I Only Know I Made it Home When I Drown in Your Ghost Light*

 

Part One: update on the revision project

Can I just say that it’s really fucking hard to continue to revise a poem that needs to sit still for a while?  Not that the revisions are going poorly.  It’s fine, but the poem is at a place where I want to and need to put it aside for a while, forget it for a while, and then come back to it fresh.  I knew what the poem was about immediately after I first wrote it.  What I’m finding now is that I’m not sure what the poem is trying to say about that subject.  Aside from the last couple lines.  All those lines before?  Who the hell knows.  It’s not really about rubber bands, not even rubber bands as a metaphor.  I don’t know.  I think I will restrict my revisions for the rest of this week to individual lines/words.

Part Two: if you stalk graveyards, expect the graveyard to stalk you back

Headed out to Winston-Salem Friday morning for the Gathering of Poets and once there, walked over to Salem Cemetery with my camera.  I made a half-assed attempt at breaking my ankles at one point–descending stone steps steeper than I thought and still slick with Thursday’s rain.  Fortunately nothing broke.  I would have been more upset had I damaged my camera anyway.  I rolled up my left ankle pretty nicely.  The edge of a step cut into my left hand below my little finger.  But I kept walking around anyway.  I didn’t realize that my right foot was badly bruised until Saturday night.  So yeah, don’t piss off ghosts.  They’ll push you down steps.  Which is the story I’m telling rather than blaming my own lack of attention to where the steps were.  And yes, both feet are pretty unhappy right now.

Part Three: the Gathering of Poets

Was a blast.  Lots of great poets teaching and attending.  It’s a wonderful event in so many ways.  I love being able to immerse myself completely in poetry, something I don’t get to do in my every day life because there’s just not that much poetry in banking, and if I spend eight hours a day (or more), five days a week (or more) putting aside poetry (and more) for a job I dislike, there’s very little chance to get that into the craft and theory of poetry.  Not that every conversation was about poetry because of course they weren’t.  Still we always seemed to come back around to it.  Two new poems as result of the weekend plus maybe finally breaking an older one that’s been reluctant to open up.

Part Four: some things are so beautiful they defy any and all attempts to be described in a manner that will share that beauty

IMG_0047Seriously.  What do you do with that?  Trying to put it into poetry.  But the beauty isn’t in the stone and the white roses surrounding it; it’s in the devotion of the hand that laid the roses and pressed the flower to the center of the stone.

Part Five: poetry is a theory

Yes it is.  A theory of life.  Elusive proof.  This was a thought I had during Kathryn Kirkpatrick’s workshop and actually said it out loud.  Somehow discussion had gotten around to the Higgs boson, and I was thinking about physics and theory and how we approach life.  How poets/artists approach life in particular.  Life is a big question.  Our poems or our art are attempts to answer that question–each piece a theory of its own, each beginning and ending of a poem an entry and an exit to the question.  I wasn’t trying to be profound; it was just a little thing that occurred to me.  I was tickled, though, to notice that Michael had written it down.  So I’m putting this small theory down here to maybe expand on later.  It’s something I want to think and write more about.

Part Six:  in conclusion

I’m a rambling mess of a writer, running off at the mouth when I have nothing to say but am only searching.  For something to say?  For something to eat?

 

*line from Soundgarden’s Taree

The Rubber Bands Are Heading in the Right Direction

Richard Krawiec, in a reaction to the “write a poem a day” challenges that arise when National Poetry Month draws near, posted on Facebook, “Here’s a challenge probably nobody will take me up on…” and proceed to incite poets to write one poem on April 1st and revise it 29 times.   I’m not sure how many poets accepted the challenge, but it was more than just a handful.

I have a fondness for the write a poem a day thing.  I’ve done it twice, self publishing the resulting chapbook each time.  I think the second collection is better than the first.  I spent more time revising them, more time arranging them.  There are a couple in the first book that probably need to be taken out back and beaten.  Just a little.  Even so, this kind of thing is well-suited to the way I write, which is in a flood, which means I leave a big fucking mess everywhere and usually don’t have the patience to clean it up.  (See also, the eight novels I’ve written that have “won” National Novel Writing Month and are probably never going to be edited into anything resembling an actual novel.)

