I photographed this on a wall somewhere but failed to write down the source and now I can’t figure out where it might have come from. Pretty though …
This is an excerpt from The Museum of the Lord of Shame, a chapbook by Gary Rosenthal, which he describes in part on his website:
“Not everything in the soul is sweetness and light. This poem evokes that part of the soul that often presents the first major initiation in inner work.”
I love this excerpt quotation from a longer piece that’s also got some other really great points and imagery. The source is Ollin Morales of Courage2Create.
“Before our new selves can bloom, we must explode, we must break, we must shatter, we must thaw…
Every new birth must begin with a cry of pain. Every healed heart must begin with the prick of the needle carrying the healing thread. Every rise must be preceded by a sudden, sharp fall. Every recovery must be christened by a brief relapse.
The first step down a new path must, evidently, cut away at the old path—and that cutting hurts. It takes a lot out of us, and we are exhausted.
What can comfort us at this point of our journey is knowing that this is all normal: nature goes through a similar process in the beginning of Spring.
Everything in nature breaks before it blooms. The frozen pond shatters before it can flow freely again. The bud of a rose cracks before it opens. The sun stabs at the moon right before it rises.
So it is with nature, so it is with you.”
I spend a lot of time in other people’s homes, mostly for petsitting. I never go through their things or look into spaces that aren’t right out in the open. I just think that’s rude. But I do really love looking at the things that are out on display in their homes. One thing everyone has, of course, is lighting … and it’s always interesting to see the lamps that people choose for their homes – especially the lamps that are clearly chosen for decor as much as for function.
I was interviewed a few months ago by awesome businesswoman Sylvia Browder. She asked me lots of great questions about my book, Crochet Saved My Life, as well as my take on the writing life. Let me share two of my interview questions/ answers here with you today to give you a sense of how I see my writing life:
Syvlia asked, “Is there a special place that you prefer when you write?”
I answered, “I prefer writing in my own home. I initially thought I’d love the freedom of the writer’s life in the sense that I’d be able to write anywhere. That’s certainly true to an extent but the truth is that I tend to work best when I’m alone in my own space. I get too distracted trying to work on vacation, in relatives’ homes or in coffee shops.”
Sylvia also asked, “Do you have any advice for other writers?”
What I said was, “Writing is a really solitary activity but there has to be a balance. It is definitely important to take time to yourself to hear your inner voice and get it down on the page. However, you also need to have many experiences out and about with other people to be able to relate to them and keep on going productively in your work. Plus, when it comes time to market your book, you’re going to need each and every one of those people you know to help you spread the word! So strive for a balance!”
I’m curious how other writers feel about this balance between the solitary introspective part of the writing life and the need to be a social creature in the world for both creative reasons and business reasons. Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Tonight in San Francisco is the second monthly edition of a literary reading at creativity salon The Emerald Tablet. I won’t be able to make it because of other commitments but I went to the first one last month and it’s definitely something I want to check out again.
The event is called Under the Influence. Here’s how it works. Four readers were chosen in the first month to read a short work of art from a writer who influenced them and then to read their own work inspired by that influence. At the end, three of the four readers were asked to select another writer to do the same thing the following month (which will be seen at tonight’s performance). The fourth person was asked to choose an influence and then local writers were able to submit works inspired by that influence and the fourth reader is chosen from those works. This process will continue and what interests me is the organic nature of how each person is chosen from what follows before them.
The event is hosted by Evan Karp of Quiet Lightning. The four writers I saw last month were:
- Toni Mirosevich whose inspiration was James Agee
- Nate Waggoner who was inspired by Philip Roth
- William Taylor Jr. who was inspired by William Saroyan
- Stella Peach who was inspired by JS Bach. Stella did a unique performance incorporating music and spoken word although it was primarily music, which goes to show that there isn’t a set formula for the inspirations and works in this new event.
I’m a little bummed that I can’t make it tonight. One of the readers is MK Chavez, who I’ve seen read here before, and she’s inspired by Sandra Cisneros who I also enjoy. But there will be other opportunities.
And actually I’m hoping to check out some other things at Emerald Tablet, a cool space I’d never visited before last month. They have art, film and various creative community events in a space that is welcoming and inspiring.
