Nov 17

Poetry and the Economy, Part 1

Nobody asked me, but I think the depressed economy -- which looks like it will last, and affects everything -- will bring about a new esthetic. Everything new in literature starts in poetry, so I was interested and then uneasy when an accomplished poet friend wrote me that she was enrolling in this online poetry course, for which I give you the course description and outline:

Imperfectly Simple: Write Wabi Sabi

Write to see the light shine through the cracks in your life. Wabi Sabi is a hip alternative to measuring value solely by degrees of perfection or profit. Originating in Japan, it celebrates intrinsic value in what is lean, spare and rough hewn. Do you appreciate vintage patinas? Do you want to make peace with your life’s cracked pots or ragged edges—even your penchant for messiness? This class is for anyone who sees value-added in simply what is—and wants to write about it.

We’ll write from a Wabi Sabi perspective (and technique) in short essays, stories, poetry, or journal entries. We’ll even get visual to create an "altered book” documenting class experience. Bring your flaws to class. We’re going to write from the space between the lines. Class theme will be the following quote by Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Week 1: Imperfect & Uncertain: Learning what Wabi Sabi is, I'm beginning to appreciate its value for my life and work. I question the drive to be certain, competent and confident about my writing.

Week 2: Quirky & Transient: I celebrate what’s offbeat about my work, my home, my family, my life. I look more closely at the immaterial and what is not seen with the eye.

Week 3: Simple & Rustic: I write simple, spare and lean in form and/or content. I explore the rugged patina of my experience and my writing practice.

Week 4: Broken & Incomplete: I allow what’s wrong to be wrong—and understand that’s all right. I make sense of the “end” of things, and value what’s left unfinished.

This course sounds so intriguing and exotic. How fun to try it (only $160 for four weeks). It sounds so punk rock and carefree! To lighten up, devolve, loosen my grip, and see and write like a kid again! I don't doubt that Wabi Sabi is good poetic exercise. Yet its values remind me of Facebook. Facebook encourages communications that are simple and incomplete, lean and transient, imperfect and uncertain, rough-hewn and quirky. (It is, however, strangely intolerant of any posting that is not hip, and I would bet my lunch that Wabi Sabi is the same way.) Facebook is a quirk fest, a quirk museum. We revel in our own and each other's quirks there, while Facebook compiles our quirks for marketers, employers, and surveillance. Nobody much cares about that.

Nobody cares much about poetry either, but they are going to care more, and soon. Nobody collects poetry for marketers and surveillance--yet. That is its glory. To get casual about the way we write poetry--saturating it with the personal and offbeat, being satisfied to leave it unfinished--I think is a mistake.

I'm particularly troubled by that one sentence: "I allow what’s wrong to be wrong—and understand that’s all right."

More later.....
Jun 27

Writers' Agonies, Volume I, Chapter I

As a writer, I maintain certain unexamined assumptions I do not wish to examine at all. To wit:

1. Words are the whole world.
2. All words are equal.

These assumptions mean I agonize not only over my own work, but at scarifying length over all words ever spoken or written to me. I can spin up whole rainbows of agony out of a lone "Sorry" scrawled on a rejection slip, and fury, too, because whoever wrote it doesn't seem really sorry! I can't seem to weigh and sort words according to their source or context or tone. Some people say that words are mere hot air, or can be ignored! Not I! To me, all words are serious! You can imagine how I fare in a culture that is jerry-built on kidding and banter. For example:

Hi there, Eagle Beak!

Eagle Beak?

It's a joke! Just a joke! (Punches ME on the arm.) Can't you take a joke?

(Looks daggers.)

Ha, ha! I was just kidding. (Pounds ME on the arm repeatedly.) Geez!

You're a f-----g a--hole.

A-ha, ha, ha!
Jun 27

The Wasted Day

Plans fell through and I was alone. Painfully disappointed I packed a picnic and camera. Drove about 10 miles and hiked for 3 hours, with lunch near the end of it. Took 98 photographs, mostly flora. Wondered why four of my closest friends, intimates, are sick, all at the same time. Decided it couldn't be me. (Could it?) Needing a guaranteed intoxicant I listened to ABBA on the drive home. Back home, listened to disco CDs. Sent 2 encouraging emails to sick intimates, attaching photos. Wondered why I don't listen to more music, even though I have terrible taste. Admired the hummingbirds sipping homemade nectar. It's not red but they like it just the same. Tinkered with non-writing hobby while watching bad TV. With relief found somebody to IM with for a while before bed.

Very slowly, in the attic of my mind, began to think again about the 2 book manuscripts I've left in the pipeline for a couple of months because I don't know what my next move should be.
Apr 25

Oh Yes, Physical Health Too

Believe, I know what happens to long-distance writers, and suggest:

Hands/wrist/fingers/forearms hurt or tingly? You cannot fix this by yourself. Contact dr. and demand referral to a physical therapist. Yes, it costs money, but trust me, you cannot live without hands. (Try to worm out of the "nerve conduction test," aka the "nerve crucifixion test.") The physical therapist can show you how to prevent future injuries.

Gettin' flabby? Walk for 30 minutes a day. It's like keeping a journal: hateful for the first few days, then addictive. Now that I am older, a walk, like, gives me an actual buzz, man.

Backache? Get a back-support pillow, and/or a "kneeling chair." This latter will force your back muscles to hold you up and thus stay strong. Lots of backache? Give a chiropractor a chance. They do not cost as much as MDs and will not invade your body nor prescribe poisons for it.

Stressed? Go alone someplace strange or do something you've never done. Once I went to a solo drum concert. Another time walking in an unfamiliar field I found a teepee and hid inside. Once I forced myself to have tea at the Adams Mark Hotel. Once I went to a psychic fair & there I got a photograph of my aura (it's red).

Soothe eyestrain with "computer glasses," aka "single-vision lenses." The eye doc will know what you mean.

Depressed? This isn't for everyone, but a really stubborn case that does not respond to therapy may respond to piercing. No joke. I got through a horrible passage of my life by having my ears pierced with an 18-gauge needle at a heavy-metal tattoo and piercing parlor. I was the only customer wearing a Kasper suit and pumps and pantyhose. BTW, this is why kids get piercings; the more and grosser the piercings, the sadder their lives.

If writing is making you suffer, there's something that needs changing!