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My Poetry My Publications

A Book! Of Spray and Mist

Of Spray and Mist Cover

Of Spray and Mist is here.

After nearly two years of work on a single manuscript, Hand to Mouth Books in Walla Walla, Washington has published Of Spray and Mist. At 122 pages, this full-length book features several sequences of poetry, including work first written on San Juan Island’s Friday Harbor Lab’s Whiteley Center last December. You can read more below (or skip over to the Goodreads page).

The bio note.

Greg Bem is a poet, multimedia artist, and academic librarian living on a ridge above a tunnel above a lake in Seattle, Washington. His reviews have been featured in Rain Taxi, North of Oxford, and Poetry Northwest. He is the author of the chapbooks Green Axis (2019), Construction Parts 1-6 (2018), and Mountains and Natural Summer (2017), as well as the co-author with Burmese poet Maung Day of 2019’s bilingual Like salt. Like a spine. Recent writing has been featured in Ravenna Press’s Triples 11 alongside the work of Kat Meads, Samuel Ace, and Maureen Seaton.

To acquire a copy from me:

Interested in ordering a copy? The cost is $12 + $3 for shipping via PayPal. Email me if you have questions.


Of Spray and Mist



Or acquire a copy from Amazon:

Of Spray and Mist is also available on-demand via Amazon. You can get a slightly lower-quality edition, here.

Words from peers:

Sarah Heady, author of Comfort:

Here is a poet’s deep engagement with landscape, a refusal to look away from the ugly histories contained therein. With an anticolonial stance that rejects extractivist economies, Bem notes: “You need sand for concrete. You need stolen land. / You need language that has been hollowed out and hallowed.” Courting negative capability on his “ritual hike[s],” Bem seeks “an active emptiness” that gives rise to “elaborate, explosive knowing”: of place, of deep time. Declaiming “My questions are purely Anthropocene,” puzzling over how to be in right human relationship, Bem pursues “movement everywhere and always, until there’s nothing left to be but absent.”

 

Yet as lover to the forests, Bem experiences a “whiplash of sudden ecstasy, thrown neck toward canopy.” In attempting intimacy and even eroticism (“I want my tongue to enter the crevices of the ferns”) with Earth, others, and self, he weaves his own interiority with local ecology, reckoning with solitude, partnership, and community, filled with “longing to be ready for what you bring me.” And, finding grace in the natural world, he observes “[t]hat which continues to flow continues to forgive.” With Bem as our guide, “[w]e seek to know why it all works the way it does. Why it all works out.” Luckily, as we know of poetry, “It is enough. It is the surrendering.” This book labors—and rests—in hope, curiosity, detachment, and “[s]udden, implosive joy.” It is a burst of bright aliveness, “everything in chromatic everything.”

Paul E Nelson, Founder of SPLAB, the Seattle Poetics LAB, and author of A Time Before Slaughter: Pig War & Other Songs of Cascadia:

When I read Greg Bem’s work, the visionary & the wild are activated in me. There’s a hunger for experience balanced with the kind of presence and intellect you’d find in a librarian. A post-colonialist & anti-racist often found on a mountain in Cascadia, or a rainforest when not in a library, Greg Bem is a 21st Century North American poet, living in the margins left for white men who choose to use their privilege to confront their own fear in an age when so much is breaking down. He knows the answers are in rituals and in the “urges of flora and fauna” and his writing’s a report of the evolution of his own personal mythology getting us, “closer and closer to the decontextualized core” of his self and our species. Reading his work validates the desire to allow “the world to continue sliding by in the fullest spectrum it can” when almost all contemporary poetry settles for so much less.

Thomas Walton, author of All the Useless Things Are Mine:

Greg Bem’s prose poems are shocking – an “auburn stability hypnogogic inciting the spurred.” They whisper or cry “I am chanting. I am chanting for it to continue.” They “wander until it hurts,” and we wander along with them, mesmerized by a collection vast and particular, systemic and lyric, that dives “into the artful spin and whisk of that which does dazzle.”

