Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Opposite of Overwriting

I have been working on a new idea and have been away from the blog, per se. I have kept up my twittering. I have kept up my quillpill stories. Anyone who has an interest in my experiments on brevity and these new ideas on the Zen of the moment, will find examples of what I am currently exploring in my work. The blog, I realize is becoming my way of thinking out loud about writing. It is a kind of talking to myself that I am sharing, unashamedly with anyone who wants to overhear it. In the spirit of a gift I am leaving my creative work out in the open without a desire for profit, merely because I have made it and it has no value unless it is somehow shared with someone.

I am not going to quote sources ancient and modern that I have synthesized. I would have had to written down the exact words and the citations at the time. I can't be bothered. It slows me down. An example, an article I was reading about ancient India, in a time when the speech and conversation of the court was elevated to poetry and opera. One of the court poets was quoted as saying a poem must be like an arrow, shot directly into the reader’s soul. That is how I remember the quote but whether these are the exact words or not does not matter. What matters is that is how I received the thought, absorbing it so completely and agreeing with it so deeply that I can not forget it, at least this version of the thought that I remember in this moment and I am almost forced to bring it to others.

In trying to understand why I have spent my life, practically from the time I learned to use words, writing poetry. This has been a long, lonely, difficult struggle to understand words, to play with them and learn to use them in ways that make harmonies and rhythms. I have come to realize this is not a choice but an obsession. There is little practical use in reading poetry, poring over dictionaries, searching for and memorizing obscure poems, studying poems and trying to craft them, taking time to cherish words and roll them on my tongue, holding them in my mouth as they escape from my lungs and relishing the vibration of the sinews in my throat. It is a great waste of time when you have mouths to feed and work to do. As a career, poetry is as impractical as ballet. Perhaps even less practical. There are not countless parents dressing their children in frock coats and berets, queuing up to purchase poetry lessons. It is not as if it has ever been a choice for me. I have written poems since childhood, most of which will probably never be seen by others.

What I have been thinking about lately is that I write closest to my true voice when I am least self-conscious. If can completely immerse myself in the act of writing, in the moment when something takes me and from the idea, a word forms in the brain's synapses and fires my fingers at the keyboard. I can find a Zen like state of focus, one which blots out the world and yet totally enters it. That consciousness is as thin and delicate as a fingerprint on the keyboard. It is a fragile as surface tension.

Here is an example of some new work, written in bursts of 140 characters at a time, while rushing though the prosaic parts of earning a living. I stop and like throwing a dart, try to nail down the theme that I have been mulling over in my mind.

This piece was made of two tweets. They happened in the same hour of the day when I had no time to write but had an idea in the back of my mind for a while before throwing the darts.

Prose won't hold some notions.

Some inklings refuse to be contained
by the mundane and will only yield to
broken lines, rhymes & rhythms of
thought in poems.

Words - what crude tools to
carry thought.

Yet thought is naught
without a precisely built
container of words,

symbols for breathy
noises that carry it
from tongue to ear.

1 comment:

John Guzlowski said...

Hi, Phil, I was overwriting in the early 90s, writing a poem over and over, revising till I had a hundred pages of the same poem, writing on enormous sheets 4 by 3 feet so that I could incorporate all my comments.

I ran into a woman at that time who had been working on a poem for 15 years. She had gone from a great 13 line poem to a great 14 line poem. When she showed me her work, I said, I've had it with overwriting.