Tag Archives: self discovery

Seeing “The weight of One Self”

"The weight of One Self" - marble sculpture of height 2.7m by artists Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset, in Lyon, France.
“The weight of One Self” – sculpture of height 2.7m by artists Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset, in Lyon, France.
I look at my limp
body in my arms and I
wonder who saved whom.
I can only hold
the weight of my own conscience,
talk the truth I know.
Never a hero
was made by saving himself-
Completely untrue.

 

You can read more about this philosophically forceful sculpture here.
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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)

Sestina: The surprise of a lifetime

In an attempt to regain balance I almost
Lost all control. The evening before I sat in my study
Thinking of what I could do different and love
More than my present occupation. My feet
Twitched below the desk in fervent prayer or doubt,
Either way I was beginning to kindle a soul-scorching fire.

On a blank sheet of paper I started to fire
Off ideas. I drew arrows and boxes for words that almost
Made sense but such mind-maps would make others doubt
My sanity and question my logic. They’d say, “Why’d you study
All these years just to throw your life away? The world’s at your feet
And you choose to kick it! You are misguided my love.”

But I am not guided by anything except my love
For a challenge. Why am I in the line of fire
When it is you who should be blamed for the shackles on my feet?
Why should I answer to you when you almost
Made certain that I would not question the purpose of any study?
No sir, I’ll answer only to myself when in doubt.

With righteous indignation I was charting without a doubt
In royal blue ink that makes angry words less stark. It was a love-
Soaked rendering of the mind that would need study
In the better light of reason someday. The night grew in the cold fire
Of electric bulbs and I pondered dreams that have lasted almost
An entire lifetime without my knowledge. I felt numbness at my feet

That soon spread up. I switched to verses to find within their feet
A rhythm by which I could greet daylight. There was no doubt
That those poems suffered as I suffered, but their magnetism almost
Straightened the compass that had led to my disorientation. I was in love
With two things seemingly different but when purified by the fire
Of a philosophical torch they were two theses for the same study.

I wished to have one eye of science and another of art to study
Life in all its regulated nuance and irrational feat
Of fancy. The morning dawned with this realization and soon the fire
Of heavens commanded the skies promptly. It made me wish for a doubt-
-less existence, where I could wake each day to a destined love;
One where I will get by without saying, “Everything’s good, almost.”

I decided to share this with them, those people who almost
could not fathom change. It surprised me to find no rebuke, instead only love
And it became apparent that I had always been in control of their doubt.

 

This poem is a rough first attempt at writing a Sestina. The form requires 39 lines divided into 6 six-line stanzas and 1 three-line Envoy. Every line in the Sestina has a precise word ending. The order of the word-endings in each stanza are: 123456  615243  364125  532614  451362  246531  531/135.

This was tougher than the villanelle that I wrote a few days back. Linked verses are hard work!

 
Image Credit: NASA from Flickr.com (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Becoming a Mother these days

She believed she didn’t want to be one.
Her life focussed on work, on the run.
At an earlier point she might have done
The needful (if it had worked) but fate it seemed had none
Such intentions. So she shunned
The idea of a daughter or a son.

Her heart forced to be hard bore the brunt
Of judgemental harsh eyes. She put up a front
That she was doing what she’d intended, she learnt
How to shield herself. She set up a cogent
series of repartees, products for her calming foment.*

She never really dreamt: a pragmatist. The feeling crept
Inside her, implanted without consent, by deft
Children of her sisters’. Watching them grow left
An aching surge of instinct, washing pretence. Bereft

Now of her prior notions. Not on anyone’s behest
She decided, for her own, on her own to bequest
Her ancestry, her love, her everything. She made a request

At a late age. She asked, even on warning of death
To have a child–to gestate and birth, to give breath

To a person–to nurture; to apply for the only job she’d found perfect.

————————

*foment used in its archaic form, meaning: to bathe (a part of the body) with warm or medicated lotions.

 

Mother's love (c) Jeyheich from Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Mother’s love (c) Jeyheich from Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 
 

The first thought I had this morning was Rhyme. So here's my offering, which is rather personal, in a form that was made by the talent writer, Judy Dykstra-Brown of lifelessons blog. The scheme is called Sylvestrian Near Rhyme. You can read her poem here.

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.

