Messy Means Creative?

I came across a slide show of famous writers and artists and their work spaces. Apart from Picasso whose art studio looked like an episode of “Hoarders,” and a few other famous Messy-Maniacs , I felt validated that most of the creative spaces looked like the hospital wing for the chronically OCD. Many of the writers obviously require cleanliness and absolute order with a minimalist approach to things in order for creativity to flow. I have always been this way. My creative process is random and willy-nilly and all over the place. I start typing a poem usually with no idea what the first line of the poem will even sound like. I have no agenda. I can’t require much of my Muse except the promise to dust, vacuum, put away all items out of place and then serve her.

Because I am so rigid about my need for order, I have often been labeled by friends and family as Khaki Kerri–the boring person with nothing better to do than dishes. I beg to differ that “Good Moms” have messy stoves. My kitchen has to be spotless with all the dishes and surfaces clean or I will not cook. I respect that Picasso and I could not have worked in the same studio,  and I also respect that his artistic abilities far exceed mine so the man can choose not to make his children wear clothes if he wants to….As for my friends and family who can’t find a path from front door to  living room, whose dining tables look like Craft-o-Rama-Bama, you might just be messier, not more creative than some of us who keep our spaces free of clutter.

The bottom line to living an artistic life or just living a life in general is to be who you are created to be and to celebrate that and to spend most of your time with others who will also celebrate that. Part (perhaps all) of never having time for maintenance and margin in one’s life is…let’s call it what it is…. feeding the Glorification of Busy Monster, and that Monster will take over your brain until you are living from caffeine drip to caffeine drip, gaining pounds around your midsection, and hurrying so fast you can hardly take a breath to actually listen to someone who isn’t on the same treadmill. I have spent my years working for that warden, and I have reaped the futility of it. Not only that, I have trained my up my own children to battle this cultural demon. My daughters especially struggle with allowing themselves to rest.

I say this to my kids from time to time (okay…too often) Do what I say, not what I do. Every day should bring you some measure of joy at the end of it. We spend way too much time debating the definition of joy and way too little time asking ourselves if we have it, because if you have it, every day in your life, you don’t have to ask what it is anymore. You just know. Sadly, in today’s culture, it is impossible to find joy and fulfill all your childhood sports’ practice requirements. How many of us are raising our kids on God’s value that abundance is not quantitative or externally measured?

Creativity is a suspended moment. For some, a suspended moment means you don’t see the cobwebs in your corners or the sink piled high with food-scarred dishes. Some of us can’t navigate the suspension with total disregard. Messiness is not a measure of creativity any more than neatness is.

To do list…

I am in one of those dreaded states of paralysis in which I have the time to work but no work is getting itself produced. I feel like President Bush attempting to hold a press conference about a natural disaster. I could blame myself, my lack of discipline, my laziness, but it’s easier to just say this unwelcome state of mind and heart has just come upon me like the weather. I have been here before.

I usually find it helpful to listen to lots of Mumford and Sons and to make a writer’s to-do list. Here is the list (with Credence Clearwater Revival playing in the background….) Readers will have to supply your own imagination for the music as I am keeping this blog simple, like me….

My Writer’s To Do List:

1. Finish and send registration for Summer Residency at Ashland.

2. Complete editing of my “Middle People” essay and determine which lucky journal gets a crack it first. Editing a prose article ranks among my least favorite activities in the whole world. Writing the first draft was fun.

3.Finish reading the kindle poetry of Maurice Manning that I ordered weeks ago and have not started.

4.Finish last month’s bookclub book and start May’s selection so I can actually attend bookclub in May.

5.Put one word in front of the other and write some poetry.

6. Start selection of poems to be work-shopped at summer residency.

Part of the reason the writing is not happening is my life is in flux. We are moving again. I am excited about the move to a better neighborhood and to a completely beautiful and finished Tudor-style house. It’s just some of my poetry books are already in boxes for the move. I am not sure I can write without my pile of poetry books always accessible to me. I also have a massive non-writing to-do list that relates to the move. This too shall pass. I am starting to imagine where my writing spot will be in the new house. I don’t even want to write the non-writing to-do list. It’s massive.

