… Around me, ice crust circles
with a gleam and glare
that holds me, then gives way beneath my boot. The sky
in its abstract sphere, unfurls. God exists
as the Nothing who refuses to reply. Today I have to practice
how to breathe.
I’ve pretty much been a fairweather cyclist until now. Had an old mountain bike that saw a bit of service one hot summer but otherwise sat in storage for most of the year. Earlier this month, I bought this Specalized frame, second hand from a (aka THE) bike shop in Lewisham. It was a completely different ride from any bike I’ve ever owned, and came with a history— the guy who sold it recounted riding from Hoxton to Lewisham, half drunk, in the middle of the night. And now, I’m smitten.
Maker Day: five minute collage via Moldiv on the iPad.
Been a little frustrated with things getting in the way of the output, recently. People to consult, opinions to survey, forms to fill, feelings to massage, to-do lists to assuage, schedules to plan— all the stuff that cries for attention before you can actually do anything.
One of the joys of being creative is exactly that: making stuff. Following a whim, chasing the tail of a dream to see where it leads, sloughing off the tyranny of “getting it right” and instead just getting it any which way you can.
Above, a montage, pulled together from a few different graphic novels I’ve been poring over lately (The Manhattan Project, Think Tank, both via Image Comics). It’s not pretty. It’s not perfect, but it’s something.
Maker Day: 1; Resistance: 0
How to fix every Strong Female Character pose in superhero comics: replace the character with Hawkeye doing the same thing.
Gingerhaze, via The Hawkeye Initiative
“Created in December of 2012, The Hawkeye Initiative uses Clint Barton as well as other male comic characters to illustrate how contorted and hyper-sexualized women are commonly drawn in comics.”
I’ve never out and out declared how much of a comic geek I was (and still, to a certain extent, am). Love this initiative.
We know this, somewhere in our hearts, that there is a deep need to create, and help others create whether through direct mentoring, or simply being present in the world (think of when you’ve stumbled upon someone’s work at the right time.) I am kicking myself for not writing down the source of a study I encountered recently that named belonging as necessary to staying alive as food and shelter. We know art helps us belong, process, heal, connect and declare. It is the life force that has changed our minds, turned our hearts, kept us afloat and encouraged survival. So how do we continue creating in the solace of our bedrooms and studios, but move to bring our art and process into a space that directly impacts the world? Through mentoring, formal or informal, teaching, or simply sharing through the internet or in real-time spaces, we give people the chance to connect with us through and beyond our work, and encourage them to find a way to express their own desires, secrets and needs.
I’m thinking of that moment a young upcoming artist, in a conversation about work, spoke of teaching/facilitating/mentoring from a disdainful stance, as if it weren’t real work. That irked me for a long, long time. A strong artist doesn’t necessarily make for the best facilitator. And although there’s a long-standing model of poets working as teachers and educators, not everyone wants to teach. Indeed, there’s something to be said for earning a living beyond your art, of making sure you stay connected with and alive to a world beyond the classroom, beyond the everyday endeavour of making words work. But we all have something to learn. And I’ve learned so much from the young poets and students I’ve worked with. I’d like to think that there’s a decent body of people, young and not-so-young, who’ve gained something valuable from the time they’ve spent working with me.
My work is about making things, about changing perspectives, about building bridges between disparate ideas and states of being, about alchemy, transforming things. Part of that work happens on a stage, or through the pages of collections and anthologies. Part of that work happens in school rooms and workshop spaces, transforming the silences in people’s mouths to things that need to be said, or rather helping those people to find their own brand of alchemy, so that they can do these things for themselves. They’re different forms of work— the stage more focused on the individual “I” (even if only as a conduit for a poetry that can be claimed by the listener), the workshop/class necessarily less so— but, for me, they stem from the same root. A poetry capable of affecting real change. Yes.
You want to say the bell to a trumpet. A hollow sound. The sound of
whole. Whole as a loaf of bread, and the hungry sound that echoes.
A sound thin as water? Or deep, deep as the echo of the womb
where the one you thought you would raise was gone, unexpectedly
on a night of hard rain, when she knelt in the bathroom, the thumb-sized
bloody loss. How many years ago you cannot count except
with your thumbs.
A thumb-sized sound.
That small. That full of losing. How large it grows. And you are lost in the
forest of what did not happen,
searching for the way back to before, but the black birds have swallowed
all of the crumbs.
Sean Thomas Dougherty— Sonogram
I’ve loved Sean’s work for a long time now, about as long as I’ve self-identified as a poet. Here, find an extract of Sonogram. Follow the link for more. If this is indicative of a body of new work forthcoming, I’m excited. Very excited.
If I was talking to someone who was young who was just starting out, go to college for something other than writing. Like don’t go to writing school. Go for science or something that’s really interesting and then write about that. That would be my advice to them. Do you know Murat Nemet-Nejat? He’s a Persian poet but he lives in the states and he had a workshop at St. Mark’s and he said to us, “Well, the nice thing about being a poet is you’re making bread that no one wants to buy so you can make it as salty as you’d like.” So when I think of that, that’s when I’ve written my best stuff. There’s no stakes in poetry. The best poets have not made their livings off it and possibly weren’t even acknowledged much in their lifetimes except for maybe other poets or a few people. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change that they were great. When I read something I know if it’s great or not. It doesn’t matter who wrote it and it doesn’t matter who else likes it. To me that’s an inherent quality and if people want to be poets that’s what I would go for. Go as hard and deep as you can into your own vision and make it pop into the world and shape it and make it exactly you—and what you’re seeing. Make it into a solid thing. Then just put it out and don’t worry if people like it and don’t try to adjust it for anyone. If they don’t like it, it doesn’t change it. That’s my advice.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to learn from anyone else. Always, the balance between your own vision and the wisdom of others who’ve already trodden similar paths. Consider Bruce Lee’s model: take instruction from masters so you can forge your own way…
I was looking for Baudelaire’s grave and we met this Frenchman and he said, “Are you looking for Jim Morrison?” and we said, “No, we’re looking for Baudelaire.” Even though I wanted to see Jim Morrison too. He was so happy to find people who weren’t looking for Jim Morrison that he took us to Baudelaire’s grave. You know these people are real but to actually see the place they’re buried is so strange. If you can see someone’s grave you’re not their contemporary but you’re in their time in a certain way. Like we can’t see Homer’s grave. We can’t see Sappho’s grave. We don’t know where they’re buried. We don’t even know what they looked like. But Baudelaire—we’re contemporary enough we can go to his grave or Emily Dickinson—you can sit in her chair. It’s interesting because it expands your idea of who’s your contemporary.
Maggie Dubris, interviewed by Ali Liebegott for Believer Mag
This resonates. I was recently asked, by a host just before a gig, if I could have any long-dead poet in the audience, who it would be. Response? I blanked. Completely. Brain scrabbled for an answer and offered up Langston Hughes. It was a nice question to be asked: unexpected, challenging in the best way. Kept me on my toes.