Saturday, December 20, 2014

Old Footprints

I should accept that life is a line of peaks, plateaus, and troughs. They cannot be transformed into anything else; they can only be faced when we come to them. How we confront them is a clue to what we are, perhaps the one reliable measurement of whatever qualities we have. This measurement counts for nothing to other people, but for ourselves in isolation after midnight, it presents the starkest and most candid glimpse into why we persist, why we fail, and why we fool ourselves into treading these mazes of persistance and failure. Old footprints never lead the way, but they show us that we have been here before, and that we kept on walking.

-- From today's writing session.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

That Fine Old Failure Dream

Tonight I dreamt that I was back in highschool. I had just failed the final grade, and within myself, I screamed at the prospect of being trapped in school for a whole new year. Why had I failed? Was it my fault? Was it the school's? Would I never grow up?

Then I woke up, anxious, trembling... in a world led by the likes of Harper, Abbott, Obama, puppets for psychotic businessmen and sociopathic bankers.

We're all failing highschool, but the rich kids think they're grown-ups.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Just Another Deadly Myth

In the last years of his life, my father and I often talked about exceptionalism. I could never understand it, but my father (born and raised in America) told me there was nothing to understand: it was a myth, and like any myth, required no supporting arguments or evidence to back it up.

People believed in exceptionalism, and in their minds, this made it as true as winter or sunshine or the midnight breeze. This made it possible to rationalize any crime, any atrocity, for the sake of Us versus Them. And if he were alive today to read about torture in the United States, my father would be appalled but unsurprised.

Love Never Heals

Sonnets are often used to present ideas and arguments, but at a price: the strict form of the sonnet can distort intended meaning, and too much emphasis on the idea can result in dry poetry that might as well be prose.

I love the challenge of squeezing my chaotic moods into a box, and as an exercise in writing technique, this can be instructive... but is it always worth reading?

And so I'd like to ask:

-- Is the idea presented in the first eight lines clear?

-- Do the final six lines feel arid, unemotional?

* * * * * * * *

Love never heals. It only shares our pain,
And witnesses the struggle we endure
As we defy those patterns that immure
Us in our prison-selves. Indeed, the chain
We have allowed to bind us as we strain
Against all things but habit, can (with pure
And self-directed strength as armature)
Be severed only by our own disdain.

The task is ours alone. But you, my dear,
With all your wounds and grief, you sought for light,
And so I shook with every sob you cried.
I saw your prison made of guilt and fear,
I offered maps to guide you from the night,
But you preferred captivity. I tried.

-- Tuesday, December 09, 2014.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

R. A. Lafferty's Advice On Writing

QUESTION: What thing is most necessary for a young person wishing to become a writer.

ANSWER: A good spoke-shave of matched flint-stones is the most necessary thing for a young person wishing to become a writer. Without a good spoke-shave, there is no way to fashion a good lance. Without a good lance there is no way to kill a grown Wooly Rhinoceros. And really elegant writing can only be done on the shoulder-blade bones of the Wooly Rhinoceros.

Do not cheap-jack it, young people. Do not settle for less than the best. Do not write on the shoulder blades of a cave bear. A cave bear is much easier to kill. It may be killed in its sleep. But what you write on its shoulder blades will lack elegance.

The shoulder blades of the Wooly Puma may be used for writing elegant short poems. And the Wooly Puma is almost as dangerous as the Wooly Rhinoceros to encounter and kill. But its shoulder blades are not big enough to allow longer and more substantial writing.

Do not, in any case, write on a bull's shoulder blades. The inferiority of the writing on such a surface will give you away.

For elegant narration, there is nothing like the shoulder blades of the Wooly Rhinoceros to write on, an obsidian blade set in antler handle to cut the letters into the elegant bone, and "Fat John's Dragon Blood Ink" (he really makes it from Dire Wolf blood) to fill in the notches and cuts for high visibility.

Go first-class in everything you use if you wish to attain distinction.

-- R. A. Lafferty, "Calamities Of The Last Pauper."

Monday, December 8, 2014

La main blanche et la blanche patte

Another of my attempted translations, this time from Paul Verlaine.

As usual, for the sake of accuracy, I've decided to fall back on prose. And as always, comments are welcome. I'm not a translator; if my choice of words is dead wrong, then please let me know!

Femme et Chatte

Elle jouait avec sa chatte;
Et c'était merveille de voir
La main blanche et la blanche patte
S'ébattre dans l'ombre du soir.

Elle cachait -- la scélérate ! --
Sous ces mitaines de fil noir
Ses meurtriers ongles d'agate,
Coupants et clairs comme un rasoir.

L'autre aussi faisait la sucrée
Et rentrait sa griffe acérée,
Mais le diable n'y perdait rien...

Et dans le boudoir où, sonore,
Tintait son rire aérien,
Brillaient quatre points de phosphore.

From
Poèmes saturniens,
Œuvres complètes de Paul Verlaine, Tome Premier.

Librairie Léon Vanier, Editeur. Paris,  1907.

* * * * *
Woman and Cat,
by Paul Verlaine.

She played with her cat, and it was marvellous to see the white hand and the white paw frolic in the black of night.

She concealed -- the little minx! -- under mitts of black thread her murderous agate nails, sharp and glossy like razors.

The other one, likewise demure, withheld her sharp claws, but the devil keeps an eye on these little details....

And from this boudoir that rang with airy laughter shone four bright specks of phosphorous.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Your Essence of Complexity

They rise beneath a haloed moon: the gusts
Fragrant with ice, with pollen grains of snow,
With spice of buried hay from long ago,
With river-chill, with fallen cedar dusts,
With tang of wood-smoke aspen, and the lusts
Recalled from stained-glass canopies aglow
With maple scarlets. From the past, I know
The long-remembered scent a lover trusts.

I breathe your essence of complexity,
Your personal perfume of autumn cold
And winter warmth, your mellow moods, your sauce,
Your fascinating femininity
And all the balm of kisses unforetold,
That memory brings back to stir my loss.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Not Always True, But Often So.

And where do you belong? The questions peal.
And where is any passion that can seem
As tactile or as warm as morning's dream,
As laurelled as the autumn winds that seal
Dead ice upon the waters of your zeal?
As all the reds of evening drown and stream
Into the swamps and holes of night's regime,
You sense the grip, the tugging of the Real.

It pulls. There is no shelter on the rock,
No hand to guide your steps to any hatch
That might allow escape from who you are.
The night is poised, and panther-swift, will stalk
And strike. Be grateful, then, if you can catch,
Before that fatal eye-blink, one bright star.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Perspective

"We poets." Please! I never don that word.
You might as well reduce a man who cries
To nothing but his brimming pickled eyes.
You might as well transform into absurd
Stick-figures all the sinews of a bird,
Pretend that nothing feathered leaps and flies.
To speak like this would hasten the demise
Of any clear perspective undeferred.

I set up rhymes as paddles work with clay,
As cracked and sweating hands replace a stone,
As lace-white fingers tug a lucent thread,
As lorry drivers navigate the day.
I write because I spend my nights alone
As many living do, and all the dead.