The Unbearable White Outside

Dean Young and Tony Hoagland also addressed suffering and art … but only because it was a question from an audience member. Even if suffering creates some or all of one’s art, it is still nothing one tends to ponder as an artist. At least my experience has been pondering the fact that I created something that may be worthwhile … whether or not it was conceived out of suffering.

Actually, my art is typically conceived out of an elation … suffering is like lard in a vein … it blocks, threatens to destroy.

Dean Young and Tony Hoagland basically said that though suffering exists it is not necessarily a fodder for art. A way to art and creation. Hoagland mentioned that moment … that wonderful and inexplicable moment when a poem walks up to you, the poet … and then creation happens. That feeling to me is better than anything else but it may be close to being in love … that desire for something and the constant threat of it not being there anymore.

But I am taking my “best wishes in April snow” as far as they will go. Herman Hesse wrote: Love your suffering. Do not resist it, do not flee from it. It is your aversion that hurts, nothing else. My aversion is mostly my fear … suffering is an unpredictable emotion. It is easy for a well-adjusted and wise Herman Hesse to say this … but who is really strong enough not to flee? Not me, definitely in this April snow.

Best wishes …

Published in: on April 12, 2007 at 4:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Not renewal, but rediscovery …

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 …

Published in: on January 27, 2007 at 5:21 pm  Leave a Comment