Posts tagged ‘inspiration’

February 11, 2017

Fire Flower (A sonnet)

manikinfireflower

Fire Flower
(A sonnet)

If my eyes were dreams, I’d need no sleep
to picture her face in the light or in the dark.
Memories of her touch would linger for weeks,
not minutes, to soothe my non-poetic parts.
But without the help of imagination’s magic,
I’d drown in ink or lose the fire flower light
that saves all my inspiration from its tragic.
Her eyes might make my darkness take flight,
but eyes are not dreams, they see bright hues
and so lose to dark or to ears with fine hearing.
I’m left with a cold chair, a guitar, and the blues
to pray her ears love my muse without judging.
Imaginary stories don’t warm me like tea,
but their leaves
reveal light’s fortune in thee.

(Art by Anne Abrams)

August 10, 2016

Un-Remembered, a poem to remember

Mannequin:AAbrams

Un-Remembered

I memorize the lines sculpted
by your face into my fingers, but
I can’t memorize words of poems.
If my literary memory loss tastes
like freedom to my speech today,
why can’t I tell you I love you?

If I only memorize love in songs,
I’m pleased by the lack of memory
that forces me to eternally invent.
I must re-touch each point of view,
but un-remember each one, or fail
to allow imagination to draft it all.

To quote Chekhov or Shakespeare
sublimes me like a new-lover kiss,
a finger-kiss touch on Dad’s casket,
or a kiss-off for an unloved poet, yet
the words of other writers lose me.
So I need deep memories of touch
and agile notes of melody to know
how your kiss tastes across a room.
I need your history from A to Z
to touch your future from Z to A.

I can’t memorize words of poems.
I’m pleased by a lack of memory.
Laugh, if you’ve heard this before.

(Art by Anne Abrams)

 

February 15, 2012

Notes on Being an Artist

How My Writing Frees Itself

A talented young writer recently asked me for some support and I dashed off a letter to her and I tried to explain, just how I, myself, managed to keep working day after day, and year after year. That inspired me to come up with a list of ways I support myself. This is my list:

• The more I become myself as an artist, the less I ask other people how or what I should write.
• What other people think about my writing is not important.
• What I think about my own writing, is not that important.
• Each day I sit down and tell my mind to shut up. I sit quietly for twenty minutes and then write what my inner self guides me to. It asks me to consider very difficult things in my own life, my thinking, and in my memories. That’s as it’s supposed to be.
• I hope my writing is a sharing from my most honest self. If I don’t have that in me, I’ll never share much value as an artist.
• I don’t think being an artist is easy: that I’ve had a difficult life so far, is to my advantage. It’s made me quite human, and that’s all there is to write about anyway.
• An artist’s sensitivity is all he or she is. In one sense a true artist is the bravest kind of person. No one wanted to hear Jesus say “love your enemy,” that was too brave. No one wanted to hear Buddha say: “Give up all your money, the only value is spiritual.” Neither one published anything, but we have to read their words all the time because they got the voice right. It’s an inside job, I’m afraid.
• I look in the mirror and I can tell myself one great fact: “I did not give up on myself—I love that about me.”
• I don’t listen to anyone who tells me what I should do with my art. I don’t even listen to myself, because many of those voices I hear in my head are only echoes of negativity that have been doing their push-ups for many years.
• Be unique, be yourself, be weird, be fabulous. I don’t have to try to do that, I just let myself go.

February 2, 2012

How I Create History within a “Live” Story

How I Create History within a “Live” Story . . . or How I Create a More Intimate Close-Third-Person Point-of-View

I’m rewriting a novel of mine to try to create a style that brings the reader closer to the heart of my story. The story is told in both first-person and third-person point-of-views, using what James Wood calls the “free indirect style,” which is also called “close third-person.” The problem that arose with the story is that there seemed to be too much distance between the first-person narrator and the third-person narrator. In the first case the reader lives in the action and the mind of the main character. In the third-person case my first draft has the narrator standing well back from the present scene and also standing well back in time (as if he was telling stories from his youth, which he is doing as a device for the tale). This works on some level because it’s a historical novel and the “story” is written from the journals of the first-person narrator. On another level, as the story unfolds, there is a disconnect between the “alive-ness” of the story as told by the first-person voice and the dispassionate voice of the third-person narration. The effect produced in this contrast could be almost one of boredom, I’m afraid—that the third-person voice gets in the way of the story.