Chansonette Buck, recipient of the Stronach Poetry Prize:

In “Defining the Map,” the second poem in this masterful collection, Greg Bem writes “Science comes to me in joys.” This joy permeates the book. Bem’s poetic impulse can be accurately located in the tradition of nature poetry one strain of British Romanticism established, expressing the imminence of the Divine in the manifest world. But for Bem, this imminence is far more complex, and human rather than transcendent. It is rooted not just in the beauty and dazzle of the wilderness he encounters and shows us so palpably, but also in the minutae, rigor, and dailiness of scientific study at a moment when it is alarmingly clear how tenuous and precarious our cohabitation on this planet is. Rather than finding in nature the answers for humanity, he finds questions. And these questions span the gamut of the human experience. Nothing is left out. It’s as if Bem were gathering up the precious content of lived experience in all is permutations: joy, love, beauty, yes, but also the disasters of history, broken hearts, lost connections, longing for some kind of wholeness to be called home, longing for a map when all maps have flaws that fail us. He inspects it all with the precision of a scientist, and the heart and eye of a nature poet, and serves it up to us in an astonishing range of poetic vehicles. Do not miss this book. It will make you more human. It will make you more conscious. And it will open for you a cosmology you wouldn’t otherwise encounter.

John Taylor, author of Remembrance of Water & Twenty-Five Trees:

“Seeking”—this is the movement of these intricate poems and poetic prose pieces. The very process of writing enables Greg Bem to set out on a goal, often that of elucidation. The natural world often seems at an increasingly greater remove from him—and from us. “Remember when we looked around the world?” he asks. Can the separation be bridged? Despite the increasing cognitive and technological distance between man and the cosmos in its most rudimentary manifestations, the poet does look. “The sensory” can be “flashed with wonder” and he feels “an undying love for being alive.” Yet there are also traces of darker narratives in this book, on levels involving others and one’s existence in the whole of things. Bem not only actively, but also “agonizingly” stands in wonder at and attraction to such richly tense moments of memory and perception. They unveil our human condition. In Of Spray and Mist, the reader will discover a poet intensely aware of the “uncertainty” involved in any composition of words: “I have covered myself in fog. And cliff. / “My vision dims. My hearing rings.”

Categories
Domestic Travel My Poetry

Enchant

July 17, 2020

Lake Vivienne’s smile is marked by ancient voyeurs, whose minds don’t reflect such chromaticism.

Let us put our eyes to rest amidst wind scream and the hush of bush as it is clarified with memories of recent goat.

Categories
Music My Poetry My Publications

Bandcamp, an Album, three Sequences, and a Single

I never thought I’d post audio on Bandcamp, but it seems like a great way to share (for free) the audio projects I’ve been working on, and also get proceeds to donate to an organization of my choosing (in this case, the ACLU). For the last four months, under the banner of COVID-19, I’ve been working on an audio project that has finally come to fruition. While it is rough, while it is far from uniform, and while it demonstrates only a naive scope of knowledge of editing audio, shelter/isolation is here. It is a strange artifact, which includes spoken word and noisy, abstract renditions of field recordings from within my apartment. Bandcamp allows free streaming, which is fantastic. If folks are really interested in “owning” the album, that’s an option as well.

All in all, it’s the first step in what I hope will be an ongoing commitment to exploring the depths of audio production, particularly where field recordings and strange aural atsmopheres are concerned.

I invite you to listen to shelter/isolation, and the other “releases,” and let me know if you have any feedback. While I don’t plan on re-releasing this experimental project, I do look forward on refining my skills going forward.

Check out the Bandcamp page here.

The following are the covers for each of the releases, linked to the releases.

Categories
My Poetry My Publications

Published Poetry at Ravenna Press

Thanks to Paul Nelson, I participated in the August Poetry Postcard Festival (PoPo) last year, and ended up with a full sequence of poetry, “Bountiful Sound.” A selection of the poems was accepted by Ravenna Press. I’m indebted to Kathryn Rantala for thinking highly of my work, and including it in their Triples Series. #11 features this work by me, as well as Maureen Seaton & Samuel Ace, and Kat Meads.

Support the press by ordering a copy here.

And, of course, consider participating in PoPo this year. Register here.

Categories
My Poetry

Heart

Amidst pepper-fainted plumes

I felt the beating of drums emerge from chests.

To be there, to be now. To be urgent

through architecture outlined across rain and whispers.

~ position body ~

In asking to prove directly and to form a shield.

I will always blink to a vision of light.

Beating across skeletal relationships.

Bottles of milk. Bottles of baking soda and water.

 

The lines of scatter and spread

reflect the lines of converge and amass.

Dark clouds pour into those made lighter.

Breathe. The rate is an acceleration.

 

In a deeply troubled city there is a deeply entrenched situation.

And from it the emergence through cries and fists.

