my swivel chair
winds its way
to the portal
where the mice
enter and depart
from my kitchen;
until I am flush with it –
lured by the limen
linking mouse and human.
I remind myself – often I feel a sense of failure and despondency just before a time in my life when I embark upon something novel and transformative. It is almost as if the pain comes with shirking off the status quo. And all the stored-up complaints and deficiencies march out to air their cases and to rally against their obsolescence.
I wrote this song several years ago using a prompt that said, take a poem and set it to music.
Actually, that’s not correct. (After searching in vain for a Dickinson poem that starts thus.)
Now I remember! The prompt was to write a poem in the style of a poet. I wrote this ala Dickinson, then put it to music (which you can link to here).
The Child that hears the Buzz
The Child that hears the Buzz
of bees whose Spirits merge
with sweet Honey/ attunes our ears to Spring
He boldly finds the lowly
worm the Robin in
Her rush may spurn/ upset by Winter’s fling
The daylight spent like
Licorice on tongues
aglow with innocence/ the Night a curtain falls
Unfurling Grace whose hidden
Rooms and servants guard
Against dour Gloom/ until kind Dawn shall call
How time plays with our perception of origins. I had forgotten my part in the poem’s inception! I suppose it is a valid gift, so, Happy Birthday Emily!
“It is quite true what Philosophy says: that Life must be understood backwards. But that makes one forget the other saying: that it must be lived – forwards. The more one ponders this, the more it comes to mean that life in the temporal existence never becomes quite intelligible, precisely because at no moment can I find complete quiet to take the backward-looking position.” – The Diary of Soren Kierkegaard
“We delight in our sensuous involvement with the materials of language, we long to join words to the world – to close the gap between ourselves and things – and we suffer from doubt and anxiety because of our inability to do so.” Lyn Hejinian
It occurs to her in this space, in these particular white walls (only in the bedroom did a smell briefly hearken her back to her past; she did not pursue it), in this, present – (though it isn’t anything like that – i.e. static, rather like a conveyance it keeps moving) is a vastness, though a rather awkward gift it is since it is hard to put to any good use. She thinks it could be pleasant to play You Belong To Me by Patsy Cline on a phonograph but she has neither record nor device so there’s little point in that. How to describe it? A ribbon of butter churning in a fairy tale in which she keeps lifting her face up from the masher or grinder or pulverizer, her task to count the granules, to turn the quernstone, to harness the powderiness, to order the pebbles. Right now the best her story can offer is the company of the baba yaga hag; the trolls always hide their spoils behind the wood shed. Of course, in reality she is not lifting a finger, nor is she dropping crumbs to awaiting mice; it’s just that it’s something to fill the void with, the idea of the scraggly heroine in raggy shawls. And her benefactors and tormentors (like baba yaga one and the same), they are threads leading in all directions. If she only knew how the story unravels.
I bought the book because I was in love with you. But now I cannot read the book because I do not know if I am still in love with you, or if it still makes sense to go on as if I am in love with you. So the book remains a captive on my shelf, for the time being hostage to my confounding and ever-changing sense of things both real and imaginary.
Today I read a great Antonio Damasio interview in which he distinguishes between emotions and feelings, the first coming out of sensation and giving birth to the latter.
“There are certain action programs that are obviously permanently installed in our organs and in our brains so that we can survive, flourish, procreate, and, eventually, die. This is the world of life regulation—homeostasis.”
I’ve always wondered why emotional events play such havoc on our basic functions – sleep, metabolism – and how a loss or betrayal can usher in a fight or flight response.
“We must separate the component that comes out of actions (emotion) from the component that comes out of our perspective on those actions, which is feeling. Curiously, it’s also where the self emerges, and consciousness itself.”
I stumbled upon a playful rendering of this concept today in Maria Irene Fornes’ play, Fefu and her friends.
Cindy: When a person is swept off their feet. . . the feet remain and the person goes off. . . with the broom?
Christina: No. . . when a person is swept off their feet. . . there is no broom.
Cindy: What does the sweeping?
Christina: An emotion. . . a feeling. . .
Cindy: Then emotions have bristles?
Despite the luxury of twofold renewal (totaling a span of 9 weeks!), today I found these two books unmistakably due. With no reprieve in sight I did what any laggard bookworm would do – I opened them!
Priscilla Long’s The Writer’s Portable Mentor, A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life, is a practical gem. In Part I, she urges aspiring writers to write every day without fail for 15 minutes; the value of staying in touch with one’s writerly obsessions is priceless. One can use daily exercise to work on sense observation, or to start on a draft. I liked her tips such as labeling journal entries for future gleanings, and making a point to type out a handwritten draft right away for potential revision. How often do superb first-takes languish between the pages of a journal until some impossibly late date? She also champions a healthy balance between free writing and writing into a specific structure to create a finished piece. She promises that in the course of her book, she will help the aspiring writer develop a strategy to find structures for his or her work.
In my other neglected tome, The Theater of Maria Irene Fornes, edited by Marc Robinson, the first essay opens with a story of Irene and her roommate Susan. The girls are at a cafe in Greenwich Village in Spring of 1961. They plan to hang around and see if anyone invites them to a party. Then Susan discloses that she is bummed because she hasn’t been able to start on the book she wants to write. Irene says, you just need to sit down and start writing! Then, determined to encourage her friend, she turns down a party invitation and insists they go back to their apartment and commence writing. The procrastinating writer is no other than Susan Sontag and her helpful friend, Maria Irene Fornes, changes course that afternoon from painting to playwriting. “I might never have even thought of writing if I hadn’t pretended I was going to show Susan how easy it was.”
Even if I don’t make it past the first essay in either of these books, my take-away is huge. The secret of becoming and remaining a writer is spelled out as clear as day. Write! I wonder what else lies in wait for me to discover in the final moments as my time for exploration runs out?