Poetry slams have played a funny fringe role in my life off and on over the years. When I was 21 and in college for the first time I started going to an open mic poetry spot where magic was created under desert skies and it was those folks who first introduced me to poetry slams.
After a brief affair with the fun competitive spirit of those events, I took a hiatus. I should interject that I was always just a watcher, not a reader. I’ve read here and there at open mics but really I prefer the inspiration of being a listener at these things to the pressure of performing, particularly within the competitive atmosphere of the slam.
A couple of years after moving here I decided to check out the slam scene in San Francisco. I dabbled here and there, went to a few of the main events, got some inspiration, met some cool people, moved on. It had been a couple of years since I went to a slam, or even an open mic for that matter, when I saw the other night that there was a Lit Slam that looked interesting here and I decided to check it out.
What’s interesting about this monthly Lit Slam is that the winners of the slam get published in an annual literary magazine called Tandem. Normally slam winners get a cash prize or just plain old praise but this puts a whole new twist on things because what they perform on stage needs to not only make for a good performance but also read well later on paper and that’s a tough thing to pull off. The shock value poems that work amazingly with the right facial features on a stage don’t necessarily work when written down pen to paper and printed in stark black and white.
The slam consisted of eight participants who were whittled down by scores to five and then to three and two of those win publication although a single winner is declared. Being there was interesting for me, because it naturally brought back the feelings of other slams, the memories of the people at open mics.
When I try to look urban and cool …
The truth is that most slams have some similar features and most poets fit easily into certain slots that tie them together with other poets in your mind. The feminist poet, the queer identified poet, the urban hip hop poet, the over-intellectual over-sensitive white guy poet … they’re just archetypes, just styles and of course each individual brings their own unique individuality to the table but when you don’t know the people and are seeing them for the first time it’s easy to replace their faces with the faces of voices from the past. I remembered moments with people I hadn’t thought about in ten years.
I tended to like what the audience and editors tended to like, for the most part, something I could tell for sure because a word or phrase would tug at my heart’s attention at the same time that a gasp would be emitted from a person in the space. And oh, the space, the space was lovely. It’s a place called Viracocha which is a retail shop in the Mission here selling wacky old things like typewriters. Downstairs is a large room with a rustic wooden stage decorated with lights set behind washboards for this artsy weird oddly-romantic atmosphere.
The winner of the slam was Cam Awkward-Rich. Here’s a YouTube clip although it’s not from the event I went to:
I also wanted to add that the feature reader, Daphne Gottlieb, was amazingly touching. I loved the way she was able to read without that sing-song poetry voice that is so hard for most of us to escape when reading poems aloud. And loved the sense of connection and poignancy she offered in her work, even in the way she dropped each page lightly but defiantly to the stage as she read it.
And also the host, Tatyana Brown, was the one who actually did my favorite poem of the night so props to her as well. Monthly event worth checking out if you happen to like live spoken word and be in San Francisco.
Man-Boy Optical Illusion (source)
Once upon a time there was a boy who lived in a normal place and a normal time. Every day he walked along the same path and every day everything was fine. He was happy because he was where he was supposed to be.
But then one day he was walking along the path and the world began to spin. He was transported to a magical place where everything was different including himself. In this strange new land, he was no longer a boy; he was a man. He walked new paths. He saw many strange and amazing creatures. There were difficulties along this journey but he traversed his new paths and everything was fine because he was where he was supposed to be.
One day the man was walking along this path and he saw a boy who was very upset. The man was very worried about the boy and hated to see him in such distress. The boy said he was lost. He had just come to this new land and he was very scared. Luckily, the man knew the solution. He told the boy that the problem was that he was not where he was supposed to be. He told him that he would send him home if the boy would always remember that it was his job to make sure from then on that he always found the right place and time that he was supposed to be in. The boy said that he would remember and the man sent him on his way.
The man continued walking along the path when the world began to spin. All of a sudden, he found himself back in his first home. It was a normal place and a normal time. But this time, he was not happy. He was not a boy and he was not a man. He walked the same path he had walked as a boy but he was often confused as he walked. He had a nagging feeling that it was his job to find a different place and time where he fit better but he did not know how to do this.
He remembered that he was happy as a man so he found the men in this home and he tried to live with them. But he was no longer a man so he was not happy. Then he remembered way back to when he was a boy and that he was happy as a boy so he found the boys in this land and he tried to live like they lived. It did not work because he was not a boy.
