Thursday, May 19, 2011
Friday, May 06, 2011
In the Carmen of the Martyrs,
with the statues in the courtyard
whose heads and hands were taken,
in the burden of the sun;
And I remember being there, Granada in September on the way to the Alhambra, that last summer of college. It’s a sun-warmed memory of a glorious summer, a perfect prelude, uncontaminated by any gloom. The song is perhaps her most heart-wrenchingly sad, all the more so because it denies none of the beauty of the moment. There is no anger in it, nothing but the shadows of trees, the loveliness of something lost and worth remembering.
those possibilities within her sight,
with no way of coming true.
Some things just don't get through
into this world , although they try.
As always, it is simple and perfect, complete in its solitude.
I had come to meet you
with a question in my footsteps.
I was going up the hillside
and the journey just begun.
If growing up is learning your mortality, it is also growing into the meaning of the world around you, and seeing the pain and loss in the world as well as its glory. It is realising that that glory is so often built upon the suffering, and no less valuable for it; perhaps more valuable. So here’s my modest aspiration: to live up to that ability to not let the good things be poisoned by the bad.
All I know of you
is in my memory
All I ask is you
And to remember.
Sunday, May 01, 2011
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Writing has, in fact, gotten me through a few dark nights of the soul, in an unexpected way. It has set a standard for me that has been both higher (get out of your head, challenge yourself, try writing differently, and about different topics) and lower (write! just write. Worry about the rest later). I will have to keep doing it, and having the discipline to do so will be hard for a while. Still, I come back to it again and again. It reminds me of my guitar - a failed experiment - teacher's definition of musician. She said that being a musician is not about whether you have talent, or about what fame you achieve. It is about whether you come back to it throughout your life, work at it, and give yourself a chance to learn.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
As the end of my writing experiment comes into view, an experiment which has at least yielded a short story, it occurs to me that in spite of a degree, well, two, in English lit, I can't analyse writing worth anything. Oh I can make stuff up, interpret away until I'm halfway through a Ph.D., but doing the truly writerly thing of looking a the cogs and wheels is very hard for me. Give me an exercise and I will write with a good understanding of what I am doing, but I am terrible at understanding other people's writing, and really even my own when I write freely, and am scrambling to acquire a vocabulary to do so. Yet I have control, I am confident in how I use the tools I have. My effects, for the most part, are conveyed as intended.
At the the end of the day I feel like someone in that episode of Blackadder with Tom Baker as the legless captain saying "My lady, you have a woman's brain!"
Friday, April 22, 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
Ah yes, splendid. Guests. Jolly good. No eggs for breakfast. No matter. Yes, yes. Four, no, five. Not a problem at all. May run out of milk though. Yes. No matter. We’ll make do. Cornflakes. Must have cornflakes somewhere. Madeleine must have put them somewhere. Yes. She moves things, Madeleine does. Lovely girl. A little discombobulated. Yes. A trifle disorganized. But charming. Toast, surely there is some toast. Ho hum. Out of bacon, last of it sizzling. Cast iron pan. Gussie handling it. Not good with food, Gussie. Not so much. Charming chap though, positively charming. Better move those bottles. Might knock them over. Hm. Champagne. That was the last. Didn’t mind them drinking it yesterday. No, don’t begrudge it at all. Only that was the last. Did I get any? I believe I did not. Still, they were lovely company. A little loud. But lovely. Very spirited. Still, it was a jolly good time. Few stains on the carpet. It’s quite fine. Yes. Red wine.
Still, mustn’t complain. Wouldn’t do. Wouldn’t do at all. Better fetch some more bacon. Yes. Get some air. Get some fresh air. Bacon too. Perhaps some milk. A few eggs. A nice long walk. Enjoy the season. Top notch day. Sunny. Yes. A brilliant day. Wander a little. Bit of quiet. Wouldn’t do though. Wouldn’t do to abandon the guests. Not at all done. Not a bit of it. Still, a bit of quiet. Would be quite good. Quiet. Bit of silence.
Better get that bacon.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Intellect, rationality, is a wonderful thing. Like a tool, you can hone it, perfect its use, guide it, after much practice, with ease. It is a measurement. I have spent much time with people who believe in this tool, a very fine tool. I grew up in the belief that it – ratio, science – was the small light in a vast darkness. So it is. I had not fully grasped the meaning of that metaphor though, until I bumped up against it again and again for a long time.
