Tag Archives: writing

The Karma Abacus: Birthday Blooms

Another year. I used to think of it like it was over, like I’d just completed something, marking an X on the wall like I’d done time. I don’t know why; I just did. But this year I am decidedly feeling like it is a beginning. At some point in the last year I could see the trajectory of my life was not one my heart felt called to anymore. So, I threw a wrench into the works knowing it would insist on change.

I think some era’s in life begin this way—with a sense of feeling life as you’ve known it is coming to an end. Like weeding a garden that’s gone to seed. You can hear something calling to you, a far away bloom, a perfume of future creativity. If I was being honest I would say I am intoxicated with the scent of it already.

Wherever you are, I’m toasting you for reading this blog and I hope to share many more words this year with you than last.

Birthday

It’s that time of year again,

hang my flag, say it’s my day.

Bring your weak lumbar,

your wrecked knee, fading eyebrows and

fear of earthquakes —

 

acknowledge aloneness

assess the years on the

karma abacus, your finger

touching more and more beads

sliding over years one by one

 

insistent, resigned,

a birthday.

 

Still, at night

You have a hunger, a mortal wish

to uncover promises you made to

yourself, so you route around

on the silty floor of the past,

and find your life

stubbornly

still breathing

ready at long last

to be understood.

 

 

 

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The blood jet is poetry, there is no stopping it

The headline is a line from Sylvia Plath’s poem, Kindness. I read it decades ago and it pops in my mind at least once a week still. Usually when I have poems caged in my chest and stuck there behind a lineup of copy I have to write for my day job. I know it’s inevitable I’ll let them out because…the bloodjet is poetry, there is no stopping it.

But what I’ve never done a good job at is sending them along into the world. Specifically, to publishers. I was knocked back, rejected and told I was shite early on in my 20’s and it really just made me feel like I was a terrible writer and though I would often perform my poetry and do plays with poems I stopped sending them out into the world to publishers or anyone else that might be in a position to knock them down and tear a hole in my heart.

That was then. Now I’m shrugging my shoulders and writing like a demon because I’m determined to find an audience. One way I’ve found this week is through Instagram. It’s so immediate and wonderful. You write a little poem and people like it, comment, and voila! Insta-poet.

If you are a proper published poet you are likely sighing and sitting back in your chair and shaking your head at me. And that is just fine. But I know some young kids who don’t care about which medium as long as its digital and will never read your beautifully bound little slim volume in a library. Sad but true. I don’t want to be a forgotten poet at the back of a dusty row of books. So I’m going to fool around with media and the medium a bit. I’m also wanting to do video poems because again, I think these are much more likely to find an audience.

It is fun to write for Instagram–it’s a very tight format, you have to fit them into one or two stanzas tops. If you care to follow me, I’m letting it all out @poemsbymeforyou. Keep in mind they’re for social media–not a literary magazine. Enjoy!

November

You must know the rain

Cannot sound like it did then—

No, it comes down now as ordinary

As a cobbler or librarian, doing a days work

And nothing more. No wild mercury elasticity

To its droplets, no mad bouncing in joy like

A love-sick puppy, laughing under an eave

Dripping down between my breasts as I call you

In Germany, hold the phone up so you can hear its silvery song. 

 

My love. It is still raining.

It no longer rains for us.

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Before it’s too late…

DSCF0672I’ve been transformed. There I’ve said it—it may feel like I’ve just dumped an overblown heap of pseudo wellness speak or new age bullshit on you but this isn’t like that. It is the actual thing of transformation, before the word started being used in mission statements, yoga studio bathrooms or political ads.

What I’m talking about is the sense of slipping out of  your life and into another, only you are in the same body, driving the same car, with mail addressed to where you still live. But suddenly the old gimmick you used for so long to enter into the world is no longer needed, that half-truth you were telling yourself and others, about your life, about moment after moment when your heart’s subliminal, traitorous subtext was screaming at you: I don’t care. I don’t care. 

Gone. All those discouraging voices have disappeared like magic, and what is left is the actual thing you trying to discover, so easily seen now in the outline of buildings , textured and contrasted against the sky; people’s intentions appear undiluted and transparent, like veins you never noticed before. Their agenda so obviously void of you. Agree to disagree? Yes, probably a good idea at this point.

My former life, the one before the transformation, is like a nice but slow patient I must put my arm around and through the crook of its arm and walk to a bench, any old bench in a park say, at dusk. I put my hands on its shoulders and shift it onto the wood, see it firmly seated then say adieu in as cheerful a manner as I can muster.

