Ways to Mouth

by Eliot Cardinaux


Ways to word


These are part of an ongoing series of writings in which I’m beginning to document my poetic process. These are not meant as a manual for writing, although they indeed intend to spark conversation and thought surrounding the process of writing for many other people beside myself. There is no one way to write, and therefore any convictions I gain throughout this process will remain my own, except if they are transliterated by others into their own ways to mouth. I use the word transliteration, which means “to write or print (a letter or word) using the closest corresponding letters of a different alphabet or language,” [OED] because each mind is its own language, and contains within it the alphabet of that soul’s pleasing.


Ways to mouth


The way to the mouth is an instinct. The mouth moves in tandem with the instinct of the mind to make a word. A sound that exists in the mind before it is made must be moved through the mouth to attain physicality, though a sound that moves through the mouth may not of necessity need to have been preconceived in the mind.

For a wolf to howl how much must it have suffered up to the point of needing to howl and then howling? How much has it thought of the need to howl?

The line between instinct and preconception is important to trace, when mouthing.


Tongue, the physical object


The way a word fits into a mouth, you roll it around, you stretch it, you pull out your tongue, you peel it, you strain its juices, you stick it back in, you cut it in half or you cut it off, you stretch it, you peel it out like the shell of a car with no motor, brains; you pulllll it out, you stretch it off, you peel it from under the skin like a banana, you stretch it out, you toy like a crab with its feelers, you let it melt, you rip it, you tear it, you rip it off; the tongue is a marvelous thing.


Scoring the sound of each letter


The audio-visual is the piece of the puzzle that fits in the sound like a tray, a scratched tray, the evidence of its bonging. What it brings.



The a is an ox of olden times. They used it before it to pull a cart. Ox, they said, ah.






Un-focus your Eyes, Ex-tune your Ear


For Ezra Pound







If a swatch or a swath of hay

busies itself in the vision of an archaic man,

a blotch of ink will stay his pain;

for him: the braying of an ass.




A noun is a name of anything, why after a thing is named write about it. A name is adequate or it is not. If it is adequate then why go on calling it, if it is not then calling it by its name does no good.

            – Gertrude Stein

When is a thing unneeded? When is unneeded a thing? When is an unneeded thing, the absence of a thing, the pivot on which the poets land their blows? When is an unneeded thing most eventually needed again, and when if why did it disappear?





Equation is the leaky hinge, the latch or the hatch, which bonks the sailor’s head as he exits the submarine: tied up, with the human drama.



[1] Clay amulet, one of the Tărtăria tablets

Dated ~ 4500 BC, in present-day Serbia

[2] Jiahu symbols, found inscribed on tortoise shells

Dated ~ 6000 BC, in present-day China