Salience on the Surface of the Psyche

One of my daily pleasures involves my search for poems and passages that provoke “a sudden salience on the surface of the psyche”. (Gaston Bachelard).

For example, here’s a lune (a three line poem with 5/3/5 syllables) by my pal Joseph Massey, whose books I’ve spent the last several weeks reading and rereading:

In Cid’s voice

     you think there should be
more, but this

                 this is all there is

Joseph loaned me a another book yesterday, too, in which I found this statement from Henry David Thoreau: “All true greatness runs as level a course, and is as unaspiring, as the plow in the furrow. It wears the homeliest dress and speaks the homeliest language.”

In the introduction to that book—Poems 1962-1997, by Robert Lax—John Beer goes on to say “a life that through its immersion in and attention to the homeliest experience might find itself a home everywhere and nowhere.”

Yes. To immerse and give attention. To find and see and be with things that on the surface seem ordinary. To feel at home anywhere. Through the patient, daily, habit of writing and reading poems, I practice this immersive attention which is about being present to what is and claiming more and more territory, whether physical or psychic, in which to explore this way of being in the world as a way of life.

Other recent finds include this poetry installation in St. Paul, which I learned about from a Lansing poet who’s launching a similar project at Michigan State University. Can you imagine living in an urban place where you’re never more than a few minutes walk from a sidewalk poem? St. Paul has published more than 700 poems in concrete since 2008. I want to see more poems in places where we least expect them. If you know of other examples these kinds of projects, leave me your links in the comment section.


He kissed the girl / in the ballerina skirt. / It was a long one—/ like the kiss / drenching her sneakers / in tulle.


And because I’m just so tickled that this happened, here’s a short non-fiction piece that I wrote this spring about falling in love on a subway platform many years ago. It appeared in the Metropolitan Diary section of The New York Times last month.


If you want to deepen the presence of poetry in your life, please consider these upcoming writing opportunities with me:

Summer Poetry Apprenticeship: (July 1-August 19, 2016) An 8 week writing regimen and correspondence course for poets with a genuine interest in reading contemporary poetry, writing new work, advancing their craft, and adding more structure and accountability to their writing life. Includes a weekly installment of stimulating readings and original writing prompts, as well as two 25 minute private conferences with me via phone or video chat where can can discuss your work-in-progress and other issues related to the process. Use this opportunity to kickstart your creative practice or develop a body of work. $240

Small Pages: Writing and Collage as Contemplative Practice (August 20, 10:00 am-3:00 pm Glen Lake, MI) Join painter Carol C Spaulding (my mother) and me for a summer day of guided writing and collage experiments at her studio near Glen Lake. We’ll play with a range of interesting materials and prompts (paper, paint, texts), while considering what it means to cultivate creative practice as a pathway to a richer, calmer inner life. We’ll leave aside any of our concerns about art as a form of public expression or professional activity and look instead for ways to loosen up, get lost, and enjoy  we do for its own sake. All levels. Now enrolling. $175 (includes all materials)


red column

Small Page by Carol C Spaulding


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