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!)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday Morning

Variation on a theme by Stevens

I am not about to get up and make coffee. Nor am I going to even get dressed. Putting on some music and returning to the comfort of the blanket is all I require. The only encroachment of dark catastrophes is the workweek and the procession of tiny thoughts aggregating to aggravating.

The crows are outside considering and trading news, but they are the only ones. The rest of the world seems as silent and lazy as myself. Others are perhaps snoring, trying to find underwear, retching or quietly addressing God. Even the music of the blue guitar was made decades ago.

I look forward to the Sunday evening. Why should it be the end of anything? Does it matter? I can only think of crows in fire maples—wings furled—waiting and dreaming the darkness upon the world, freeing Sunday night from the week that follows.

For all of that, it is difficult to find the divinity within myself. But in the naked island that is the woman on the bed, beneath the blanket, dozy, I find the solitude of moments blurring into now. I am not even sure there is an I here beyond the marker made of language. So I play with logic just a little, turn upon the bed and test the air with one bare foot.

If there is no me in isolation, then I am not alone.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Writing Nonsense

This is not a list of quips and quotes about writing. This post may very well fail in motivating anyone to write. Its inspirational quotient is doubtful.

The line of reasoning has vestibular uncertainty. It veers and leans, going places it never intended to. The line of reasoning may very well lie down at that point and hope the vertigo goes away.

This post may very well be nonsense. Writing nonsense, that is.

It all depends on whether writing is a verb or adjective. I cannot really tell from the fragment I have left myself.

1. Either I am writing out words that do not make sense, which may be what I am always doing.

2. Or, there is a specific type of nonsense characterized by a predicate of writing.

Regarding 1.

I might live in a careful universe that pretends to know everything I am saying.

Really, I am nothing more than a child. I know this, know what I mean when I write it, but then I can think of a number of things that are "more." I am certainly taller than most children. I have "more" years.  I possess "more" ignorance through the seeming paradox of maturity: i.e. the older you get the more you know how little you know.

The other main difference is that I cannot see many people who have any authority to nod their heads as I babble. Parents perform this act.

Instead, I seem to be surrounded by other nothings-more-than-children. Perhaps wiser beings in the universe can nod with authority? With authenticity? Celestial dragons and Rilkean Angels?

But do they understand me? Do they try?

Do they patronize me?

How could I possibly understand them? Perhaps that is why I do not see them.

Or am I like a dog? With people giving elaborate explanations for why they will either beat or feed me when all I really care about is getting away or eating something. They speak as though I understand them. Which I don't beyond the general intents I have just described.

Regarding 2.

It seems remarkable that  people can agree that a series of lines—most which are terrible artistic renditions of things—can constitute a mutually intelligible communication system.

Either there was a great deal of consternation, argument, compromise and bloodshed, or it was an unconscious accident. Considering human history, a messy mixture of the two hidden beneath the strata of time, dirt and dissimulation is the real truth of the matter.

Sitting here, I am well aware that writing is different than speech.

But is that any really different than speech?

Gibberish becomes a communication system when two people agree on what it means. It really becomes a language when one of them can lie to the other person with it.

Tadahiro Uesugi: NHK Cover Illustration
This is a hill in San Francisco. Actually, it isn't. It is a series of colors and shapes that suggest a hill and someone walking up it. It is by an artist named Tadahiro Uesugi.

I feel attracted to his sense of rhythm, how the flat planes of color suggest quadrilatitude but are not exactly perfect if you take the time to look closely: the shady street in trapezoidal contrast to the triangular buildings in light and especially that bow window.*

What does the woman's hair color actually mean? Or is it there as a flourish? The visual equivalent of "so as I was saying" which usually adds nothing to a sentence.

What is going on here? What is this saying to me?

It isn't saying anything. I am interpreting, but without the rudder of language. This is often the problem with art.

Or: I don't know if Tadahiro is lying to me or not. But unlike a piece of writing, this illustration does not appear to be nonsense.


So, as I was saying, words in conversation might mean something by being noise.

Yes, silence is important and also a sort of lie. Or a large container we grub around for in the darkness to fill with lies. The darkness is neither silent, nor empty. For the ears and the body the darkness is full of fur, viscosity and metals of different types.

An art critic or parent (or both) can explain all of this much better, I am sure. But she still uses words.