In the dark, you must sometimes turn away from the light to see better. This does not diminish its value; without it you would see nothing at all. But sometimes it is best to keep it at your back, and let your eyes adjust to the dark to see more clearly. So reason lights up human nature, but cannot be used by staring into the light. Instead I have turned away from it, knowing it there in the background from the glow it cast, but looking out into the darkness.
I have worked hard, this last year, at moving rational knowledge into my heart, accepting that rational thought is not what directs my emotions. Unless I can understand with my heart as well as my head, my reason desintegrates into rationalisation. My intellect alone is easily confused, easily lost in the fray. Perhaps mine is simply not strong enough. So instead I have simply put in the dumb work of self-development – writing every day, regardless of inspiration, doing tai chi even when I don’t feel relaxed, going for walks when it’s cold. The road to personal progress for me has been to put in the hours (some of the time...) and not think about the outcome. I find it always pays off when I stick with it – but never when I expect it or how I expect it. Most often this practice helps when I fail most dramatically, or am most disappointed. It’s when I learn the most. Beckett was right – and thanks again to Evan for the quote – “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Funny how that quote become less depressing every time I read it, and every time I go through the same mistakes and learn a little more, and fail a little better.
This weekend I finally made the link between Edgar Allen Poe and The Wire, that is to say, I visited the Poe House. The Poe House is located in a neighbourhood so bad as to be iconic. You see, it is right next to the Poe Homes, a social housing project from years gone by made famous by David Simon’s observation that why yes, there’s an awful lot of crime there. The Poe House – an impossibly teensy house closely guarded by the unnecessarily defensive curator – is a sort of marvel. A marvel of Baltimore-style loss of opportunity, that is, though there is some Poe-esque morbid charm to it. Surely someone, hell, why not David Simon, can do some bloody fundraising for this place, knock down some of the condemned houses, build a visitor center and bring some money into this godforsaken neighbourhood? Surely Poe is famous enough to deserve better than a badly edited snowy tape from the eighties? As it is, it inspires enough people to brave the area (on foot!), the erratic opening hours and the wait in front of the closed door. Surely Baltimore can do better, even in these dour times.
I propose a combo Poe/Wire tour. I think it’s a natural fit, I really do. Death, mystery, detective, work, suffering, drugs, crime – it goes down well enough round here. We have the crime and drugs anyway, why not make the most of it? Worked for David Simon. Who knows, we could maybe even spend some of the money on making some of these places safer. Let’s make it a goal – let’s aim to make drugs and crime the future tourist fallacy of Baltimore. Let’s aim to have well made-up actors posing as junkies for lack of real ones by the year 2024.
In other news, gorramit, I’m ignoring the news because it if so hatefully idiotic, and because the Dems are such gorram idiots. Someone hand me a wet towel please, I have some people I need to smack with it. This is making me nostalgic for when the other people were being the fools.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
So I made it back from the Golden West safely - it was lovely out there, lovely to get a break from the thisness of life and do something else for a while. Even for the ten minutes at the end of the day spent walking by the water it would have been worth it. As it was, there were more merits to the trip, most of which are work related and obscure. Salient fact: I now somewhat miraculously have a very rough draft of an actual story. Not sure what to make of that,but one must suppose that it is a good thing.
It is spring. Chilly, but spring - my house is filled with hyacinths and peonies and there is nothing quite like coming home to the slight smell of hyacinths emanating from your front door.
Hope yours is nice too.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Anyway, off with me.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
I am in Richmond, former capital of the confederacy, where spring has already started, and yes, I have been sticking to my plan of doing something creative every day. The creative thing has mostly been the same thing, which is a little dull, I admit, but it has been done - the project continues as I write. Slowly, slowly, a little to my dismay, but all the same, I now have five pieces of writing, however modest, however unfinished in some cases, as compared to the zero I had done in the n months before. It seems to involve a lot of food, and by that I mean a lot of writing about food. It is, I suppose, what comes to mind.
