Claire Donato
                                             WHAT I LEARNED FROM DISCIPLINE


Discipline, a noun, is the routine practice of excavating the mind. With regard to poetry, discipline is not a matter of mastery. It is the notion that technique’s control over language must spread through—or pervade—the mind. To write a poem, excavate the mind. To excavate the mind, first dig out some things: structures, ideologies, and traditional ways of speaking. In other words, strip yourself of sense; reject rules, convention, and the paraphrasable. Allow the mind to become an object, a conscious material thing to see and be seen.

                                                    A POEM

A person cannot read another person’s mind. In the mind, there exists no psychic dwelling, no human power called intelligence. To discern the framework of another person’s mind, reject intelligence: turn toward objects and open yourself to conscious material things to see and be seen. A poem is an object that expresses what it sees. A poem may speak, or it may not. A poem may travel someplace, causing a reader to see. The act of seeing (henceforth) is referred to as abandon, or the eyes’ complete lack of inhibition or restraint. And thus a reader abandons the rules of the mind, reads with open eyes, and sees all words as language: elements of writing arranged in aesthetic configurations, devoid of speech.

                                             TO READ AN IMAGE

Of course, a reader cannot read without writing, just as a writer cannot write without seeing. Seeing is not seeing and writing is not writing. To write an image, see with open eyes. To read an image, write.

                                         AN UNREADABLE IMAGE

It is important to note that while attempting to write, you—the reader—may come across an unreadable image. You may come across an unreadable image and attempt to deconstruct it; you may raze it piece by piece until it tumbles to the ground. The ground is wet; the image is heavy. Any attempt to lay waste to an unreadable image will cause you to move backwards—retroactively in time—toward mastery. And thus an unreadable image occupies space in the mind.

                                                      A BOOK

Abandon the notion that a writer possesses mass, occupies space between the pages of a book, and may be seen. In public, in private, or in the middle of a busy town, a writer may never be seen. A book—a set of bound pages through which the reader cannot see—is a collection of words by the writer, not what the writer sees. One cannot see through language! One cannot.

                                                    AN IMAGE

What is an image? Can an image speak? Do words, like images, appear in the forms of dreams?


A dream is a type of poem that appears during sleep, recurs frequently, and is impossible to recall in waking life. A dreamer is the person who is dreaming, and, for the purpose of this treatise, is asleep. In the dreamer’s dream, an owl appears on the bough of a tree. The bough creaks: The owl lets out a piercing screech. Then the owl lets out a piercing, and—still asleep—the dreamer speaks.

‘Hello,’ the dreamer speaks. ‘Whose speech is this?’

‘Mine,’ a nameless man speaks, reminding us that some parts of the mind, although inaccessible, are very much alive.

                                        THOUGHTS AND FINGERS

To dream a specific type of dream, practice controlling the mind by disrupting the tension that strains both thoughts—mental images produced by thinking—and fingers, each of the five jointed parts attached to the hand. To welcome thoughts from the hand to the fingers is a rehearsal. Sometimes a thought is scripted, sometimes not. Sometimes transmitting the hand’s thoughts to the fingers is a difficult task: The mind strains, the hand cramps. Still, the fingers bend…

A thought from the hand never comes.


Or, the mind writes, and the hand writes, and fingers move in constant succession, causing language to die. Language dies—then what? Words become shells, hollowed out funnels containing meanings devised by you. You are the reader, the activator of the page who converts form’s contents into a life-breathing vessel by reading and receiving, receiving and forgetting, forgetting yet evermore moving your eyes across the half-dead, half-alive page.

                                 WHAT LANGUAGE WANTS TO BECOME

What language wants to become is the middle, a distance far away from the discipline of fingers by the mind. Disciplining fingers, one writes the mind. Once language exists, some things die: a tree, its bough, the screeching owl, and a nameless man who retroactively takes on the shape of a body; or, he does not. A nameless man takes on the shape of a body, and a poem is peeled away from the veneer of a dream as a skin is peeled away from its fruit. First, the outer layer is detached from the flesh; then it is removed and discarded.

‘Mine,’ a nameless man speaks, and the mind’s blank gaze reactivates.

‘Mine,’ the mind remembers, although the mind cannot remember anything.

O, how dull language must feel when it is treated unremarkably! Based on or in accordance with convention, the usual way something is done, language is predictable, in fact, not new. And thus a reader and a writer must excavate together, look for something new. And this something new must henceforth be called a poem, the sediment of consciousness that results from scouring the mind, which is never straightforward, which cannot extemporaneously recall anything, which continues to dig and dig into the cells of dreams via the rehearsal of fingers, which control nothing.

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