It is with
great pleasure that Museum of the Essential and Beyond That and we welcome
the visual poet David Daniels, living in Berkeley, California, USA,
for this interview.
We are very sure that the e-reader will also be enchanted with the dialogue
that we have had in our interview. While our conversation was developing,
the great admiration we had of the poet David Daniels was confirmed
by means of the sensibility of this human being who loves life, familiy,
children, cultivating Peng Ching, loving culture and knowledge.
And we could see that this same kind human being, comprehensive, happy,
who is David Daniels, also is revealed in the construction of his poetry
In his main work, which is THE GATES OF PARADISE, each poem is a "gate"
which completes itself with other "gates", that is, links
to his friends' sites. And the "gates" of the friends is a
work in progress, in permanent construction, that reveals that David
Daniels makes more and more friends.
And it is interesting to notice that his friends are persons and, also,
his favorite readings. So, we find "gates" of W. Somerset
Maughan, Guillaume Appolinaire, Simias, Teocritus, among others.
Later YEARS came, a biography in visual poetry. The content and the
form, before essentially made of black letters, in this work is made
with colors and different shapes. Among original approaches of visual
poems, our attention was led to the emails which Kenneth Goldsmith maintained
with David Daniels. Goldsmith is the founder and one of the distinguished
members of Ubu Web and one of the first persons who collaborated to
publish The Gates of Paradise. By this tribute, David assumed the world
visuality that is around us and made it a poetry.
HUMANS is his latest work under construction, in which David has been
building his friends' visual and poetic biographies. Persons, images,
words and sounds compose a new poetic experience of this poet.
But, instead of continuing to talk about him, it would be better to
listen to him.
We would like you to tell us about your childhood and about your formation.
When did you decide to be a poet or, better than this, a visual poet?
relationship between word and image, for you, is much more than an ilustration
of word, or even a visual resource for making poetry, especially because
you do, and very well, a lot of artistic work with computational technology.
So what does technology represent for your making poetry?
DD> My father took me to museums and plays and operas and films every
week so that by the time I was 7 my mind was gorged with impressions
of art. When I was little sometimes I wished I was looking at pictures
when I was reading books. And sometimes I wished I was reading words
when I was looking at pictures. I was probably prejudiced by films which
were pictures that spoke words. When I wrote I wished I could write
pictures. When I painted I wished I could paint words. When I was 16
I read a little book by Ernest Fenollosa and Ezra Pound-
The Chinese Written Character As Medium For Poetry -
good resource , David. I've already read this text, and others by Fenollosa
and Pound, in Portuguese, and wondered to have a kind of Chinese character
to write in Portuguese too.
DD> (going on) This little book that some people hate and some people
love showed things like how the Chinese word for snow was the word for
rain with the word for brush under it- Rain That Could Be Swept With
I liked this idea very much. Later I met Gim Fong Moy who wrote Chinese
out of Dragons and Phoenix.
I studied with him.
In the 1950's I stumbled upon The Greek Anthology - Vol 5 - Loeb
Classical Library - 1953 - Book XV - MISCELANEA EPIGRAM 21- The Pipe
Of Theocritus- A picture of the pipe of Pan in words written about Pan.
And a few more
This was my true beginning of my idea of my Self as a Technopaegnian
or SHAPE POET.
Application of my ideas was impossible for me until I got a computer
Some people have tried to create shape poems with a typewriter. No one
could write the shapes I write without a computer.
RCP> You said that your father gave you a good formation in Art,
what is wonderful, but I know that you spent some years studying painting
and that you have copied El Greco's, Rembrandt's and Renoir's works.
I read you have earned your living for a couple of years copying old
masters. So, you know how to paint in a western way. However you love
Chinese culture. I am not speaking only about the Chinese written, I
am speaking about the Pen Ching (Japanese Bonsais are a copy of Chinese
Pen Ching) too. I would like to know:
TREE 10" tall
are like sculptures that grow themselves. The less you fuss over them
the better. I try to let them be trees not cleany weany starving tortured
less is less religious addicts. I try to let my visual poems grow without
interfering. I am very careful to let them be what I see them becoming.
I see the image and the subject at the same time. I am a harmonious human
who breathes with their entire being. I learned this from Frank Lloyd
Wright's ideas of ORGANIC interrelated architecture where everything is
interrelated to every thing else. They come from what he called manlight.
Today we better call it human light.
RCP> Have you done another kind of work or activity based on oriental
DD> I do not believe that there is a Western Culture or an Eastern
Culture. I believe there is a HUMAN culture. I do not believe there are
races. I believe there are human beings. I am a human being.
must not forget where they come from. My ancestors for thousands of
years have been Jews. I am a Jew. I am simultaneously a 70 year old
human being who creates visual poetry, watches small trees, spider chrysanthemums,
roses, and human beings grow with affection. I spend twenty dollars
a day on candy. My food is impressions of children smiling.
your book "The Gates of Paradise" there are many poems as "The Transformation
of Salami and Pastrami Rebar Into Dueling All Beef Ball Park Hot Dog
Gates where one realizes that the terminology has the influence of your
childhood . The book "Years" tell us about your childhood itself. There
we can see forms as a cookie, an apple, an ice cream.
