in 2000 I helped set up an art show at the offices of Cyberplex in toronto, I worked there. we had the staff offer up works in various media for display, people from all the departments participated and the show was a terrifically rich aesthetic expedition. This is the poetry hallway with poems from 6 poets on the staff. Camera: Sony Mavica FD-7, taken by me.
written in 1974 when I was at the University of Toronto
BESIDE THE SEA AT NIGHT
I’m down by the pier now
steered by a star long lost from sight
Perhaps you’ve seen it
shining so whitely, lightly above.
Here cats carefully peeking,
peek without cat smiles
all night watching for mice,
cats’ fur is washed so clean and so bright.
My last cigarette burns a fingertip.
Frightened little spark
falling into the black, black paint.
They call it the sea.
I hear the brief stinging kiss
and the moon is fairly, squarely, barely the moon.
The moon, the moon, the moon.
Now smelling the salt air.
the damned fishing boats
gleam at their moorings
netting hung out to dry.
Smelling the fish guts,
gulls gobbled and tore them,
fighting for room on the rocks.
Tasting the hot air,
so hot past the evening,
not as hot as the noon was
not half as hot
as tomorrow will be.
ENDLESS CLARITY SKIPPING
the water ski boat curled past
the clouds looked down
marshmallows over the
blue steel soup
the crow watched me carry out the garbage
I waved at him
he waved back
I laughed all the way back to the kitchen door
stopped when I walked inside
became serious again for some dumb reason
fouled mood pulled me through the day
and half way through the evening
you phoned and got me angry
and the phone sat down again
I went outside and listened to the wind in the trees
tell me how little I know
how smart I used to think I was
how far I have slipped
then down the road a short iron golf shot away
the fox started across the road
right in the streetlight
saw me and stopped
looked at me
groomed his coat for a minute
looked back at me
and thought of something to say
changed his mind
shook his head
and walked into the cedar hedge
I have this small writing game I play in my head. Some days I keep score and other days I let W. H. off the hook. Apparently, W.H. Auden would work at his writing for five hours a day, several cups of tea, an ashtray or three of cigarette butts, and some benzedrine. At least some kind of pill, my memory may be playing tricks with the exact concoction he used. Other writers would write 1500 words exactly, Hemingway pencil to paper and stop in the middle of an idea so he could begin again the next morning without hesitation. Many writers have many rules and rituals, magical potions and incantations, sharpening ten pencils was one I liked. Shelby Foote wrote seven days a week and every day of the year in a writing room where he slept. He would not stop, for fear of the energy needed to regain his momentum. He wrote his three volume history of the American Civil War with a dip pen and a bottle of ink. You will likely recall him with his insights and syrupy drawl speaking as a talking head on Ken Burns‘ Civil War documentary on PBS. Check out his history of the Civil War, a masterpiece.
I am writing less these days and that is despite having more sophisticated electronic devices on which to scribble. A writer tries to find a way to make the effort of writing seem less difficult than it is. I went back in time and tried pencil, pen, typewriter. I am considering a digital voice recorder or voice recognition software so I can just talk to write. More accurately, mutter. I can confess confidently that I am evolving into a true muttery, ill, curmudgeon with all the trims and accessories. Acidic manners and hair trigger rigged rants available 24 hours per day. The odd bad joke. A few million regrets and a surprising amount of wonderment as I read both history and new fiction. I even bemuse myself with thoughts of more positive political results both nationally and locally. Still an opti-cynic as someone labelled me thirty years ago, an optimistic cynic.
I get to the end of the day and consider the writing score: yesterday was Auden 5 me 1. One hour spent writing. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t equate my puny efforts with Auden, He is just my way of keeping score.
“It is more than a little insidious how a worsening health situation can morph you into a person you never imagined you were or could become.”
I wrote that in September of 2011. That was a bleak time. Times are less bleak right now and the warmer weather is part of the improvement. Somehow manufacturing more industrial strength acceptance of my situation without excessive self-flagellation helps. Also I am trying to get out more with camera in hand and taking photographs with it, not just carrying it for ballast.
One area that I am puzzling over is the near total abandonment by my poetry muse. She has flown the coop and I am ticked. I have attempted poetry since I was a kid and right now it often seems like beginning neurosurgery rather than resuming a life long pursuit. According to a few people I have had a few moments of real success in this area, but right now it is something I tell myself I want to do and yet I shun it. Believe me when I say I have considered this from a number of angles almost to the point of exhaustion certainly near to the address of farce: the physical environment (writing space), routine or the lack of a standard schedule of scribble time, lack of peer scribblers to review material, the apparent pointlessness of the activity, and other things. I ask the question: what were the conditions in the past that made it easier to write. What conditions exist now that make it more difficult. Not much clarity emerges from all this.
It may be silly but I am wondering if the bio rollercoaster of dialysis–the process works the heart hard and one’s electrolytes get messed around with as well, flakey fatigue patterns, vampire-like insomnia–could have something to do with the dry poetic well. I keep on kicking over stones looking for worms to go fishing with down at the poem pond. I will try and post a few attemted poems this month here on bluetyger.
One thing is certain the primary rule of writing still applies and I could do better in applying it:
“Apply ass to chair and stay there over the page.”
As for attitude of the personal kind, I made up a quip about this a long time ago.
“Attitude is everything, unless of course, you are flying, in which case altitude comes first.”