Not so sure about the playlist itself, but the description? That resonates…
"I wrote half of Brewster looking out at it, as I’m looking out at it now: the house across the street has a flag nailed vertically to the wall under the porch which I just stuck directly into the novel. But the physical place is just a trellis, and a flimsy one at that; it’s what your imagination hangs on it that matters. I wrote the second half of the novel in a shack in the woods, but by that point Brewster – less the actual place than a feeling, a time – was fully alive in my head. I find that until I’ve got that voice, that feeling – of loneliness, say, or regret, or love – that brings a place alive, I don’t have anything at all.
"On my desk is a framed quote by Sir Philip Sidney that my daughter gave me a few years back: “Fool, said the Muse to me, look in thy heart and write.” Which I’ve tried to do, though I haven’t always liked the things I found there. My point is that while looking out, we’re looking in."
n. the strange wistfulness of used bookstores, which are somehow infused with the passage of time—filled with thousands of old books you’ll never have time to read, each of which is itself locked in its own era, bound and dated and papered over like an old room the author abandoned years ago, a hidden annex littered with thoughts left just as they were on the day they were captured.
- Helene Cixous, The Book of Promethea (via stealingintolanguage)
Woody Allen recently:What people who don’t write don’t understand is that they think you make up the line consciously — but you don’t. It proceeds from your unconscious. So it’s the same surprise to you when it emerges as it is to the audience when the comic says it. I don’t think of the joke and then say it. I say it and then realize what I’ve said. And I laugh at it, because I’m hearing it for the first time myself.
Whenever I find myself in a bout of nonwriting (not writer’s block per se, but an extended period of nonwritingness), I know it’s this. Not a lack of ideas, not a lack of the right space to write, the right drink, the right order, the right methods, the proper instrument, not a deficit of time. It’s simply my conscious getting in the way. I would be better off saying things more wildly, then looking at what I’d said. Do first, think later; many things can benefit from this method — falling in love, taking your first job, speaking up for what you believe in. Write first, think later. Repeat.
And we’re back.
I’m wondering how many times I’ve said that over the past year or so. Seems to have become a cyclical pattern: an interruptive event occurs, then silence. And back again on the other side of making sense of it all with a celebratory post promising renewed investment in the rhythm of posting and reposting. Which continues until the next interruptive event. Meh. It’s life. And sometimes life gets in the way.
A quick update, then. In the past few weeks I have - travelled to Chicago to immerse myself in Brave New Voices, which if you don’t know is pretty much the largest festival of youth poetry in the world - returned to London to find that my mother’s GP had referred her for a pretty serious medical condition (which turned out to be something far less serious, which we found out after a few weeks of confusion and worry…) - dragged myself backwards through a bumpy patch in output (writing poetry)
More detail on some of those points in other posts, possibly. In the meantime, it’s back to work. But before I do, time to hail out a new app I’ve been writing with recently.
If you’re ever looking for an easy way to refute the argument that the iPad is really only any good for consuming media, count the number of text editing applications in the App Store. I’ve tried most of them. Seriously. And while I love WriteRoom, and Writings still has a spot in a folder somewhere, Editorial is the new gold standard. It’s got much of what you need as a writer in the digital age— think Dropbox, snippets and textexpander integration, global search, markdown, an in-app browser for research and so much more. Most tech-savvy writers are making lots of noise about the workflows (in short: there’s an interface that allows you to build macros that extend the functionality built into the app), but I’m even more excited about the support for DropBox versioning. I think I wrote somewhere that I’d love an iPad app that could take advantage of the fact that DropBox captures versions of documents as you work, allowing you to retrieve earlier edits of different drafts, and rendering the need to manually generate new documents for each successive revision of a document obselete. Editorial allows you to access that versioning within the app, complete with a rather handsome comparison tool that allows you to zero in on exactly what’s changed between edits. Hallelujah!