For me, it is a lot of work to change a mode of writing I’ve used for many years now. It does not seem to come intuitively. At least not yet. I’m removing any judgmental language and I’m removing anything that relates directly to a time-period outside of the action. Is there anything you do in a novel to relate complex action to its time period without sounding like some documentary narrating voice?

January 15, 2012

The Work of Writing and Friends

The Work of Writing and Friends

WORK IS MEMORY: I was reminded by a writer friend of mine today about the struggle to work at writing when it is going poorly or not at all. It is an easy reminder for me because mine has not been going well recently. You can tell by my increased attention to my website here. I was also reminded by an opinion piece in The Times. Susan Cain writes: “One explanation for these findings is that introverts are comfortable working alone—and solitude is a catalyst to innovation. As the influential psychologist Hans Eysenck observed, introversion fosters creativity by “concentrating the mind on the tasks in hand, and preventing the dissipation of energy on social and sexual matters unrelated to work.” What did help me today was offering my time to help her by remembering my own experience earlier in my own career.

WORK IS PRACTICE: The best thing you can do is show up for it every day, because like any art, much of it takes place between sessions at the page and much of it takes place in the subconscious. I just wrote a paragraph about my main character in my Cuban novel where he imagines that his skin has turned dark overnight. It’s actually the first night he spends together with Tesora, and the vision signifies to him how shallow his prejudice against Africans had been: his mind is blown and his skin is now brown.

WORK IS CRITICISM: Yes, it’s hard to take criticism, but writing is a form of conversation, so feedback is important. Someone once said that whenever someone tells you a piece of your writing doesn’t work, the critic is probably right—at the same time that person, when they tell you how to fix it, they’re almost always wrong. You must stick to that inner self who knows the truth, whatever that is. Take time to sit quietly every day to listen to your inner voice (don’t worry if it sounds exactly like silence). No one can read the vision behind the piece you write.

WORK IS LISTENING: And to show up every day, is also to be a part of that audience yourself. You change and your point of view changes a bit every day, so you can be a better critic for yourself. One of my critics, a young Japanese woman, who writes urban fantasy, is someone I picked who would be far from my own point of view, certainly. She expects a whole different thing from writing—more present-tense action. Me, I think action is best emphasized by pauses, like music uses it to produce rhythm and cadence. I still enjoy reading books who were born in the 1800s. Plus, I have a propensity to enjoy and accomplish a certain lyricism. I enjoy reading it, and I enjoy creating it, too. So way to hang in there, writers: who told you writing was easy?  It’s simple enough; you just stare at the page until blood forms on your forehead: no problem.

WORK IS COLLABORATING: Writing with a partner right there at your side can be helpful too. For a whole year, once a week, I trekked down to the Reading Room of the Boston Public Library and met a friend and we both wrote for a few hours and then had tea to congratulate each other. It was a wonderful way to learn how to show up for the work. Writing regularly helps you to feel good about yourself, even when that time is not a big number. Other things always get in the way: keep writing and feel good about that. I wrote much of one novel commuting on a bus, surrounded by black high school kids yelling and blasting music. At first I thought it would be impossible to write like that, but then it just became part of my routine like the Boston Public Library. Years later it gave me the idea for my last novel with the plot involving a Scottish boy marooned in an all-African Cuban town. Did you ever hear the phrase, “acceptance is the answer to all my problems”? That also applies to writing as well.

November 17, 2011

How to Write a Mashup Novel

A mashup is, of course, the putting together (or mashing) of separate elements to create a whole unique piece of art. The term is usually used in music and was pioneered by Hip Hop which uses it extensively. Has it ever been done successfully with a novel? Will I try to achieve that?

I’ve got two projects: 1. a once-finished novel that is “trunked” or out of circulation, and 2. An early work-in-progress, WIP, with two new characters but no structure. Novel 1, I’ve found is a mess because when I indulgently tried to insert the character of my Ex into the narrative and when the 3rd person POV of the novel tried to read her mind . . . it failed. The best I could do at the time was take out all that material (12k words), but now I’ve got a story like a 3-legged table. My proposal would be to create a mashup by inserting a new character from the WIP in its place. I’ve never done anything this radical before. I’m not sure how inserting new material into an older narrative would work. It’s not a traditional mashup, if there is such a thing, but it would be a challenge. It’s a method to consider.

