Tag Archives: prose

Will be back soon: Gone Lookin’

Fear is a good thing[…]fear is what drives us to take risks and extend ourselves beyond our normal limits, and any writer who feels he is standing on safe ground is unlikely to produce anything of value.

– Paul Auster, “Invisible”

Dear Void,

I have felt fear this past nine weeks. A lot of fear. I smelled the sulphur breath of a dragon still many miles away but surely snorting in anticipation of meeting me. It was healthy until…

…I stopped writing every day. You may have noticed. The fear became stale and crippling. The sulphur had plugged my synaptic junctions.

My thoughts now stray so far that my hands are always playing catch-up without ever catching up.

So here’s a pensive pause.

I’ll miss looking into you, dear Void, but I need to look into finding fresh fear.

I hope you’ll miss me too.

I shan’t be long.

Love,
Sam

To feed on fresh fear
confidently go Pale Fish
to water’s surface

Pond (c) Sam Rappaz

On rewriting inspiration

 When you ask me to revise a poem you ask me to meet again the Muse who seldom responds to invitation. She comes in suddenly through the door left open, announcing Her presence with words that have never sat together before. She says what She has to say and goes quiet; goes away or gets broken down into elements of the universe that I absorb without an intent.

Where am I to find this forceful genius?

I’ve been told to look for Her in spaces in-between words and lines, rhyme and rhythm, movement and breaks, language and sound. But I don’t find my Muse there; I find a key in a foreign language to a map that She drew.

Is She hiding in the white glow that lights my keyboard when I switch on my workstation? So, I should work and work and work on my verses. Or, is She in the deep breath that helps me ease into sleep? Then, I should breathe and breathe and breathe with my eyes closed to trick her into appearing. Perhaps it’s She who is the trickster: a mirage; a playful spirit that whispers in my ear. In which case I am cursed with the burden of loneliness.

With or without Her it seems it’s going to take a lot of time to re-see a moment that no longer exists, to re-write it in a way so that it exists forever.

 

I am beginning to grapple with the abstract idea of “completion” in creative writing which seems even murkier when talking about poetry. I read recently that “a poem is not truly finished until it has been seriously revised” and also “be wary of a poem that appears to be finished“. Statements that, as an amateur with 8 weeks of formal education in poesy, I find contradictory.
I need to also say that the poems you have been reading on my blog are not “seriously” revised. They have been written quickly, in a matter of an hour to a few hours if the form is tough (the Sestina, which is one of the hardest forms, took me about 12 hours). These poems are here more or less as they came to me. Now I am considering that all of this work here is a) probably unfinished, which is not a bad thing as, Da Vinci once said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned” and b) not good, trite, tripe. It’s making me question the quality of my natural skill for this art form. Though at present I am depressed by the thought, I am hopeful that I can see this as something to learn from; that all this self-doubt will make me a better writer and that it is a natural process. I hope it happens sooner rather than later because my Muse seems to have gone into hiding for fear that I will doubt Her every word and I cannot sleep because thoughts only She can give birth to have grown louder in my head in her absence.
I have received only love from this wonderful blogging community, for which I am immensely grateful but this post is not about  wanting an ego-boost. At this point I just want to learn from you, specifically about the role of revision in your creative process. Any and all thoughts are welcome from everyone, poet or not. Who knows who might be inspired by your comment!

Here’s an example of the creative process of the great Walt Whitman,

Original Manuscript: To a Locomotive in Winter by Walt Whitman (1874).
Original Manuscript: To a Locomotive in Winter by Walt Whitman (1874).

Summary of the manuscript (from Boston Public Library)

Written in Walt Whitman’s own hand, this early manuscript version of To a Locomotive in Winter shows Whitman’s creative process as he revised and reworked the poem, changing words and even pasting paper overlays of new passages until he was satisfied with the result. This manuscript poem is dated February 23, 1874, but Whitman continued to modify the text and it was considerably altered when published in 1876 in Two Rivulets, a companion volume to the 1876 edition of Leaves of Grass. This poem was republished in the 1900 edition of Leaves of Grass, well after Whitman’s death.

