We Come To Something Without Knowing Why

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We Come To Something Without Knowing Why

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aug 12, 2007, 2:40 pm

Let's talk about some works that we inhabit. What is the quality of the work that makes you "live inside" that work? What makes you give yourself to that work completely, leaving external reality behind? How would you describe the PLACE you inhabit when you enter into this work? What desire (secret or not) is fulfilled in you from inhabiting this place of the artist's creation?

When Mark Rothko was working on his murals for the Four Seasons restaurant, he said he wasn't making paintings, he was making a PLACE.

By the same token, art and literature is not necessarily something we "look at" or "read" it is something we inhabit.

The poetry of Theodore Roethke is a place I inhabit, rather than read. In his poem "Manifestation," he says: "Many arrivals make us live: the tree becoming / Green, a bird tipping the topmost bough, / A seed pushing itself beyond itself, / The mole making its way through darkest ground..."

He ends the poem by saying: "What does what it should do needs nothing more. / The body moves, though slowly, toward desire. / We come to something without knowing why."

Here, Roethke describes the mystery that is at the heart of life. I've rarely seen this mystery described any better. The desire Roethke's work fulfills for me is the desire to know this mystery and to feel how this mystery moves through me. What I want from life is to really "feel alive."

aug 12, 2007, 7:35 pm

I thought Joseph Campbell described this very well, when he told his students "Follow your bliss".

That statement has been vastly misquoted and misused, but he was describing an inner process, of self-knowledge, and one which eventually, manifests outwardly, in expression.

aug 13, 2007, 4:18 pm

the lover at the tip of neruda's fingers all bone and stone and fire

the woman in the cabin while snyder prepares a fire

the joyous hooker goading ginsberg to give up little boys

the lone man at lyn lifshin's reading

dying to get under some lesbains skin

the father of the man sheep dickey wrote of

lew welch's confidante, knowing he jumped

the librarian sweeping periods and apostrophes off the rug

below the deks where cummings sat

the fisherman who nettted hart crane out of the water

the cabbie waiting for the wife who burns the toast after reading marge piercy

the maytag man who comes to fix sylvia's oven

all of these come to something

okt 7, 2007, 4:51 pm

I'm drawn to desolated settings, particularly rocky settings near water and places that are cool or cold. One of the first places I ever felt at "home" was the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I find myself drawn to works that use such desolated places as settings. There is such an eerie mystery set up by the landscape itself. I think this affinity I have for these places explains why I have always loved Beowulf and why I'm enjoying the works of Ingmar Bergman now, particularly the films shot on Bergman's Island, Faro.

Redigeret: okt 21, 2007, 10:32 pm

Voices...voices in my head that won't go away. I recall hearing a story about writer/actor Billy Bob Thornton and he described this voice that persisted until he finally stood in front of a mirror and began to speak in this odd cadence, extended monologues that he eventually wrote down and gradually morphed into what become the movie "Slingblade".

It's very much like that for me. I literally hear voices and the ones that don't fade away after a short time are the ones that I eventually commit to paper. Sometimes these voices are so far removed from me and my experiences that I'm utterly astonished and have no idea where they originate. The stories dictate themselves and I'm merely a conduit to something out there in the ether. I realize that to laymen/women that may sound completely nuts but because I am addressing this to fellow writers/artists, I am confident I'll have lots of people reading this, nodding their heads and empathizing...

okt 21, 2007, 11:05 pm

Yes, I understand what you are saying Cliff. It's clearly an adult preoccupation, yet it reminds me somewhat of the creative play I did as a child. It is an entrance into a world which is made real through the imagination.