Sometimes the lies are well meant. This is all I can hope for. I feel I have written nothing. But I look over all of this. Nothing written does not seem true. Nonsense written could also be true.

*For more of Tadahiro Uesugi's illustrations, please visit his site.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Dear Mercutio,

I swim each night as though it were my last. A common turn on a common phrase. The summer is waning and I remember a last swim. A last swim—don't we all wish the world were indefinite superlatives—everlasting and paradoxical?

It was a late summer night in Italy. It was your house, Mercutio, the one in Umbria.

If I experience a warm night in early September, or listen to Geminiani those small events of beauty suggest the modalities of that one last swim to my mind.

I am no wakeful sleeper. The somnambulist does not swim—the very word does not contain that pairing. I am either awake or deeply asleep. And yet, the swim seems like a dream, for what is consciousness if it swims bereft of thens and laters? I was wide awake when I left my bed and went to the pool.

Standing on the edge of this memory, this dream, thoughts arise in my head. They are the nows of hindsight. Brief moments I may or may not have had. It does not matter. The question remains in the past because I have put it there.

Cannot this water be all water? How can I shred it into nights and strokes?


The nightswim is only the now of right arm curling through the water, the drag of bubbles. The sky gives my hair a glossy blackness like the surface of the pool.

The edge occurs—a somersault and push—counted and forgotten.

A woman becomes the water and the water becomes a woman. In this liquid sovereignty, I may still blend the definite and indefinite. This is how I am not a birth, nor death: only being.

Self-contained—a sorcery of self-made prayers and memories—I step in again and say farewell to summer.

For a time.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Let Me Fly Away News: Write Well Award

I am pleased to announce that "Let Me Fly Away," a story about growing up and moving on, which was published in Silver Blade has been included in the 2015 Write Well Award Anthology!

Currently you can find a version on Kindle, and there will be a print version available soon. This looks like a sumptuous collection of stories that will "touch us, amuse, intrigue, resonate--stories take us places we have never been, make us think, and that we cannot forget."*

On behalf of myself and Hagengard Studio (and that illustrator of mine) I want to extend sincere thanks to the editors at Silver Blade for believing in the story, and Rick Taubold for his work on compiling the anthology

*from the Write Well Award About Us Page

Update: I wrote too soon, there is a print version available as well!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Districts of Hagen

There is a brief, and for the moment, satisfying description of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hagen elsewhere on this Webtraption. I point this out for two reasons: this press is of course named after the city and Hagengard Studio is preparing the final work on its second novel release: The Shadow Well. As I am assisting with divers aspects of publishing this novel, it occurred to me that unlike The Nightingale's Stone, The Shadow Well takes place almost entirely in Hagen and it would be helpful for readers to have a quick guide to some of the various neighborhoods that make up the city.

Hagen itself is a vast city. At the time of The Shadow Well it is one of the largest in Europe, but it was, of course not always that way, and like many great cities, it grew out of several smaller towns. Let us take a quick tour:

The Juttrock

Considering how flat the country is around the mouth of the Elbe, this geological formation is strange indeed, a chunk of granite left on the shore of the North Sea. The Juttrock sits on the end of a peninsula—formed by the Bendbow, Hagen's wide, natural harbor, and the Elbe River. It served as a natural fortress for the first settlements of Hagen. In time the old homes and halls disappeared and were replaced by government buildings, the richest Hanseatic halls, and the Chartermen's Club, where the real power plays were carried out. Karl Yangler learned this first hand at the start of The Shadow Well.

The Old Business District

The Old Business District grew up at the foot of the Juttrock and was where the first businesses and markets started. It is still the home of excellent old style restaurants, such as Shermahorne's where Karl Yangler and Theresa Darl attempted to unravel the mystery of Karl's assignment. Don't miss the Skaus at Copping's Chop House.

The Market District

As the City grew along the Bendbow,  it was natural that all manners of markets— ranging from produce, meats, imports, furnishings and anything else—would grow and thrive here. The Shadow Well centers around a luxurious birthday party, and every luxury from the world could be purchased here. Especially if you possessed a Letter of Credit from Kanute Eldredsohn.

The Temple Platz

I have spoken of this place before: occupying the center of Hagen, it is the home of Hagen's Great Library and the Temple of the Old Religion.  By the time of The Shadow Well it had become a place for entertainments, banking, and other worldly pursuits. If you have the time, I recommend the Eel Soup at Feldsham's.

