Sunday, November 29, 2015

Holidays in the slumber of a night-mind

"I feel like I have to smile and give the world a wink."
The holiday season is upon us and the world seems particularly irksome and intrusive right now. Thanksgiving groaned under the weight of retail just a little more this year and I wonder how long it will last as a holiday.

But its passing means I can decorate a Yule tree with Bertolt looking on. Still, I try to remember why I am doing this.

I feel like I have to smile and give the world a wink, which is of course the first of subtleties. Did a wink mean anything until we had language so we could express two things at once? I wish the world well at this time of year, but I wish it would also leave me alone.

Perhaps it is the light, and traditionally, that means the lessening of it. It is now thoroughly dark at 5:00 in the afternoon and the morning seems a thousand miles away, if miles could be measured in time...

...which they often are, but I just want to escape time and space and go to sleep like much of the rest of the world. I accompanied some friends to the Zoo her in Seattle the other day and was reminded that most beings are, like the maple trees and oaks, sensibly asleep right now. I don't know if the sloth bears were sleeping but I didn't see them. I saw no Tyger Tyger burning bright. Like a true Seattleite, the Komodo Dragon wasn't from here and it was desperately soaking up radiation from a sun lamp.

Perhaps it is all the Hawthorne. I do not mean the plant, but rather the counterpoint of Melville. This will be no place for a review of Hawthorne and I do not pretend to make any scholarly pronouncements. Rather, as a writer, I afford myself a chance to read him from something of a professional perspective, and the (now) obscure tales from Twice Told Tales, Mosses  from an Old Manse and The Snow-Image are wonderful at this time of year.

"Alice Doane's Appeal," for example contains a number of frightening aspects besides visitations from the dead who seem to populate New England as deeply as they do Japan. Hawthorne,  captivates me like the strange "Village Uncle" captivates a rapidly vanishing audience as the raconteur slowly dies at Thanksgiving.

But dark nights and dark books call for one another. Ebeneezer and I will make our annual acquaintance again, and I will once again ask why a "Scrooge" is not a byword for a reborn benevolent businessman. It doesn't seem fair, but then I remember that the world isn't fair. The other kind of Scrooge is much more ubiquitous and therefore we need a convenient Dickensian name.

I am not sure how much I will be posting here for a while since part of the reason I am returning to Hawthorne is to revisit basic texts that made the others that made me, either in reaction and rejection, or emulation and exercise. Since The Shadow Well died its peaceful death this Fall, it is time to return to basics and find new paths beneath the tangled woods.

The mud is dark but the Moon glints on its surface. The air is cold, and since the rest of our lives seem so vast in this abyss, I wish you Happy Holidays: the time for small events of beauty.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Blank Page: Or, The Death of a Novel

A Blank Page

Auld Bill Faulkner is famous for pronouncing capital punishment upon darlings... insofar as writing is concerned. I will not endeavor here to discuss that any further since I am a firm believe in letting others discuss what has been discussed. My interest is in something else, a sort of euthanasia of darlings.

For a few weeks now, Hagengard Studio has been a scene of grim resolve, like a ship that lists too much and is caught in the doldrums. The only thing good about it is that it was cold so we weren't sweltering under a sun that didn't seem to move. Grey, with indeterminate fog, a lodestone lost long ago, we knew that there was a Jonah on board.

David brought this Jonah on the ship a long time ago, before I had signed on (in the ludicrous extension of this already exhausted metaphor, I might as well talk about dead sea-birds). Its name was The Shadow Well and while I attempted to help with the novel somewhat, there was simply too much that had to be changed. Again.

That was the crucial problem. The text had been reworked over 3 times before I even saw it, and here is an interesting problem: like an archaeologist, I could delve beneath the many layers and see existing fossils of writing. The stray em-dash? Yes, that's was 2008 when David was rereading Ulysses. There were other remnants, such as the name 'Karen' which I saw popping in and out of earlier drafts. There was even a passage that referred to a time when it was set in Seattle, and I learned it began at the Edgewater.

The novel has moved around, attempting to find a narrative, but the problem as I saw it was the protagonist. I was not the protagonist of this novel, if that is what you suspect. I played only a minor supporting role and even then, I came in somewhat late in the game. There was not much I could do. I believe David plans on exorcising this protagonist in ways other than on the page, which is a good thing because the individual wasn't very interesting.

