That didn’t happen.
That didn’t happen.
(So: not a diary entry today)
I have been listening to interviews on the Penteract podcast, and reading essays about visual poetry and began thinking that perhaps I am not working toward visual poetry – as I’m hearing it “defined” in these places: as necessarily disassociating linguistic symbols from their semantic meanings. That isn’t my goal. I hope that I am still working with visual poetry as it is defined by a community of artists here/there/somewhere? The learning curve here is steep. It doesn’t matter in terms of what I am making, but it matters in terms of getting it out in the world. It matters in terms of community.
What I want to do is use visual elements, textural elements, and semantic elements in dialogue. In a kind of gesamtkunstverk that avoids both illustration and lyricism; the narrative and the line (including movement) are only elements in the whole.
At the risk of sounding pompous, I want to create a Brechtian artwork that makes the viewer intensely aware of their role as observers – in terms of a disruption of the audience’s habitual (emotional) response to a text or narrative. But I don’t have any desire to deconstruct the sense of either.
For example: when the narrative text of a poem dissolves into asemic writing it can take on a lyric quality, I don’t want that quality to be an illustration of the text’s narrative, but it would bring with it its own emotive qualities and push the narrative through a transition that will ultimately, necessarily break down any human narrative.
All of my work the past few years is integrated with a kind of field-guide observational relationship with nature. From wasps to telomeres. My approach to nature isn’t Romantic at all, I am trying to “ground” the narrative and the unavoidable lyric expression in a larger context with a disruption of perspective.
I want to flip the metaphor relationship of the lyric poem: human experience is the vehicle, and what we consider the “natural world” is the tenor. It is an attempt to move away from an anthropocentric view.
An anti-lyrical poetry.
What is horrific is natural. Nature is horrific. Yes, there is the deer in the grove. And there is the blacklegged tick on the neck of the deer in the grove. And in the gut of that tick, the Borrelia burgdorferi move through the tick’s body.
There is a reason designers look to the tiny elements of the natural world when creating their monsters. And it’s the same reason we already know them.
This morning I have been thinking about what I want out of life. Not in terms of a stockpile of accomplishments or acquisitions. But which moments do I want to squeeze from the days? What does a good day look like?
I haven’t really been taking photos since the end of summer. And it feels like I have lost that particular practice of meditation. The noticing. The meta-awareness of my own limited perspective through the lens.
This morning there is a cluster of snowbells sheltering under the dormant hedge in the front yard. A promise.
I took a picture.
I’m not sure why. I could have come back to the little library and written about it – as I am doing. But why that, then, too? What’s up with this need to see myself seeing? To document my perspective?
With all that I’m learning about this stage of life, sometimes second-hand, it seems like an obligation to notice the world while I’m still in it. It goes back to that perennial question: what am I doing here? Maybe all I owe the world is my gratitude to a cluster of snowbells on a morning after a storm.
And once again, I hold to my belief that we have the concept of metaphors entirely backward. Our experience is always the vehicle, and nature itself is the tenor. Our art is always in service to nature.
Insert a Venn diagram where we are a small circle in the larger circle of the natural world.
Maybe it is a pantheist idea to think our purpose is to be in service to the world? And maybe it’s self-serving to think that if I can be in harmony, it will contribute to a more harmonious world? To think that my perspective could serve to open other people’s perspectives?
But what if I’m an unwittingly altruist ant in a crowded nest, thinking I am working for myself? In which case, my (self-)perceived egoism is nothing to worry about.
When I think about perfect days, I think about all the things E. and I filled our days with when we were falling in love. Drinking hot chocolate in the dunes after dark. Finding silly things-we’ve-never done to do together: surfing, landscape-drawing courses, trekking the Hardanger plateau. The excuse about everyday obligations taking over doesn’t cover it. There were everyday obligations on those days as well. It may have felt like time out-of-time, but it wasn’t. And what if our idea of cause & effect here is all wrong? What if the feelings didn’t spark the experiences, but the experiences (the willingness to experience) sparked the feelings?
Once again, nothing new here. A cliché idea from any self-development course or marriage-counseling session. But once again, experience cannot be learned by rote.
So I keep writing it down.
And I will give myself permission to continue with this memoir project. Out of my comfort zone and crossing genres. So much to learn. So many ways to fail. So, like crossing the plateau: one careful step in front of another. Staying in the moment, which does mean to focus from one, specific perspective.
One at a time.
My computer updated and now, along the bottom menu of my screen, it tells me – unsolicited – that “Rain [is] coming”. And I feel bad because I haven’t looked out of the window this afternoon. I did walk around the house this morning, still in my pj’s, picking up dog poop so the lawn mower wouldn’t catch it. But I didn’t take in the morning: not the weather, not the birds, not the scent of autumn. Sometimes I wonder why the Bible lists so many sins and not this one: inattention.
Yesterday I nursed my cold by lying in bed and watching television. There was a moment when I pulled away from myself – consciously – and I suddenly became aware of the room. The space in the room. The colors of the walls. The textures of everything in it. Everything so beautifully foreign, so outside of myself, so dispossessed of expectations, so soulfully free.
I became aware of the distance between my arm and the blanket, my eardrum and the air vent, my mouth and the closest surface in each direction: the painted pressed wood of the nightstand. The coarse linen of the chaise lounge. I sensed my breath filling the room. Together with Leonard’s breath, and our lives overlapping at a cellular level.
There is a spider that hides somewhere behind my vanity mirror. Also breathing. Also alive and intermingling – atomic. Discrete. Intertwined.
We are inextricably tied to everything that frightens us. That thrills us. That makes us aware of our breathing.
I think I have always held on to this fact as a kind of comfort.
These little moments cut me off from the world in one way, but they also connect me to myself. They connect me to my childhood, and to a state of vigilance that was both necessary and habituated, to time when I didn’t have the self-awareness to judge this openness – or justify it, or pity myself for it. There was no – and still is, no – value judgement hovering over this state of being that I fall into now and then, now.
And then I slipped away from myself, back into the day like a fish into a stream.
The little room smells like tea and nail polish. Rosemary oil in the burner: for memory, they say. Somewhere deep in my chest there is a melody taking form. Ophelia handing out flowers. “I would give you some violets, but they withered all [ …].”
Last weekend I ran along the shore and the air was still. But the sea was still churning from the storm that had passed through. Tall waves, dark and edged with a white so opaque I could imagine I was running through an oil painting.
Sometimes writing is like wading into a stream where others have left all the stories to flow together, to flow through your hands, around your waist and into new ribbons of currents of hot and cold shining with the tiny creatures that give the world life, that take the world’s life. There’s nothing to claim here. Not really. It all runs to the ocean.
I miss writing.
Leaving in an hour for London. With Maeterlinck’s Bluebird haunting my thoughts. It is a good place to be now. Ready for a new season.