I’ve been burrowed in my studio for several days, getting work ready for an upcoming show in San Francisco. For the first time in nine years there is no heat in my studio on weekends, so I have had balance and moderation forced on my otherwise excessive self.
I’ve missed the introspection and insight that both writing posts and reading others’ blogs brings to my life. And what a welcome surprise (and compliment) it was to find this after several days of heads down studio marathoning: “TIV”, Maîtresse Extraordinaire of the wild colony of blogs camped out around The Individual Voice has awarded me a purple lion. Instructions include the tagging of five other bloggers whose work inspires me and to share three shards of advice about writing.
I’m going to break ranks on this and tag five individuals who do not currently have blogs but whose written language skills thrill, delight, inspire, provoke, instruct, evoke and fill my email inbox with the best kind of writing.
In no particular order:
1. Andrew Kimball. A friend for nearly thirty years, Andrew’s weekly e-newsletter is sent out to a select list every Sunday morning at 8am. It is a running history of his life and the lives of his large family of six children. He combines the personal with the larger arc of existential meaning like no one else I know. His wordsmithing is so rich and redolent, I have saved every one he has sent to me.
Here are a few samples:
But of course there are a thousand ways to fail, most of them available at any age. The thousand people at last Thanksgiving’s AA meeting in Marin County struggle to endure, just 24 hours at a time, so sufficient to each day is the evil thereof. Meanwhile standing unseen and ministering amidst that great congregation crammed around cafeteria style tables and so caught between bodily weakness and wings of desire, are the somber comforting spirits, without voice or body, that strive to bless us.
My college friend Tom: “One year ago yesterday my mother died, exactly on the date of giving birth to me. I gave a eulogy and began closing a book that seemed to have not been completely written. But, as they say in my profession, “pencils down”. Left alone we could design and redesign and explore yet another concept to see if some geometry or set of relationships not yet recognized might still be found by our relentless searchlight.
One year later, something significant is simply over. At this point, I now realize, life is increasingly about things that are “over.” Until life itself, in our last abilities to move about, laugh, grow enraged, feel hurt, feel loved and rise up in the morning convinced that every day above ground is a good day, is over.”
2. Paul Barbuto. I have known Paul since my first days in New York City. He drove a cab and would stop by my Chinatown loft at odd hours, always toting a strange and arcane book under his arm. I knew he had a poet’s soul when I handed him a volume of poems by Wallace Stevens. Stevens is a poet who typically requires a more academic orientation rather than the intuitional. But Paul “got” Stevens immediately, without intermediation of any kind.
We have reconnected after many years of being out of touch, and our coming back together has been one of the greatest gifts to me during a difficult year of loss and grief.
A few samples:
I told GW about a short poem I read in a book of Robert Bly translations. It was from a Japanese poet. It goes “inside one potato there are mountains and rivers.” I felt it summed up everything I had ever learned or ever hoped to learn about poetry. It was all there: the actual & the imaginative, the everyday & the strange, consciousness & dream, etc etc. It tells me how to see and experience things.
Gary Brown had the fastest mind-to-word ratio I ever heard. He was (and must be, today) the best slash and surprise guy that ever spoke. Every sentence had a wonderful and surprising punch. There was no one like Gary Brown.
Reading Denis Johnson this week brought Gary to mind. Denis Johnson, like Gary Brown, has that magic sudden turn in every sentence. After reading Jesus’ Son I decided I would never write another word. I will read and I will point and I will click and if need be I will make my “x” on the line. But I will leave the words to Denis Johnson (and Gary Brown whose spirit is a mighty sword).
One line that amazed me was the opening sentence of Dirty Wedding. “I liked to sit up front and ride the fast ones all day long. I liked it when they brushed right up against the building north of the loop and I especially liked it when the buildings dropped away into that bombed-out squalor a little farther north in which people (through windows you’d see a person in his dirty naked kitchen spooning soup toward his face, or twelve children on their bellies on the floor, watching television, but instantly they were gone, wiped away by a movie billboard of a woman winking and touching her upper lip deftly with her tongue, and she in turn erased by a –wham, the noise and the dark dropped down around your head–tunnel) actually lived there.”
He takes my mind just ahead of the words. When I arrive at the words they tell me what I just saw. How does he do it?
3. Elatia Harris. Elatia is an artist and a writer, and exceptionally gifted at both. While she does not have her own personal blog, she writes regularly for the highly respected blog, 3 Quarks Daily. You can go there and search her articles. Each one is a flotilla of brilliance, written in a style that is florid, seductive, erudite and very funny.
4. George Wingate. My first roommate when I arrived in New York City with $200 in my pocket and a few names scratched on a napkin, George is an exceptional artist but his mind also finds words as playful and malleable as wet paint on canvas. His e. e. cummings-esque emails are treasures of unexpected, quixotic, timeless insights.
lots of things to consider.
the smile, not of reason….
the big-mouthed smile of the computer screen: the primal screen
at least we’re having fun.
first look at your blog
can’t hardly accept the word…blog…
and i heard chris lydon champion the word early-ish
and i’m trying, just as i ‘m trying with the computer
YOU are not a trying individual you are a doing individual who doesn’t try me at all. keep it up and you will wear down my resistance.
5. Matt Thomas. Married to my niece Celeste, Matt teaches high school in Utah and has a mind that deserves a larger audience than his lucky students. He does maintain a classroom blog, but oh would I love to read what he’s thinking when he’s not confined to lesson plans.
As for the shards of writing advice, I have to think about that.