Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Jim Harrison & Ted Kooser-Braided Creek

How one old tire leans up against
another, the breath gone out of both.

Old friend,
perhaps we work too hard
at being remembered.

Which way will the creek
run when time ends?
Don’t ask me until
this wine bottle is empty.

While my bowl is still half full,
you can eat out of it too,
and when it is empty,
just bury it out in the flowers.

All those years
I had in my pocket.
I spent them,

Each clock tick falls
like a raindrop,
right through the floor
as if it were nothing.

In the morning light,
the doorknob, cold with dew.

The Pilot razor-point pen is my
compass, watch, and soul chaser.
Thousands of miles of black squiggles.

Under the storyteller’s hat
are many heads, all troubled.

At dawn, a rabbit stretches tall
to eat the red asparagus berries.

The big fat garter snake
emerged from the gas-stove burner
where she had coiled around the pilot light
for warmth on a cold night.

Straining on the toilet
we learn how
the lightning bug feels.

For sixty-three years I’ve ground myself
within this karmic mortar. Yesterday I washed
it out and put it high on the pantry shelf.

All I want to be
is a thousand blackberries
bursting from a tree,
seeding the sky.

Republicans think that all over the world
darker-skinned people are having more fun
than they are. It’s largely true.

Faucet dripping into a pan,
dog lapping water,
the same sweet music.

The nuthatch is in business
on the tree trunk,
fortunes up and down.

Oh what dew
these mortals be.
Dawn to dark.
One long breath.

The wit of the corpse
is lost on the lid of the coffin.

A book on the arm of my chair
and the morning before me.

from "Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry", published in 2003 by Copper Canyon Press

Friends and fellow poets Harrison and Kooser decided to have a correspondence entirely in short poems after Kooser was diagnosed with cancer and, Harrison says, "Ted's poetry became overwhelmingly vivid." The results of that decision are gathered in this book, and none of the two- to five-line writings is individually signed. Telling whose poem is whose is virtually impossible, and, not to gainsay Harrison, vividness, visual or tactile, takes second place to wit and wisdom in their colloquy.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Report from the West by Tom Hennen

Snow is falling west of here. The mountains have more than a foot of it. I see the early morning sky dark as night. I won't listen to the weather report. I'll let the question of snow hang. Answers only dull the senses. Even answers that are right often make what they explain uninteresting. In nature the answers are always changing. Rain to snow, for instance. Nature can let the mysterious things alone—wet leaves plastered to tree trunks, the intricate design of fish guts. The way we don't fall off the earth at night when we look up at the North Star. The way we know this may not always be so. The way our dizziness makes us grab the long grass, hanging by our fingertips on the edge of infinity.

 from Darkness Sticks to Everything. © Copper Canyon Press, 2013

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Richard Hugo On Writing

It can be argued that all writing is creative writing, since if one is writing the way one should, one does not know what will be on the page until it is there. Discovery remains the ideal.

A poem can be said to have two subjects, the initiating or triggering subject, which starts the poem or “causes” the poem to be written, and the real or generated subject, which the poem comes to say or mean, and which is generated or discovered in the poem during the writing. That’s not quite right because it suggests that the poet recognizes the real subject. The poet may not be aware of what the real subject is but only [has] some instinctive feeling that the poem is done.

When you start to write, you carry to the page one of two attitudes, though you may not be aware of it. One is that all music must conform to truth. The other, that all truth must conform to music.

One mark of the beginner is his impulse to push language around to make it accommodate what he has already conceived to be the truth....

It is impossible to write meaningless sequences. In a sense, the next thing always belongs. In the world of imagination, all things belong. If you take that on faith, you may be foolish, but foolish like a trout.

Never worry about the reader, what the reader can understand. When you are writing, glance over your shoulder, and you’ll find there is no reader. Just you and the page. Feel lonely? Good. Assuming you can write clear English sentences, give up all worry about communication. If you want to communicate, use the telephone

Once you have the information, the words seem unimportant.

The poet’s relation to the triggering subject should never be as strong as (must be weaker than) his relation to his words. The words should not serve the subject. The subject should serve the words.