It’s electric the exhalations beyond a single body.

But the single bodies give an image to those single beating hearts.

Categories
My Poetry My Publications Others Poetry Others Publications

Pandemic Poems

Three issues of pandemic poetry are now online via North of Oxford.

I have three poems in the first issue.

One

Two

Three

Categories
Domestic Travel My Poetry Videos [Thorough Water]

New Video: Oceanic Triptych

Now available on YouTube: Oceanic Triptych (38:53 minutes)

Breakdown of contents

  • Introduction: The Breaker (also available as a standalone 4 minute video here)
  • Triptych Panel 1: Memory Shores
  • Triptych Panel 2: Sheathed Realities
  • The Signature
  • Triptych Panel 3: Manzanita Warmth
  • Closing: The Elsewhere that Codifies (featuring video preview of the Boulder River sequence, forthcoming)

Fun facts

  • Oceanic Triptych is intended to be watched in a single sitting, start to finish, ad nauseum to nausea
  • Oceanic Triptych is a follow-up to the installation piece Thorough Water: Here and There (which includes video from the Quinault Rain Forest, Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, the Royal Basin on the Olympic Peninsula, and Ross Lake in the North Cascades)
  • The unedited, hour-long sunset video is also on YouTube here
  • More abstract? Try Gatton Falls Study (playlist)
  • More abstract than that? Try Oregon Video Poems (especially the 2019 ones) (playlist)
  • What’s next? The Boulder River Sequence (video poetry featuring Char-esque aphorisms, coming in January)
  • What’s after that? An untitled San Juan Islands project

Categories
My Poetry Videos [Thorough Water]

New Video Poem: The Breaker

Part 1 of 2 in the Thorough Water: Sheathed Reality sequence. Prelude to Oceanic Triptych. All recorded in 2019. Features video from Manzanita, Oregon. Video production, text, and vocals by Greg Bem.

Categories
My Poetry

New Poem: Dance Poem

Hearing

Throw water in the streets

And devouring hearts

And devour

And heart dissection

De-sect-di-late

Trance

Categories
My Poetry [Thorough Water]

Script: Thorough Water: Here and There

Here is the text from the video Thorough Water: Here and There.

Thorough Water: There and Here

“Water is part of a pattern I’ve watched unfold throughout my career. I document landscapes that, whether you think of them as beautiful or monstrous, or as some strange combination of the two, are clearly not vistas of an inexhaustible, sustainable world.”

– Edward Burtynsky (Walrus, October 2013)

1: Quinault

“Human presence, once a factor less important to than elk or fungi, was then transformed into an agent of disruption as great as the ice ages themselves.”

– The Olympic Rain Forest: An Ecological Web, by Ruth Kirk (114)

Reasonable. The water still flowing in front of me, I remember sitting in place, stone monument, effigy of towers of wood and slashes of fern through millions of shades of green. While the creeks chugged along. The falls felled vision and circumstance. The tides were our breaths and the blood pushing against the walls of our muscles, skin, our frames.

Nestled. Nested. We can sit and watch the echoing of the scrapes against the land as that apparent infinity continues. I feel it now. The rumble. The roar. The press. And yet I know: what I saw was a marvel and could always move to the finite. To the nevermore. To the last stretch and the longing, so deep within, so trusted, this longing, this beautiful, fantastic emptiness. Quinault in daylight: where we go to think of loss.

2: Phipps

“The bubbles formed a sweet-smelling bell.”

– from “The Bath” by Elizabeth Cooperman (in Make it True meets Medusario, page 140)

They demand our attention, and we enter, and we wait. A factory of water that sprouts awareness. Education. And the pure bliss of a splashing corridor. I could watch humans pass by this vision towards conservation over and over. I could watch them move along, cascade like droplets into some basin of rejection. Or perhaps they stop by: admire as a tarn, as a cache of the leftover, and move along. The conservatory: a museum of the living. More trust. More love. More responses indicative of demand, imperative, resolve.

The most startling quality: what we place over the core. The core identity, the core message: we cover ourselves and our lives and the truth up with decoration faster than the beat of the tongue on the roof of the mouth: faster than a single word, covered in moonlight or the fatigue of the sun as another day passes, and we must reinvigorate our experience. Calmly. Splash. Shatter of liquid. Present enough to touch. Present enough to coat the body, the camera, the phone, glasses, purses, the paths to our collective futures of transience. Of an abyss worth living through to grind surplus into the dust of departure.

