Hello to the select few who read this blog … lots to say … today is a good day. The melancholy I was experiencing Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday seems to be leaving me alone today. I think I freak out that Melancholy Beast with my purpose today … the manuscript. But first, I read a good bit of Christopher Moore’s You Suck: A Love Story. This book is on par with A Dirty Job — superb! And I was squealing with delight and surprise when I was reading today … but I won’t ruin it and tell you why. If you’re a fan of his spectacular fiction and have read his repertoire, you will know why squealing was so very appropriate.
Last night, my reading plans took on another form. I was seriously planning on reading some Joseph Conrad. I was going to read his gorgeous novella, The Return for the third time, but alas, something else came out to me. Literally. And if you love Conrad (and especially this novella), run, don’t walk to see the French film adaptation of it called Gabrielle … a beauty you won’t believe. But this date I had with Conrad was interrupted (I think by a supernatural force … read on and you’ll see) …
Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet flew off my bookshelf — no B.S. Seriously. And I did feel I needed the only-what-Rilke-could-ever-deliver guidance. So he forced his sweet ass upon me. Thanks, Mr. Rilke … kiss kiss (see picture below, Mr. Rilke). And then it just got weirder, and even more supernatural … when I turned to the following page and the following passage at random (listen up, young poets, this guy knows his stuff!):
What goes on in your innermost being is worthy of your whole love; you must somehow keep working at it and not lose too much time and too much courage in clarifying your attitude toward people. Who tells you that you have one anyway (46-7)?
And then (also opened at random):
I believe that almost all our sadnesses are moments of tension that we find paralyzing because we no longer hear our surprised feelings living. Because we are alone with the alien thing that has entered into our self; because everything intimate and accustomed is for an instant taken away; because we stand in the middle of a transition where we cannot remain standing. For this reason, the sadness too passes: the new thing in us, the added thing, has entered into our heart, has gone into its inmost chamber and is not even there any more, — is already in our blood (64).
I have been talking a lot recently about this rediscovery, this thing I felt was coming, something without a name or identity. That big something … coming at me like this book came at me. Here is what I am thinking that rediscovery is … and I like to imagine this newness as being a circa-1950 glass doe knick knack painted carefully in tans, browns, her little hooves and nose an onyx-black … but I digress. But I do need to ask the Shaman what my animal is …
I think what often invades me is not sadness; sadness is merely a symptom. I think what invades is a plug of sorts, plugging a part of myself that yearns to be freed … and then other parts of me compensate this temporary loss of freedom in another part of me. That would explain why often depression, sadness, whatever label one would want to give it shows me the world in a different way. Another, usually lessened or “turned off” part of my self is turned on … and there it is … usually something totally mundane that suddenly possesses the deepest of all beauty, meaning and often brings me to tears … makes me want to pray with Unitarian meditations … the melding of the entire world in a moment.
About two months ago, I had such an experience … in the Walgreen’s parking lot no less (how much more mundane can you get?). An old woman sitting in a Buick with a Doberman in the back seat brought me to tears … and then a little girl at the back of a school bus staring at me while I was in my car behind the bus at a red light … tears again. And then within 30 minutes of being home: 2 poems. That plug in my soul began to remove itself … sadness led to realization, then renewal, then rediscovery.
So this rediscovery I have been blabbering about? Anhedonia. I do not have anhedonia, but I have her … persona … in my poems. I strongly believe it was no mistake I happened upon this word, got hung up upon it … and it is no mistake it had to basically hose down my soul for me to understand her. She been there, in my poems and thoughts for a long time now, but I have only now just made her acquaintance. And I can only hope she is as pleased with me as I am with her …
But I couldn’t have found this without a little push … so thanks Rainer … may I call you Rainer?
Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1962 reprint.
I have made the grave mistake of watching The Sopranos. It is a good show, yes … but I don’t think I can deal with that much darkness emanating from the human soul … now I remember why I don’t have a television and never had cable … never HBO. I think I will stick to Columbo when I feel the need for a television show … But in books and art I openly welcome the dark underbelly … but the moving reality of television heightens one’s experience, the unlimited accessibility makes it scary … an unleashing upon the entire world. Hmmm … just something I am pondering today … still grasping for that rediscovery and what IT is …
I think tonight I will stick to reading some Joseph Conrad … wink wink …
Well … thanks to Aaron (you wonderful rogue … and I say “rogue” in the most complementary way possible and because of last night) … my second manuscript has a title … and now that I have it, only my nearest and dearest shall know it. I highly doubt it would happen, but it would deeply suck if someone took it from here … no offense to anyone either: I can be rather paranoid and neurotic about certain things.
