cut down on things like Tylenol. They can easily cause rebound headaches. They generally have not worked for me at all for many, many years anyways. If you are taking them often, you should really question if they are actually helping or just feeding the cycle. And if you can change your diet and reduce the migraine frequency, that will mean less medication in general.

You might try to get some CBD oil from a local health food store for some relief (that helps for a little while), but it is currently very expensive. That helped me in the past, although prevention is, again, much better and much more cost effective.

Finally, for those who spend a lot of time at computers or staring at their cell phones or tablets, I heavily recommended using blue light filtering software to reduce the strain on your eyes, especially in the evening and at night. My favorite program is f.lux (I run a Windows PC), but there are many variations for different operating systems. On my Android phone, I use the built in filter for daytime viewing, then at night it switches to an oranger color using a Night Mode app that I installed for free. My eyes are much happier this way, and I’m sure it has saved me from many migraines.

In Conclusion

I hope that advice helps. That’s pretty much everything I personally have learned about dealing with my own migraines. I am very passionate about helping others deal with migraines. They are beyond terrible and ruined my life for a long while, so if my advice can point people towards real recovery, I am glad to give it.

It is more than two years now since I wrote a blog post. Two years of descent into and out of depressive episodes and personal stagnation deeper than any I had ever known (and I am no stranger to depression, and am even a great admirer of the positive impact I have at times turned it towards in my life–more on this perhaps at a later time).

In coming to write this post, I found a draft I began in the spring of 2017 and never published. It captures the spirit of the depressive aspects of the past several years very well:

Unfinished June 2017 Draft Post:

I’ve lost touch with something important. Something central. Is it desire? Purpose? Direction? Passion? Can acts have context and consequence, but no significance?*

All of my friends are struggling. All of them. Like my wife and myself, many are piecing part-time, temp, adjunct, and freelance work together into making a stagnant non-living, residing in either cheap, barely affordable apartments or in parents’ or friends’ houses.

I find a place, off and on, for music-making in my life, but poetry? Art?  I have lost the feeling for words and pictures. They cannot reach me. Even the music is lacking in depth, character, purpose. It throbs and languishes. It circles, stumbles, and falters. I watch reruns of Star Trek series while eating comfort food and drinking too much.

I witness my maladaptation continue still from 2016, a year of personal losses and (literal) assault. All this while 2016 was a turning point for my health–finally learning how to get my migraines under control, and discovering that the strength and flexibility of my body had largely returned from my 2010 back injury. And conservative spite, ignorance, and greed now sit poised to

* Emphasis added. I think this is a great question to ask.

The post cut off there. Doubtless I meant to make some comment about the bonkers political climate of 2017, but hey, its 2019 now. It seems like the fears of a sudden descent into a fascist hellscape have been somewhat soothed by a midterm democratic (and dare we hope progressive/socialist) rebuke, and there is even the possibility that the plutocratic status quo may even face a serious challenge in the next few years. Maybe.

Politics aside, what is most clear to me is how lost I felt at the time, and how much anguish was being caused by this. And how much I struggled to stay in my den and lick my wounds. I have felt this lost, adrift feeling for much of my adult life, but not always as a negative thing. It had turned very sour and stifling for me.

So starting in 2018, I began to find my life increasingly claustrophobic, and my depressive moods and coping strategies were becoming more transparent and pointless. Funny how depression–which is most clearly identified in myself now as a knee-jerk assignment of pointlessness and futility to everything (which is true when you get down to it) as an excuse for withdrawing from all that is negative and positive in life (but definitely a wrong, fear-driven stance)–can itself become a victim of its attacks on purpose. Due to this greater self-awareness, I became insistent on dropping my coping strategies and becoming more committed to figuring out how to deal with (to change, improve, shape) my life.

And one by one, they began to fall away. The need to inebriate, the Netflix binging of Star Trek, the munching. Even the need to calm my mind through regular applications of breathing meditation. Unfortunately, it also seemed that a lot of the good feeling I had from making art and writing fell away too. So much of my drive had been simply anxious, fearful energy focused on production to justify my identity, to establish my purpose for being. I had to produce or I was not of any value. I had to make art to justify my designation as an artist. To not be nothing and nobody.

So I have been getting more comfortable being nothing, or not worrying about being anything, and getting better at seeing depression at work, at seeing fear at work in me, and at making the effort each day to live a life less based on fear and less concerned with finding the impossible existential answers that my depression seems to need so badly.

Part of that is getting back to this blog, and maybe soon moving it to my own server. I’m trying to get a feel for writing again as a tool for growth, which I generally approach through the disillusionment and undermining of everything false and needy in me, everything ego-enhancing. The idea of poembassy bombing is to stare the artificial internal edifices of institutions, poetic and otherwise, into rubble and dust, then find a way to move on from there. I often imagine myself to be finished with that work, sifting through the ruins, and looking for something on the horizon to set off towards, but I don’t think that’s it yet. In this metaphor, I’m still buried in the smoldering rubble, slowly finding the strength to dig myself out. Because nobody is coming to help me do it. I must do it alone.

