NOTES ON ROCKBOUND

I once foolishly offered a college president millions of dollars and a new building if she would put my manuscripts in a drawer somewhere.  Her huffy response, "what makes you think your poems are any good anyway," made me realize that the gates of knowledge were perhaps currently closed to new members, and that such ossification was maybe inimical to the naive ideal I had carried around since my admittedly slowwitted college days.

I was expelled and optimistically reaccepted many time, and, now that I think of it, warned by my favorite teacher against the concept of a university career in general, so I have to be grateful to my own president from Porlock for waking me up from immature philanthropic dreams: endowing universities is not the same as endowing students, and here in gratitude is a thank-you note, which refers briefly to an awful sentimental poem about a mountain by an official university poet which the president email me, no doubt to keep me in my place, rather than in hers, and god bless her for the timely warning.

To me, genius and chaos are linked in many ways.  Genius is a fractal thing, interacting with facts in a seemingly random, yet deeply structured way that pulls up connections out of murk.  Genius cuts through the prim, suburban order of society, it thinks outside the box.  It has a lot in common with anarchy.  It doesn't respect bourgeois values.  Average standards are its enemy.  Genius does not classify things, or alphabetize.  It dabbles, dawdles, fudges, fakes, guesses on its way towards deeper things.  Einstein guessed relativity was true, and then set out to prove it.  Mozart took no time to analyze anything he wrote.  Poets, in their turn, act instinctively.  Painters do not follow numbers.  They might connect invisible dots, but not the visible ones put in place by pendants.

A heliconia plant selects random bracts for glorification.  No amount of sun, shade, pruning, or other tricks of the trade can single out which fork will result in a bud.  The plant may know, deep down inside, but no visible analysis can reveal its secrets.  It has a floral genius.

Art is like that.  It is not a thing that can be standardized, taught, reduced, or processes.  It is not a thing of ritual, or order.  My poem, Heliconia, came out of this explanation, a rare instance of a description anticipating an artifact.