I wasn’t going to take Richard up on his challenge.  I’m not writing much.  I sure as hell don’t revise much.  It’s all brain work I don’t have the brain for at the moment as my brain is occupied with being dysthymic and raging and stressed out.  All of which is to say, why the fuck not.

I didn’t think about it at work today other than to have a few random words come to mind.  I don’t know what those words were.  I didn’t write them down, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t use them.  But I knew yesterday what the title of the poem was.  “The Rubber Bands Are Heading in the Right Direction.”  This is a fortune cookie fortune I found while cleaning the living room a couple weeks ago.  Not from a cookie I consumed.  I’d have remembered that fortune.  It’s possibly the strangest thing I’ve ever seen come out of a cookie.  The thing may have just been left lying there by a passing fortune cookie fortune fairy, I don’t know.  But it’s been sitting on my desk since I found it.  I don’t know what the hell it means.  That’s part of why I like it.  So I’m going to play with it until it either does something interesting, something useful, or just breaks (like an old rubber band?).  Because that’s what I do.

The first draft is written.  It’s a mess.  The essence of the poem is rage (surprise), but there’s a great deal of silliness in the way right now.  The line breaks are all wrong.  But somehow I’m already in love with the thing.  Part of that, I suppose, is the image I have of all these rubber bands lined up like ICBMs ready to pop the next poor fuck who gets on my nerves.  You’ve been popped by a rubber band when it breaks, haven’t you?  That shit hurts.  If you’ve never had this tragedy befall you, well.  Aren’t you lucky.  Go find a rubber band that’s just beginning to get crumbly and try to put it around something that’s just beyond its capacity.  Then come back and we can talk about it.

Will I actually revise the poem 29 times?  I don’t know.  It may not need that many before I realize it’s worthless dreck and give up.  The plan is to revise it in drips and drops.  First things first, cut the silly-ass first line: “oh, snap.”  Yeah, I wrote that.  Not proud of it, but I’ll own it.  After all, the rubber bands are heading in the right direction.  Which means, they’re not aimed at me.

Photo on 4-1-13 at 8.58 PM

 

After the Ravens

So it’s been a while.  Recovering from late night raven attacks, even with the assistance of cinnamon Altoids, takes time.  Today, instead of insomnia, I’m up entirely too early for a Saturday.  I have been out of bed for an hour.  It’s 8:10.  That’s just wrong.  To be fair, I didn’t sleep all that well.  It was too warm, and then I had this dream about a poetry festival.

The festival was apparently taking place somewhere on the campus of Shaw University, which is mere blocks from where I work.  And yet I was having trouble figuring out how to get there.  I was attempting to take a bus but had no idea which bus, and when I asked an old woman at a bus stop, she looked at me like I was stupid and asked me why I didn’t just walk.  I ended up driving there.  At least I got there.  I got into the auditorium, put my name on a list to read, and sat down to wait my turn.  Imagine my shock when I ending up in the second slot instead of much further down the list.  Slots were skipped over as poets signed up to read, so everyone got moved up.  So the first reader read.  The auditorium was buzzing with conversation; no one was paying attention to her.  Well.  Not no one.  I was.  But I couldn’t hear her over the babble.  And she had a microphone.  When she was done, I asked if I could read her poem because I didn’t hear her.  Before I could get my hands on a copy, it was my turn.  And I didn’t take kindly to the continued non-attention.  I busted out my stage voice.  With that and the microphone, I knew the assholes in the audience could hear me.  I babbled about TS Eliot and the image of the hollow man in a particular poem and how I was drawn to that image and how it had something (maybe) to do with the poem I was going to read if only people would shut the fuck up and listen to me.  My poem, apparently entitled Empty Man, may or may not have had any relation to Eliot’s hollow man.  I never read it.  And this being a dream, I don’t recall any lines from the poem.  I’m not sure there was a poem on the paper I was holding.  Eventually, I stopped trying to read the poem.  Someone, a tall, round-ish dude with long hair (Meatloaf???), joined me at the mic, and we improvised some poetry/comedy/avant garde crap.  No one was listening, so why the hell not.  And then some band showed up and took over the festival (not that the audience paid them any more attention than the poets), and I left with Meatloaf and some girl who complained bitterly about how the festival had gone downhill.  I gave her my card and suggested we start something new.