After The Bluest Eye

The book weighs heavily on my left.
The last page stares at me –
Incriminating.
My thumbnails hold on tight;
Head tilted still;
Eyes seeing all but finding none –
Still in haste, refusing to accept that
She has placed her period solidly,
Defiantly, to complete her work:
The first to her Nobel end.
An old story that freshly wounds –
Immersed in Injustice.
As I sit on the grating fabric of
Swedish furniture of Chinese-make
That leaves money for American words
To redefine my mental state, seemingly –
Worldly I feel not –
Her words have made me spiral inward.
Echoes of a past that is my own
I find she bared in black and white:
Stark, clear, concise prose.
Ticking time carries on unbridled.
Unmerciful to my to-ing and fro-ing.
Constant bright light shines overhead
With its intensely focused warmth
To reveal the underlying condition.
Beautiful eyes to blind us
Perfect teeth to chop us
Lovely hair to ensnare us
Physical beauty to trap us
A soulful lament for self-loathing.
Self-evident, no less.
The final words that remain, blur
Too late, she wrote. Much too late.
What is this – a literal antidote;
Of just the bitter kind?
Head bowed, shrunken shoulders,
There is no refuting.
As thoughts coalesce, my grip lightens
Rivulets of acknowledgement run free,
I confess –
A younger me, much younger, I found
In the 163 past pages, plus this one.
I close The Bluest Eye
To open my brown ones.
I wonder if I’ll look the same to me now.

Art by Susan Brubaker Knapp
Quilt by Susan Brubaker Knapp (http://wwwbluemoonriver.blogspot.ch)
Wish Toni Morrison would read this: Audience of One.

Reading to write again

From a very young age, I suspected there was more to my world than I could see: somewhere in the streets of Istanbul, in a house resembling ours, there lived another Orhan so much like me that he could pass for my twin, even my double.

I suspect that there is another Sam too. I used to call her Kalpana, like the rest of my family. But now she is Sam. Kalpana has ceased to exist, in almost every way except in my mother’s memories.

I don’t think she ever lived in a home resembling mine. She couldn’t have. If she had then she would have been left behind in Hyderabad in 1990. She would be the ghost of the little girl that haunts that beautiful apartment complex in the posh neighbourhood. No. She moved with me everywhere I went in my life. I knew she was there because I have been talking to her. She has an opinion on most things and I try my best to accommodate her views in my decisions. But my best has rarely been good enough.

She is my double. I use her to stand for me when called by the Grand Jury of Conscience. They seem not to be able to tell us apart.

After all these years of being used and stepped on; of being mercilessly silenced; of being a quiet spectator she wrote me a letter. I considered it. She had just the one request: write.

So I did. I didn’t realise it then that her simple need would make me question everything. She was having her revenge and eating it too.

I have decided to answer her back. I have decided to learn the craft of poetry and tell her, while using language in its most sophisticated form, that I WRITE. I need Sam to like me again. I am coming up for trial: the Grand Jury is bound to convene soon.

I start preparing for my online poetry course from tomorrow. I hope you will forgive my lack of attention to your wonderful blogs. I'll do my best to keep up with as many of you as time permits.
The starting line of the post is taken from one of my favourite creative non-fiction works, Istanbul: Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk.
poetry textbooks
My course books. Except Mary Oliver. That one I bought just for fun.

The Mind’s Eye

Darkness envelopes tubes of light

The source of artifice is shadowed

My eyes are focused on the now

While the mind is free to roam

Shadows

 

 

As time wanes the sharpness is split

Into a multitude of shards of memories

My eyes glisten with fatigue and disappointment

While the mind is free to roam

Shadows - 2

 

 

Amongst the times spent in the freshness of calm air

With shafts of power that break through the quiet

My eyes close in reverie, darting rapidly

While the mind is free to be still.

Alcazar gardens

 

()

Who Am I and Why Am I Here?

I was born on November 8 2014. I weighed two pages and 1 post. I was 1123 words long at birth and I was just a big crybaby – ranting and raving. Many people came to hear me though I had nothing more to offer. My birth certificate hadn’t yet been signed – I hadn’t a name. The tag around my wrist fortuitously linked me to someone important; a conscious act by my mother who had not intended on getting me noticed. I had an early growth spurt and transformed from a newborn to a new blog quickly.

I made her a blogger. Yet, she refuses to refer to herself that way. She had mocked that world on many occasions before she had me. She doesn’t want to get saddled down by the responsibilities that come with being creative. She still doesn’t want to acknowledge that I am her life right now and that I make her feel most alive.