The View of Hagen's Bendbow from Marckstan Dale

Marckstan Dale

While one of the oldest parts of the City, by the middle of the 17th Century, the Marckstan Dale had fallen into rich decay. There were still powerful, wealthy families there, such as the von Hippes, but most of these families had passed the zenith of wealth and prestige. Trudi and Oscar von Hippe of the Heusermarck were the last of their line,  having no issue. But even this fact did not prevent certain problems regarding succession and wealth.

The Barbican

While London's is justifiably famous, Hagen's is older and vaster. The heart of the Hanseatic Maritime power, it also featured a rough nightlife for sailors from all over the world.


Located east along the Bendbow, Stook was where seasonal ship builders made their craft and launched them owing to a wide, gently sloping approach to the sea and a sharp drop off in the water. This allowed for deeper and deeper draghted ships to be built there. Since the wharves of Hagen could only handle so much traffic, eventually Stook also became a shipping point, but it remained somewhat aloof, a working district that saw very little activity during the night.


While the Barbican had its certain charms, Fosthorpe grew south of the Temple Platz until it reached the Elbe and the South Wharves, collecting many who could not afford to live elsewhere in the great city. As such, it is home to the Theatre District, and immigrant neighborhoods. Of interest in The Shadow Well.  Hagen had a tradition of public baths stretching all the way back to the Julian Exiles, but the Finnish immigrants to Hagen blended their love of saunas into the mix. The Kaunismaaki Ecdysium was just such a place, where one could find peace, a good scrub and perhaps a lutenist.

Danish Town

Originally, a settlement of Danes, (hence its name) it lays south and beneath the Juttrock on the Elbe. While it still possesses a few wharves and piers, Danish Town is now mostly known for the student, faculty and servant communities that grew since the founding of the University of Hagen in the 13th Century. Amusingly, this location was chosen since many of the Old Danish houses had "collected" artifacts from all over the world, many from Christian monasteries to the south.

The Fair and Carnival

To the east, along the Thing Ride, and technically outside the City Proper lay the great fairgrounds of Hagen. Every  late summer, the Great Fair and Carnival is held here offering a wealth of agricultural accomplishment along with a more sensual and sometimes lawless set of diversions. A good place to slip away from old lives or perhaps purchase a pair of eyes, as Leena O'Niall and Trudi von Hippe can respectively tell you.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Working Dreams and Balms

At some point I drifted out of the unsound of deep sleep and met a block of wood. It was tall, perhaps eight feet by two feet and it was not only old, but also in my way. Wind-worn and weathered by the beat of salt into the grain, it had been living by the sea for a long time. But it lacked the utter woodghost aspect of drowned driftwood: sand smoothed skin, limb-twisted, the brined ancestral bones of the peoples.

No, the block was hewn by some purposeful hand. The morning fog, a sea breath, surrounded me and the block. I heard the water nearby, dully lapping in that strange whisper that waves make when they are close and cannot be seen.

A rivulet fell somewhere. From a gutter? There were no eaves, or sluices near. A horse pissing on a flat rock? No, that was just a saying, I told myself. The noise disappeared, and then the block and I stood there for a long while. I did not really know how long, and hadn’t paused to stop and think of it, nor ask the block.

I turned, and found myself standing in a low-rimmed tub. I was still on the beach and my grandmother came to me then. She ordered ne to strip naked. I did so.

In a basalt mortar, she pounded pork fat, pine needles, fragrant herbs, marten’s bile until it was a uniformly speckled unguent and scooped it up in handfuls and began to cover me with it: her old knobbed skill-fingered hands worked every bit into my arms, legs and body. I shivered in the cold.

She did not say anything, but seemed to study me through narrow dead eyes.

When I looked away from her face, I saw the fog had thinned, but not disappeared. More blocks of wood, all embedded in the sand, waited in a crooked line up into the mist.

My conscious mind began shouting in the other room, beating on the door.

I am awake and writing this now. My grandmother's ministrations were helpful, albeit horrible smelling. The work never stops. There is always another submission to make, another promotion, another person to contact. Does Grandmother's protective balm inure me to the hurt, the rejection?

I write this as a prayer to overcome the ocean of indifference and silent blocks of wood.