Sunday, July 27, 2008

On Writing, Why?




On Writing, Why - 2008-07-27 09:15


If I build it, they will come

I have lived my life waiting to be ready when the teacher arrived. It might just be a case of inflated expectations, or an unhealthy self-absorption, but I'm still waiting.

I must add, blind as I seem to be, my hearing is perfect.

It may be that there was not just one teacher and I've been learning little bits all the time -- aggregation through osmosis. It might be that I've never been truly ready. Mostly I just notice that after a person talks to me, they look in my eyes, look away, then shake their heads, slightly.

I think it's like god -- he either is or he isn't; everything or nothing -- and if he needs me to bow and scrape to have meaning -- he's more a King than a god, and I bow before no king. I seek no proof of god, it's clearly out of in my hands, what I really think I need is a bunch of smaller gods -- more hands on and accessible. I need a god proof-er to go over my copy, a god lawyer to check my background. Might even a media savvy god to handle my PR -- or a devil, it's hard to judge these days.

But what I've got is me, and I am no longer going to wait.

I've had gentle arguments with my woman about my writing. She thinks I'd be better off writing if I first figured out what people wanted, then gave it to them. Anyone can do that -- read formula romance novels, or newspapers -- they use algorithms as places to hold words, then print it out. It's the math of English -- the algebra of wordsmith's -- It takes the unknown of personality out and slaps in standards. It has a place in the world of facts and the world of simple emotions, but nothing to do with me.

I write for the person 300 years from now who accidentally finds me on a stray disk, stuck in a condemned library. I don't believe that trying to make people happy without making myself happy has a point. I also don't think it would work -- people write better than me in almost all genres. The only thing I do better than others is write exactly what the vision that drives me tells me to write, and no one on earth is better at this than me. I write for me, and because I have to or I hurt. I've spent a lot of my life hurting and I don't want to anymore.

I figure I might just be starting the alternative religion for Scientology in the 23rd century. Stranger things have happened. 


(I write because someday Connor might want to know about his Grandfather.)




Saturday, July 26, 2008

On Writing, Interpreting English

On Writing, Interpreting English - 2008-07-26 10:14


Interpreting English

When I read W.S. Merwin, or any other very good poet, take a book of poetry from other language and translate it into English I get confused.

I think, how could my words get put into another language and not have a different tone, cadence, rhythm – or even subtlety? The stuff that goes into what I write is all notes and scraps that I’ve collected over years; all in context with the culture and time that I’ve been living. I don’t write about the Great Depression, why would I think I could put myself into an eastern European after he lived years under communism and have success at really getting the point of the words he put, with great labor, onto paper or parchment, or whatever?

The idea that a poem can be explained by a teacher or critic is false. Other than footnoting the place and colloquialisms of the time. I think any interpretation is done after the fact.—like explaining a joke to someone not familiar with the concept or pointing out the reasons for a depression 80 years ago. It’s always easy to see things in retrospect – even things that never existed.

Things happen in time -- JFK was shot and killed, and forevermore events will be half remembered, misunderstood, manipulated and shaped into reasons how it happened, in 20 different ways – all different. You can’t claim the truth of the past without giving the history, and usually, this comes from primary sources that have both a unique perspective and an ax to grind.

A Poem either works or doesn’t, a teacher is useful mostly by setting the place and time:

‘In 2008, Cheney was thought of as a sort of Imperial vice-president, so the allusion the poet is using concerns a connection with Christ the king.”

It’s not helpful to explain the concept of death, life and all the unsaid ties that bind – if a poem has to be explained that much, it should just be a book.

The problem is, English words have to be interpreted themselves – a poet gives each word a weight and a balance. Sometimes the weight comes from a trick, such as words that sound alike; sometimes it comes from non-standard cultural usage of a word. It might even be a sarcastic, pointedly left uncommented on; a stand-alone piece that’s easy to glaze over while reading and the one thing that might actually be the point of the poem.

When T.S. Eliot wrote about ‘scuttling across silent seas,’ he may have been thinking about hermit crabs, lobsters or coal ships of the Royal Navy. He may have used a lifetime of learning and living to match scuttling with silent sea because it was in the ballpark of what he was trying to say and it sounded good when he said it out loud. He probably looked at it after he wrote and asked himself where the words came from.

If he waited 20 years, he could have taken an English class and they would have told him.


Friday, July 25, 2008

What are Words For?

