Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

with our lacks…—we do what we can—we give what we have.” Henry James, “The Middle Years

A writer works with what she lacks as well as what she has. (Watch a dancer adapt a movement to the constraints—the particular length and flexibility—of their limbs. Listen to an actor or singer shift a line’s rhythm to fit their range and timbre.) Assess your lacks to see what use they might be put to. Develop other sources of plenty.

Ask: What do I want desperately to write and how shall I write it? What am I trying not to write? When do my fluencies become clever distractions from what needs writing? How often have I watched with acute irritation a performer’s distractions, hissing silently, “Why don’t you stop making that step, that melody easier than it is? Why don’t you find another way, another technique to get at it? Take the risk that it won’t have the same affect you so admire and covet in some other artist. (That supple arabesque, that quietly sustained high note.) All right. You can’t get that longed-for effect by the same means. Have at it in another way! Can an unexpected tension in the line, a surreptitious harshness in that note make it work?”

Margo Jefferson, Constructing a Nervous System: A Memoir (Pantheon, April 12, 2022)


Notes:

Lightly Child, Lightly

I lie on the floor…I sink into a sweet melancholy and rhythmic waves of words stream through me again. I write them down on brown wrapping paper and conclude sorrowfully that the poems are still not good enough. ‘Children’s poems,’ said Mr Krogh… Then one day I write something that is different from anything I’ve written before, only I don’t know what the difference is. I write the following:

There burns a candle in the night, it burns for me alone, and if I blow at it, it flames up, and flames for me alone. But if you breathe softly and if you breathe quietly, the candle is suddenly more than bright and burns deep in my own breast, for you alone.

—  Tove Ditlevsen, Youth: The Copenhagen Trilogy (FSG Originals (January 26, 2021)


Notes:

  • Photo: Jake Noren via unsplash
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

as difficult to attain as a pair of wings and a halo

9/13/42. The most spiritual and “beautiful” literature has already been written—in the Bible, in the Greek dramas, in their philosophies. What we have to attain is at best the material representation, a poor substitute for the eternities we cannot logically hope to emulate. Spirituality in our day is as difficult to attain as a pair of wings and a halo.

 Patricia Highsmith, “Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks: 1941-1995.″ Anna von Planta (Editor). (Liveright, November 16, 2021)


Photo: DK @ Daybreak. December 20, 2021. 22° F, feels like 16° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

As I sit alone with these words, I think about how brave he was in so many ways, and how brave he was to go into that studio every day with his demons and his angels, and labor to put them on canvas. Nulla dia sine linea, No day without a line, is the motto at the Art Students League, from Pliny the Elder, derived from the Greek painter Apelles. The devotions.

— Elizabeth Alexander, “The Light of the World: A Memoir.


Elizabeth Alexander was married to Ficre Ghebreyesus from 1997 until he died unexpectedly in 2012 days after his 50th birthday. Her memoir, “The Light of the World” is a story of her loss and her love.  The painting above was Ficre Ghebreyesus’ Middle Passage Figures with Solitary Boats (c. 2002–2007) (detail). Acrylic on canvas. 24 x 30 inches; 26.5 x 32.5 x 2 inches.

Walking. Swallowed up by Stegner…

172 mornings.

Today, 5:50 a.m., that’s 173.

Home to Cove Island Park, and back. Five mile loop.

Wallace Stegner (via Audible) has been keeping me company. The Spectactor Bird. Angle of Repose. Crossing to Safety. Remembering Laughter. All the Little Live Things.

And now, Stegner’s Recapitulation.

“Remembered habit created remembered reality. His needle ran in a groove.” (WS-R)

173 consecutive mornings. ~1,700,000 steps. I’d say that’s a groove.

As my feet pat the shoulder of the road, helicopters come whirling down from the red maples, illuminated against the street lamps. My mind lets go of the narration, I stop, and I watch, in silence. A warm gust of wind sends another troop of helicopters whirring down on me. Raining helicopters!

“That intense obsessed involvement, and then absence, silence.” (WS-R)

And then back to Stegner…and Recapitulation.