You are dismissed….

http://giuliozambon.blogspot.com/2012/06/dismissive-people-power-and-all-that.html

Sometimes, going about my poetic life, I feel like I am on a badly-written episode of “Big Bang Theory,” where the speakers have seemingly forgotten that the humor-punch in the show is that these characters are anal retentive because they possess a superior intelligence…they aren’t just anal for sake of being anal, and most importantly, anal-ness is not the same thing as intelligence. Without intelligence, anal-retentiveness is just, well, annoying.

This sounds harsh!

The writer of the link posted above would agree with me.  Mired in facts, that’s what we are. Think about this. The “stuff” of Huckleberry Finn was available and accessible to everyone, but only Mark Twain could have written it. When I am in a large group setting, I am always seeking the Mark Twain of the group. Or in a pinch, becoming him. But if that is the case, the episode of Big Bang Theory I am stuck in is a REALLY bad one! I have four siblings and I am not known as the funny one.

I like what the writer of the above-linked blogpost has to say about the difference in true intelligence and the collecting of rote facts within the brain. Our schools should recognize and promote creativity and attempt to challenge those who can make connections and relationships out of facts. Otherwise, knowing who invented the sausage is about as worthless as a southerner’s fishing stories (and far less interesting).

Rote people tend to flock together like sardines in edible form, and they tend to make up their own rules and to become very dismissive of those who think outside their cans. My “rote” acquaintances like to cut me off mid-sentence. If you aren’t going to name drop their favorite theological term within five seconds or assume the inferior position they need to keep their lists in order, then they are not listening to you. I mean, God has a plan, and it’s all about them getting stuck in the airport. But what I think they do not realize is I am obviously even more dismissive of the fact-checkers than they are of me. It’s just they are never going to realize it. We were all, I believe, born to create, to take risks, to live fully, to know God at a level deeper than an acrostic of His attributes.

Sing it with me…You’re so vain…I bet you think this song is about you, don’t you? don’t you? don’t you?

 

 

Maya, Maya, and more Maya…Please!

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/04/10/maya-angelou-how-i-write.html

Here is a link to an interview with Maya Angelou. I am always struck by the humility of her writing and her answers to interview questions. Maya quintessentially demonstrates the quiet, steely strength in humility.

I learned in this interview that Ms. Angelou writes from a hotel room. There’s an idea! I need to move to a city with a Hyatt. The hotel rooms in my little town are less luxurious and probably less clean than my house after the teenager has had a Funyon party with five of his stinkiest friends.

Quietness. Humility. Don’t force words. Don’t strangle truth. Don’t forget who you are and that to love is a greater thing than to write about love. I think that is what Maya’s poetry exudes in lesson-form. The rest is just beautiful.

A Day in the Life…

People really do wonder what I do all day, or I like to pretend they do because it feeds my wood pile of self-absorption I suppose. Today was a pretty typical day for me. I woke up a bit later than usual at 7:15, groped around like a clumsy blind person for morning coffee, took a few sips and decided NOPE not making it to Pilates at 8:15. My hair was a bird’s nest. I have naturally curly hair and it tends to change into whatever shape I decided to sleep in and stay there. I actually have to do my hair to go to the YMCA, or maybe undo would be a more appropriate term.

After a couple cups of coffee I surfed the net then settled into an essay written by Wendell Berry at Christian Century. I realized early into the essay that in order to finish it I would have to subscribe so of course I did. Then I read the daily poems at Poetry Daily and Verse Daily and turned on my Pandora and commenced to write a poem. In between writing the poem I checked Facebook, updated my Google Calendar, and caught up with Gwyneth over at GOOP which motivated me to suddenly wonder what half a million dollars would buy a person in the housing market of Santa Barbara. I also wrote a personal letter which  if I ever print it out to mail it will take up four pages single-spaced ( I won’t) and tidied up the house for the realtor who called to say she was stopping by this afternoon to take photographs of the rooms of the house. I also read through my own poems in random fashion which is my editing process.

