BOXING AS FIRST "DRAFT, LAST DRAFT" & THE BRUCE LEE POETICS
Notes (Gleaned Specifically for Poetry) from May 11, 2012 Boxing Session:
--going through the form of ducking a punch before hitting a one-two/jab-cross combination. A lot of work mastering the footwork of ducking so as not to dilute stability on ground. However you move, you want to be able to immediately attack from whatever stance you're in; also, if your stance is not stable you're more likely to be vulnerable to hits. Anyway, we began in slow motion as I attempted to learn the form. When we sped up the pace, I became more adept at it. This relates to, with practice, learning (partly with muscle memory) to be technically proficient by not having the thinking process interfere with the manifestation-of-form a la Mayweather (or, more (?) deftly, think Bruce Lee's water as form). This reminded me of my favored writing style: "first draft, last draft." But it's something (at least for me) that one can come to only after years of writing. Much of the research and editing work goes on (for me) mentally and even subconsciously such that when you later put word on page the result should be in (near) final form.
--as I practice receiving--rather, avoiding--a punch, it's almost primitive how one's instinct is to back away. Especially for someone short like me (and thus needing to box nearer to the opponent due to limited reach), it's important that I can avoid a punch without necessarily moving backwards. To duck is not synonymous with back-tracking. Again, the importance of the body. Again, the significance of body in writing poems -- that the poem needs the physicality (the grit) of experience and not just the expanse of imagination. As well, (sometimes) when you write the poem, you want to get close to the subject -- for me, if I can't get close to a subject I won't bother writing a poem because it won't be effective; on the other hand, some of my best poems are when I allow the intimacy with pain and with the recoil.
--Oh ho! Au contraire, boxing is not supposed to be a conversation, according to my trainer. If you're successful, it should actually be a monologue! Nay, a one-sided lecture! Recall the letter I posted HERE about how one does forms (one's form? is) based on responding to the opponent's acts. And in that sense it's a "conversation." But to be a successful boxer, says Julio, you don't want an engagement by giving the opponent a chance to put forth hir punches. Nay, you just want to be doing what it takes to prevent the opponent from even having a chance to talk with hir fist! Okay: Moi is just reporting here. I am here to serve all sorts of real martial arts experts -- the blog is just the arena and, heck, I'm not even refereeing. I'm just ... listening (whilst I sip a Diet Coke. Sip.) In this sense, the metaphor fails: Moi may be doing "boxing poetics" but boxing is not poetry. Because poetry listens ... to and engages the other.
--It's worth repeating what Bruce Lee says about form(lessness): "Empty your mind...Be formless, shapeless, like water. Now you put water into a cup it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle, you put water into a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash, be water my friend..." I was actually thinking about it when I was working on a recent poem that was intended to be written as a hay(na)ku sequence. As I wrote it, it became clear that the minimalist constraints of the hay(na)ku could not capture what the poem was trying to say. So it became an interrupted hay(na)ku sequence, with the "interruption" being italicized prose and sometimes italicized prose paragraphs. My job as a poet, there, was simply to be open to how the form can morph. Sure, water can become a cup if poured into a cup. But water can also ... overflow.
--Moi often overflows. I'm learning boxing but it's not just boxing but research for the poem. I often research by reading. But the wise person who doesn't want to be bored knows to experience instead of read about certain research. As a result, my boxing training sessions become more than about boxing. Because when a thing is about living, the thing becomes more than the thing itself (got that, Grasshopper?)
--One thing that is so amazing to me about boxing is how much I'm relishing its gestures. I say this as someone to whom the act of punching is so alien. It's a revelation: I LOVE PUNCHING!
Gads: the satisfaction of hearing a punch done correctly, as affirmed by its sound when my gloved fist hits the trainer's mitts in the right way, the right form. And through that relishing, the gesture ceases to be alien and I become better at it such that I can easily imagine becoming (if I improve) one with the punch. As with poetry, it makes all the difference for Love to exist. Through Love, the poet becomes the poem [Cue cheesy music, why not?]. "Be water, moi friend..."