As a literature major I’d read a novel and go, ah, there’s the metaphor of breaking in and getting out. Indeed the protagonist, it occurred to me, keeps doing that and it’s like I imagine the novelist, in this case Iris Murdoch, is staging it as a central trope. The trope of imprisonment. At the beginning he is being thrown out of an apartment (read, “forced to vacate”). Then he is being literally imprisoned in another apartment he agreed to house-sit. Later he tries to enter the apartment and ends up at the fire escape eavesdropping before making a dramatic getaway when the neighbors called the police. He tries and succeeds in entering the apartment of a man whom he says this novel is about. He also tries and succeeds in gaining entry to the man’s film set. And later had to escape it dramatically. Towards the end he tries and succeeds in gaining entry to a hospital at night, and succeeds in getting away with that man in tow. There is also a dream-like quality because he seems to summon up whoever he wishes to meet, or appears at a pub at the exact time a telegram is being delivered to him. I mean, coincidences. The object of his pursuit, a lady called Anna, is really in love in with the man he says the novel is about. That’s the final denouement. So you know, the theme of the novel is the illusions that we have, that imprison us. Think about it. All the great novels (and lesser known ones) have this theme. Great Expectations. Pride and Prejudice. The Catcher In The Rye. You name it. At the end the hero/heroine matures. When this happens the world feels unreal.
Here’s a quote from the novel I was talking about, Under The Net.
“All work and all love, the search for wealth and fame, the search for truth, life itself, are made up of moments which pass and become nothing. Yet through this shaft of nothings we drive onward with that miraculous vitality that creates our precarious habitations in the past and the future. So we live; a spirit that broods and hovers over the continual death of time, the lost meaning, the unrecaptured moment, the unremembered face, until the final chop chop that ends all our moments and plunges that spirit back into the void from which it came.”
So yea, write about illusions. Or perhaps not even that way, but how the ordinary gets transmogrified when we become truly conscious.
Whaddaya know, it’s mid July. June’s pretty much wedding season. And the holiday season’s not quite over is it? Frankly the past year(s) have been illuminating. In terms of friendships, life, love, writing, whatever. And no it’s not quite over yet. Coz we’re not done living yet. I watched a Ted talk yesterday. The guy talked about human needs. The need for certainty. Sure. The need for uncertainty. Err yes, because life gets boring otherwise. The need to feel significant. Wahoo. The need for connection and love. Connection, yes. Love, too scary. I’ll leave you with a quote from Vladimir Nabokov: “At eighty-five…he saw his decline as a ripening and an apotheosis.” Hope you’re inspired to write already.
It’s already begun–the dying. I meant our parents’ generation. I went to two wakes today. One was that of a college mate’s dad. I read his children’s eulogies which celebrated his life story–a brilliant career as a brigadier-general, a trailblazer of his generation, and a doting dad. Of course life complicates things so there’s a whole other side of the story. And you know what? What redeems all of us in the end is the love that we gave. That’s what people remember you for. Because we’re each of us capable of doing harm to others whether or not we wanted to. Think of your enemies, or those who have done you wrong in some way. It’s hard but we’re called to let go of the hate, perhaps only at some end point, when the person is about to die. The other person who died was Buddhist, and briefly took care of my kids. I remained in gratitude for her care-giving. You could talk about life’s impermanence or its fleeting beauty in your poem as you think about your own life and/or the lives of others.
I don’t know about you guys, but a lot of what I write is improvisation. It’s written on the spot, at one sitting. I’ve had the chance to witness how it’s done in theater too. Improv theater: “in which most or all of what is performed is unplanned or unscripted: created spontaneously by the performers. In its purest form, the dialogue, action, story, and characters are created collaboratively by the players as the improvisation unfolds in present time, without use of an already prepared, written script.” At least that happens at the collaborative stage of creating a script out of nothing for theater. There’s something to be said for randomness, and how that contributes to the final product. So show me how you incorporate random things into your poem.
(Random note: I’m still catching up on my emails, so do not fret if you’ve not heard anything about work submitted. Life is kinda busy right now so give it some time please.)
I know I’d asked for a writing poem. You know, a poem about writing. (Oh I see poems in a bucket, so this is real.) Often it’s language that’s steering us. It shapes a world view. There’re so many competing world views. And yet we own only our own. And believe it to be the true one. What’s your prevailing world view, that’s what I’m asking now, and relate it to writing if possible. Surely when we see the creatures in the world, and how amazing each is (for instance, think of a kangaroo, whose world view must surely rests on those powerful legs), and how different (contrast it with a snail who has a large and very flat foot), wouldn’t you begin to see how just writing names something for us? But do things exist because we speak of them? Of course not. Ultimately everything in the physical world is outside language, is “silent”. The poetic realm tries to address this “silence” too.
Hey guys I’d just come to the end of a book and it’s like coming to the end of the road. In Alice Munro’s stories, typically you get a sense of a full life lived. The characters’ fates are intertwined, and really you get a sense of how their lives were by the persons whom they settle down with and the persons who had crossed their paths and then leave. And the strange twists of fate that meet some characters. You get a sense of poignancy when a partner dies, for instance, or when a daughter abandons a mother. Like all the props changed, know what I mean, and you become a different person almost. Transformation…that’s what life is about. So that’s what your poem’s about.
It’s been a while. My mind’s focusing elsewhere obviously. Yet I do return. Why? For clarity, for discovery, for connecting. Is that what writing does? Does writing serve that kind of purpose? Yes obviously. It clarifies the mud, even if the proposal is …mud itself. Yes. If you’re not muddy you’re not being real. If you’re downright dogmatic, you’re…a stick in the mud. But clarity is a wonderful thing, is it not? Like for days, for years, for decades you’re stuck in some quagmire, and then one day you feel lucid, and the sun is sparkling. It’s a little exaggerated perhaps, but maybe you’re discerning what I’m talking about. And writing? Perhaps it’s a bit like that. That’s something for your poem to address.