I don’t care much for the practice of interpreting dreams because I don’t believe dreams have just one function.  I do, however, think that paying attention to dreams and understanding the mental states/thoughts that conjure the images can be useful.  I can tell you exactly what’s been on my mind that drove that dream.  I can’t tell you with any certainty why Meatloaf might have been in my dream other than the fact that Meatloaf is a performer firmly lodged in my long term memory and the dream needed to fill that spot with someone.

So.  Aside from fucked up poetry festival dreams, there’s not much to share.  I didn’t care for the month of February.  Now that it’s March, things might be better.  In like a roaring meat-eating pissed off LION.  Rwar.

When Ravens Attack

Prologue

IMG_0108_1024Okay, Altoids.  Let’s get something straight.  If a raven is attacking you, chances are he’s got a reason.  If an entire unkindness* is attacking you, well, Altoids aren’t gonna help.  Because if one raven has a reason, the rest of them don’t need one.  That’s how ravens roll.

*conspiracy and storytelling are also collective nouns for ravens.  I like unkindness best.

Part One

Dear Job,

I am the Lizard King; I can do anything.  But that doesn’t mean I’m willing to bend over backwards every time you get your knickers twisted and decide to fuck things over so hard they’ll never get truly fixed.  Fine, give me your fucking deadline.  I’ll give you your finished project.  But after that, I’m done being a team player.  I’ll keep my input to myself since you’re too afraid to ruffle feathers to get done what we need to do this job efficiently and correctly.  I apologize for being the kind of person who thinks it’s important to do a job well.  Whatever.  Not worth my brainpower.

Lividly yours,

me

Part Two

poet jobs – Raleigh, NC

Dang. We didn’t find anything for you there.*

*from a career search engine

Fuck.

Part Three

I cannot sleep.  Cannot close my eyes.  My brain is a tornado.  My body is restrictive, like too-tight clothes.  Toss, turn, repeat.  The trazodone that usually helps calm my brain chatter into whispers has been less than effective tonight.  Did a sleep study Monday night, curious to get my results.  I’ve long suspected my circadian rhythms have skipped a beat or two.  Body clock refuses to sync with a socially acceptable schedule.  Stress and depression don’t help, but even at my mentally healthiest, I’m not very good at sleep.

Then again, my last cup of coffee today was finished around 4:30.  Still, trazodone should have trumped caffeine at least a little bit.

Toss, turn, repeat.  Get up and write a blathering ludicrous blog because it would be silly to try to write the poem I’m growing in my head (its little sprouts have yet to break ground, and I don’t want to force it).  Also, I haven’t blogged since early December.

Part Four

Travel.  Sense of place.  Sense of home.  Isolation.  Movement.  Wanderlust.

These are the elements I’ve been gnawing at for a planned chapbook called Boxing the Compass.  There’s more to it than just that, though.  I had started the thing, thought I’d just do poems about/inspired by placed I’ve been or want to go to, but that turned out to be the immature approach–by which I mean that’s how 15 year old me would do this.  But the thing’s slowly maturing.  It will still touch on places I’ve been or want to go to, but it needs to go deeper if it’s to be at all successful.  Which means I need to spend some time just writing on these bits as well as actually writing the poems.  I’m not sure if my excuses are legitimate or if there’s something I’m avoiding.