David and I ultimately arrived at a business decision.  Promotion and return upon investment did not seem lucrative enough for this novel. We agreed there were parts (mostly mine) that were intriguing enough to salvage for other work. His illustrations may find homes elsewhere. For those who have met Trudi von Hippe, Theresa Darl and Kanute Eldredsohn, do not worry. They will be back.

I often chide David on this blog and those with whom I privately correspond get a more highly seasoned version of that discourse, but if I am somewhat acerbic, it is because I care. I believe he will post something on that Tumblr of his that will go into more detail. I know this decision was not easy for him and I'm leaving him the last word on this topic.

So you will not be seeing The Shadow Well on the shelves of any bookstore in February, or for that matter, any which when. We have filled in that well. (I did find the title entrancing enough to use for one of my poems).

What does this mean for Hagengard Studio? It is almost time for the turn of the sun and a return to basics: short fiction and the proetic graphic essay as the main outlets—this blog is often an example of the latter. David will work on his artwork some more. There are some classes at Hugo House worth looking at which is fitting since that is where David and I first met when we were starting our creative careers over the first time.

So it is a return to blank pages, which is like a new sail: perfect for a strong wind and clear skies.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Autumnal Sarabande in D Minor

In the months before you died, I began to question, when had you stopped walking in front of me? Perhaps you had stopped to smell some thing, some one new scent. And neither of us noticed that I walked on, oblivious of the watershed. I think it was when our ages shifted places in the relative terms of our years. I was middle aged at 43 and you were old at 13.

I remember the rhythm of our steps through the leaves when you followed me. I abandoned the rush of youth in that strolling, gregarious dark of Fall.

In the tempo, and chromatic scale of yellow to orange, red and brown that October owns, you taught me that each leaf was a note, and unique in scent and tone: because of where it was and when it was.

You taught me that even in the most iterative of days, each smelled different, was different, just as the nights deepened and stretched the call for comfort upon the doorstep of November.

And then you were gone. Perhaps just over there where I could not see you. You always liked to slip away. But the old pathways aren't the same, because you are with me on them all. Now, I know why the minor key of Autumn's cello makes me cry.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The World Just Over There

At night is when I bathe: when the mosquitos evade the hungry dead and their humid desire. The heat of August leaves spider webs and broken wheels in my head. I am thirsty, sweaty and the moon seems too vast and cool—so out of reach like everything.

But the Waterman stands there before me.

Upon an open hand of beveled in turquoise, scaled in sapphire, I see nothing and therefore see trackless seas, forgotten and recreated steps, callouses of rock. I understand the shadowy insights in cities aloofly populated by luxurious cats. The thoughts of mountains fold in upon lovers, and in the spring, the rains come to soak gardens full of old monuments that I have let crumble in the mutability of inconsequence.

I consider his offer.

I am no longer some morose entablature of skinny limbs and tattoos that cannot fly. In Elsewhere, the World Just Over There, these themes will progress throughout my body: blood, thick stars, and my secret name that graces a ship wrecked on the shore.

Will I find debasement in love? Revelation in the crimson torture of sunsets? Counterpoint in the tender sorrows of the earth? Perhaps.

There will be work, but promise me that I shall remember it all in the moment when I die, either here or there. Is that victory? Allow me the language of the darkness: the words that best embrace a heart made out of time.

This posting brought to you by the Hugo House 30/30 Challenge! Please drop some change in the Hugo House donation jar at First Giving.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

October Rain

In the Pacific Northwest, where I now live, the autumn means rain. It sometimes comes in gallops, sometimes in a perseveration of drizzle. Umbrellas are suspect, being blown around and out by the wind. I often think they collude with the weather to make me look foolish.

When the first real rains of the autumn come, I go out and listen to Astral Weeks by Van Morrison. I find myself on a Cypress Avenue in Belfast that I am sure does not exist. I wear high heels, to click and clack for Madame George.

At night, when the reds and oranges of the maples are dulled to indistinct grey, that is a time for listening to the rain in its syncopated fall upon the roof, or in the sliding trickle down the window pane.I listen to the tires on the street, driving and hissing through the water and I am glad I am not driving.

But the real gift October brings is August. There is just a month of separation we call September, but it is an epoch. In October I relish the darkness, for it brings memories of light. At night, the modality of rain and street water is the same as that of the sea.

