Monthly Archives: September 2011

wild child

Today I feel a lovely thing, a minute flame inside that will likely grow into the next novel. It wasn’t an idea of the novel flame, but a willingness to even attempt the project flame. For two Saturdays I’ve been talking about the place of creativity among the aspects of writing a novel. Perhaps that moved my own out of its cave. It helped that atop a wonderful class and meeting a new set of wonderful people, I was reading Ellen Gilchrist‘s  The Writing Life.

I talked about the care and feeding of the writer within in my class. So how will I feed my suddenly willing to try again writer? By collaging blank journals. By reading nourishing fiction, which means good fiction of any genre. By going to the museum to see  both Tutankhamun and an exhibit about the art of living in the eighteenth century. By creating dinner parties for people I like. By continuing to go to the Archway Gallery readings to absorb the art and wit and talent of regulars who read there. I must respect and guard that very sweet, very curious, very daring, but very much wanting to please wild and shy child inside from which the stories come.

I will blow on the tiny little campfire flame the wild child just lit and make the fire grow fierce so she can dance wildly and with abandon around it, so the bears that lurk in the woods will stay away, afraid of the flame, afraid of me.

human

I’ve spent the week being an 11-year old boy wandering through Shanghai separated from my parents as the Japanese invade and World War II begins in the Pacific. I’ve seen events no child should see, but often does, and I’ve retained a skewed innocence and sense of wonder in a world closed in and bearing its teeth to survive. There’s nothing like a really good book, is there? I picked up J.G. Ballard‘s Empire of the Sun, which had been sitting around for years on a shelf, and finally opened it. And there I was, so gripped by his story (mainly his own) and his writing style that all week long I had another place to live in my mind. It wasn’t a pretty place; people on the edge of survival and dealing with inhuman behavior don’t behave in heroic ways….though, again, some do. His story was so intense that I would have to pause between chapters and take a deep breath. And, of course, I’ve been mulling it over since I finished it, the way connoisseurs breathe in fine wine or brandy, thinking about war, about savagery, about what we will do to survive, about what I might do in a world gone mad, about why we say inhuman for cruel, unimaginable behavior when the behavior seems indeed a part of being human….and then going to walk outside to see two tiny rose blossoms opening in the soft, safe world in which I really reside….

(A little audio of the book by the delicious Jeremy Irons…..)

9/11 sunday


To continue my poet Mary Oliver* theme: which is my work which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished….I forget how to do this simple task but Youngest- Grandson-not-quite-two reteaches me…..astonished each time he visits at the goldfish in the pond, wanting to feed them, wanting to smell the fish food over and over, never tiring of either, wanting to put leaf hats on the little fat stone buddha’s head, saying hat each time, waiting for the carpenter bees, saying bee loudly when we see one, wanting me to sing yet again, be my little baby bumble bee, calling mosquitoes bees and laughing like mad when I correct him and say, mosquito, mosquito…..it’s the same thing each and every time…..my simple treasures are a miracle to him, and I am reminded anew–as the significance of this anniversary day points out–what treasures I possess**…..

Another treasure: the garden muse allowed a prose/poem to burble up. It had been so long I’d forgotten I did this…..had an attack of inspiration. Here it is:  A small kamakasi hurtles toward me, wings fluttering in rapid beats. No rising sun on the side, this small missile is nonetheless intent, zooming toward the next feeder…..

Details: I saw my first hummingbird (I’m trying to lure them with feeders) on Tuesday and almost didn’t recognize what it was until it was a foot away. Two days later, I’m seating at an Archway Gallery reading, listening, and there the words are. I scribble them on the paper listing the readers.

So….what’s inspired you lately?

*Hit this to hear Mary Oliver read…..**Hit above on words treasures I possess to hear treasure……

my work

I’ve been spiffing up the notebook I present as part of the basics-of-the-novel class I teach for continuing studies at Rice. Certain words, advice, sayings leap off the page to peck at me as I hunch over the computer redoing…..such as these words by poet Mary Oliver. They’re all writing is about….they’re all life is about, actually…..

My work is loving the world.

Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird -equal seekers of sweetness.

Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.

Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?

Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me

keep my mind on what matters,

which is my work

which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished…………..