After lunch with my husband I put on exercise clothes and spent forty minutes running on the treadmill. Then off to the grocery store for today’s dinner which is crock pot potato soup. I picked up my son from school, cut open a cantaloupe for him , scooped out the seeds and acted like this is something he will never be able to do for himself…which gets me to now, updating my blog.

My life is not exciting enough for GOOP or Facebook. As writers, we have to create fertile environments for creative flow to happen. It doesn’t always happen, but we have to keep the possibility open, the spaces clear.

A Submittable Day

Today was a good day, in “bird by bird”  terms. I wrote a very good poem, the kind that just falls out of me sometimes, and it’s painless so I wonder where that came from? It’s like I know I have been to the secret well and I am left wondering how did I get there?

Next, it was on to the tedium of http://www.submittable.com.

It took me longer to find two poems, collect them into a single file, proof them a million times and send them off to a poetry contest than it did to write the incredible poem. I must take heart, though, because tomorrow the incredible poem may reveal itself as quite ordinary ( or less) and the hard work of editing and submitting the poems may pay off as another rung on the publishing ladder for me.

Nothing is as it seems or so it seems.

Here is a link  :

http://www.wofford.edu/sharedworlds/handinhand.aspx

which offers encouragement to writers. I plan to revisit this site for inspiration and motivation to keep writing the good write.

The Imagist Poem

Probably because I was a poet first, then I “grew up” and became a journalist, my return at middle age to poetry has been somewhat  the journey of a lumberjack with a dull saw through a forest of rotting trees. In other, more literal words, I have had to work my brain backwards through a very established prose voice into the internal mechanisms of lyric. This has required a brief, but fierce love affair with the Imagists.

Imagism happened in the early 20th Century as a reaction to the overt floweriness and wordiness of Victorian poetry. Imagism was one of the forks in the road of Modernism. It’s fun to explore Imagism by deploying Imagism. The quickest way to make an apple look different is to peel said apple down to its core. That is one of  Ezra Pound’s “rules” on Imagism–direct treatment of the object itself, either objectively or subjectively. No talking around the thing….only discourse on the thing itself.

The second of Pound’s rules is that under no circumstances should the poet ever waste or misuse a word. If the word isn’t necessary to the meaning of the poem or the creation of the image in the poem, then the word doesn’t belong. Imagist poems are sparse.

Pound’s third rule supports the second rule because the rhythm and meter of the poem are dictated by the absolute aversion to use of unnecessary words. So therefore, there is no substitution of a three syllable word for a two-syllable word in order to achieve pentameter. Rhythms follow the pattern of the metronome, not a specific amount of beats per measure. Modernist poetry appears in no recognizable form, and yet the great poems of this time appeal to the reader’s internal longing for a form. Imagist poetry works without working.

Today’s reading audience is much more comfortable with prose than with lyrical or imagistic poetry. An imagist poem requires a leap of faith into the unknown…a getting from the not getting, so to speak. My most recently published poem “World Without Grace” takes a stab at the writing of an Imagistic poem. I write them or attempt to write them because it is so much more satisfying and so much more challenging to write than the typical prose-poem. An imagist poem runs great risk of being misunderstood because the reader has to work harder, especially when the reader encounters an imagist poem written by the lesser-skilled imagist poet like myself. Sometimes the meaning is murky because I lacked the ability to create in a few sparse words the poem I sought to create. Often times that is the case.

This particular poem is fairly simple to comprehend if the title is absorbed as part of the poem. If the title is distanced from the text of the poem, readers get confused by what I was trying to say.  This poem did not totally succeed without punctuation and capitalization. I like to think I was experimenting with free flow imagery, but perhaps I was just being a lazy editor of my own work. Certainly, the gift to the world of a poem that no one understands can be a “world without grace” to the giver of the gift. To anyone who read this poem and doesn’t get it, I would suggest you put my poem down and find yourself some Ezra Pound. In the hands of a master, Imagism can be a very satisfying experience.