Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Whoa Nelly

by Donald Revell

Yellowbird here for one day only,
I'm telling you
The trees here
Are children of themselves.  You can see it:
The deadwood in mid-air
Departing into mid-air,
And just below it,
Bright circles of emerald-green new growth.

The day is long when it is blind.
This morning, I find only darkness in me
Where yesterday I saw through countless eyes.

Yellowbird, I pray for change.
I dream about it,
The wild transformations,
Even as each day
The changes prove more terrible,
More set upon death and humiliation,
Even the humiliation of mountains.

I want celestial light, but not apocalyptic.
The end of the world is an old story.
I'm starting a new one.
Yellowbird here for one day only,
These emeralds are trees.
Fly fast.

This poem comes from a book called The Bitter Withy, from which I had the pleasure of hearing the author read not long ago.  I bought the book because it has a bunny on the cover (from Titian's Virgin of the Rabbit (Virgin and Child with St. Catherine) which we will all now go to Paris to see, okay?).  I also bought the book to remember the apocalyptic passion of its author, creator, reader.  I tell you, the next time I do a reading, if my bangs are not flapping like mad crow wings, I will not have done my job. 

Nevermind that I don't have bangs.  Or that no one has asked me to read.

I hate to start off like a bad thank-you note, but I cannot believe so much time has passed since the last post!  And yet, I can.  I realized this week that March was a subtly-declared Artist's Month, wherein I bought cheap art supplies, modge-podged everything in the house, stayed in my pajamas far too long, and baked lots and lots of sweets.  (I am so grateful for my hungry friends, and this is in the oven right now.  Mine slumps in a misshapen way that makes me feel great love for it and my whole life.)

I have also been reading Dr. Christiane Northrup's books and gobbling up her elegant wisdom.  She kind of reminds me of a sane Martha Stewart - someone with an intense amount of focus which she points toward nourishing subjects and pursuits.  Not that making your own crepe paper carrots is a waste of time.  I'm sort of serious here.  I read a blurb of a book that is coming out soon (by Sara Avant Stover, whom I have often mentioned), and here is what Nischala Joy Devi says about Sara's book:

"From the first page of The Way of the Happy Woman, I breathed a great sigh of relief. As women we are told to be warriors, smart, sexy, successful. We can have it all, but at what price? It seems all we really want is to be happy. Thank you, Sara, for helping us remember our true divine nature and making it so accessible.”

That part about all women really wanting is to simply be happy made a lot of sense to me.  (See also: The Pajamas All Day section of my personal handbook, filed under Crepe Paper Crafts.)

What am I learning?  Whatever creates happiness = Good.  Period, the end.  As long as it's not causing harm to others, I guess is the caveat.  No shooting bb's at passerbys, etc etc.  That's what fiction is for.  Which is maybe why I write?  Cause, come on, sometimes it's really fun to shoot bb's.

My friend sent me an article on writing advice recently.  In it, Geoff Dyer wrote:
Don't write in public places. In the early 1990s I went to live in Paris. The usual writerly reasons: back then, if you were caught writing in a pub in England, you could get your head kicked in, whereas in Paris, dans les cafés . . . Since then I've developed an aversion to writing in public. I now think it should be done only in private, like any other lavatorial activity.

I'm not sure I agree with him that one should never write in public places but I crack up every time I think about it being a lavatorial activity.  Writing is sooooo personal, and I do find myself muttering to myself, scratching my head like a dog with fleas, and employing other such unattractive habits, that maybe Dyer has a point.  (I just want to clarify: I want to go to Paris for the Titian, in addition to the cafes.)

Because Roddy Doyle's advice won my heart, and I have little understanding of copyright laws on the web (joking joking) I think I will post them here:
1 Do not place a photograph of your ­favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.

2 Do be kind to yourself. Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph ­–

Until you get to Page 50. Then calm down, and start worrying about the quality. Do feel anxiety – it's the job.

Do give the work a name as quickly as possible. Own it, and see it. Dickens knew Bleak House was going to be called Bleak House before he started writing it. The rest must have been easy.

Do restrict your browsing to a few websites a day. Don't go near the online bookies – unless it's research.

Do keep a thesaurus, but in the shed at the back of the garden or behind the fridge, somewhere that demands travel or effort. Chances are the words that come into your head will do fine, eg "horse", "ran", "said".

Do, occasionally, give in to temptation. Wash the kitchen floor, hang out the washing. It's research.

Do change your mind. Good ideas are often murdered by better ones. I was working on a novel about a band called the Partitions. Then I decided to call them the Commitments.

Do not search for the book you haven't written yet.

Do spend a few minutes a day working on the cover biog – "He divides his time between Kabul and Tierra del Fuego." But then get back to work.

And with that, I'm off to a piping-hot loaf of puffy, croissant-like cinnamon-pull-apart bread (I did this?), a novel that wants to call itself mine, and the whole month of April!  Which I have ambitiously declared Career Girl month.  I am still waiting to understand what I mean by this. 

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