What are Words For? - 2008-07-25 10:04


“What are words for, when no one listens anymore?”
Missing Persons

Well, weapons for one thing.

You can set up people with them, beat them over the head when they are not looking, ambush, defend, overrun – even toy with them like a cat with a half dead mouse. Used correctly, words can make a person cry like a baby.

You can also use them to construct a reality. “If A is A, and B is B then obviously, C is the correct result.” You just have to frame the argument in the right way. The power comes in the frame.
“Obama is a smoker, smoking is a mental disorder – do we really want a crazy person with their hand on the trigger?” Stuff like that – repeated over and over by the authority of the media through TV anchormen and other god like toads of the ether. I think the new term for this is ‘Swift boating.
You can yell just the right word in a crowd and get a panic.

You can throw them casually up in the air to see where they land, maybe to draw attention towards you, or maybe push attention away to cover a major life slip
.
You can use them on your dog to get funny dog faces, or the type of adoration that makes strong men cringe.

You can buy them on a card, add some flowers and get a blow job at certain times of the lunar cycle.

You make them stand for everything, then put people in jail for using them in amusing ways that don’t amuse you.

You can build temples around them and let people in for free, if you want.

You can shred them and use them for insulation in houses.

You can tie them, along with a tin can, to the tail of a cat, then get stoned and watch TV until the cat surprises you somehow.

Even if no one listens, there are many uses for words. Sometimes, however, they are important because they are true and need to be said. Sometimes you just can’t help it – they are in you and you have to get them out before they melt you into glue and bone.






Wednesday, July 23, 2008

On Writing, Everything

Writing and the theory of everything

I was reading an article about the ‘Theory of everything,’ a math deal-ley and out of my league, because all my math skills consist of ‘close enough.’ What struck me was the concept of elegance-- for a thing to be truth, it must also be elegant. The world, to them, must not only make sense, it must also be pretty, simple and, in the end, obvious.

I think that I see words the way mathematicians see numbers. I think that there is one word or small group of words, that, when placed in the context of a time, can say everything. that needs to be said. That the correct placement of individual words on paper can bring about individual enlightenment on a Buddistic scale.

Words stand for things as sound, tone and meaning. They exist in a culture and can be given cult like status or depths of meaning far beyond the letters they symbolize. Say Hitler or even Adolf, and the words that follow will take on different meanings no matter their intention. Words get loaded with meaning over time and use. These are container ships of words – ready for their nitrogen and fuel oil deliveries. That’s cultural.

Some words can get jingled into place because they sound a certain way. Comics call them funny words, but I think they are words that don’t have flat surfaces or crevices to hold a load – they just jangle when an attempt is made on them. Think of bamboozled or shenanigans – or better yet, any adjective that jars a noun cock-eyed when used.

Some words are slugs of tone; misdirection’s and fakes – big dummies of words that take up space and occupy weight, but do nothing but add bulk to a sentence. They should be removed, unless you need the bulk to shape an explosion, or shelter a frailty of construction.

Words can be placed gently to lean on other words, they can forced together to make each other angry – they can dance around a common pole of meaning and radiate outwards like a quasar does.

Teaching sentence structure is like teaching Algebra I – it’s form not function. If you can’t just see what’s right in the first place – it becomes too complicated and won’t be remembered or valued – it’s just a thing you do to get an answer, not an art.

Good writing is like good coke – you know it and you know the difference. It’s elegant and makes you high; though too much without human companionship can make your venetian blinds bend in funny spots.

God Bless America

God Bless America - 2008-07-23 08:49


God Bless America

I work with mostly people from other countries. They all. to a person, think that this is the best place on earth, though they also think Bush is an idiot.

Daniel thinks the best part is that we get to fail spectacularly, and still get to have a life. Reza thinks that having religion not be a part of government is the secret. Fatima is happy to work -- to actually get a choice to be a cop rather than the nurse her parents want her to be.

The regular white guys just show up and complain, a lot.

Sometimes we see only the problems, not the fact that in the problems also lies the solutions if faced honestly and truthfully. It's always the first step.

In my life I have failed, cried like a baby, gotten depressed for months, then got up and done things a little differently -- and with a new chance, made a new life. It has taken hard work and some very uncomfortable situations, but it got done.

Americans work hard when they have to, see and face mistakes when they have to, know how to start again when they need to -- all because we live in a place that has taught us and allowed us to be ourselves as individuals no matter how many fucking times we disappoint. We are expected to get up -- it's American to get up.

Like my Mom has always said -- 'it's never over."