Thank you for your note about the possibility of a visit. Figure it out. There’s only one of me and ten thousand of you. Please don’t come.
Eek! Never thought of E.B. White being a harsh man. But at least he said please. Have to admit, it made me chuckle.
Also: Read Bertrand Russell's letter to his soon-to-be first wife. It could never be said that he didn't warn her it was going to be all about him. So not chuckle-worthy. And surprisingly! They divorced.
Oh, Besty, I wanted everything. Simply that and nothing more. Simply everything. The medals. The money. The plaudits. The adoration. The love. The respect. The revenge.
I had no fucking idea. I thought I knew it all because when I knew nothing I was told by people who knew even less that I knew everything. I had a big hole in my head and an even bigger hole in my heart and I would believe anything just to have something.
And that heart broke. And it broke and it broke and it broke again and now it is shards and dust. And that head was stuffed with cotton candy and corn chips until it rotted from within to the ragged echoing shell it is now.
And I sit at my desk and I write. The devil I sold my soul to is merciless and enchains me and torments me every moment I am not doing what I begged to be able to do.
I wanted everything and I have nothing and I sit at my desk and I write.
Met my old friend, Steve Kuusisto for the first time last night. And we spent the evening talking like old friends do. We talked about our kids, our work, our travels, our pasts, our futures. We talked about our ideas of wisdom, our ideas of humor, our ideas of America. We talked about our politics. About mooning the Romney's, about Richard Nixon, about Reagan. We recited lyrics:
I am heading today to St. Catherine's University in St. Paul Minnesota where I will be teaching creative writing over the course of this next week. According to my Blackberry "Weather Channel" application it will be sunny in the twin cities; the average "high" will be 70 degrees. There will be birds in the half green trees though my phone doesn't say so. There will be people at St. Catherine's who love poetry and literary writing though again my phone doesn't say it. My phone doesn't have a poetry "app" and it can't locate imagination though its the thing you want if you're looking for a nearby Irish pub. Meanwhile I am packing my spring apparel which looks like my winter apparel because I am a dull man when it comes to appearances. All my cinctured, ruby caftans are inside. On the inside I'm Coco Chanel meets Kandinsky. And this brings us back to creative writing. You see, my inner Coco Kandinsky is not a snob. S(h)e believes that everyone can write. S(h)e also believes that most people don't have access to good ideas and/or scintillating examples of imaginative writing. S(h)e is not an aesthete though s(h)e could be.
The point is that one may write about anything. Poetry is always with us. It may be a homely thing that gives us the poem. The Swedish poet Lars Gustafsson once saw a house fly while he was riding on a night train. He writes:
shut in a night express
still trying to fly
and doing remarkably well
From the south end of the train it arrives at the north
already a far wiser fly
and the train roars all the faster into the night
Of course it isn't enough to say one can find poetry in anything; it is better to say that all conditions, random, slippery, half-formed, minor--all these present the background of our lives. Chance things give us words and words ex nihilo give us clues and clues are lyrics. Does poetry make you better? Probably not. But it makes you a wiser fly on the night express.
Professor Stephen Kuusisto, blind since birth, is the author of “Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening” and the acclaimed memoir “Planet of the Blind”, a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”. He has also published “Only Bread, Only Light“, a collection of poems from Copper Canyon Press. As director of the Renee Crown University Honors Program and a University Professor at Syracuse University, Steve speaks widely on diversity, disability, education, and public policy. www.stephenkuusisto.com
In celebration of National Poetry Month, Steve is giving away one free autographed copy of his book, “Only Bread, Only Light" (Copper Canyon Press), to a reader of this blog. To take advantage of this offer, leave a comment below then Contact Steve to leave your (confidential) contact info. Your name will be entered in a random drawing. The winner's name will be posted in a comment below.
From The Atlantic Wire, Jonathan Ames: What I Read
The first thing I look at in the morning is my phone, an Android of some sort, which I struggle to operate. I'm middle-aged but have the technical savvy of someone much older. I look at email, Facebook, and Twitter to see if any human beings known to me or not known to me have sent me some kind of message. I do this out of sense of needinesss and loneliness. By quickly glancing at these three things (I use AOL email which posts headlines of all sorts), I can get a sense if there's a world crisis that I should be aware of and frightened of before I head out for a coffee and go about my soft and frivolous day-to-day life in which no world crisis seems to have a visible impact, though I'm sure this won't always be the case so it's good practice to upset myself every morning in preparation for when I will need to flee, help someone, or genuinely panic.
When I head out for coffee and breakfast, I get a newspaper. By morning, I mean 11 a.m. or noon. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I get The New York Times because on those days I can do the crossword. On Wednesday's my I.Q. hits a wall puzzle-wise, but sometimes I pick up The Times anyway to see if I'm making progress -- I've been doing crosswords for two years now to prevent early Alzheimers and to waste time -- and sometimes I can actually finish a Wednesday puzzle, but mostly I can't and it's like scoring poorly all over again on the SAT's, and I regret the two dollars I spent on the paper.
When I looked over at Franzen, it seemed to me that he did not really want to be telling me to get myself measured, any more than I had really wanted to ask him if he had any weed. Why were we saying these things? Why weren't we talking about War and Peace, about how to live, about how to reconcile sexual passion with daily life?
I've read recently that people think when a blogger quits writing it's because they've run out of things to say. That's not why I haven't been writing. I've got lots of things to say. Always have. Always will. It's just that I haven't felt like saying much of anything lately. I've felt a lot like Snoopy here.