Part Five

I recently purchased a massive tome of Allen Ginsberg’s poetry.  Somehow I’d never read Howl before.  I only had one literature course it would have fit in, but I don’t recall reading any Ginsberg in that class.  I skipped around in the book and read Howl, Sunflower Sutra, and a handful of others.  The general tone is both comfortable (in that the language isn’t ornate) and uncomfortable (in that there’s sex and slang and a certain level of raunch that seems to subvert the idea of poetry as something pristine and classically beautiful).  I need to read more before I know if I really like it.  Of the ones I read, Many Loves was my favorite.  Coarse language over a sweetly tender encounter.  Neal Cassidy was my animal indeed.

I was for a long time obsessed with the Beats.  I wanted to be Kerouac.  In college, I think many, if not most, of the poets I knew, myself included, thought we were a new Beat generation.  We wanted to feed off that disillusionment and restlessness.  I wonder how many actually did.  Or did we all fall out of the dream and into reality?

Well, reality breeds back that disillusionment and restlessness.  It leaves us just as empty as before, but it’s still better than the Daily Grind.

Part Six

My long short story The Dramaturge has been running in the Piker Press.  I skim over it every week a new chunk come out and am still as pleased as I can be with a story that took over a year to get out.  The delays were both internal and external.  At this point, I think the story marks the end of me toying with fiction.  I haven’t written anything in a while that doesn’t read as a rehash of the ideas and themes from my previous fiction.  I still want to somehow some way finish the sf novella, but the rest is relegated to crap I’ll scribble on when I want to write and don’t have anything better to work on.  A few years ago, such a creative stall would have depressed the hell out of me.  Now I’m completely okay with it.  Fact is, I’m a poet.  I’ve been hiding in fiction all these years.  But I’m out now.  We all come out of the closet about something sooner or later.  So yeah–I’m a poet.

Until I get some story stuck in my head and start writing fiction again.

Part Seven

Hello 1:02 AM.  I think it’s time to try the bed again.  Apologies for not waiting up to see the dawn, but the body is coming to the conclusion that not sleeping is not an option despite the continued tornadic nattering of the mind.

 

I hate coming up with titles

The one year anniversary of my grandfather’s death was Thursday.  I managed to be off of work, not really knowing what my emotional state would be and not willing to risk struggling through a day of misery.  I went to the museum park and walked for a good hour and a half, and I felt good.  Good, calm, peaceful.  I miss Poppy.  I always will.  And right now, I can deal with that.  Next year might be different.  But this year, I’m good.  I think it helped that I wasn’t at work.  I think that I might have had a harder time getting to that peacefulness had I been at work, unable to occupy more than a fraction of my mind and that occupied fraction would have been miserable doing things well below its capacity.  I may have gotten through the day just fine regardless, but I am glad I wasn’t at work.  Also took Friday off and spent most of that fighting the formatting for the collection of Jack’s stories.  I have to give up after some five or six revisions.  I can’t pinpoint the issue, but I’m certain it’s due to different versions of Word on different operating systems.  I’ll do better to start fresh, but I don’t want to look at it now.

I’ve also continued work on a new series that I sometimes care about and sometimes don’t.  I ended up breaking one of the main characters more than I planned, but it makes more sense that way.  Unfortunately, it makes him slightly less fun to write.  I destroyed him by the end of the first episode, and he’s not the kind to recover that quickly.  Not that I didn’t destroy the other main character; he’s just a little more resilient.  But that hasn’t been the hard part about writing any of this.  It’s turning off that inner critic/editor/hater.  I don’t know why that little voice is suddenly so dominant, telling me that what I’m writing is stupid and no good and on and on.  Well look.  I never said I was writing great literature.  It’s entertainment, not art.  I’m not Hemingway, and I’m not Stephen King.  I want to write what I’d like to read.  So the inner critic can stuff it.  At least until I pick up the pen again.