“Listen to those cottonwoods talking..Doesn’t that sound tell you, as much as any single signal in your life, who you are? Doesn’t it smell of sage and rabbit brush and shad scale? Doesn’t it have the feel of wet red ditch-bank sand in it, and the stir of a thunderstorm coming up over one of the little Mormon towns down in the plateaus? Just now, for a half second, it drowned me in associations and sensations. It brought back whole two people I used to love. When cottonwoods have been rattling at you all through your childhood, they mean home. I could have spent fifty years listening to the shamal thresh the palms in the date gardens of Hofuf, and never felt anything but out of place. But one puff of wind through those trees in the gully is enough to tell me, not that I have come home, but that I never left. Having let it surge through his head like the wind through the branches, he takes it back.” (WS-R)

And then, the aha moment.

My mind swimming in Stegner’s words for weeks.

Why so uninspired to write DK?

Try to follow behind that!

Forgettaboutit.


Notes:

  • WS-R = Wallace Stegner, Recapitulation (Penguin Books, November 1, 1997)
  • Photo: DK, Weed Ave, Stamford, CT. October 24, 2020. 6:26 am. 61° F.  Wind gusts: up to 13 mph.

All My Friends

This book is dedicated to the voices in my head, the most remarkable of my friends.

And to my wife, who lives with us.

Fredrik Backman, the opening dedication to his new book titled “Anxious People: A Novel” (Atria Books, September 8, 2020)


Notes:

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

The first moment I wrote in my notebook again, I wrote of that fleeting feeling in the morning, of possibility.

That’s what I want Drifts to be, my desire and longing for it.

Kate Zambreno, Drifts: A Novel (Penguin, May 19, 2020)


Portrait of Kate Zambreno by Nikola Tamindzic

Morning Walk (90 sec)


Written by Harry Stead, Why Long Walks Will Change Your Life (Human Parts @ Medium.com)

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

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Epiphanies aren’t lightning bolts. They are a hummed note, a prayer mumbled constantly, brought to the surface given the right conditions. It’s as if I am always hearing three ways, first shallowly, collecting, then one level deeper as I’m processing, and finally, I am hearing with my body, which is when I’m hearing myself. That’s one way, for me, information combines with experience and becomes knowledge. I wish there were a shortcut.

Stephanie Danler, Stray: A Memoir (Knopf, May 19, 2020)


Notes: New York Times Book Review on “Stray: A Memoir” – “In ‘Stray,’ Stephanie Danler Asks How a Victim Becomes a Perpetrator

Hi Ho, Hi Ho. Off to Work We Go.

May you hear in your own stories
the moan of wind around the corners
of half-forgotten houses
and the silence in rooms you remember…

May you study your craft as you would study
a new friend or a long time, much loved lover.
And all the while, lost though you may be in the forest,
drop your own words on the path like pebbles
and write your way home.

– Pat Schneider, from “Blessing for a Writer” in “How the Light Gets In: Writing as a Spiritual Practice” 


Source: Thank you Whiskey River. Photo: Anka Zhuravleva.  Inspired: “This is what poetry is: not a kind of public posturing but a private language of music and imagery that is strange and compelling enough that it can speak privately to thousands of people at the same time.” ~ Ilya Kaminsky, from “Still Dancing: An Interview With Ilya Kaminsky” by Garth Greenwell, March/April 2019 (Feb 13, 2019)

Go on.

Thirty years ago, I was remembering, an eminent writer had given me some unsolicited advice.

Just look at an orange, she said.

Go on looking at it. For hours.

Then put down what you see.

– C. P. Snow, Strangers and Brothers: Last Things


Photo: anka zhuravleva

get up ya bowsies /  and clean out your cells

What time of day do you write?

There’s an Irish song written by Brendan Behan that goes: In the early mornin’ /  the screws were bawling /  get up ya bowsies /  and clean out your cells. Well, that’s how I feel in the early morning: Get up, ya bowsie. I want to get up before the small mundanities and the stupidities and the prison guards of the Internet. Clean out my cell. Or my cells. Get the words down on paper. A perfect day for me begins in the dark before anyone else has woken, say 4:30 or 5 am. Two hours or so of this. In the quiet. And then, when the house begins to stir, the rest of my life will too. But for a small parcel of early morning hours, I feel entirely free. And then I go out and walk the dog.

~ Colum McCann, from “Colum McCann on Ulysses, Mary Lavin, and Drinking with John Berger” (Literary Hub, February 25, 2020)


Notes: Thank you Sawsan for sharing.

Driving I-95 N. With Words.

Friday night. Long week.