Then he thought, “maybe the answer is not with males, maybe it is with females.” He went and lived with the girls. He had many fun times and sometimes he was happy. But often the girls didn’t understand him because he was not like the boys they knew. Then he went and lived with the women. Sometimes he was happy but they didn’t always accept him because he wasn’t like the men they knew. No place was quite right for him and he always had in the back of his mind that he needed to find the right place.
He decided that maybe he would just have to be alone. He set out to walk on the same path every day by himself. One day as he was walking, the world began to spin. He was suddenly transported to a magical place. When he arrived, the place seemed familiar. He recognized the strange and amazing creatures. But everything seemed bigger and newer and a little bit stranger and then when he looked at himself he realized this was because he was a boy again. He sat in wonderment and stared at all of the beauty around him.
He was still sitting in awe when a man approached him on the path. The man smiled because he was so happy to see how happy the boy was to be in this place. The boy thought that the man looked very familiar. Then the boy realized that the man was him. It was only when he became a boy again that he could be a man. And now he had the secret because once the man became the boy and the boy became the man, he had a key that would allow him to carry the right place and the right time with him wherever he went. Now he could live with boys or with men, with women or with girls, and no matter where he lived it would always be the right place and time. From then on he could live happily ever after anywhere he ended up.
Every year I think about joining up with NaNoWriMo and then I don’t for a variety of reasons. In recent years, there have been a lot of spinoffs of this November writing project. I decided that this year I’ll join one of those spinoffs – NaBloPoMo, short for National Blog Posting Month.
What is NaBloPoMo?
NaBloPoMo is just a group project where bloggers commit to writing at least one post per day on their blogs during the month of November. It’s a way to stay accountable for writing daily. It’s a way to have community support for your blogging efforts. It’s a way to participate in a group blogging activity even though you’re working at home alone in your own space.
Why I’m Joining NaBloPoMo
I already post almost daily here on Diary of a Smart Chick so I don’t actually need a project like this to hold me accountable to posting. So why join?
- I like occasionally participating in various group blogging challenges as it always teaches me new things about my blogging self and stretches me a little bit.
- Participating in things like NaBloPoMo can help new readers find this blog. Diary of a Smart Chick isn’t nearly as popular as my main blog, Crochet Concupiscence, but I do put a lot of work into this blog and would love for more people to find it.
- It’s an easy way to support a cool project that other bloggers are doing. I love being part of the blogging community.
- NaBloPoMo has optional writing prompts. I likely won’t use them most days but I think it will be fun to try them here and there.
- There are prizes. I’m not really doing it for the prizes but prizes certainly don’t hurt!
- If I ever do decide to do NaNoWriMo it’ll boost my confidence to know I have already participated in something similar with NaBloPoMo.
What To Expect
There is no theme topic or anything like that so most of what you’ll see on the blog in November isn’t going to be any different from usual. You’ll still see daily posts where I share my life, thoughts, experiences and photos. I usually don’t blog here on Sundays so that will be different – an extra post. And I may try some of those writing prompts to tackle different topics than usual a few times this month. At the end of the month I’ll update you about my experience participating in this project.
As part of my random 3 digit reading project, I discovered a Smithsonian book on different types of shells. Of all of the books that I got that I probably never would have picked up on my own, this one is the one that has drawn my attention most so far. (Thanks to @adanishheart for a really great lucky number!)
The whole point of this project was to inspire something new for me and this totally has. Although I have occasionally looked for shells on the beach, admired beautiful shells and even kept a handful of them in a vessel in my home for awhile, I’ve never thought one way or the other about them. This book has taught me that there are sooooo many different kinds of shells, that they all have histories and their own unique parts and stories.
And I’ve just fallen in love with the language in the book, the language of shells with their whorls and spires, their iridescent pearlized insides and concentric ribbed outsides … It has been awhile since I’ve felt like writing any kind of poetry but this book totally re-sparked my poetry bug. In fact, I went to a coffee shop today with a new notebook and the book on shells and five poems came flooding out of me. Of course, they are the bare bones of poems. They need to be edited, explored, worked on. But the structure, the spark, is totally there. I felt inspired. I love inspired!
I also have an idea for crochet shell art that I’m developing in my mind. We’ll see, we’ll see. What a fun adventure!