3: Royal Basin

the quick water
the slow water

and the same bank

– from “Remembrance of Water” by John Taylor (26)

Before the marmot screamed me into electricity, I watched the flow of blue through an underwater lens. The capture of light in the process of refraction: muddy and undeniably instant. The present moment, at least as far as water goes, is a shockingly muted experience. But this was the case in the upper meadow-filled basin of Royal. I have memories as a child on the Atlantic Coast, Southern Maine specifically, where the waves would throw me around like a bundle of rags, and I would see black and green and white and silver as my crushed body struggled to make sense of tumult and torment. To give form to the instant, an instant so extreme that form was its opposite.

Royal Basin, though, where Amy meditated and I imagined more bears and the edge of the peaks looked down like wizards burying their rituals into my shoulders, my back, the upper tip of my spine, energy slowly spreading through, like snowmelt pushing down mountainside steadily, methodically. That is: of stead and method, and me, the onlooker, in awe. I think of the source and urge myself to remain cordial. Past days I would jump into those glacial waters emulating sage or celebration. Now I stare and grow fond of the chance to be amazed at a stillness created by the infinity. The water that can remain the ideal while we still have time.

4: North Cascades

“I feel increasingly content simply being here, present, not doing anything in particular.”

– Chasing Clayoquot: A Wilderness Almanac by David Pitt-brook (112)

Dams made of brittle, exacting concrete and metal. The resort that houses a semblance of menial organization amidst a system of ecstatic beauty. The towering giants with names I’ll never remember, and shapes that change in my dreams. The listless ripples that etch into the topography like scales on the limbs of a myth. It is in the North Cascades that love breaks apart into reality, and vice versa. It is in the North Cascades that the slices of nature afford us with breath and breeze, and there is just as much ordinary as exceptional. Ross Lake holds the footprint together. It is the instrument we have earned through preservation and attentiveness. And it is shrinking.

Seeing 10-20 feet less of a lake for the first time after many visits provides a hollowing sense of fear and an indignation so human it feels unique, untrue, questionable. There are many causes for less water, and the ecology is difficult to pair with witness. But there are moments that trigger an awareness of spectrum, and that spectrum is the development of the relationship with the many possibilities. Staring down at the lake, several years ago, I imagined swallowing the entire thing in a single gulp. It might be that that gulp is ongoing, now, and into the future, and the swallowing involves savoring the benefits through to exhaustion amidst awe. 10-20 feet lower, and my breath still wavers, my mind still feathery and bracing for tragic circumstances. And regardless, there is readiness. To be able to receive, and to do it gently. That might be what is owed, before the ends and the retributions.

Categories
My Poetry Videos [Thorough Water]

Short Video: Thorough Water: Here and There

Categories
My Poetry

Aquam II: Blood

Script

Illuminates the sails

These certainties

Leading and fleeing

Forgetting a presence

Categories
My Poetry

Aquam I: Mucous

Aquam I: Mucous
     

       the way
            yellow color


                 justly slits
       across the lips

           a body

                  of newness

Categories
My Poetry My Publications

New Poetry Collection: Green Axis

My latest collection of poetry is “Green Axis,” and the book as a whole sits at 98 pages. This poetry features Cascadia and beyond. It was written over the course of the last 6 months. It is openly-licensed and can be rehosted/republished with the same license.

Categories
My Poetry

Crucial Behemoth: Nevada Poems

Black Rock Desert – Whiskey Spring

May 25, 2019

Wait for darkness to fill.
Dream the songs of coyote.
Pack, collective, constellation.
Now night’s arrival reflected
in mirrors and sickness.
People have been here 1000s of years.
I can stand to live another day.
Fears brace me: crutch of reservation.
The thin white-gray memory of playa.
Sinking truth like a sinking smile
and a yearning heart. In Spanish.
Meanwhile there is “while” here.
It is a full space, vast with each step.
The steppe climate unpredictable.
The insects in red light like freckles.
The dust in red light: scratched film.
Daniel Canty wrote of wind, while
I wait for the wind to return
and my courage to grow like a flood.
Pray for no rain this absence of light
and human voices, my own, taking space.
When I step outside, reason will return
just as the landscape of beating hearts
will beat once more.
In 7 hours, day will fill
and I will chatter with wide eyes.

Reno Vignettes

May 27, 2019

Open Mouth

Like the tongue slashed sideways in death pose
Pyramid Lake sloshes fervently nearby.
It is an otherwise astounding glare
thousands of miles in the praxis of center.

