I wrote The Problems more or less to record my stream of consciousness, in December 1971. Originally, it covered 21 typewritten pages. I was involved in the Rhymers’ club at Sonoma State College; we were printing a monthly twelve-sheet mimeograph poetry magazine with work by local poets that we sold for five cents. Twelve was the number of sheets that the English Department collator could handle at a time. Clifford Schwartz sold most of the magazines and proposed to the club that instead of a magazine we print a book of the same length written by me. I had this manuscript, so I reduced it to fit neatly into our page limit, drew a cover (on mimeograph stencil), and we published it for April 1972. It was my first published book.
Reading it today, I cannot explain the strange lack of grammar, the deliberate misuse of punctuation, but for me the poem has a cumulative effect that is interesting. The theme that I remember was my work on a set of problems that Doctor Frederick Luttmann had given his class on number theory. This had gotten mixed up with my thoughts on a lecture that I heard Alan Watts give on the radio.
I gave it as a gift on 19 December 1971 with this note:
- The book is and it rests
- little in length but perhaps you can count
- the days in it, as you count its pages,
- perhaps you can count the energy and time in it,
- counting my love, or admire its rhythm,
- a little confused perhaps that it lurks obscure,
- that there's no dialectic between different
- persons in it except by he and she is each of
- many friends, that it goes on at times without
- a reason except itself and its going on.
- Perhaps it does, but that it does
- (perhaps you haven't seen, and these in such
- obvious ways) is evidence of intension.
- Not to a purpose, although perhaps it has now,
- but an allowance, while the book is.
- Itself is its unit. It's a moment moving
- in many ways half realized and in many directions
- like life it's a continuance of separate motions.
- I blink my eyes as yours—whatever color they are—
- they are, as yours move across these words.
- The insertion creates a presence, or a question.
- Repeated, you think you follow the same line.
- If any cliche rests here, but the fact that I can
- write it, where most only say it without it,
- you know it's altered, and is, therefore,
- a modulation of my rhythm, as heartbeat, as dancing,
- as and as life.
- And as that thought moved into the paragraph,
- then the gift will move in you.
- Having moved from me, my love,
- Tom Sharp
Photo by Terry M. Sharp
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