You told us: "My food is impressions of children smiling." And we know
how you are enchanted with your God Daughter Estella Virginia.
Will be that your childhood or the childhood in general feeds your poetry
or part of it? Why do you think it happens? Do you believe that artists
always had the child inside themselves?
of your book "The Gates of Paradise" sounds very poetic, sophisticated
and a little bit religious but the titles and the language of its poems
are sometimes humorous and colloquial. The flux Garden Gates, for example,
shows all kind of "meaningless" and imaginative transformations. Is
this opposition voluntarily ironic, just for showing the many ways you
have seen living and dead human beings struggling to find happiness
inside of themselves or outside of them? Or is Poetry just the real
Gate of Paradise? Do you consider Poetry an "ax for the frozen sea within
us"? Could you speak to us about this?
Recently, you sent to "Webartery" the "Homeric photo of the hurricane
I asked you if you have ever seen a hurricane and you answer:
I was 4 or 5. My house was in the BIG hurricane of 1938. The one at
the end of the novel - Portrait of Jennie by Robert Nathan - 1940.
My job was to go down to our basement in a bathing suit and open the
storm drain which did nothing for hours because not only the sewers
but the street was full of water - 2 feet deep and red from the brick
red clay of Essex County NJ. We all tried to walk and swim in the
street and pretend we were in Venice.
day my little friends and I climbed all the giant trees in our neighborhood
because they were all on the ground.
You always sent us NASA photos of auroras and other scientific subjects.
Is your interest
in these subjects related to your magic childhood, to your poems - a
way of increasing shape and content of them or it is part of your interest
in the world we live and subject to the talks with the friends that
come to the warehouse where you have some chairs, paying for this...
Tell us how
you discover that you could earn a living just talking…
DD> The Transformations in the Flux Garden Entrance to The Gates
Of Paradise are inspired artistically by Ovid's Metamorphoses. Someday
people will look on its people turning into can openers and washing
machines and cages and bottles and body parts - All in much the same
ways we now look on Ovid's Greco/Roman gods and their victims.
Photos from space and sweet little children are new things never before
seen. When you are 70, it is very rare to eat something you have never
eaten or experience an event you have never experienced or see or hear
or smell or taste or touch something you have never had a sensation
And if you want to see The Truth look in the face of a smiling child.
Laughter is the truth flying up from the depths of the human being.
Happiness is a buried treasure. If you realized there was a treasure
buried inside you, would you dig inside you until you found it? Would
you say 'Open Sesame' to a rock wall inside you and see it open to a
cave full of magnificent treasure? To a tiny invisible engine surrounded
by light messengers spinning a gigantic gold and ruby and pearl and
blood cocoon around its Self?
When children are born they are a fine invisible engine as soft as the
mirror on a pool of silk water inside a clumsy automobile. As they grow
they crash in accidents and get dents and scrapes and road dirt all
over their automobile. They are trained to forget they are an invisible
engine inside. They are forced into believing the totality of their
being is fender and bumper dents and scrapes and road dirt. They are
taught by their owners to devote their life to speeding and crashing
and hauling and listening to a loud ridiculous radio and repairing and
painting their fender and bumper dents and scrapes. Whenever they say
- "I have an invisible engine." (Which is as close as they are able
to come to "I am an invisible engine.") or "I can hear the tune of my
invisible engine."- They are told that they are crazy, or to go on a
boring drive they hate, or it is God, or you must become as solid as
a rock wall. Early in their young shining fluttering life most humans
have totally forgotten they are an invisible engine.
No matter how hard they struggle to lick the shoes of their owners and
mechanics- Some humans once in a while hear the tune of their engine.
It sounds something like a star on the tip of their tongue. It sounds
like a sand grain on the tip of their tongue and they fail to realize
that to make a pearl one must clam their shell. And sometimes some of
these people like to talk with people who are able to allow themselves
and others to realize the tune of their engine and to live from the
tune of their engine. I am one of many who have friends who sometimes
see the tune of their engine who pay to come to a warehouse where they
The frozen sea within human beings is their belief that they are rock
solid fenders called feelings and bumpers called thoughts. Real feelings
are spontaneity. Real thoughts are intuition. These small glows are
the invisible drive shaft and the invisible fuel of their invisible
My poems are created by the intuition and spontaneity of my invisible
engine my Self.
As I sing in my preface to The Gates Of Paradise:
Regina, these are wonderful questions. I hope I am giving good
answers. I'm trying to do the best that I can do. There is nothing more
for me to say on the present question.