Massacre

Resolution: to arrive at the cover of space
and be provided for by cushions of cloud.
I step out, breathe in the smell of frozen sage.
The Steppe is Massacre Rim on a good day.

A Retribute

Wingfield Park figures standing staring straight.
And later: a man prepares to fish.
And earlier: two women search the grass.
What I would do to be as fixed
as the stature of our public
as statues bleeding and sweating.

447

The horror of stumbling upon a corpse
captured in full daylight
with no one nearby to hear a gasp.
Empty are its eye sockets.
As empty as the street.

447 #2

Eagleville is the place time won’t forget.
I dream of a banner of American propaganda.
I dream of nowhere to flee toward.
In it the corpses smile in mirth.
In it the corpses smell of new grass.

The Cedar

Unstilled by the awe of life,
she carries white bread across the kitchen,
smears a thickness of pale, yellow butter,
and places, mouth ajar, the bread on the pan.
I stare, hands in my pockets,
and there is the subtle, dehumanizing swelter.

Chokehold on 34

Sliding across dozens of miles of mud,
I question existence before a single pair
of antelope (pronghorn) deapproach.
The floor mats will need to be washed
of more than the dried clay.

Gerlach #1

The visiting woman overheard at the mechanic’s:
“And then it hailed, and it was real hail.”
The male mechanic nodded. Very Nevada. Clear sky overhead.
Playa beyond. Is it nonsense to the locals?
Or is it all sense, ignorance and everything else?

Gerlach #2

I’d been encouraged to visit Bruno’s in any event.
Especially the unforeseen weather.
I visited first, before the weather.
The next day, 36 hours later, I drove by.
Passing, I could hear the buzz of subduction
through the antique walls.

Adel

It was here in Reno I discovered Harjo’s quote:
“Some world travelers learn nothing.”
What is to be gained from arriving,
and immediately turning around?
Disambiguation on Wikipedia.
The situation of a place barely inhabited
for 1000s of years: its strength
in the silence of a few
for a few.

Calico

Fortifications are not completely designed.
They are not meant to be scaled.
What is the meaning that haunts in full daylight
and entirely horrifying when beyond full view?
Donnelly has as much a name as a voice.
It courses beyond space its chorus vibrating
and choking in inquiry and dying life.

Waves Sequenced

The order of a stabilization.
The incredible order.
Headache and bastardization.
Reality is cold-hearted.
Otherhood is principle. Warmth.
Entrancing. Alive. An earning.
Just to be alive to say hello to
act to participate.
It exists. As do we. As we meet
and part and destabilize across
High Canyon’s shadowy periphery.

Deer Jumper

Enter the twinkling last stance.
We will meet again.
The weather may be warmer,
may be boiling heartbeats.
Black Rock Coyote
Under the assumption of familial fealty,
under the assumption of cordial chaos.
Song start breathes life as interrogation.
Or celebration: placement is lone and true.

Death and Taxes

It hurts less in the meantime.
I don’t know what you mean.
Baby’s breath crown to a walk in the clouds.
Meanwhile: tone death and tone waiting.
Meanwhile: tone as a crucial behemoth.
And back to realism, adigital, tonal:
the champions are the ones that exit to exist.
Never the opposite until a calcifying of tears.

Sparks, Nevada

The first visit I felt nothing. I’d been as.
I’d seen through. I’d evicted from.
The second visit I tripped upon more nothing.
More exquisite and more erroneous the truth.
Forgot to apologize for the judgment.
Returned to the mites with doubtful numbers.

Unstoppable

Massacre Lake returns to me.
Petroglyphic and a rising sputter.
Breathless and altogether amesmer.
What massacre this derailing sky?
Back home the sun plasters beauty
and Jason steps forward strongly through time.
Thousands of moments across hundreds of miles.
The red and green and brown and gray
smear into their eternity of perception.

Absinthe Sugar

A crucial dream is the fervor of wake.
A wake is green and crucial.
The green of the smile comes rightly.
Pressure tightly in this shadow presence.
Surrounded there’s the black of the counter,
black of the walls, of the leather seats,
and whatever else is performative and clear.

El Grackle

Greetings, eyes that shoot out like daggers.
Reservations before the noon’s silence.
One becomes infinite of black and purple,
a translucence equal parts obedience and rebellion.
The auditory inquiry is as situational as precious.
I wonder of nearby cravings and graves.