RIP Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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Gabriel García Márquez is gone and his death feels like a personal loss. I never met him except on the page, but I treasure the gifts that he gave me: an understanding of another culture and land, lessons in how the web of family touches history, flights of imagination that created the genre of magical realism, and, of course, words and images arranged in the best order. Even in translation. The gift of that direct gaze from his photo on my much handled and well marked reading copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude. I’ve been rereading it and it’s on the coffee table as I write. He left me the grand story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” and Love in a Time of Cholera. His autobiography, Living to Tell the Tale. Over the years his books have come and gone through my hands. Now I want them all back to stay. Is there as much room for them on the shelf as there is desire in my hands to hold them?

This is a week of memorials. I will read publicly again tonight in memory of poet Mike Adams. I will remember my beloved friend and fellow poet Michael Macklin. Writers like these men have an afterlife. There is no sell-by date, no expiration on their genius and generosity. Marquez and my lost friends are still with me. The men may be gone but their words will live as long as I live. Well known or less well known, writers’ words stay for as long as we need them. Like enzymes in the mind, we feel their effect. Long may it be so.

The Rant

This poem and photo come to us courtesy of Edie Rose, my talented cousin who often shares her words and pictures with me. And now with you.

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THE RANT

Don’t     you     dare

Take    those few extra steps

Please     don’t litter

Put the bottle in the trash

Don’t    open your window

and toss that little whiskey bottle out.

Don’t     toss it into the prickers

It may be out of your sight

But it isn’t out of earth’s sight.

Tonight    a heavy rain will sweep it out

From under that bush and

Push it out of hiding

Along with your other discarded trash.

It will rim a puddle until the

Puddle becomes so bloated

It vomits it into the stream.

Like a flushing toilet

that stream will dump it into the river.

The river will gag and vomit it

Back onto the bank

The rains of climate change

Will swell that river until

It jumps its banks

and sweeps the banks clean

of its accumulated trash.

You have forgotten that little whiskey bottle

But you just may see it again

As it races by you

in the bloated river towards the open ocean.

Maybe you will see it pecked at by birds

Or nibbled on by fish

All of them unnourished

by your carelessness.

Maybe it won’t make it to the ocean.

Maybe the river will disgorge it

back onto the bank

where it will lie in the mud

awaiting some earth lover to pick it up

and deposit it into the recycle bin

where you should have put it.

Is there a message in the bottle?

Maybe the bottle ‘s presence   is the message.

©Edie Rose 2014

 

 

Bloggin’ Market

I have not been happy with the dry, stale idea I had for this week’s blog. A better one came to me yesterday but I did not write it down, and now it’s gone. So where do I find another? If I want oranges, I take my string bag to the store and buy oranges, preferably CaraCaras grown in the US. If I need a book or a blouse, I go to one of my reliable thrift stores. But no matter where I shop, I find no blogs. I cannot put one in a sack, bring it home and plug it in. There’s no blog store but me.

The one I had in mind yesterday I must have set down somewhere and it melted. Or the dog ate it. A rare few seem good enough to eat. Mostly, Duncan the Dog likes to tear up stuffed animals, and some blogs are fat and squishy. Just as well if he destroyed one like that. I think a stranger found my lost blog and threw it in the gutter, where a mountain-born wind took it. That poor blog is in Kansas now. And here I sit on Saturday morning, blogless.

Failure Is a Must

I spent a precious hour yesterday leafing through lousy drafts–words, sentences and paragraphs that strained and grimaced, that were missing vital organs–the sounds, images, energy and depth of good writing. I was looking for something good to offer the world, as Lewis Hyde says, to move the gift along. It was one of those times when writing felt more like a burden than a gift. Too much of what I found on those pages seemed like failures. A reader doesn’t want to see scribbles, torn drafts, dirty coffee cups and a slovenly desk littered with failed prose lurching its slow way to success. But this is truth: Writing is messy and confusing, and it’s failure that leads me through thickets and second growth with not so much as one bud or berry to feed me. I’m tired and grubby, and I wish I’d been–what? I cannot wish away writing because this is what I have long and persistently wished into being.