This title possesses all of the elements I was desiring: texture, a poetic tone, and metaphorical implications. And, as a bonus, it rolls nicely off the tongue, like an oyster.
I have been on the cusp of so much … some sort of rediscovery of something … this title is a big neurotic concern of mine out of the way … thank you Aaron so very much. I owe you something … maybe I will be able to replace that lost copy of The Donkey Gospel. Or maybe find that online harlot and ask for it back … I would be nice. I feel now I can really focus totally on the manuscript, those last tiny touches … so here’s a virtual kiss just for you!
You, Aaron, will likely find this entry the most significant in our common obsession with the poetry of Tony Hoagland. I had taken this unintended haitus from Hoagland (and the other “Three Muskateers” as well) when I was in the biting depths of Robert Lowell and John Berryman. I plucked it off of my shelf after thinking about you and I on that thrift store spree before you moved to Seattle — the tight Kurt Cobain t-shirt and all. But I digress … Hoagland. Wow-Wee! What a ride this guy takes us on. And I am still so sorry, Aaron that that online trollop took your copy!
The poem, “The Confessional Mode” is one of my favorites in the collection. And it got me thinking about mouths and words and laughter … I wrote a poem … Thanks, Tony! So I had this amazing post-writing feeling … an almost post-coital goodness and joy. And then down down down I went from that “high” and in bed by 10P.
There are a lot of odd experiences I think all writers go through, but this pleasure-seeped post-poem cloud is the best of all of them. I think also that is why it doesn’t happen often … it is this special connection not to the cosmos really, but to something bigger than anything around you in those moments. Maybe more like a connection to the knick knack to your right on an endtable … you are in that world … it is empty, beautiful and blue. I think it is odd though, thinking back to when I was writing most of the poems in Small Murders, this pleasure was miniscule at best. I never felt any joy … I think because the poems’ genesis was hopelessness mostly. A loss, a constant loss, and after writing a poem it felt more like a death than a new life joy. But I have grown a lot since then, learned a lot since then, especially about the process not only of writing but also of my life. Change is real and inevitable in poems and in life … not necessarily so bad. Though sometimes, change can be so jarring it hardly feels not so bad … often it truly sucks. Right now, I am somewhere in the middle of it being good and it sucking. So thank the skies for erasures, speaking of change …
It seems that a lot of writers, especially the less gregarious poets, are often in this constant (or seemingly constant) bubble for lack of a better word. Like being an omnicient narrator but not because although you observe, you are clueless as to the story you observe. This is when erasures are life savers for me. This is a tip to all of those reading this who write and experience what I just described (if anyone is actually reading this …). Poet Mary Ruefle who I have had the great honor of meeting and hanging out with a few times has a book called, Little White Shadow. This is an erasure. She got the book I think at a thrift store or used book store and basically (in my opinion) saved it from oblivion by giving it a new life … as an erasure. This is a process of crossing out words and phrases of a preexisting text to create something new. Mary’s became one poem … the book became a poem …
This is therapeutic and enjoyable … it is also sometimes a good way to get yourself writing something original. Lately, I have been xeroxing random pages of medical textbooks and doing erasures. My erasure on dwarfism is quite something … you will be astounded by the power of words and their innate nature of being recycled. For me, I thought getting a poem out of a dry medical textbook would be a challenge and a learning experience about the power of words. Next, I want to take on something really really dry like economics … then fun stuff like pulp.
Wow … I really do need a vacation …
So with all of my thinking about a sense of renewal, especially with manuscript 2, I find it odd I happened upon a large padded envelope of my undergrad poetry. It is a good 5 inches thick, threatening to tear at the sides. This caused me to wonder about my poetry journals from like 3 years ago when a lot of personal strife began for me. It is an interesting exercise to go back to the “old stuff,” those old emotions and circumstances. I think every writer should enter this somewhat frightening room of the past — looking at those “old things,” rifling through them like bras and panties in a poke shop. I think I could pretty much guarantee at least one pleasant surprise in that old stuff … a gem … an oddly fresh outlook on something, something you had been pondering years prior but forgot about. I think a writer should go back at least 2 years … anything “newer” than that would not pack the same punch, have the same eerie rediscovered aura going.
After going to bed feeling basically alone and slightly depressed and lost in the murky world of wanting renewal and thinking of things in the past more than I should … I had a dream about that house again. There is a house that often invades my dreams. It is a big, gray, and rather dilapitated house on a beach … sometimes it seems like the lake, sometimes like the ocean. And a faceless man is always in it (I have my suspicions who it is based on a small amount of “clues”) … and then there is usually another “tangible” person with me in the dream. Often, there is some prehistoric-looking monster chasing me through the sand, the water, up the spiralling stairs of the house. But last night it was just me and this monster, and this house, and me screaming something about remembering the goodbyes.