Whiskey helps.  Three whiskey sours and most of the most recent Batman movie are enough to make me want to write.  The critic is off, and the horrific mess of the movie makes me want to teach the screenwriters how to do a coherent plot.  Or at least remind them what a plot is.  How can there still be half an hour left from where we stopped it?  Then again, it’s entirely possible that I was far more interested in the whiskey sours and in fact missed pretty much the entire plot anyway.  I doubt it.  At least I can console myself with all the pretty–Christian Bale, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, Anne Hathaway.  Oh yes, eye candy abounds.  Plus Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman.  But for all the pleasing scenery, it’s so hard to watch.  I have no idea how any of it came together or why I was supposed to care.  In the end, I didn’t care.  What a muddled mess of a movie.  But I was talking about whiskey, wasn’t I?

11:11

No, you probably don’t get that.  But I do.  And so does my whiskey.

G’night.

Vacation #4 & #5

Finally got out to walk/take pictures yesterday.  It was a nice day for it.  Came back with some decent shots, although I was a bit disappointed with Pullen Park.  It’s so man-made and thus not terribly interesting to me.  Oh well.  I had planned on hitting a second spot yesterday, but by the time I was done at Pullen, I was hungry and not in the mood to try to find the place I had in mind as it seems to be located in a sort of dead zone that I’ve managed to go around before but not in.  There are a lot of little parks like that up near Cameron Village.  I can find them easy enough but can’t find my way into them.

Today I think will be a mostly inside day.  I should do some of that cleaning and shit I’ve been needing to do.  Today’s my last actual vacation day, so I’m a bit down that I’ll have to go back to work eventually.  But I’ve got a three day weekend.  So there’s that.

Vacation #3

Today ended up being a stay inside in pajamas all day kind of day.  It was overcast this morning.  No good light for photographs.  Not that gloom is never good light.  Turned out to be a good day to stay in anyway.  Developed a tiny migraine within an hour of getting out of bed.  It wanted to be bigger, so I dosed it up and figured it was a good day to work on some writing stuff.

I managed to finish typing the first story of the trilogy thing.  Well.  More like the first part of the novella.  All told, I think I’m looking at around 30,000 words when done.  It’s got a ways to go before it’s done.  I’ve changed so much since the damn thing started that it’s been a challenge to keep it in line.  With the first two parts finally out of 0th draft stage, I’m pretty clear on the direction.  The third part should be relatively easy to get through.  Then it will probably need to be read by someone other than me.

Also finally upload the completed collection of Jack Runner stories to Lulu.  A proof copy is on its way, and once that’s in my hands, I’ll release it into the wild.  It’s about fucking time.  I meant to have this project done at the end of last year or early this year.  But of course, that didn’t work out.  It’s done now.  It was the last thing I needed to do to finally put poor Jack to rest for good.  Now I can move on to the next series of Pale stories.  Maybe.  Maybe I’ll actually write some poems for a change.

Anyway.  It is now time for a glass of wine and Supernatural.  Pretty men and booze.  A nice way to top off a productive if low-key day.

 

Vacation #2

It was cold and overcast with a chance of rain today, so instead of going to the park as planned, I went to the museum, specifically for the Edvard Munch exhibit.  I’d been wanting to go since I heard about it some time in August.  I’m a huge fan of his work, and this exhibit is a perfect illustration of why.

Faces look skeletal or ghost-like.  Every piece is haunted.  By death and fear, most certainly, but also by love, jealousy, sadness and sickness.  By life, really, and the act of living.  After all, there’s really nothing more frightening than life itself.  I could go into more detail on the thoughts I had as studied the prints, but I don’t really want to bother.  If you’re in NC, I highly recommend going to check this one out.

Attraction, Edvard Munch, 1896

 

Vacation #1

Started off my vacation with a massage this morning.  Definitely a good thing.  Except that I am a bit sore because excavating the stones in my shoulders and neck is not exactly gentle work.  Still.  I feel better, tension wise, than I have in a very long time.  I hope to make massage a regular thing, maybe not monthly but at least every other month.  Less physical tension is a good thing.