What works/authors do you enter into as entering a place? Like I said, I come to Roethke that way. Rilke. Richard Ford's stories. Stone's "Helping." McCarthy's The Road.

okt 22, 2007, 1:44 am

Music is often my "entrance", how I get to that place. Thirty minutes of hard rock to pump me up, get me engaged and then switch to soundtracks or instrumental music to set the mood. Lately, the soundtrack for "The Fountain" has been useful and electronica like Tangerine Dream and John Foxx. Surreal soundscapes that trigger something inside me, accompaniment to the pictures that flow...

okt 23, 2007, 3:11 pm

My ideas often come when I'm waking up in the morning, in that half-asleep stage when I can become conscious of dream images and associated ideas without being aware yet of the reality of my house, my husband and friends, my life, myself. It's why I avoid using an alarm clock unless I absolutely have to.

okt 23, 2007, 4:58 pm

Cliff, I also find music to be a portal to different mindspaces. Some scenes have a song that I listen to to help me imagine the characters, their surroundings, their moods, their actions. Some music "gets me in the mood" (to write;-)). Frequently "trip-hop" or "bedroom electronica." (Whatever you wanna call it.) It's essential because I don't have a lot of "space out" time.

margad, I know exactly what you mean. Years ago I trained myself to remember my dreams because I sensed that so much was happening to me when I was asleep. Sometimes I feel as if I've actually gone to other places, earthly and not. When I was a teenager I remember waking with the knowledge that I had written a novel while asleep, but could remember none of the particulars (that's why I trained myself to remember my dreams). Every once in awhile a complete story will deliver itself in my sleep, still. I've done some study into dream interpretation/states of consciousness, and some hold that one's dream life is every bit as real as one's waking life. I think that I believe that too. I wish I didn't have to wake at a set time and that I didn't need sleep "enhancements" many nights because waking could be the most crucial moment of the day.

okt 25, 2007, 12:56 am

Sometimes when I'm at an impasse with a writing problem, I will dream the answer to it. It usually comes in symbolic form, not literally as a scene, but because they're my symbols, I know what they mean if I spend a minute or two reflecting on them. Sometimes I dream that I am writing, and as I wake up, I continue working out the prose in my head. Every now and then I wake up and have to go to the computer before I do anything else. I wouldn't mind having that happen more often!

okt 25, 2007, 12:57 am

Oh, that happens to me, too, margad! What a delightful experience it is!

okt 25, 2007, 10:02 am

hey, me too! Although, what seems very organized and coherent to my dreaming self, often defies translation into waking logic.

I ususally take a walk in the morning and keep a little book with me to write in, because clever thoughts and inspiration always seems to flow when I am in the middle of nowhere (or Starbucks, if my feet take me that far...). A writer once advised me to just let these bits alone until I am in front of the computer...if they are worthy, they will come back to me. I can't quite bring myself to trust this...I'd love to know if anyone has ever tried it?

(sorry if another version of this message pops up...I had to rewrite it as the LT sever is giving me the brush off this morning)

okt 25, 2007, 3:16 pm

I can't bring myself to trust my memory either. Though it's true I don't end up using most of the passages I write down on waking up, unless they relate directly to a writing problem I took with me into sleep the night before. But I do think they help me work out my understanding of themes and characters. Writing them down helps me fix them in my memory and take the ideas a little farther as I write, so I do think it's helpful. I think the layers of meaning in my writing deepen because I carry this dreamwork into the daylight with me.

okt 25, 2007, 3:23 pm

i'm like a squirrel, i'll write down patches of poems on whatever i have available, usually put them in one of my pockets, or in the already read side of a book or tucked into a drawer. write enough of them, i've always got fragments to work off of.

my best poems take 2 years: one long minute or minutes to write them, and a rotation of the seasons before that shirt or jacket or drawer comes 'round again. then a quick rewrite, repeat the process, second year, if it has any value, write it in her book.

the worst poems are the one's i've found years after professing my love, but only on those slips of paper. brings a kink in my throat every time.

you'd think i'd come up with a better plan . . .

okt 25, 2007, 6:37 pm

It sounds like a wonderful way of working to me. I'm impressed. Time really does show us the value of ideas.