JLA - Don't worry about it, David. Your answers are very good. Regina
and I are trying to do the best in order to make you feel free, and
your answers please us, and of course the readers in the future, very
further on this subject can be found in my poem YEARS at:
JLA> When I first heard the title of your site (I knew your book
before) - The Gates of Paradise - I felt it was a little bit religious.
I accessed your site and enjoyed the way you used the key "The ... Gate"
for including people, sites, egroups, and so on. Your site became collective
for you could receive your friend in your gates. And the Paradise should
be to have many friends around ...
Did you make the site first, and, then, printed the book, or on the
How many years did you spend in thinking and creating this book?
didn't really think about writing my 350+ poem-ed poem The Gates Of
Paradise. In the 1960's I was director of an arts and crafts department
at The Brooklyn Hebrew Hospital For The Aged. I painted a small 1X2
foot painting of a gate made of weather every few weeks to have something
to do in my unused time at work- I was inspired by Buchner who wrote
his great play Danton's Death in over 40 or 50 short scenes in part
because he was working in his father's laboratory and could only write
while his father who hated his son's writing was out of the lab. Buchner
would open a drawer with his manuscript in it as his father left the
laboratory and write until his father came back. At which instant Buchner
shut his drawer. Vicissitude can be a magnificent mother of art.- Each
small 1X2 foot gate would be an expression of a type of weather I had
experienced. As I painted them I was aware of which other gates they
would be next to: Above: Below: Left Right: I would take these paintings
home and place them on the wall next to each other to eventually make
a large 6X8 foot gate/painting out of them. I have seen and heard many
gates: Rodin's Gates Of Hell: Mussorgski's The Great Gate Of Kiev: The
blue tile Gate Of Babylon: The Minoan Lion Gate: The Iron Screens in
Spanish Churches: The Ikon Wall Gate in Russian Churches: The Arc de
Triumphe: The Brandenburg Gate: Ghilberti's Gates of Paradise, The Japanese
wood gates in the ocean. Etc. I was very busy in those days. Doing many
many things. I forgot the idea of gates until I wrote the poem The Gates
Of Paradise for 3 hours each morning from around 1988 to 1999. About
13,000 hours. It developed spontaneously as an expression of my life:
I never believed in Paradise in a religious way. Heaven and earth are
inside of us and outside of us here on earth: In the Gospel of Saint
Thomas, Jesus says: "If you think heaven is in the sky the birds will
get there and you will not. If you think heaven is in the ocean the
fish will get there and you will not. If you think heaven is in the
earth the worms will get there and you will not. The kingdom of heaven
is inside you:" Rumi said, "Paradise is a garden under which rivers
run full of fountains." I believe this means the garden is the sensations
on our skin, The blood rivering under it and the fountain of the physical
and mental hearts when I realize I am alive . I wish to live. I love
life with my entire being. I have seen many people seek paradise in
many, many ways inside and outside and in between of their Self. (That
which they were born from. The Self created the brain and its tools.)
I tried to express and depict human intricacy and complexity and ecstasy
and despair in all these ways in a visual poem.
these shape poems may seem meaningless and trivial but they are absolutely
accurate images of what has taken over the inside of human beings.
my web site thegatesofparadise.com in 2000 after my poem The Gates Of
Paradise was finished (1999.) The whole story of it and many ideas about
it are at:
now on I would like to talk about your newest Years. The title
has the same characters of The Gates of Paradise, that is, built
by birds, but you included colors and more material from Internet and
WWW. Instead of many parts, each part is a year. And there are not numbered
pages, and it means for me that a reader can start reading from the
page he/she wants to.
Tell us your general project for this book.
is the preface to my poem YEARS: "David Daniels has been making words
out of pictures and pictures out of words for over 60 years: He is a
common person: As common as dirt and grass: From the plumb of his wine
dark mind cellar here is a taste of each year of his life:" My idea
is to recreate in a visual poem an authentic taste of a moment or more
of each year of my life- As I lived it- As I remember it: As I have
the accurate inner sensation of the taste of this moment or more.
YEARS I became artistically and technically able to use some color.
I tried to make Years enlarge visually like when in the film: The
Wizard Of Oz the little girl opens the door and the film changes
from sepia tone to color: In 1962 Earth became a technicolor Oz for
me due to a sea change in my life that led me into a permanent inner
joy: This is metaphored allegorically in fact in:
in my 250+ page visual poem YEARS are not numbered because the section
titles ARE numbers. YEARS is written in a sonata form. A,B and C are
the first wandering off and returning movement. D is the long slow heavy
second movement. E and F are the springing third movement. G is the
galloping fourth movement.
JLA> Whenever I can I used to show your books to my students and/or
friends. I like to notice people's comments, especially during some
classes I need to teach text interpretation.