Readers and other writers, though,  might need to be reminded that the practice that leads to failure also leads eventually to success. I find the gaps in a story and stitch them together, clear out the clumsy bits, rethink what I don’t know, keep failing until I succeed and then that page of limp words begins to stand up straight, combs its unruly hair and looks ready to face the world. Like Frankenstein’s monster it leaves the lab and goes out into the world. Maybe the neck bolts and stitches are still obvious, but it’s alive and once loose is beyond my control. It rises from the page and will not be undone.

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Meditations on an Egg

1. Jeweled Fabergé eggs did not save the Russian czar.

2. In Europe eggs are not washed nor refrigerated, and seldom does anyone get sick from eating them.

3. A goose egg is good for the goose and the gander, less so for the scoreboard or your head.

4. An egg fits into the human palm as into a nest.

5. Rabbits do not lay eggs and Easter eggs relate only obliquely to Jesus.

6. An egg fried on the sidewalk would taste like old shoes.

7. The day is an egg. Clock and calendar give it a crisp shell, the white is the nourishing business of work and the golden center the germ of an idea that may grow legs and wings.

Writer, Step Aside

Cameraman Holding Camera

Remember when Alfred Hitchcock glided across the TV screen to the sound of Charles Gounod‘s Funeral March of a Marionette? All we saw was Alfred’s shadow. He bid us “Good evening,” and got out of the way to let the story unfold. This approach works for most writers, not so much for musicians or dancers, who need to be on stage. But we literary geeks are better off doing what the Tao te Ching says in Chapter 9: “Do your work; then step back.” And as I type that, I’m tempted to leave the page now and let you figure it out for yourself. But I’m not that generous, so–a few more words.

Stepping back for me means sharing the mic with others, reading with live musical accompaniment, and in fiction, turning loose the wolves, letting the dogs out, allowing space in the story for a character whom I had thought would, like Hitchcock, make a cameo appearance and disappear. He’s just a made-up boy, but he’s claiming his time in the lime light. He’s already taught the other, “more important” boy how to build a fire on the beach. Until he showed up, I didn’t know they would go to the beach. Huh.

So I want to step back and see what else he has to offer as I learn to share the stage, take advice, let the camera point elsewhere, hold my tongue against the impulse to correct. I think it’s called adult behavior, and it’s not hard once I get the hang and habit of it.

Larry’s Question

Last week I read at West Side Books in Denver. The poems were mostly from RED GODDESS POEMS, including one that tells a story about the shape shifting abilities of the ban filid, mythical women with the power to change their appearance–without mascara or blush. The women my poem “The Warriors” have a disagreement that yields, finally, a roaring battle in succession between a fox, a black cow, a big cat, and two griffins–you know, those creatures with big teeth and wings. They injure each other, but once their rage is spent, they resume their human female forms, retaining for a while their folded wings and bearing scars that remind us of their power to hurt and to heal. They walk away together, no grudge held.

After the poem, Larry, a fellow poet, asked me what I meant by this poem. Well, how would I know? I wrote it twenty years ago, but I’m no slouch in the confabulation department. It has to do, I said, with the transformations women undergo, you know, the maiden, mother, crone thing. He thought I had focused on the violence with which these women fought. Maybe he was right, maybe I was. Probably both. That’s the thing with a poem, if it’s the real thing: there’s a depth and breadth of meaning. A poem might first reinforce the ready-made ideas each of us brings to it . Then again, the poem can spark insight or epiphany. Each time we hear it or read it, we are different, a little more experienced with life. So, yes, Larry, it had to do with violence and hurt, and it had to do with women’s power, and their history of transformation.

Frost said, “No surprise for the poet, no surprise for the reader.” And surprise equals energy, keeps the poem and the reader awake and alert for what might come next. I can hardly wait to read it to another group and see if anyone comes up with some new idea that I didn’t know was there. And may it not take twenty years before I ask myself what I mean and what the poem means.

Where Do You Write?