The waiting room is not called a waiting room at the spa.  Rather it is a tranquility room.  Low light, comfy chairs, annoying new agey music (seriously, I would be more relaxed listening to Eminem or Metallica).  There were three other people in this room when I got there.  All of them were glued to their phones, which seemed anathema to the idea of a tranquility room, but it amused me.  I wonder how those folks made it through a session without their phones in their hands.  Where is the EMP that will kill the power grid and force people to acknowledge the existence of others???

I went to the grocery store afterwards to get a few things to get me through the week, and it’s a very damn good thing I had the massage first.  It wasn’t my normal grocery store, which at one in the afternoon would have been pretty empty.  This one was busy and full of horrible oblivious people.  I was relaxed enough that I simply marveled at the awfulness rather than letting it get me all wound up.  It didn’t help that the aisles were pretty narrow.  But it was still awful.  Not a single person in that store seemed to realize they weren’t the only ones trying to get groceries.  I could have been in at least five grocery cart collisions had I not been paying attention.  One day maybe I’ll get the hang of being too wrapped up in myself to be courteous to others.

Made homemade soup once I got home.  It’s one of those easy things I can’t really fuck up, so I actually like making it.  Beef stock, veggie stock, ground beef, various veggies (potatoes, carrots, corn, onion for me), season to taste and done.  I used to make it with tomatoes as well since a more traditional beef/veggie soup relies on tomatoes, but I hate tomatoes, so I’ve ditched them in favor of the veggie stock, and it tastes so much better.  It’ll be tomorrow’s lunch, too, since I don’t have to share.

Today’s writing has been … nearly non-existent.  Page and half or so of babble on the demon hunter story and that’s it.  Meant to do more work on a more or less done project but was sleepy and distracted by the internet for a bit.  There’s always the rest of the week for that.  Plus all the other bazillion things I want to do.

Tomorrow, I hope to get out with my camera.  Wednesday will be museum day.  Thursday and Friday are more or less open but will hopefully contain getting out of the house in some fashion.  Unless of course, I succumb to inertia, but that’s okay, too.  What’s most important is that I’m not at work!

 

 

Floatsam from the Fatty Tissue Encased in my Skull

Changes coming at work.  Ultimately, it’s all good, but for some reason I can’t put my finger on, I’m kind of cranky about the whole thing.  I think that speaks more to my general attitude towards work these days than anything about the changes.  Still, the whole week, waiting for the Wednesday morning department meeting, waiting for the team meeting after that, processing the whole thing, was more or less unpleasant.  It’s about cranky time for me anyway.  I’m sure that hasn’t been doing my mood any favors.

But dinner and Friday film noir at the museum with a friend was a pleasant way to top it off.  I’m putting Chinatown high up on my rather short list of favorite films.  Bits and pieces have been worming into my mind all weekend.  It’s a fucked up, messy story, and I think it’s absolutely beautiful.  Completely in love with Jack Nicholson’s character.  He somehow reminds me a little of a certain one of my own characters.  Bad ass detective on the outside, emotionally damaged man on the inside.  And Jack was damn hot when he was young.

Yesterday was spent mostly feeling pretty down and not doing much of anything.  Had dreams in which I was almost violently angry with people.  No one in particular, just random dream people, and no particular situation.  It was just generalized rage.  Because yes, I am the Hulk (I’m always angry).  As a result of the emotional slump, everything else sort of slumped.  Typed a page or so of a story in need of transcribing.  Played lots of solitaire.  Drank wine and watched some of our backlog of TV in the evening.

Today hasn’t really been any less down, but at least I’ve managed to type several more pages and avoid letting myself think about how much the story sucks.  (It probably doesn’t suck.  If it really sucked, I would have completely abandoned it years ago instead of continuing to rework it over a period of six years.)

And now it’s time to take my medicine and go read in bed.  Because that lump of fatty tissue in my head needs creative input if it’s going to come up with any creative output.