In your case what I noticed is that you have a good communication all
the time. I never forgot people's admiration when they looked at your
big printed poems in the II Mostra Interpoesia, in São Paulo, October,
you for telling me this Jorge. It makes me happy to hear that people
enjoy my poems and that my poems can add more pleasure to people's lives.
Hand washes hand. What Noel Coward said on this was "Modern Art and
Modern Poetry and Modern Music have a tendency to bore the public. THE
PUBLIC DOES NOT LIKE TO BE BORED." Post Modern Art has in many cases
tried to increase the boredom of the public even more. Many people are
ignorant or living in a difficult place and are afraid to come out into
the world with their true Self. There are so many people all over the
world cursed to sit all day in all those dreadful tedious offices, people
so bored with their jobs that they will search the internet and EVEN
at times read poetry! What a large opportunity for a poet to reach and
even enjoy an audience! I have thousands of people from over a hundred
countries visiting my site every month. This is happiness. I hope some
of the ones from India are some of those magnificent poor wonderful
children who search the web in the computers that wonderful man cements
into slum walls all over India for them.
poet dialogues with the painter and from this negotiation we have a
visual poem. Is that true?
would put it this way: In Shape Poetry the poet is the painter and the
painter is the poet. The painter is simultaneously and spontaneously
telling the poet HOW to shape and the poet is simultaneously and spontaneously
telling the painter WHAT to shape. The Human Being is the engine with
which the Poet and the Painter drive their work to life.
don't know each other personally, but all the time Regina and I have
been exchanging emails with you, we feel a good person who feels himself
very well and irradiates sympathy.
Can you tell us something about it?
Tolstoy: Anna Kerenina: "All happy people are alike: All unhappy
people are different and incessantly cultivating different forms of
unhappiness." All happy people are alike and like and are like their
own and other peoples happiness. I have noticed that it is not a sin
to be happy in Brasil.
Years you started a relationship with the third dimension by
means of the use of colors. I am based on the poem which starts with
"morning and afternoo][n, and evening, that".
Do you feel you are going to make 3D poems in the future, or use this
resource from the WWW?
circled poem "After reading", you started images with the letter "o"
in some colors. A kind of change in your visual poetic communication
is coming out, isn't it? It is a kind of trajectory from words to image.
I bet you are going to use images themselves next to words in your next
book, then, perhaps you are going to animate it in the WWW.
Is there a possibility of occurring what I am thinking of?
for me are the complication clay. Pictures are the easy forming wet
clay. I enjoy making pictures in an easier way than I enjoy making word
formations. I have a small gift for words - the liberator of humanity.
I have a great gift for color - the melody of visual art: But I will
never leave meaningful human words out of my poems because people like
them and people are in great need of direct encouragement to pursue
life, liberty, and happiness - Especially young people who love our
earth so very much and wish so excitedly to be able to watch their Self
and other Selfs and our life on earth itself grow with affection.
JLA> What is your project for the future?
DD> Cultivate my Pen Ching in my garden. Make words out of pictures
and pictures out of words simultaneously on my computer. Fill thegatesofparadise.com
with even more shape poems. Do at least 200 Humans for my poem HUMANS:
3 children grow with affection. My son Chris (47) you know is a fine
poet/translator of Portuguese. His translations of the work of Pessoa
are outstanding. He is also an expert Electronic Technician/Editor for
a huge law book publisher: He was major domo at the Ritz Carlton Hotel
in Boston at age 20. He became a fine chef. My daughter Gina (23) is
also very talented: She is one of the world's foremost Middle Eastern
Dancers and dances at the most important Middle Eastern Night Club in
Los Angeles. She is a student at the University Of Southern California
Film school. She has made several small films, and is already working
on production in Hollywood films.
'Autismic' is a 26-minute documentary Gina made on her own that has
been on Public Television. It explores the personalities of five children
Rachel (24) is also very talented. She is very E language literate.
She has lived on her own and supported her Self since she was 15. She
is what they call in California a "Razzle Dazzle Wheeler Dealer Get
Out Of My Way Money Maker." She drives around all day and all night
in her dark glasses in her dark purple Mercedes with dark tinted windows
- TV on the dashboard, giant music speakers booming in the car trunk,
meeting with people, generating friendship and facilitating commerce.
Among many business she has created on her own, she has established
her own web design business:
We old people
know a wonderful happiness and calm when our children each earn a better
living than we do.
of my children's success is that I have always encouraged them to enjoy
life in whatever way they wish to enjoy life.
now has but to encourage everyone he comes in contact with to cultivate
their own garden with affection - And perhaps to replace his long lost
Weather Gates painting - I may yet paint a giant Weather Gates Of Paradise
made of many small paintings in my spare time. And I will always remember
Jorge Luiz Antonio and Regina Celia Pinto.