explaining much, explaining nothing...

If I were to attempt a description of my own writing – I would have to use the word landscape. There are birds, rivers, mountains, the sea... But I must add that it’s a landscape that’s not limited to nature. The landscape is often contrived or already existent. The setting is usually one that is viewed rather than one that is traversed. And it’s usually empty. What that says about me as a writer, I’m sure, must explain much – though not to me. I don’t try to get at that. If you move too close to something, the perspective disappears. Maybe it’s too fragile.

One of my earliest and most vivid memories – I must have been three, maybe four – is my looking through, carrying around, or always having close by… my father’s college text Art History of the Western World when he was a student at Florida Southern. I became lost in those paintings, the photographs, the sculptures. What was most fascinating was not that the pieces of art put me in another place – it was that places inside me opened. And that was phenomenal for me at that time in my life.

Way leads on to way, as Frost writes, and I found myself approaching film, for example, in the same way. I wouldn’t really – and still don’t – watch a film. I study a film. I’ve never been able to approach any of the arts from the point of entertainment. I don’t write to entertain; I don’t read to be entertained. I don’t want a good read. I don’t want just to listen to good music. I do want the world(s) of music all around me. If I’m in the right place, something gets at me, and that makes me who I am.

It makes since, then, that my own work unfolds in a few phases or gatherings: film, art, music, literature. That may be a weakness – I can’t say – but I can’t seem to break free of that, and I’m not certain that I want to. My world – maybe even my life – is a reaction to, an understanding of, a going into the arts. Always has been. Instead of creating a new world for a protagonist, I place characters inside an already created world. A view from inside a film. A piece of music. Reaction to painting. And so on. Many of the people in my works are dead. But, reality is such a difficult notion to approach. The reality in my head may be the blues singer’s death in 1938. Or at least my take on that death.

I do remember that Stanley Kunitz said that poets don’t really (or shouldn’t would be more clear) choose the subjects of their poems. The poem chooses the pen, chooses the writer. I rest in that. Call it surrender, call it giving in, call it going into. So be it. Here I go.


Pris said...

And you're going just great!

Anna G Raman said...

What are your thoughts on writing studios?

I agree, that the poem does choose the writer. I think its a matter of time, and listening to that voice as many call it. To me, this is very hard in a workshop or at a set place and time.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

Thanks for the read, Pris.

And Anna, I've never been a part of a writer's studio, but I would assume its similarity to a writer's group. Both would have an emphasis on place and people. A writer's retreat, which is more solitary in nature - though poets who attend do gather - can be both necessary and effective. A writers' workshop, on the other hand, is another form - though I must say that I find it limited in its satisfaction for me. Years ago I attended workshops - working with a wide range of poets. A workshop is only as good as the presenter. Some fine poets lead terrible workshops. For the most part, I find them too limited, too forced into certain directions, and unable to reach me completely.

I prefer a writers' group. A number of years ago I joined one a close, but fairly large group - at times 10-12, the number did settle into 6-7. That held for years. Then many of us moved away, and the group splintered.

About three years ago, three of us brought it back, and we've stayed at three and it's perfect for me just now.

The poetic voice can certainly gain from exposure to different methods, readers, and work, but the danger is that it becomes too influenced, and begins to lose its individuality. Some poets are not affected this way, but my guess is that they are few.

Samller groups - if there is a genuine working relationship that isn't afraid to say good or bad - can help the poet grow in such a strong way.

Whatever the method or setting, it must not dictate to the individual voice.

Here's the thing - a poem tugs at me (and I'll direct this to me), and if I listen and move with it, a poem can emerge. If I don't act on that tug, it goes, and it doesn't come back. Other poems? Yes. But not that one moment, not that one poem.

Thanks for the read, Anna.