And yes, as is currently vogue, I wrote this post in Editorial. Although this isn’t an advert, and I have no affiliation with Ole Zorn or OMZ Software. Other than loving this particular app.
“Imagine, the whole field of soldiers forgetting their language, and being possessed only with what…
"Imagine, the whole field of soldiers forgetting their language, and being possessed only with what their bodies want most in the end: to dance, and to love. I wonder then, if we would see the field break into a brilliant cavorting where the branches fire upward, and those steel rods peel back the dark cowl of night. Oh, how they would all be illuminated like cathedrals, empty of language, and teeming with sound."
From ‘The Taking of Lead’, Michael Lee (via Rattle)
As writers, if we wish to be contemporary, I think we need to acknowledge that the very nature of the materials that we’re working with—the landscape of language—is very different than it was a few decades ago. It seems to call into question the way we write and the environment into which we’re writing and distributing our works. Not only that, but our entire digital world is made up of alphanumeric language (the 1s and 0s of computing). You know sometimes when you receive a JPEG in an email and it comes in wrong, appearing as garbled text instead of an image? It’s a reminder that all of our media now is made of language: our films, our music, our images, and of course our words. How different this is from analog production, where, if you were somehow able to peel back the emulsion from, say, a photograph, you wouldn’t find a speck of language lurking below the surface. The interesting thing is that now you can open a JPEG in a text editor, dump in a bunch of language, and reopen it as an image, and you’ll find that the image has completely been changed—all as a result of active language. This is so new, and the implications for writing are so profound and paradigmatic. Suddenly, language is material to shape and mold, not only a transparent or invisible medium for communication, business contracts, or telling stories. Language has many dimensions; we’re seeing the materiality of words emerge in new and interesting ways.
“The cruelties and the obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to obsolete dogmas…”
- Robert F Kennedy - Day of Affirmation speech (via Wikipedia)
In Odessa, a new collection of poems by Patricia Kirkpatrick, the self collides with the dismay of the actual. The speaker’s diagnosed with brain cancer, faces divorce, and watches her children leave. The good news is that Kirkpatrick’s precise use of language, humor, and philosophical insight transform such experiences into a sustained and sustaining beauty…
“I think it’s part of the nature of man to start with romance and build to a reality. There’s hardly…”
I think it’s part of the nature of man to start with romance and build to a reality. There’s hardly a scientist or an astronaut I’ve met who wasn’t beholden to some romantic before him who led him to doing something in life.
I think it’s so important to be excited about life. In order to get the facts we have to be excited to go out and get them, and there’s only one way to do that — through romance. We need this thing which makes us sit bolt upright when we are nine or ten and say, ‘I want to go out and devour the world, I want to do these things.’”
- Priceless: Ray Bradbury in conversation with Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke on the cosmos and the human mind. (via explore-blog)
Lovely soc-media workshop for poets in Newcastle. I should really buy shares in Evernote, Apple, Wordpress and Tumblr, or find a way to get on the payroll… Eireann Lorsung (Pinterest), Hollie McNish (YouTube), Charlie Dark (Twitter and Instagram) Sol Rezza (Tumblr) and Roger Robinson (Tumblr) got shout outs for exemplary use of social media for promotional or creative practise. Salute.
I’ve had some lovely experiences through mentoring recently. I’ve served as a mentor for years now, formally and informally, and I’ll be the first to admit that not all of those relationships have been as successful as I would have hoped. When I started, I had very little idea of what it was that I was doing beyond the fact that I had a certain body of experience and a desire to offer that experience to anyone trying to build a similar career that might find it beneficial. That drive has been at the core of a lot of the work I’ve taken on beyond my own writing, from FYI (the live literature information network/hub/platform I established and ran from 1999 to 2009) through to Burn After Reading (the new youth poetry community I’m currently nurturing). If I were more business minded, I’d have probably “monetised” more of those projects, but when it comes to supporting people I’ve always operated on a fairly relaxed principle— I earn my living in a number of other ways; the other projects I invest my time in are ways to give back to a wider community, opportunities to have a more meaningful impact on the sector I work in, or opportunities to directly and positively influence the direction of an individual’s life.