She made me because she was having an existential crisis. From how much she mulls over me I realize that she is still in the midst of it. This is also the reason why she is unable to answer the question at hand and has as usual asked me to talk for her. She called me Another Voice. I don’t think it’s a very inspired name. It’s not original; neither attention-grabbing nor attention-seeking. My name, she tells me, is a consequence of where I reside; my domain: To Kill A Miming Bird at WordPress, Dot Com, The Internet, HTTP-1.

It’s a place with ever-changing landscapes and populated by migrant peoples. There are many scattered veterans’ colonies. I don’t know exactly which war they all fought in but I am sure that as I grow up here I will have to fight my own battles. I know that she will make me do it. There is a group of people who run this place. It can’t be an easy job.

She chose where we were to live because her cousin recommended it. She’s happy here. I can feel the joy that radiates through her to the tips of her fingertips when she cares for me everyday. She chose our exact address as homage to one of her favourite books. She can’t speak. She has been dumb most of her life, in many ways. She made me in order to kill off her miming habit. She named me Another Voiceher voice. She has made me, to speak for her, of her, and I what have to say is always by her. So the name stays, despite its plebeian nature.

I am growing now in different ways. I seem to be an aimless toddler. I pick up and eat dirt sometimes. I scratch up my knees and elbows. I outgrow my clothes too quickly and do end up looking like a mess. She redresses me from time to time and has me looking my best for everyone who comes to see me.

I think she loves me more because of the people who have been kind enough to pat my head or pinch my cheeks. Some people are regular visitors and hug me tight while others smile and walk by. There are still others I see walk to me when I am static. I can tell where they are from but I cannot tell who they are. She seems to like the attention I bring her, irrespective of the form. I seem to give her some sort of validation, over-interpreted notwithstanding, but satisfying nonetheless.

She tries her best to keep me focused but she can’t help letting me slip away. She doesn’t want to control me, to be perfectly honest. She’s tired of control. She’s tired of having a plan. She’s tired of the way she’s lived her life. Or so she tells me to tell you.

She had to say this about me,

An exposition of the known. An exploration into the unknown. And much more of less stuck up stuff.

I think this is still true. I am all this. But what I am, in essence, is a channel – for her thoughts and her dreams; to be expressed in as many ways as she wishes. I am here to let her rest for a while. I am here to realize that she has always been more than she has estimated. I am here to help her answer her existential questions. She is hoping you will stick around to watch me grow. She has now changed what I am about to accommodate all this.

I will be two months old tomorrow. I am no longer a crybaby. I am so much more now than what she had imagined. I am becoming her. Or rather, she is becoming me. In this process we hope to find each other.

http://www.andersoncommunity.com/anderson-house-blog/take-good-care-of-your-heart

(..)

Cutting-edge analysis

As a continuation of the post On the edge of a dream...

Swaying back and forth

My mind is oscillating

More back than forth;

I feel it retreating

But isn’t directionality dependent on Point-Of-View?

I write because I don’t know how to speak. I speak a lot but it is a speech of no consequence. Even the voice in my head has an accent and an attitude.

At what point do we know if we are making the right choice? It’s not as easy as picking a length of time to microwave foodstuff and we are very picky even about that. So how much deliberation is required to know what is the next step in your life? How much time should one devote to that? Finally, will the thought-endeavour ever come to fruition?

The dream from yesterday was real; not a deliberate fiction at least. It was an early morning dream. I woke up and decided to fall back asleep because I felt there was no promise to keep with the day. I had no promises to keep with myself or with anyone. It is sad to realise that. It should be liberating you’d think. But having no promise is essentially just that.

The train is the next step. I am on a slow journey to take that train. I have let go of my past. The night is coming and it’s getting darker and more dangerous. I feel the pressure to be on time. I meet happy people who are telling me that life is wonderful and filled with lovely experiences. I am losing time making wrong decisions. The station is my current life filled with major and minor distractions. It is a complex life. I have put up security to protect this life. I don’t need the security. They don’t stop life from continuing and things from happening. They’re there to keep me alert and scared. The time is coming closer for me to take the next step. I feel all the different people in my life running to take it. They are everywhere – the people. They are going to make it. I can’t seem to know how to get to the next step.

The train had all the answers. The train was in my dream.