November 12, 2011

Who Is The Dead String?

I might be a dead string now, but I don’t want to be. I don’t want to die alone. I don’t want to die before I’ve had a chance to live on my own. I want someone, anyone, someone real, to know who I am at last. I want to sing so that someone feels me, hears my voice. I want to sing out like Jimi Hendrix played and play guitar like Janis Joplin sang. I want that someone to listen and then put his head down and cry. Then I will know.

November 6, 2011

Nina Diaz of Girl in a Coma Inspires a Novel

As my upper mind digests my unconscious mind in search of the next right story, my curiosity throws me full-tilt into some music to latch onto. I know my new novel is going to involve music so my guitar has been dusted off and I’m practicing as if I will soon get back on stage to torture the ears of Cambridge. I am also searching for the inspiration in a female character to feature in the plot. I think I’ve found her. She is Nina Diaz of Girl in a Coma. Her new album with the band is called “Exits and All the Rest” and is just out. If you hurry over to NPR site here, you’ll get a listen to the whole album. It should still be us for a few days. After that, you could buy it or search on YouTube. I’ve heard it several times now, and am learning to play and sing “Smart,” a cut from the album. She writes: “And do you ever start to wonder / what’s it like to be alone / to sit and stare and ponder / living a life that’s not your own?” That’s a good question to hang a song upon—and perhaps one appropriate for a novel. We shall see. Enjoy—and keep bugging me to start and finish the novel.

November 3, 2011

Swimming to the Cambodia Inside his Readers

In “Swimming to Cambodia,” the monologue theater piece that became a popular movie, Spalding Gray plays Woody Allen’s oft-portrayed, anxiety-stifled character better than Allen ever could. The audience’s fascination may come from the conviction that Spalding Gray is not acting, but telling the truth, and he is. Although the genesis of his story may be seem spontaneous, the monologue is indeed as well-written as it is truthful.

The deeper fascination for the audience is the realization that we see through the character and the actor into the naked mind of the man called Gray with both dread and sympathy. Though we see that a person who is seriously neurotic or depressed is not us, the fascination grows because his character draws a picture so completely. In “Cambodia” Gray’s acting is equal to his writing ability.

Now, in ‘The Journals of Spalding Gray’ a review by Ron Rosenbaum of Gray’s previously unpublished personal story, we find the truth of it. Rosenbaum says: “It’s distressing to read the way happiness generates sadness and terror in Gray’s psyche, because his work could be the source of so much pleasure to his audiences.” Not that Bob Dylan ever accomplished any success as a poet, but he once said “A poet is a naked man.” I think that applies to Spalding Gray in his journals. See for yourself in this excerpt from the book which is now available for us to read: here.

October 27, 2011

Was It Christopher Fry, and Not Shakespeare, Who Wrote the Plays?

How was it that Christopher Fry, and not the man called Shakespeare, wrote the plays? Did he time-shift himself back in time to the year 1600 and compose the plays in retrospect? If so, how did he become so literate in theatre without a former Shakespeare to teach him thus? How is this a good premise for a movie?

I mean, not even Shakespeare himself knew who he was: you can tell by the scripts. “To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows / . . . For in that sleep of death what dreams may come.” This writer had no idea who he was—that’s why he wrote the plays. He wrote them to find out. Every writer is a huge mystery to himself and that’s why he writes. The spark of human imagination is only touched off when imagination and hands come together in the act of writing. The imagination sparks words which sparks memory which sparks more words which sparks dreams which sparks more words which sparks imagination again and again until a writer has a whole bonfire going. And like a bonfire, he does not have control over it, as much as he might hope to. In one sense a writer is merely a man or a woman like any other. In another sense he or she is the entire sum of the imagination and dreams and the experience of writing which is captured by his fingers.

As you can see, the premise matters little: the play is the only thing! Is it a good story? If it is, readers or movie-goers will find it. Will they be entertained? Perhaps. Will they learn anything about the real Shakespeare? No!

For more blah, blah, blah about this see:

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