Image Source and further details: Boston Public Library (CC BY 2.0)

Egon’s fingers

Source: wikigallery.org
Mother and son (“Mutter und Kind”, 1912, Oil on canvas) Source: wikigallery.org
In Art that lives on expression of dead subjects his genius shines. With each hard brush stroke he claims a retinal cell and soon my vision is conquered. I see scratches of a forgotten soul emaciated and under hardwood floors, of loneliness. He has scratched in the face of a mother and her newborn.
One’s eyes are closed and the other’s opened in terror. They are a beautiful, pristine and hypnotic striking blue of a whirlpool.
The dreary sombre browns of the mother’s face and her strangling embrace of her child; her long bony fingers that grasp him and her thumb behind his back to: hold his spine? or to press a nerve? One can guess.
It is the rosy life of the child that blushes on the edges of the scream. He is locked within the frame of the portrait with no release. His left palm stretched and pressed. His thumb hooked and too far away from his parted red lips to provide a comforting suckle.
Where is the child’s right hand and in what position under this shroud of smothering darkness?
I can only wonder at Egon’s fingers.

 

unnamed
Day 7: Prompt-Fingers; Device-Assonance; Form-Prose poetry

 

I love Egon Schiele’s works. I felt their power first-hand in the art museums of Vienna. I went there primarily to admire Gustav Klimt’s paintings and designs and came back being more profoundly impacted by Schiele. I had never experienced such rawness and vulnerability in a painting before. Schiele broke all social rules and didn’t do it as a gimmick. He lived a life of loss and died before he could enjoy commercial success. The “Dead Mother” series, to which the above painting belongs, is incredibly moving. If you are ever in Vienna please visit the Leopold Museum to enjoy Schiele’s masterpieces.

Thinking briefly of poetry at 2 am

29 January 2015

2:19 AM

Dear Void

Are you able to sleep? I am not. I am here and awake and about ready to have an epiphany that I know will not come. Words are coming out as though they are the impatient commuters on the Swiss SBB CFF FFS rails; they have to get somewhere and get there on time. I don’t know where I’ll end up at the end of this ‘stream of consciousness’- type of writing but I hope it’s somewhere good. Somewhere more sleepy. Is this what happens if you read too much poetry? I am imagining writing a poem as a tribute to Yeats’ The Lake Isle of Innisfree. I want to make it about my home city in India. An ambitious project but the seed has been sown.

I will arise and go now, and go to Bangalore
       And a small lodging build there, of brick and concrete made;

And so it begins. That was the easy part and it helps that out of Yeats’ 26 syllables in the two lines I had to change just 8! A cheat you say. Yes, you are probably right. I will attempt the rest of this challenging accentual-syllabic poem tomorrow and see how far I get. That poetry class is paying off dear Void.

Now moving on to the poem that has haunted me ever since I read it:

(An excerpt from)
Acquainted with the Night

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain–and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped by eyes, unwilling to explain.

To me this is about depression and every time I read it my heart gets heavier. Damn you Frost! Damn you!
I don’t know why it should affect me so. I am not depressed, or am I? I am awake after all at some ungodly hour.

The winds are blowing heavy outside and the snow is orange under the streetlight. Switzerland can get mighty quiet. No person, no life in sight. There is naught but the brief howl of the wind as it gushes down the streets and around the buildings.

This blogpost now finally makes this space a personal blog. A place, to store my brain leakage and, then in a few hours when I wake up (ha!) to come back to be astonished and then embarrassed. I am sorry for you dear Void. You’ll be hearing a lot more of the post-midnight me. At least until I find something to put me to sleep. Poetry is not helping!

Here’s a random thought:
The first time I heard about the Oxford comma, which was here in WordPress, I thought it was a metaphor for the fleeting pause that is higher education in the larger academy of life teachings.

Hm. Eyes feel sore. Bed. Now.