Louis Zukofsky famously avowed that all one's life one only wrote one poem. It allows the possibility that all poems from a single context, all L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poems, for example, (let's allow for the moment that such things do exist), are a single poem, parts of which are distributed among various, divers, even conflictual writers. It reminds me of a Terry Riley composition in "Cadenza on the Night Plain" where a Dream Collector has a specific and finite number of dreams to distribute and redistribute thruout the populace after collecting them from the dreamers in the morning. So the library at large, that collection of books scattered yet gathered over the planet, is itself a single book, containing a unitary text, the variety and complexity of which is unencompassable by any individual, any tribe, any nation, any book, even the entire populace, those millions who every day die and are born, dropping as a species, as it were, into & out of the text ("What Book Does My Library Make")
This stirred a memory, something I'd read only a day or two before, and racking my brains over what that was or where I'd seen it, I thought of a book I'd been reading online at the Punctum Books website. That book is Li Bo Unkempt by Kidder Smith (with translations by Kidder Smith and Mike Zhai). So -- I went through that book again, and think I may have found what I was looking for -- mention of the "undifferentiated wholeness", or Dao -- and reading further came to a chapter on the origins of writing or script, with illustrations.
For the moment, here's what I was able to find in Li Bo Unkempt that may touch on this subject of "the one poem", as invoked by Alan Loney in Threads Talks:
Chapter 14. "Lines of a Short Song"
How short, short this bright sun —
our hundred years fill so easily with sorrow.
The vaulted blue-green sky floods on and on,
for ten-thousand eons reality flows on.
The goddess lets down two locks of hair,
already half frost-white.
The Lord of Heaven plays at darts with her
and laughs through a million thousand spaces.
I want to rein in the sun's six dragons,
turn round their chariot, and tether them at world's end.
The Northern Dipper pours fine wine —
I'll persuade each dragon to drink a goblet.
Wealth and honor aren't what we want
to halt the ruination of our brightness.
This may be clarified via Smith's glossing of this poem, incorporating an alternate translation, or retranslation:
If you have time now for a longer conversation, we'll translate
this poem a bit differently. At the fourth line we've said, "for ten thousand
eons, reality flows on." "Reality" is a loose translation
of Taiji 太極, the Great Ultimate, that undifferentiated circumstance
that is just prior to form — just prior to Yin and Yang.
How long can it go on? The Indians measure big time in kalpas,
a word that the Chinese, like us, couldn't translate, so they preserved
its sound, "kiap-pua" 劫波. It means the life span of a
world realm, from when it was created to when it is destroyed
and then created once again. In the time of modern physics, this
might be some six or seven billion years. So Li Bo actually tells
us the Great Ultimate will go on for ten-thousand kalpas. (pp. 48-49)
Recognizing that I'm on well-trodden ground here, I nevertheless want to suggest that the "form" emerging from the "undifferentiated circumstance" may be the poem itself, the ongoing practice of poetry by the poet.
Kidder Smith approvingly cites an essay by William Boltz that may be of interest here. Here's the opening argument of the Boltz essay:
It is a commonplace in the study of pre-Han texts to acknowledge that the received version of a given text cannot be assumed to reflect with any significant degree of fidelity its original form.1 A text is, as the literal sense of the English word implies, something woven, something stitched together (cf. Skt. siitra, Ch. ching), and once woven, it may ravel. It would then be subject re-weaving, either in its entirety alone, or together with other, originally distinct texts. In the former case individual phrases or lines might be introduced throughout the piece for reasons for euphony, stylistic balance, or perhaps because of a misunderstanding of the original sense on the part of a later scribe. In the latter case wholly independent accounts might become inter- woven, begetting a new, hybrid document. Such re-weaving with its gratuitous additions of new material might occur several times, further distorting the primary content on each occurrence. The end result of such a process of textual alterations would be a composite and thoroughly heterogeneous work of diverse provenances, and of uncertain internal uniformity.
