Architecture began like all writing. A stone was placed on end, and it was a letter, and each letter was a hieroglyph—and upon each hieroglyph rested a group of ideas, like the capital on a column. … The original idea, the word, was not only at the base of all these buildings, but also in their form. … Thus, for the first six thousand years of the world’s history, from the most immemorial pagoda of Hindustan to the Cologne Cathedral, architecture was the great writing of mankind.
Notre Dame de Paris was spellbinding for Proust. He was even known to have thrown a fur-lined overcoat on over his nightshirt and to have stood in front of it for two hours in order to receive fresh inspiration from the portal of Saint Anne.
Paris inspired Benjamin’s The Arcades Project and gave us the flâneur as a literary type:
Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flâneur finds the world "picturesque."
Susan Sontag, On Photography
— check out also the wanderings of Stacy Szymaszek in Journal of Ugly Sites.
Writers think about place and space and architecture again and again and architects use the term poetic a whole lot and what is that all about? Poetry and architecture have a lot in common; their shared obsession with natural geometries and rhythms, with precision and structure, with recording, visioning and visualization. Poetry and architecture both honor the ambient potential of space (as in Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space) and hold space, and in some ways a poem is a walk through rooms. Where we are from, where we (must) wander and what we see shapes our cultural identity; for a powerful journey that defined the tenet of negritude, go with Aimé Césaire in Notebook of a Return to a Native Land.
Awaking in New York
by Maya Angelou
Curtains forcing their will
against the wind,
exchanging dreams with
seraphim. The city
drags itself awake on
subway straps; and
I, an alarm, awake as a
rumor of war,
lie stretching into dawn,
unasked and unheeded.
Do you observe nature? Do you write about it? Do you write in it? Do its things, leaves and trees and stars, appear in your poems as they appear in the street and sky? What do you learn from birds, trees, and other nonhuman beings?
(But how do we even define nature: Ed Hirsch says Gary Snyder says nature “will dodge our expectations and theoretical models.”)
How do you define nature?
What delights you in nature? What shapes / colors / phenomena? Do you bring them into your work? What about the recursion of patterns? Or pleasing formlessness, clouds — see Brenda Hillman’s Pieces of Air in the Epic, how unused parts of the poem drop to the footnote like ashes.
By situating ourselves in nature, as natural beings amongst other fauna and flora, what subjectivities do we access? How is the poem’s (and the poet’s) voice heard among other living voices?
This from Eileen Myles:
The poet is like the earth's shadow. The sun moves and the poet writes something down.
There would be days in which feelings were so externalized that you just behaved like a painter a kid with deep pockets, bringing the lavender home. The poem was a grid that swayed and moving through it you just picked up things and hung them on the grid all the while singing your broken heart out.
What about the use of natural metaphor and symbol — how a rose can mean love and conversely might just stand for an actual rose... Or whatever William Carlos Williams does in Spring and All, undoing a cliche and making it new.
Julian Talamantez Brolaski writes about "horse vision" — horses, evolved as prey animals with excellent peripheral vision, have a blind spot directly in front of them. What does it mean to see as another being sees — to write FROM YOUR BLIND SPOT. What do you see in the place you can't see?
Nature transports and awes. Transports where? Inside or out?
What about the fear of nature? Monotony and boredom?
Writing shit about new snow
for the rich
is not art.
Clouds appear and bring
to men a chance to rest from
looking at the moon
And the fact that our species is decimating nature? Do we as poets have duties to nature? Is this part of your po/ethics? How does your practice connect to the natural world now and how do we move toward a regenerative practice in the fight for nature that is ahead of us? What is the Notre Dame burning in comparison to fires in the Amazon?