I remember an August in the Yucatan. One day, I came back from a swim in the Caribbean and relaxed beneath the trees in Sian Ka'an. As though to remind me of other women who come naked from the sea, a morpho butterfly came and found me. I do not know how long we stayed there. I do not remember anything except the blue of the sea was mirrored on her wings. I remember that I said:

"We shall walk and talk
In misty gardens all wet with rain."

And we do in October.

This posting brought to you by the Hugo House 30/30 Challenge! Please drop some change in the Hugo House donation jar at First Giving.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Perfect 30 Minutes

If you are a writer and new to Seattle, you may have been introduced to Richard Hugo House through a Google search, or perhaps even the old-fashioned way: someone told you about it. Perhaps you are even writing in the 30/30 Writing Challenge.

(To catch up those who just joined us, the 30/30 Challenge is where over 100 writers pledge to write for 30 minutes or more for 30 days. All to support Richard Hugo House.)

If you haven't taken a writing trip on board the Washington State ferries, you may be missing the best 30 minute sessions of this whole fund drive. The above image is on board the MV Puyallup on the Bainbridge to Seattle crossing. See all of those empty seats tables? Most of them have power outlets.

See the distractions? Yes, there aren't very many. There is a jigsaw puzzle waiting for someone else, but use it for a Carveresque prompt. Think of the desperate couples who sat at it, doing the corners, missing the center and enduring the metaphorical desperation. Just don't be tempted to procrastinate by sitting down and doing it yourself!

Oh yes, they make you pay for WiFi, so you can kiss the Facebook goodbye once you leave the Winslow dock. There is only the hum of the engines, and the lights passing outside.

Plus, you actually get two thirty minute sessions if you are going back and forth. Or the forth and back as I like to say because I am quite fond of the ferries. Some of the runs are longer, such as the more infrequent, but prettier Bremerton Seattle run, or luxuriously introspective and inspiring like the trip from Friday Harbor to Anacortes.

I would go alone and avoid the commuter runs during the morning and afternoon. For $8.10* as a walk-on, you can get two 30 minute sessions of writing in one of the most conducive writing environments I know.

In the meantime, I will take this opportunity to ask for you to please drop some change in my Hugo House donation jar at First Giving. And welcome aboard!

*as of writing, of course...

Thursday, October 1, 2015

30-30 2015-Redux

30-30 Writing Challenge

I have returned to the fray of 30/30. I am here struggling to get down the beginning of the chapter and there are so many words.

This is, the chief problem of much writing you know. Too many words. Writing feels a little worse than sculpture at times because while a sculptor may cut away all that is not part of the finished piece, a writer is usually responsible for making the initial block too damned big.

At any rate, today I am starting on an adventure in writing. Last year, Hugo House began a campaign called 30/30. A the time I was under the impression it involved a Winchester rifle, but my illustrator and dogsbody, David Mecklenburg, assured me that it was "an initiative to write for 30 minutes every day for 30 days."

After I told him he was a hopeless, bureaucratic buffoon for actually using a word like "initiative" in real life, I agreed to the concept because as he will gladly tell you, it's very difficult for me to shut up. Whether it is peanut M&M's, Imogen Heap's music, Anne Carson's poetry or that old rascal Plato, I have many varied opinions on things and adventures so numerous David is still struggling to catalogue just the first quarter of them.

This year is no different Richard Hugo House is once again in need of your support.

Well, there is one difference: I am not feeling the need to discuss writing as I did in the posts last year. I often suspect that writing about writing, while a form of commiseration is also one of the most patently boring subjects non-writers endure. Instead, one should write about dragons, handsome men, international intrigue, crimes of passion and greed, riches, or at least the hardscrabble life in _____(dreary heartland of your choice, but you might as well make it a flat arid place).

Pondering how I put words on the page and making you endure it is a form of sadism that allows no spice for the masochist.

Rather, I will simply write and see what happens.

By donating you will help out the premier literary organization in the Northwest, which— considering you can't throw a poet without hitting a writer here—is obviously a "resource center" (to use David's banal term for it) in high demand.

And as I like to point out, quantifying the value of art is like counting the blue in the sky. I suppose you could it, but why?

Instead, you should head over my First Giving Page and donate.

(And this counts for my first 30 minutes!)