In Poets & Writers March/April 2014 I read a good essay in the “Where We Write” section and it led to this reflection on where I write. As someone who has moved around a lot, I don’t have the regional attachment that essayist Mary Stewart Atwell has to her Virginia origins. So where do I write?

I write in my daughter’s basement where I live. I write in retirement from my former work as a psych nurse. I write in coffee shops where no one has expectations or claims on my attention. I have written in Georgia, Louisiana, California, New Hampshire at the Frost Place, Maine, Manhattan and Vermont. Now I write in Colorado. I write in the future and in the past. I write in hotel rooms and lobbies where I people watch (all in the name of research), the same in airports and train stations. I write in friends’ living rooms.

I write in the wing chair near the door of the mansion that houses Lighthouse Writers’ Workshop in Denver. I write in church when the minister makes a good argument for a life of the spirit, of justice, of generosity. I write in bars and bookstores while other poets read or recite and trigger a tingle in my brain. And in Burger King while the mechanic magicians next door change the oil in my old Camry. I write on the magnificent deck of a cabin 9000 feet up Black Mountain near the Colorado/Wyoming line.

One whole summer I wrote in my sister’s spare room and had to report my progress every morning when I came down for breakfast. I write in the margins of books (only ones I own). I don’t write in libraries because the miles of unread books seduce me. I write wherever there’s ink, paper and a semi-flat surface, though that surface is often my own lap. I write in the cloud and in my journal. I write in restaurants between the seating and the eating. I write in dreams and in daylight. I write in meetings to keep myself focused. I write in workshops for fear that I might forget something. I write in my sleep and wake up scrambling for pen and paper. I’ll write in the next life if someone will put a pen into the urn with my ashes.

Writing as Privilege

Often when I drive I25 through Denver, I feel a sort of global despair. Bumper to bumper across four, six, sometimes eight lanes. And this is one city in the world. The realization springs to the forefront of my silly mind that there are just too many of us. Sure, I fear the environmental impact of all those vehicles and all  those drivers. I feel too the falsity of telling every one of them that they can write. I’m guilty of making this assertion, sure that each of the billions riding along on this big-wheel Earth has a unique story and the ability to tell it. A good writing coach, teacher, editor can bring that story out, make it beckon like a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk. Just pick up a pen or sit in front of a computer and write your heart out.

Yes, we all have that right, but please don’t everyone do it. I cannot keep up with all the good writing as it is. I know that the world does not need another book and I have no right to clutter the market the way those cars and trucks clutter the highway. However, I am one of the privileged people in the world who has claimed the name of “writer.” Having done so, here I am in front of a screen in a hotel “business office” clacking the keys and showing you what I think. The ability and the right to do so may be universal, but the practice and the will to speak out divide us into a world of read-write and read-only creatures. My job requires me to stay on the binary side of this divide and to coerce others to support me in my semi-exclusive, second-hand life wherein I recycle jeans and tote bags and metaphors. Even today when I’m supposed to be taking a break, I want to see the words assemble like a marching band, each one playing its part in the whole damned creation.

Writer as Whirling Dervish

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I feel a bit like Garrison Keillor–it’s been a busy week in Lake We’ll-Be-Gone. We often hear how lonely the writing life can be. Well, it can be just the opposite, like carving ice to find the writing hours. Just look at my week:

 

Sunday–CIPA Focus Forum with Mary Walewski on social media for writers

Monday–Gamuts poetry critique group

Tuesday–Live Poets Book Club at Boulder Books focused on Dorianne Laux’s The Book of Men

Wednesday–consignment applications completed and delivered to Book Bar in Denver

Thursday–Cannon Mine Poetry, feature reader Deb Shirley was ON!

Friday–Fri 500 at Lighthouse Writers Workshop, where I actually did write a scene for the next novel

Saturday–CIPA (Colorado Independent Publishers Assoc.) monthly meeting, to which I am headed as soon as I hit “POST”

Each of these meetings fall into what the late Jack Myers called “po bizz”– the business end of writing that helps us write better and put our work in the hands of readers, that important final link in the communication loop.