Thursday, June 22, 2017

June 22: Really Tired, Arthur Rimbaud, "Evening Prayer"

I am really tired this evening after a long week of grading and writing and planning.

I tend to stay up very late at night, and I always get up early in the morning.  That's my life.  Now, getting to bed close to midnight and rising at 4:45 a.m. tends to wear a person down after a while.  After a few weeks, I usually have to just go to bed and sleep for a very long time.

I'm reaching that point, I think.  Maybe not tonight or tomorrow.  Soon.

Saint Marty has a little prayer from Rimbaud for tonight.

Evening Prayer

by:  Arthur Rimbaud

I spend my life sitting - like an angel
in the hands of a barber - a deeply fluted beer mug
in my fist, belly and neck curved,
a Gambier pipe in my teeth, under the air
swelling with impalpable veils of smoke.

Like the warm excrements in an old dovecote,
a thousand dreams burn softly inside me,
and at times my sad heart is like sap-wood bled
on by the dark yellow gold of its sweats.

Then, when I have carefully swallowed my dreams,
I turn, having drunk thirty or forty tankards,
and gather myself together to relieve bitter need:
As sweetly as the Saviour of Hyssops
and of Cedar I piss towards dark skies,
very high and very far;
and receive the approval of the great heliotropes.

June 22: Splendid Specimen, Poetry Reading, Brad Pitt and George Clooney

Billy ate a good breakfast from cans. He washed his cup and plate and knife and fork and spoon and saucepan, put them away.  Then he did exercises he had learned in the Army--straddle jumps, deep knee bends, sit-ups and push-ups.  Most Tralfamadorians had no way of knowing Billy's body and face were not beautiful.  They supposed that he was a splendid specimen.  This had a pleasant effect on Billy, who began to enjoy his body for the first time.

He showered after his exercises and trimmed his toenails.  He shaved, and sprayed deodorant under his arms, while a zoo guide on a raised platform outside explained what Billy was doing--and why.  The guide was lecturing telepathically, simply standing there, sending out thought waves to the crowd.  On the platform with him was the little keyboard instrument with which he would relay questions to Billy from the crowd.

Now the first question came--from the speaker on the television set:  "Are you happy here?"

"About as happy as I was on Earth," said Billy Pilgrim, which was true.

Billy is a star on Tralfamadore just for being Billy.  He eats breakfast and exercises and bathes and cuts his toenails.  As an encore, he shaves and puts on deodorant.  I do almost all of that stuff every morning, but Billy is special.  He is a unicorn or Bigfoot on this alien planet.  The Tralfamadorians don't know any better.  To them, Billy is Brad Pitt and George Clooney and James Dean, all rolled into one lumpy human form.  Billy is myth and monster, specimen and superstar, and he starts liking the attention.

I gave a poetry reading this afternoon at the medical center where I work.  Not too many people showed up, but that really doesn't matter.  I got to read some of my work, tell some stories, and entertain a small audience.  For an hour, I was Brad Pitt and George Clooney and James Dean all rolled into one.  And the Tralfamadorians really enjoyed the show I put on.

I will admit to being quite nervous last night as I was planning what I was going to read today.  Usually, I do readings with musician friends, so I'm not the center of attention all the time.  My musician friends weren't available today.  That means I had 60 minutes to fill by myself.  That's a long poetry reading.

I had about twenty poems chosen.  Once I was introduced, I did what I always do:  I winged it.  Some things I had planned to read went out the window.  Other things, that I hadn't planned to read, suddenly became centerpieces, with ten minute introductions.  It went really well, I think.  Everybody was laughing and crying in the right places.  Plus, there were really good cookies to eat.

That always happens when I give readings.  I plan and organize and prepare, and it all goes out the window when I start talking.  It's not nerves.  I don't ever feel anxious when I give a reading.  It's something else.  I just sort of let myself go, and that's when I start having fun.  I figure that if I'm having fun, so are the people sitting in the chairs.

Tonight, I am going to relax.  Maybe do a little writing.  Maybe watch a movie.  Maybe read.  I'm going to do something I haven't really done all week:  I'm going to relax.

Saint Marty is thankful today for really good chocolate chip cookies and poems.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

June 21: Summer Solstice, Arthur Rimbaud, "The Sun Has Wept Rose"

So, it is the summer solstice in the Western Hemisphere.  The longest day of the year.  I went for a walk with my wife this afternoon.  It was gorgeous and blue, with clouds that looked like they belonged in an oil landscape.

I love this day.  The promise of light until late in the evening.  It makes me want to stay awake forever.  Write.  Sing.  Draw.  Go for a run.  When I was younger, I used to call winter my favorite season of the year.  Now, it's summer.  I think that transition happens with age.

Saint Marty has a poem tonight that makes him think of the summer solstice.

The Sun Has Wept Rose

by:  Arthur Rimbaud

The sun has wept rose in the shell of your ears,
The world has rolled white from your back,
Your thighs:
The sea has stained rust at the crimson of your breasts,
And Man had bled black at your sovereign side.

June 21: Gay Nineties Couple, Inspiration, Hard Work

Billy brushed his teeth on Tralfamadore, put in his partial denture, and went into his kitchen.  His bottled-gas range and his refrigerator and his dishwasher were mint green, too.  There was a picture painted on the door of the refrigerator.  The refrigerator had come that way.  It was a picture of a Gay Nineties couple on a bicycle built for two.

Billy looked at the picture now, tried to think something about the couple.  Nothing came to him.  There didn't seem to be anything to think about those two people.

I understand Billy's predicament today.  He can't conjure up any thoughts regarding the couple on the bicycle built for two.  I'm not really inspired to write anything about this particular passage from Slaughterhouse.  Usually, when I type a section from the book, some thought immediately pops into my head.  Free association.  Today, nothing's popping.

Inspiration is a strange thing.  I would say that I've read a lot of writing that I would call inspired.  I've seen a lot of performances--on stage and screen--that I would categorize as inspired, as well.  The same is true for most of the arts.  Music.  Painting.  Sketching.  Photography.  All inspired.  (Not mimes.  Never mimes.)

However, as a working poet and writer, I will say that waiting until I feel inspired to write wouldn't really work.  I would never sit down to write anything.  Instead, I would be constantly out in search of inspiration.  Sunrises or sunsets or poems or chocolate cake or Janis Joplin playing on the radio.  Inspiration is like lightning.  It doesn't strike the same place twice.

No, tonight, I'm going to sit down with my journal and force myself to work on a couple of writing projects I have going.  There will be no Muse dictating in my ear.  I will simply write and write and write until I come up with something that's not embarrassing.  That pretty much describes my process.  As Natalie Goldberg advises, I give myself permission to write shit, in hopes that something beautiful might flower out of it.

Now I won't completely discount the possibility of  being inspired tonight.  It might happen.  However, I'm not going to wait for it.  I have work to get done.  That's what writers do.  They work, and that work is hard.  But it's also the best thing in the world when I come up with one perfect word, one great image, one elegant sentence.  That's what it's all about.  String letters together, hoping for a miracle.

Saint Marty is thankful for the ability to write this evening.