Commute home, I-95 N. Traffic snarled heading South – – my lanes, are dry and flowing. A quick, 22-minute ride home.

Hand reaches for Sirius Radio, and I rotate the dial past MSNBC News, 7 on 70’s, Fox Business and NPR.

I switch it off.

Low throbbing head ache, all of me yearning to keep noise level down.

Yet the mindless chatter upstairs won’t stop. Replaying todays’ events.

6am. Floor is empty. Desktop PC with two screens on my right are buzzing. Laptop on my left, on the side arm, is set to WordPress, the notifications tab open. “Comments” and “Likes” flash up intermittently, pulling me away from my emails.

Mimi’s schooling me (again) with her vocabulary. This time “doppelgänger.” Sorry, I didn’t have a clue. Had to google it.

Then she comes back with another: “palliative.” Had to google that too.

And then a few minutes later, here comes Kiki, from Switzerland. Neutral means nice, I thought, but Swiss German’s have no use for mediocrity or ignorance. And this one speaks 5  languages. Kiki comes in with her haymaker in a reply to Mimi’s comment: “I see that our dear friend didn’t know palliative, I really wondered…. Made me sad in a way I can’t explain.”

Sawsan is out there somewhere, floating around, not yet tweaked enough to get into the fray, but coiled and ready to strike if provoked.  This here, this show, he’s a 50+ year old Man-Child.

Lori. Professional Writer. Cringing at the typos, the misplaced commas and apostrophes, the dangling participle-things, the thin, repeating vocabulary – hits the “Like” button.  I have to give him a Courtesy-Like but please, I won’t drop down to this level and comment.

Raye.  Handle: “Jots from a Small Apt.” Artist. Poet. Witty. Looks around and says: “Nope. Won’t touch this one.”

Anneli. Her WP Blog Handle: “Words From Anneli.”  Looks at all this in Wonder. How did he even get this far?

Then I get home, sitting at the dinner table.  Susan: “aren’t you getting tired of posting pictures of puppies, babies, and other people’s words?”

My Response?

I have no Words!

 


Notes: Gif via nini-poppins.

Lightly child, lightly

“In the old days, my thoughts like tiny sparks would flare up in the almost dark of consciousness and I would transcribe them, and page after page shone with a light that I called my own. I would sit at my desk amazed by what had just happened. And even as I watched the lights fade and my thoughts become small, meaningless memorials in the afterglow of so much promise, I was still amazed. And when they disappeared, as they inevitably did, I was ready to begin again, ready to sit in the dark for hours and wait for even a single spark, though I knew it would shed almost no light at all. What I had not realized then, but now know only too well, is that sparks carry within them the wish to be relieved of the burden of brightness.”

Mark Strand, from “A Letter from Tegucigalpa” in Almost Invisible: Poems


Notes:

  • Photo: by Kristopher Roller (via aestum)
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Not a big ask…

I want a garden, a small house, grass, animals, books, pictures, music. And out of this, the expression of this, I want to be writing […] But warm, eager, living life—to be rooted in life—to learn, to desire to know, to feel, to think, to act. That is what I want. And nothing less.

~ Katherine Mansfield, (1888-1923) in a diary entry featured in Letters and Journals of Katherine Mansfield


Notes: Quote via minima. Photo: Jac Graham | wood worker & mead maker (via small & tiny home ideas)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

head

Monday.
Me.
Tuesday.
Me.
Wednesday.
Me.
Thursday.
Me.
Friday.

~ Witold Gombrowicz, in the opening of Diary.  Just before the outbreak of World War II, young Witold Gombrowicz left his home in Poland and set sail for South America. In 1953, still living as an expatriate in Argentina, he began his Diary with one of literature’s most memorable openings.


Notes: Quote – Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels. Photo: via seemore

Secrets of Success: Focus & Balance.

    

    


Don’t miss video here: Little Owl.  Source: HuffPost (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

The still, quiet voice


“I have to listen to music while I write, and usually I play just one song at a time. I repeat it all day, often for weeks on end. Months, even. There’s one song that I replayed up to 30,000 times during the ten years I was writing The Incendiaries. I love that song and its powers; I can’t tell you its name, lest it stop helping me. By obsessively replaying a single song at a time, I can, if I’m lucky, set the pitch. It gives me a place to start. The ritual of it, the repetition, lulls and quiets my anxious, everyday self. The ego goes silent, which lets my writing self emerge, and begin to sing. Even now, months after I last edited The Incendiaries, to play the song I can’t name is to be pulled back toward my novel, into my made-up town of Noxhurst. The still, quiet voice. That’s what I used to listen for, back when I was deeply religious: the still, quiet voice of God. I’ve lost that kind of faith, but I do believe in fiction’s voice, and in spending the rest of my life, or so I hope, listening for it.”