Walking away, I remind myself change doesn’t come without something—someone— making room for its fruition, and that real transformation is a long haul, only fully complete after it is considered in reflection, a death having occurred of some kind or another.

But I’m talking around the facts. The truth is I went to an intense writing residency for ten days and it changed my life. Or rather, it reminded me of life, the one I used to live, when I wrote and performed my writing all the time. Something so important to my happiness yet year by year I let it go; sometimes on purpose, to prove I could what? Sacrifice? Not be selfish? Be a good mother. Oh, maybe it was to survive. That was it. A lot of it. For years. Like a fog bank that moves in, I could see no other way. And then I spent 10 days with poets and Susan Musgrave. Yeah, if you know of Susan then you’re nodding right now. You get it.

In the book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott talks about just showing up at the blank page to write, chipping away at it, she urges writers to just keep staying in motion, moving towards the moment when you give your attention completely to the doing, even if it feels like you can’t wrap your arms around all you have to, the immensity of the task, its blinding and potentially life threatening call to truth, insurmountable. You write anyway.

You write anyway.

I want the habit, of writing anyway. I want to live a life that calls me to the page each day. That’s what I know now that I didn’t know then. As in a month ago.

The latin roots of transformation are trans meaning “across” and  formare meaning “to form” so I take this to mean that it affects every part of your life, the very nature of your chemical makeup is somehow altered, and a new form comes into being.

I am so grateful for the wakening to go across and to form. To have the just-in-time love affair with my own life again, my poems, before it was too late.

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When a writer has had enough of words

I am craving white space on the page. Only what remains after the burning of many words can be left, and even then it should be a shadow and wake no emotion.

The crowing of words from every digital precipice is all together too much noise ‘signifying nothing’.I rest my eyes on the white snow outside, turn my head to eliminate the shivering arms of a maple.

The cat turns to me as though to say, when will we rest?

I answer, soon, soon. The holidays are soon.

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Disregard Ups and Downs and Get On With Writing

I am feeling very fortunate that I have the rest of the week to write. Whatever I want. With no one lurking in the shadows with a particular agenda, criticism, or secret need for my words. They will be entirely mine to do with them as I please! Hooray! It sounds bucolic but it will be a lot of work as you can well see I’ve not been writing much as of late. Having a day job really puts a crimp in one’s writing but that is the age-old conundrum of any writer. I have a friend who is writing a novel and subsists on packaged noodles and a part-time job that doesn’t nearly pay enough to live even close to the poverty line. But he is a dedicated writer and finish his novel he will. I can’t say the same for myself. But while my son still lives with me, I’m obligated to put a good shelter over our heads and write when and where I can.

Recently, I picked up the journals of Virginia Woolf for inspiration and was once again struck by the similarity in her challenges as I myself have in 2013 as a woman trying to carve out a writing life. One quote struck me in particular, as it nailed what I think writers often feel–that sense of total isolation that is all the more acute if the writer isn’t published far and wide. Or, at all.

 “Unpraised, I find it hard to start writing in the morning; but the dejection lasts only 30 minutes, and once I start I forget all about it. One should aim, seriously, at disregarding ups and downs; a compliment here, a silence there;…the central fact remains stable, which is the fact of my own pleasure in the art.”

As a writer, you inevitably ask yourself, what is the point? Often several times a week, or, if it is a particularly bad writing day, every few seconds. But then you are drawn into your stories and characters and realize that feeling is like no other and that the ‘pleasure in the art’ is the entire point.

So, in other words, best to just get on with it.

To that end, I am more than halfway through, at long last, a volume of poetry I will be giving directly to readers (yes, that’s you!). I have no patience anymore to run around begging publishers to read me, read me, read me so taking Amanda Palmer’s model, I’ll simply give it away and see if I get donations. What do you think of that idea? I think it is rather 2014 and I think Virginia would support it entirely. The title of the collection is called ‘Love Poems. Kind of’. Because I can’t honestly–truthfully–offer a collection of love poems and not include the denouement of those love stories. Also, I think it is a little humorous to offer this for February as a kind of tongue-in-cheek nod to all those over-the-top romantic gestures dramatized in media that are solely aimed at selling products. So, hopefully dear reader you will download it and have a good read with some heart-shaped chocolates by yours side and a wry smile or two as well.

In the meantime, I’m putting my writing boots on and escaping to forage deep in the landscape of my imagination until I have to face reality on Jan. 6th. To all of you who’ve read my words, shared your thoughts, and patiently put up with my random blogging schedule and content, I thank you and wish you– from my heart to yours–a lovely, blessed new year.

