Monday, March 26, 2012

poet, scholar & gentleman nathan hauke: our first boy guest blogger

first boy blogger nathan hauke

 editor's note:  i met nathan in poetry workshop.  we were surrounded by uber-talented poets, but even in that crowd, his work stood out to me as having a particular soulfulness.  and believe me, this was a crowd in which it was tough to stand out.  we also took an uber-painful french for grad students class together one dark, cold salt lake winter with another poet friend.  on our break we had a little poets'  huddle that was strangely comforting to me.  kinda like nathan's poetry, the presence of poet-friends assured me, as his work will assure you, that everything's gonna be okay.  enjoy his beautiful post!

& if you want to read more, here's a link so you can order his chapbook, in the living room.

nathan's chapbook


I am.  There
You are.

—R Creeley

Just trying to be at home, that’s the whole plot.

    —R Blaser

During the school year, I am often, of necessity, a creature of habit.  I have to move deliberately with a real sense of precision in order to “get ‘er done” and I often have to buckle myself down to work against my nature to do it.  Whenever I start to feel trapped—anchored to my routine, bills, teaching responsibilities, I return to R Creeley’s Pieces to remember the refreshing fact that locations are dynamic and expansive. In my experience, feeling trapped often manifests itself as a desire to be elsewhere.  I feel a momentum building that I will have step out of to grade papers (again) or respond to emails (again)…  There’s another book I’d rather be reading, but I have to prep a talk on Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria, etc.   (Which I love, but I’d rather be reading that other book…)  I’d rather be playing ball with Franklin, walking with Kirsten, talking to my brother on the phone, watching TV—Something else.  I have to work against my nature to turn away.

Creeley rewrites the whole of J Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained in three lines in Pieces: “Here/ I am.  There/ You are.”  He knows that we read at the edge of ecstasy as our attachment to the patterns we identify with, however brief, severs us from the process of becoming.  We stop to read ourselves, to point to where we’ve been, and we realize that we’re gone: “I am.  There.”

Existence locked in self-sight is an existence apart.  This is the most devastating fact that Adam and Eve face as they are escorted out of Eden, minds “darkened by experience”:

They, looking back, all th’ eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Waved over by that flaming brand; the gate
With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms.
Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.
They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.

(Paradise Lost)

As a recovering Baptist kid, reading Thoreau, I started to approach the fall as a parable about presence.  The fall is a failure of attention—it’s a break with process.  Like J Cage says, “Music is permanent; only listening is intermittent” (Themes & Variations).

Watching bursts of icy wind rack the shattered plastic wading pool leaning up against our neighbor’s trailer, I inevitably find I’m elsewhere.  I’m anxious.  I’m hungry.   I’m thinking about a class I have to prep or I look away to write this down.  One way or anther, the current is broken.  It’s impossible to stay with the moment because our attention is imperfect.  Angels step in front of the gate with flaming swords.  Eden is over.  (Elsewhere in Creeley’s Pieces, “Man thinks./  Ugh.”)  There’s no going back.  Never is.  At the edge of one circumstance, our faces twist in pain like wrenched branches.

JESU is in my heart, his sacred name
Is deeply carved there: but th’ other week
A great affliction broke the little frame,
Ev’n all to pieces: which I went to seek:
And first I found the corner, where was J,
After, where ES, and next where U was graved.

(G Herbert, “JESU”).

I think we often suffer pains of attachment to patterns because they allow us to imagine that we are static, but cleaving to old forms is devastating because perspectives have limits.  G Stein acknowledges the disintegration of perspectives singled apart from the activity underway in The Making of Americans when she claims, “Every living one becomes a dead one.” Thoreau sets Walden apart in Walden and that place is over, changed irrevocably by visiting tourists and cold water swimmers who make pilgrimages there.  Our perspectives are limits.  Romance and nostalgia are crippling; they make my head feel foggy.  Like A Marvell says in “The Garden,” an oak is an oak; it’s never going to say “Laura,” etc.  Identifying with process is a realization that our nature is much more dynamic.  Thoreau: “A savage name is perchance recorded somewhere as ours” (“Walking”).  As Milton asserts in Paradise Lost, true freedom is always, finally, a matter of submission to higher laws. 

Creeley’s meditation on counting throughout Pieces is also instructive as it calls to both the isolation of experience and the ecstasy of merger.  On the one hand, “One by/ itself divided or multiplied/ produces one” because “No one lives in/ the life of another—/ no one knows.”  On the other, Creeley asserts that a wider realization of presence draws us into a grand harmony beyond thinking: “This time, this/ place, this/ one.”

One plus one = one.  Our paradise is solitary and it will remain so.  We are saved and fallen: one and one.  Here a few beats and gone the next.  We are all, finally, a species of one.  The way we come down on this in the moments we are given is a matter of perspective.  Creeley advises: “Love one./ Kiss two” (Pieces).

Wide-awake, we find the shattered edge of our small perspective (limit) melts into the stream; we always kiss two because we are alone with God.   Solitude blossoms when we are most essentially ourselves.  Stripped to the bone, we find the polis is lonely and expansive.  Thank God for A Marvell who reminds me to step back whenever I waver under the despair that accompanies a crushing workload and lures me into feeling cut off from that which is most primary: “To wander solitary there:/ Two paradises ‘twere in one/ To live in paradise alone” (“The Garden”).
Watching her brother William carve the t of her name in the trunk of a living tree with their dear friend Coleridge’s penknife, Dorothy Wordsworth sees that writing, friendship, organic growth, and transcendence are inextricably bound together: “We parted from Coleridge at Sara’s Crag after having looked at the Letters which C. carved in the morning.  I kissed them all.  Wm deepened the T with C.’s penknife” (Journals).  Writing is always elegiac; it leaves one behind even as it inaugurates a new one.  Our names will leave us behind because salvation speeds towards the wreckage of salvation.  

Next to Walden and HD Thoreau’s Journals, Pieces is the book that I spend the most time with and I am increasingly certain that these lines tell our most essential story.

Nathan blogs at Blue Rags Stitched Together By Crows:

Here’s a link to his poem “Color is Worse Than Eternity” at Real Poetik.

Here’s a link to Ark Press (where you can now access the Ark Press Audio Archive).

What do you want to get done this year?

Not so much get done as enjoy… 
My partner, Kirsten and I, are getting organized to have a wedding reception...  We rented an old apple barn in Valle Crucis, NC, and we’re planning to string up some Christmas lights and dance to soul music with friends and family all night there in June.  We’re also getting ready to print our first Ark Press chapbook.  My first book, IN THE MARBLE OF YOUR ANIMAL EYES, is forthcoming from Publication Studio and I’m really grateful and excited about that. 

I’m looking forward to sitting down with friends’ books over spring break this week: Hank Lazer’s new book N18 (Singing Horse 2012), Brenda Sieczkowski’s Wonder Girl in Monster Land (Dancing Girl 2012), and a chapbook manuscript that Pepper Luboff just mailed us.

Apart from this, I think I would actually like to try to get less done this year…  We’ve been busy and it takes time to break into blossom.

What inspires you?

Company!  Friends and family, books, and conversations with my students.  River-life, dog walks, music, buds on branches.

What is your favorite legwear?

I’ve been shuffling around the house in some grey thermal socks that my dad gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago all winter.  Thanks Pop!

p.s. let's not pretend that tights are as cool as those tube socks, but they're at least on the spectrum of radness.  up your rad factor but entering our 3rd tights giveaway.


  1. Nathan led me here, and this blog is very fun.

    1. thanks for reading & commenting, solid quarter. i checked out your blog and loved finding out about all the rad poets in new orleans. . . keep us posted.