You are trying to find and develop a way of writing that will be yours and will, as Stafford puts it, generate things to say. Your triggering subjects are those that ignite your need for words.

When I read some academic writing I marvel that as common and everyday as language is, it would have the effrontery to get in the way of all that thinking. I’ve seen sentences that defy comprehension written by people with doctorates in English from our best universities. So have you. And I doubt that academic writing will improve until academics believe ValĂ©ry, who said he couldn’t think of anything worse than being right. In much academic writing, clarity runs a poor second to invulnerability.

We creative writers are privileged because we can write declarative sentences, and we can write declarative sentences because we are less interested in being irrefutably right than we are in the dignity of language itself.

Scholars seem to assume that if you can read you can write. It’s sad to see someone with a fresh PhD coast for a few years, understandably after such a grueling period of work, then embark on a book. It is a struggle because the scholar doesn’t realize one simple thing about writing: it is like shooting a basketball. You’ve got to stay in shape and practice to do it well. It is not a natural reward of study, and having an education does not mean you can write well whenever you want.

Once a spectator said, after Jack Nicklaus had chipped a shot in from the sand trap, “That’s pretty lucky.” Nicklaus is [supposed] to have replied, “Right. But I notice the more I practice, the luckier I get.” If you write often, perhaps every day, you will stay in shape and will be better able to receive those good poems, which are finally a matter of luck, and get them down. Lucky accidents seldom happen to writers who don’t work. You will find that you may rewrite and rewrite a poem and it never seems quite right, Then a much better poem may come rather fast and you wonder why you bothered with all that work in the earlier poem. Actually, the hard work you do on one poem is put in on all poems. The hard work on the first poem is responsible for the sudden ease of the second. If you just sit around waiting for the easy ones, nothing will come. Get to work.

From “The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing”

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My Golden Rules by Jim Jarmusch

Rule #1: There are no rules. There are as many ways to make a film as there are potential filmmakers. It’s an open form. Anyway, I would personally never presume to tell anyone else what to do or how to do anything. To me that’s like telling someone else what their religious beliefs should be. Fuck that. That’s against my personal philosophy—more of a code than a set of “rules.” Therefore, disregard the “rules” you are presently reading, and instead consider them to be merely notes to myself. One should make one’s own “notes” because there is no one way to do anything. If anyone tells you there is only one way, their way, get as far away from them as possible, both physically and philosophically.

Rule #2: Don’t let the fuckers get ya. They can either help you, or not help you, but they can’t stop you. People who finance films, distribute films, promote films and exhibit films are not filmmakers. They are not interested in letting filmmakers define and dictate the way they do their business, so filmmakers should have no interest in allowing them to dictate the way a film is made. Carry a gun if necessary.
Also, avoid sycophants at all costs. There are always people around who only want to be involved in filmmaking to get rich, get famous, or get laid. Generally, they know as much about filmmaking as George W. Bush knows about hand-to-hand combat.

Rule #3: The production is there to serve the film. The film is not there to serve the production. Unfortunately, in the world of filmmaking this is almost universally backwards. The film is not being made to serve the budget, the schedule, or the resumes of those involved. Filmmakers who don’t understand this should be hung from their ankles and asked why the sky appears to be upside down.

Rule #4: Filmmaking is a collaborative process. You get the chance to work with others whose minds and ideas may be stronger than your own. Make sure they remain focused on their own function and not someone else’s job, or you’ll have a big mess. But treat all collaborators as equals and with respect. A production assistant who is holding back traffic so the crew can get a shot is no less important than the actors in the scene, the director of photography, the production designer or the director. Hierarchy is for those whose egos are inflated or out of control, or for people in the military. Those with whom you choose to collaborate, if you make good choices, can elevate the quality and content of your film to a much higher plane than any one mind could imagine on its own. If you don’t want to work with other people, go paint a painting or write a book. (And if you want to be a fucking dictator, I guess these days you just have to go into politics...).

Rule #5: Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery—celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”

Jim Jarmusch, in MovieMaker Magazine #53 - Winter, January 22, 2004