— R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries: A Novel in Poets & Writers, July 26, 2018


From a book Review of The Incendiaries by Ron Charles in The Washington Post on July 23, 2018: ‘The Incendiaries’ is the most buzzed-about debut of the summer, as it should be. “…Kwon, who was raised Roman Catholic and has said that she lost her faith in her teens, seems to understand with extraordinary sympathy just what that loss entails. And as her debut novel catches fire and burns toward its feverish conclusion, she offers a strikingly clear articulation of the fanatic’s mind-set: It’s not an excess of belief that drives some believers to violence; it’s a maddening lack of belief, which requires that radical action be substituted for faith. In a nation still so haunted by the divine promise, on the cusp of ever-more contentious debates about abortion and other intrinsically spiritual issues, ‘The Incendiaries’ arrives at precisely the right moment.”

unaware of my presence, moving just their lips, forming words that I will soon pronounce for them

I’ve learned to write on trains and in hotels and waiting rooms. On the tray tables on planes. I take notes at lunch, under the table, or in the bathroom. I write in museum stairwells, in cafés, in the car on the shoulder of the motorway. I jot things down on scraps of paper, in notebooks, on postcards, on my other hand, on napkins, in the margins of books. Usually they’re short sentences, little images, but sometimes I copy out quotes from the papers. Sometimes a figure carves itself out of the crowd, and then I deviate from my itinerary to follow it for a moment, start on its story. It’s a good method; I excel at it. With the years, time has become my ally, as it does for every woman—I’ve become invisible, see-through. I am able to move around like a ghost, look over people’s shoulders, listen in on their arguments and watch them sleep with their heads on their backpacks or talking to themselves, unaware of my presence, moving just their lips, forming words that I will soon pronounce for them.

~ Olga Tokarczuk, Flights (August 13, 2018)


Olga Tokarczuk, 56, is one of Poland’s best and most beloved authors. In 2018, she won the Man Booker International Prize for her novel Flights, becoming the first Polish writer to do so.  Tobias Grey wrote a profile of Tokarczuk in the NY Times on August 8, 2018 titled: Olga Tokarczuk’s Book ‘Flights’ Is Taking Off.” Here’s an excerpt from the profile:

“Ms. Tokarczuk likened herself to a tailor making a dress. ‘The dress is beautiful and comfortable to wear,’ she said. ‘But like the reader, the person who wears it is not expected to know precisely how all the materials that make it are connected.’ When Ms. Tokarczuk finished writing ‘Flights’ she gathered all her pages and spent a week studying them spread out on the floor of her living room. ‘It was funny because I had to climb onto a table to see how they looked from a high vantage point,’ she said. ‘I trusted my intuition to find the book’s order, and I wouldn’t change anything now.'”


Portrait of Olga Tokarczuk from Los Angeles Review of Books

All of it is really just absurd and seems improbable

“While working on my first novel, I developed Central Serous Retinopathy, or stress-related vision loss in my left eye. Doctors said it was imperative that I relax, but I wasn’t about to give up my passion. Then it hit me: the absurd reality that writing a book robbed me of my sight. The human brain is powerful enough to send a man to the moon, yet, writing nearly blinded me. In that moment of clarity, I realized that reflecting on the sheer absurdity of existence was key. Now, whenever I find myself overwhelmed, I sit back, pet my dog, and count the innumerable bizarre occurrences that had to happen just so in order for me to be sitting in front of my typewriter at that moment: the highly volatile mixture of elements that exploded into our universe; the curious Tiktaalik fish that thought, What’s on that dry stuff?; and the fact that my mother and father, millions of years and coincidences later, graciously decided to make another human. All of it is really just absurd and seems improbable. Once I’ve reflected on that for a while, writing hardly seems impossible and I enter a state of repose, grateful to get back to work.”

— Michael A. Ferro, author of TITLE 13 in Writers Recommend (Poets & Writers, July 12, 2018)


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