This adds an interesting perspective to the general thrust of this post – I especially like the reference to weaving, or stitching, and the explicit focus on text. [BTW: Here's the complete citation for this article as provided by JSTOR:The Structure and Interpretation of "Chuang tzŭ": Two Notes on "Hsiao yao yu" Author(s): William G. Boltz Source: Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London , 1980, Vol. 43, No. 3 (1980), pp. 532-543 Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of School of Oriental and African Studies Stable URL: http://www.jstor.com/stable/615740]
Reading the Boltz essay I remembered a book I'd read years ago, Unravelling Words and the Weaving of the Water, an early publication by the Chilean poet, weaver, sculptor, and activist Cecilia Vicuña. The book was translated by Eliot Weinberger and Suzanne Jill Levine, with an introduction by Weinberger. Here's a segment of a longer poem, titled "The Origin of Weaving", where Vicuña gathers various defining words from an array of cultures:
sutra: Buddhist text
tantra: sacred text derived from the Vedas: thread
ching: as in Tao Te Ching or I Ching
sacred book: warp
wei: its commentaries: weft
Quechua: the sacred language
derived from q'eswa:
rope or cord made of straw
to weave a new form of thought:
bring together in one
Afterwards I thought to look up "sutra" in Macdonnel's Practical Sanskrit Dictionary; here are some entries for the word "sutra", and related words (with apologies for quoting so extensively):
57) सूत्र sūtra
सूत्र sūtra सूत्र sũ-tra n. [√sîv] V., C.: thread, string, cord (ord. mg.); C.: sacred cord (worn over the left shoulder by the three upper castes); measuring line; fibre; line; sketch, plan; (thread running through and holding together=) concise rule or...
58) सूत्रय sūtraya
सूत्रय sūtraya सूत्रय sûtra-ya den. P. Â. string or put together; contrive, effect, produce; compose or teach in the form of a Sûtra. â, contrive, effect. sam-â, id. vi, drive away, dispel, remove; throw into confusion.
59) सूत्रयितव्य sūtrayitavya
सूत्रयितव्य sūtrayitavya सूत्रयितव्य sûtray-itavya fp. to be composed in the form of a Sûtra.
60) सूत्रात्मन् sūtrātman
सूत्रात्मन् sūtrātman सूत्रात्मन् sûtra̮âtman m. thread-soul, i. e. intellect conditioned by the aggregate and therefore passing through all things like a thread (ph.).
61) सूत्रिका sūtrikā
सूत्रिका sūtrikā सूत्रिका sûtr-ikâ f. macaroni; -ita, pp. (of sûtraya): -tva, n. fact of being stated in a Sûtra; -in, a. provided with threads; m. stage-manager.
62) सूना sūnā
सूना sūnā सूना sû-nã f. [√sîv: cp. sûtra] V.: woven basket or dish (V.); C.: slaughter-house, shambles; means of producing death: -kakra- dhvaga-vat, m. pl.
63) सौत्र sautra
सौत्र sautra सौत्र sautra a. (î) consisting or made of threads; belonging to a Sûtra: w. dhâtu, m. (etymological) root mentioned in a Sûtra only.
7) तन्त्र tantra
तन्त्र tantra तन्त्र tán-tra n. loom; warp; groundwork, underlying principle, essence; system; standard; main point; rule, doctrine; manual; section in a manual; a class of magical and mystical treatises; spell; physic, specific; government; –˚, line, rank, troop; a. chiefly concerned with, dependent on (–˚).
8) तन्त्रक tantraka
तन्त्रक tantraka तन्त्रक tantra-ka a. coming from the loom, quite new; –˚ a. doctrine, manual.
9) तन्त्रकार tantrakāra
तन्त्रकार tantrakāra तन्त्रकार tantra-kâra m. composer of a manual.
10) तन्त्रय tantraya
तन्त्रय tantraya तन्त्रय tantra-ya den. P. follow; perform; provide for (ac.): pp. tantrita, dependent on (–˚).
11) तन्त्रवाय tantravāya
तन्त्रवाय tantravāya तन्त्रवाय tantra-vâya m. weaver.
12) तान्त्र tāntra
तान्त्र tāntra तान्त्र tântra n. (stringed) instrumental music.
13) तान्त्रिक tāntrika
तान्त्रिक tāntrika तान्त्रिक tântrika a. (â, î) completely versed in a system, specialist; taught in a Tantra.
14) तार tāra
...n. loud, high, or shrill sound; m. pearl of pure water; putting across (–˚); sacred syllable om or other mystic monosyllable in a Tantra; â, f. N.
These entries are suggestive, and I may return to them at some future time. Meanwhile, I'll close with Eliot Weinberger. In his introduction to Vicuña's book, he writes:
Trouser buttons may have turned to zippers, but both, like stars and wood, became recognized as merely varying configurations of the same subatomic particles. People were discovered to have the same dreams, tell the same stories, construct variants of the same societies. The same genetic rules were applied to clams and conquerors.
Thread, universally, is what ties people to the gods; its arrangement into warp and woof, cloth and the act of weaving, remains a perennial metaphor for both the complexities and the seamlessness of the world.