Today, I got a message from one of my mentees[^1] after a supportive telephone meeting we’d had earlier in the week. The message was a thank you for the call, but also appreciation for everything I’ve done in supporting and developing her career. The message was, in part, a reminder to take time out and recognise how valuable the work I do is. I know I’m bad for reflection. I’m constantly on the treadmill toward the next action, goal or milestone. And I know how bad it is, but I rarely (if ever) make the time to step back and value the work that I do. There’s little precedent for that in the culture I was raised in. The Caribbean work ethic I inherited didn’t seem to allow time for self-diagnostic, reflective time. For pause. For evaluation. For acknowledgement. As if the acknowledgement of one’s efforts in supporting the growth and development of someone else’s career is one step on a slippery path that leads to hubris and self-aggrandisement.
Maybe this is specific to the work ethic passed down by the members of my family who provided my models for later life, but I never picked up on any specific celebratory practise or ritual to mark a thing well done. And I that’s something I want to address. How do you celebrate the successes of an ongoing professional relationship? Time to experiment with a few things and figure something out…
[^1] Protégé? I’ve never been 100% comfortable with the word. Protégé always seemed to imply a sense of subservience, which is certainly not something I wanted any of the people I’ve mentored… ****
- Fail Safe: Debbie Millman’s Advice on Courage and the Creative Life | Brain Pickings
Hm. I often turn workshop exercises into “games” - particularly at the discovery or entry level of working with any new group of aspiring writers. Open research strand: ways of applying further understanding of gamification to poetry workshop plans…
GARY PANTER: Yes, but I take so many five-minute naps it might add up to a regular night’s sleep. I wake up every morning at 7:30 and read the paper and drink chocolate milk, then take my daughter to school. I run errands during the day, and tend to get to work at nighttime, going steadily till three in the morning on different things. I put my paintbrush down, and pick up my guitar ten feet away and try out my new flanger pedal for an hour, then I paint for an hour, and then I make something out of chopsticks and flexi-straws, and then I might write a short story. I don’t find that hard to do, it’s just the way I do it. I notice inspiration when it comes by. I don’t sit down at my desk and try to write; rather, I work at something else and then I’ll get an idea for a story and make a note. That’s how I jump from medium to medium. If you keep pushing paint when you’re tired of it, you lose sensitivity. I can only focus on painting for a few hours, so I’ll stop and work on something quite different. Making art, I try to just gently persist, instead of having freak-outs where I’m like, Oh, my god, I’ll never draw again. You are going to draw again, so you might as well relax.
From a Believer interview with Gary Panter (June 2009).
Read poems to 200+ English teachers last night. Lovely audience. Thanks to @poetrydayuk and @natefeed
John Berryman, referring to R P Blackmur; ‘Poets in their Youth’ - a memoir by Eileen Simpson.
First: I have my fingers crossed for a Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows “best of” collection in print form. I’d hop on that Kickstarter train with no hesitation. Second: heard.
I think there are actually few challenges in finding new talent. The talent’s here and it’s accessible. There are, however, challenges to developing this talent because the sector lacks sustainable structures for nurture and career progression, in relation to the many young people, undergraduates and graduates looking for opportunities.
There’s a stasis that needs to be addressed, and the big question of how institutions, small companies like mine and sole traders and freelancers can pool their resources and expertise has yet to be tackled. I’d like to see the sector more joined up, and viewing its different sizes, diversities and interests as an asset and an advantage, an ecology, it can exploit.”
For a time, Melanie (as renaissance one) was my agent, and served as an early support of my emergent career. Looking back, I admire the way she invested her energies in developing audiences for her artists through an international portfolio of commissions and tours. All hail.