Could have told you all that for the last eight weeks I've been taking my vitamins religiously. Go me. But, I haven't been wearing my glasses religiously. So, I recently discovered that the vitamins that I thought were my vitamins were actually The Skimmer's vitamins. I've been taking Centrum Silver for Men, 50+ once a day, every single day for eight weeks. And because, since I've been taking them I've been sleeping better than ever, I'm now afraid to quit taking them.
So, what does that mean?! What might I turn into?!
(Enter your own stereotypical, sexist behavior here!)
But, did I feel like telling you that when I discovered it?
No, I did not. Bleah!
All kinds of fun stuff like that's been happening to me and around me. And I need to start writing about all of it before I start to lose the ability to write at all. I used to write every day. And that seems to be something that writers should do. At least Oliver Miller thinks so:
4) You’re gonna have to write all the time. I wrote for about six hours a day, every day, for 15 years before I could quit my boring job and become an actual paid full-time writer.
Which reminds me of a funny story. In his excellent autobiography, animator Chuck Jones talks about his first day at art school. And on his first day, the “mean” professor said this to the class: “You have 200,000 bad drawings inside of you. The sooner you get rid of them, the better it will be for everyone.” Startled gasp! The class was horrified. And Chuck Jones, genius and creator of Bugs Bunny, etc., was horrified for a second too. Until he realized this: “Wait. I’ve already done at least 300,000 drawings.”
The same thing happened to me on my first day of school. Our professor said, “If you want to be a writer, you have to write for six hours a day. No exceptions.” And I was appalled, until I remembered that I did that already.
You’re gonna have to write all the time in order to get better. No one can make you do this. You’re going to have to make yourself do it.
I hate when I'm the only one who can make myself do something! But, instead of falling down on my bed and bleahing into my pillow, I'm going to give up on the bleahs and give it a try.
Stop back soon. This blogging thing could get fun again. And if not? We can all bleah together.
What I like best is a book that's at least funny once in a while... what really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though.
I decided I wanted to post a poem by Charles Bukowski a few hours ago. It's taken me awhile to find the one I wanted.
The other night Blue Kid and his friend, along with their two girlfriends, were sitting in the living room. I walked into the kitchen and overheard BK's friend say, "Well, if I'm going to read any poet, it should be him."
I poked my head around the corner and said, "Didn't mean to eavesdrop, but what poet do you want to read, Steve?"
"Yeah, Drowning in Flame. I haven't read mine yet either. Bought it on Monday. Some people say you should go to the library. And you should. I know why they say that. But, I like to own my books. I like them to be mine." He said, handing my book back to me.
"I know what you mean. I'm the same way. Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame. That's a great phrase."
"Yeah, I want to read Bukowski and, uh, Kurt Vonnegut. I also bought Slaughterhouse Five."
"That's a good one to own. And you'll never go wrong with Vonnegut. He was the coolest guy ever. You're gonna love him."
I took my book up to my office and read for an hour and a half. Didn't dog-ear any pages, so a couple of hours ago I wasn't sure where to find the poem I wanted to post that struck me the other night. But, I was almost sure it was towards the end of the book. So, I started at the back, page 365.
As I read backwards through the book this time, I re-read the ones I had liked and skipped others that I had skipped before. The ones that are too dark, too crass. The ones about racetracks, and whores with yellow teeth, drunk, their stockings puddled around their ankles.
And this time I dog-eared a few. Like this one, page 296.
words for you
red dogs in green hell, what is this
divided thing I call
what message is this I'm offering
it's so easy to slide into
almost all art is shot through with
what is this foolish
strutting and posturing
why do we embroider everything we say
with special emphasis
when all we really need to do
is simply say what
needs to be said?
the fact is
that there is very little that needs
to be said.
so we dress up our
little artful musings
and clamor for attention
so that we may appear to be
a bit more
or even more
than the others.
what is this I'm writing
what is this you're reading
is it no worse than the rest?
probably even a little bit
And this one, page 244.
I hear of somebody who is going to
settle down and
do their work,
painting or writing or whatever,
as soon as they get a better light
or as soon as they move to a new
or as soon as they come back from the trip they
have been planning,
or as soon as...
it's simple: they just don't want
to do it,
or they can't do it,
otherwise they'd feel a burning
itch from hell
they could not ignore
would turn quickly into
Or this one, page 239.
she was really mad
I love you, she said
and spit in a bowl of
put it in the
you can eat that later
then she was gone
like a whirlwind
out the door
in a rush of angry
I love the title of that one. So simple, boy-like. And to be a whirlwind out the door like a rush of angry skirt is more vibrant and life-affirming than to be a yellow-toothed drunken whore wearing baggy hose.
But, that's just me.
I didn't read the one entitled "work-fuck problems."
I started to read "you never liked me" but had a hard time getting past the second line.
I let Reena give you a blow job
even though she was my wife
Bukowski's a good storyteller, so there was probably a good, or least interesting reason behind that decision of his. I skimmed the rest.
where you tried to rape Robert's widow...
you tried to drown him afterwards...
you wanted to suicide...
I was the one who talked him out of killing you...
I just wasn't in the mood for that kind of story tonight. Maybe I'll go back to it someday. Or maybe not.
I flipped through 362 pages and re-read, flipped and skipped until I found the poem I had wanted to post.
It was the first poem in the book.
My memory ain't what it used to be. Or maybe it never was what I imagine it once was. Maybe I've always gone backwards, starting at the end of things to find what meant something to me.
so you want to be a writer?
if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently,
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.
if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.
don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.
when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in