I should say that a lot of the negativity I have gone through has faded. I have managed, as with my struggle to end years of chronic migraines (I will blog about this soon), to use every darkness and negativity in my life to seek out what is true and of value and figure out how to become a more mature, wise person. I know the world is still probably fucked, moving ever deeper into ecological, economic, and political collapse (and the more we can face this fact, maybe the more we can do about it), but the more personal, subjective experience of my life is less and less occluded by despair and depression. I can push aside the veil of fear and self-assuring knowledge (always seeking to keep things safe, contained, and identify and remove any threats) that haunts my perception to reveal something that is a frequent and refreshing reprise. Like the opening of a window in a dark, stagnant room to let in fresh air. I cannot properly describe this. Sometimes I cultivate this (as though it is something cultivated!) in meditation, other times I slip into it without intention during the day. I think Longchen Rabjam does a better job of it (from The Basic Space of Phenomena, section 10):

Without the arising and subsiding of thoughts, there is a naturally limpid, pristine state, like the unwavering evenness of a limpid ocean.
Free of the occurrence of or involvement in thoughts, free of hope or fear, you abide within the state of naturally occurring timeless awareness, the true nature of which is profoundly lucid.

Without the compulsions of ordinary mind, there is an unfeigned state–a natural settling, uncontrived and unadulterated–though it cannot be characterized with words.
This absorption in the expanse of being, the true nature of which cannot be characterized, involves neither meditation nor something to meditate on, and so laxity and agitation dissipate naturally, and enlightened intent occurs naturally.

I’m not sure he was speaking about what I have been experiencing and working towards in my own practice, but I aim for a natural settling, or I seek out that which is grasping, holding on tight, which is unsettled, then acknowledge it and watch is settle. Some kind of experience of oneness arises, and everything external and internal is subsumed in an undifferentiated whole. It does not feel like a unity/unification, but more that the previous experience of myself observing and reacting to a world that is other has been replaced by, simultaneously, the absence and presence of these as a single thing. All that I had perceived previously remains, but it has a hollow (but oddly warm and whole) presence.

(Hollow and whole. The sound of that. Never noticed the resonance. Hollow and whole. Whole and hollow. The whole hollow. A hollow whole. A hole is hollow, hollow on the whole.)

When I look in at myself, I see an earnest, wondering, urgently concerned image of my face staring outward. But upon seeing it, its transparency and flatness are apparent, and it fades away like a phantom movement you try to catch at the edges of sight. Often, then, a natural settling follows.

I don’t know how to end this, so I’ll just end it here. I feel I could keep rambling on for days without coming to any conclusion. Do I want a conclusion? Do you want a conclusion? Does everything need to be tied up in a nice package? No. Certainly not.

I often felt like writing to her, but, in general, I don’t write to people I care about often enough, I don’t call the people I love often enough.

I was fortunate to have had Professor Kelly–as I still feel I should call her (though I think she would prefer just Brigit)–as my first poetry workshop leader as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the spring of 2003. I was a foolish boy from the cornfields with a love of language; I was lonely and depressive; and I was failing out of jazz inprovisation and trumpet performance in the School of Music when I entered her class. For the next year or so, I spoke almost every week with her in her office in the top floor of the English building about poetry, religion, literature, life. I remember walking her to her car one evening. I remember her lending me the published diary of a (Swiss? Czech?) writer from the 40s that contained sketches of stories about marionettes and woodsmen–I still cannot remember the author or the book.

I am not good at remembering or telling stories, so forgive me.

I write this with a deep but gentle sadness welling in my face and flushing through my limbs, because through the short time in my life that I knew her, she influenced me profoundly as an example of openness, generosity, compassion, and deep wisdom. Her poetry is nothing like what I write or work on, but it has a beauty and mystery that has always touched and warmed my too often inhuman core. When I read it, I think of her and how kind she was to speak to me all of those days. It never felt like I was an irritation, and it was always a true exchange, and I have always wished to be like that with my own students and in my own conversations.

The last time I saw Brigit was in 2009 when she gave a reading at Wabash College in Indiana. For some reason I do not remember her reading her own poems there too vividly, perhaps because I was already so familiar with them. “Dead Doe” was always a favorite of mine and my poetry students at Purdue. Another favorite has always been “Pipistrelles.”  There is a sort of spell they cast, so perhaps I was too intoxicated by them. What I remember is her reading from Wallace Steven’s “The Auroras of Autumn,” which I had never read or heard. She made it beautiful.

This isn’t very eloquent, and I’m losing track of what I am trying to do here. What am I trying to do here? I just want to say that it was her kindness and sadness that I treasure most, through my interactions with her and through her poetry, and my life and the world have both been made better for them. I feel an emptiness and a loss knowing she is gone, but I feel her impression in that same space, that helps me to understand what is good in this world.