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Inspiration Through a Blue Lens

I ran away from my life this weekend and it felt wonderful. I admire people who can stay put for decades in their lives, I do, but I can only take it for so long. I suppose I always find myself running away to a hotel alone because I’m searching for–what? Maybe it’s the closest thing to parents I have. Isn’t that sad you are thinking. Not really. I was an orphan by the time I was 30 and hotels for me have always been a place I felt comforted and at ease. It may also be I can have guaranteed uninterrupted silence and writing time in a hotel room. Ironically, that is harder and harder to come by it seems now that I write for a living during daylight hours.

IMG_6076

But perhaps it isn’t so much as running away as a kind of returning. Returning to what is nudging me from under the surface while I race around life, never stopping long enough to listen to what is calling to me. For a writer, it is impossible not to start to resent all the noise keeping you from the stories that are quietly whispering for your attention. It was heaven to stare out at the city, think about my novel and lose track of time

At the end of my little tryst with myself, I didn’t feel like going back to real life  just yet and instead went to see the Palme d’Or winning movie, Blue is the Warmest Colour. I’m still in a state of speechlessness from this movie but all I can say is if you want to see a brilliant exploration of human love and the complex, interior landscape of what a broken heart looks like laid open in all its fragmented, shattered pieces, then rush to your theatre and see it before it goes to the small screen. There are few movies where an entire theatre weeps in unison with understanding and sorrow over the protagonist’s fate; this is one of them. Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux who play the couple in the movie, clearly suffered during the making of it. After the production they would both comment on the horrendous conditions, the grueling emotional toll of the love scenes, and the uncharted territory of making a film about love between two women when both were heterosexual. In an unprecedented move, the jury at Cannes awarded both actresses and the director with the best picture award. When you see this story you will understand why. Here is a scene that captures their first kiss, which anyone can relate to as it contains all the emotions of new love so poignantly in a simple moment.

Seeing Blue is the Warmest Colour reminded me that nothing of real artistic worth comes without some suffering. If it is fluid, easy to buy, grab, consume, take or give away, it is a story that can’t affect you. When I left the theatre , still wiping my face from my tears, I realized that story would stay with me forever. I hope life gives me the time to write something of worth. I won’t mind suffering for it.

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Single-Chic and the Urgency of Living Well

I just finished a book called “The Art of Sleeping Alone” by Sophie Fontanel. It has been translated from French and I can just sense a lot was lost in that process. Hidden there is a chic and stylish single woman but quite often throughout the book she does not negotiate the important boundary between haughtiness and anger. There is a significant difference in tone.

I was interested in it for two reasons: I sleep alone and her first run of the novel sold 150,000 in like three days in France. I’ve been single now since January, 2012. And yes, you’re reading the subtext correct there. After the first few months of scissor-pain after the breakup, I began to feel something happening. It felt like when you come in out of a very bad storm and begin to unwrap your scarf, the rings releasing from your neck, the placing of your coat over a hook while simultaneously kicking off boots, letting your bag slump to the floor and finally sit down. The warmth settles deep into a long sigh, your hair sits happily limp, unkempt, real against your ruddy cheeks.

Indeed, you are home.

Why had this never happened before? Why hadn’t I gone inside? Why had I kept looking, furtively outside, running down the street calling out to someone else when all along my home waited for me, unknown to my own searching self?

In her book, Sophie Fontanel takes an often calculating, critical view of couples and distances herself so far from them that it tastes a little bitter at times. I don’t feel that way at all. I see them as they walk past me arm in arm, hand in hand, but barely, as though they are the same as the cashier or child walking by or a tree to be honest. It’s wonderful. I am completely content being alone and having all of my life for myself to consume now.

Gloria Steinem once said that we eventually grow up to become the men we wanted to marry. I’m not sure my image of a husband was ever that healthy but I do know when I decided to marry myself last year in Paris it felt like the right thing to do. Buy a ring, make a commitment to my life, and get on with it.

Recently, a girlfriend of mine, who is also single, didn’t want to go to visit a certain town that I also wasn’t too hip to visit. We both had the same reason: old boyfriend memories.

I said, then that is exactly where we’ll go. It is ours! We will eat, drink, dance, and celebrate. La vie est courte!

There’s a certain chicness that comes with being totally confident and comfortable in one’s skin and ironically, that is what I found missing in Sophie Fontanel’s new novel. I thought she would have had more Parisian chic between the sheets.

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