So am I saying goodbye to something again? Something indiscernable I must rid myself of to move on … to grow … to be renewed and happy? The tangible alterations of renewal like cutting half the poems from my manuscript, finding old work to poke through … in this am I saying goodbye to the sad disappearance of my years-ago dreams? I am always in that house, in one way or another, and I just have to make it through the whole house to make this all whole. If I am remembering correctly Jung believed the image of a house to signify the mind — the conscious and collective unconscious. Being the Jungian (not Freudian) that I am … I see the logic and also the reality of this meaning. This recurring house of my nightmare is the recurring dilemma I am feeling often in my mind … the life in my mind. My brain as the breathing apparatus that tries to keep me moving … yet keep me from something, a final conclusion.
Last night I went a little coo-coo and took half of the poems from my manuscript. It is more cohesive without these poems … I think I feel renewed after having my friends here with me. It is weird how life seems so big, lonely, and confusing until one is surrounded by that unconditional respect and love of friends.
My big project tonight is to add my handwritten poems from my journals to the manuscript. Then the sprawl shall begin … my living room floor looking alive and breathing again with the strewn paper crawling upon it. Then, final revisions to the poems. Does anyone remember the anecdote about William Carlos Williams and revising? I seem to recall him laying out the poems and placing a pane of glass over them to facilitate careful reading before the beautiful, crossed-out violence of revision. I don’t have a pane of glass, so I am thinking I tying my hands behind my back and reading them … or maybe just hiding my pens.
So I am still seriously entertaining Lucky You, but there are others I am considering as well. The good news for me is that I have till the end of February, not January as I had originally thought, to find a title and put this baby to bed … at least for the time being. Here are the others: All Yours; My Caveat; and If, Not. I do not feel at all married to these but I feel I am getting close to something with these.
There are others I am toying with that would be lovingly plucked from a poem or poem title in the second manuscript … that is the genesis of the title of Small Murders.
I still welcome ideas … Aaron, you’re on a poetry roll, experiencing a veritable creative surge … be a love and lend a hand …
So after taking my best friend to the airport after a 10-day stay with me, I am alone again. Well, relatively. I have the new Christopher Moore novel, You Suck: A Love Story and I basically plan on reading it in one sitting, tonight. Reading and writing is so fun and necessary for my sanity, but I think I sometimes underrate the importance of people. It is easy to detach and difficult to connect sometimes.
Aaron, thanks for the poems … I will send you some very very soon. But I can’t wait to deliver them in person when I finally make it out to Portland. I know you keep saying it’s no big deal, Aaron, and know I know the poem is good no matter what … but your writing a poem about me gave me a much-needed ego boost …
I was feeling the love at my reading on Thursday night … not because the room was full to the brim … only 8 people were there … but because the people in that room were so dear to me; I was so feeling the love. I also think I am improving each time I read which is good. Each time, I am less nervous and feel I have more of a command over my poems and performance. I did sell 5 copies of Small Murders which was quite nice considering there were only 8 people. The book is available online via Amazon and Barnes and Noble, also via the New Issues Press site, http://www.wmich.edu/~newissue/index.html. There are also two poems from the book on the New Issues site.
In a recent issue of Poets and Writers magazine, there was a great article with many great tips on plugging your work, preparing for interviews, and performing. When reading, especially a longer poem, my mouth begins to tire … not really cottonmouth, but a weird tired jaw feeling. This article advised face muscle exercises before a performance … opening your mouth really wide and holding it, a kind of stretching your mouth. I did this while I was getting ready and it did seem to help. Just thought I would pass that tip on …
Even though the room was not filled with tons of people drolling for poetry, it was filled with such great moments for me. My friend’s little brother made me a gourmet grilled cheese before the reading since I wanted something on the lighter side to eat beforehand. Two dear friends were in town from out of state and the night possessed a sort of magical quality with my nearest and dearest there. I was also presented with a torque from my friend’s dad after I finished reading. He said it was a Celtic tradition to give torques to poets who had earned respect. That was something I was not expecting, something wonderful and gorgeous, and seeping with emotion for me.
I have to begin to think of more venues where I can read. It sounds like I may read at Fire again as well. I will be starting the “conference circuit” in late February.
And I am still looking for a title for the second collection … any ideas? Something simple but possessing texture and a possibility for metaphorical meaning. I am liking Maybe.