There hasn't been much time for other fun stuff, between the work travel coming up, general work craziness, the volunteer board work, and my standing commitments. I regret that, but it is nice to find that even so I can still find the time to do this, though it reminds me of Virginia Woolf and her room of one's own - I have the room, but so little time to myself that I end up writing in other people's rooms, like today with this guest broadcast from Richmond, where I am staying with a friend. It has blossoms and nice weather, and that has gone a ways in helping my obsessive mind leave well alone for a little bit. I needed it, though I really didn't have the time for it.
Friday, March 11, 2011
Thursday, March 10, 2011
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us"
I can never forget T.S. Eliot at the beginning of this time of discipline and observance.
It will be hard this year to live up to my commitment. I have started. Just a little bit, a little tiny start of a story, a something, a small, curled up thing. But a thing, something of mine.
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Monday, March 07, 2011
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Finally, Eclipse would be quite funny if it weren't so annoying.
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
This year’s plan, which I have just decided on/stolen, is that from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday, I will take a leaf out of Wil Wheaton’s proverbial book and Do Something Creative Every Day. What’s more, I will do something creative every day, and I will tell you about it. You can be my unkind audience. If I am cooking/baking something new, I will share pictures; if I write I will let you know; if I make a diorama, I’ll be sure to post it. And it’ll be practice, it’ll be an exercise in challenging myself every day.
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
“Life is difficult.”
It’s the first sentence of The Road Less Travelled. And it is, and the tool psychiatrist author is right when he says it is the making of us, any of us, that the difficulties and problem solving are what defines our discipline and courage.
I hate it when the self-help books are right. It is odd, I guess, for me to believe that T.S. Eliot’s poetry changed my life, but to find myself unable to credit any of the books intended to change lives with anything but quackery.
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Did I get saved by Elvis? Isn’t that why people go to Graceland? To be redeemed? I sat with him for a while, looking at all the birthday wishes. The house, after all this time, doesn’t feel lived in, but does feel like a real home, not a rich person’s megalomaniac imaginings. It was unexpected. Not redemption; but a break, a blissful interlude in the unseasonably warm weather. Reality is a little sharper afterwards – in focus and likely to give you cuts.
Oh Elvis, oh delectable Ten, love is not about being saved, extracted from the current mess. Love is about living the mess and knowing why, and trying to do it with grace, trying to learn, trying to love what you have here and now. But Ten, can we see the ’68 special close up? Reality is shored up by dreams after all, and the stamina is all in knowing when –and how - to take a break.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Saturday, January 15, 2011
So this is it, my evening off. Enjoy yours.
Monday, January 10, 2011
It would appear that it is. I must console myself with tea and crumpets, and maybe some Blackadder now that I'm through listening to Stephen Fry.
Friday, January 07, 2011
I keep trying to write, write here, for all the little that it matters, and all I manage is labyrinthine thoughts and abominable abstraction. As I read about Oscar Wilde’s books and Stephen Fry’s life, I am reminded of something, someone I was (17 and 20 respectively) when these people were my heroes and it surprises me to find my beloved quiet hero in Fry’s narrative – E.M. Forster. I know I’ve written about Forster before, he of the Merchant Ivory melancholy films, but I hold him in high esteem as I do George Orwell for brilliant feeling rather than brilliant writing. E.M. Forster, not truly a brilliant writer, is enshrined – yes, enshrined, with his own set of lights and flowers – in my heart as the first person to show me what surviving your own confusion looks like. It was and is an inspiring feat. Maybe it’s time to re-read Maurice again. Whenever I see the old Penguin edition, which isn’t very often, I remember how it seduced me, and how I picked it up gently and took it home with me and read it in a night. It’s why I own multiple copies – it would be unkind to leave it there, stranded in a second-hand bookstore.
It reminds me of when I read Ruskin and Pater and J.K. Huysmans (oh terrible, painful) and Keats – oh I miss my little books of Keats – and all of the mixed bag of my love of 19th century lit, which like an old habit I forget most days now.
(As I listen to Stephen Fry, it occurs to me that he uses a mechanism I know very well, a negative self-talk I recognize – did I really just write “negative self-talk”? – when he talks about cheating to pass exams. When he says “cheating” he really means “understanding exactly what is required, and then doing what is needed” which is surely a skill worth crediting? But like all people with low self esteem, the skill he has is always silly and trifling compared to the one he hasn’t got. He has intelligence, insight and excellent writing skills; but like all of us with low self esteem, he is only an imposter, never the real thing, compared to, oh, someone over there who looks like he really gets it.)