“In my experience, inspiration is not something that finds you, or offers itself to you, nor for that matter is faith. Inspiration and faith are similar in so far as they both ask something of us. They each require real and constant practical application. For me, inspiration comes only when I practice certain things regularly and rigorously. I must commit fully to the task in hand, sit down each day, pick up my pencil (actually it is a medium black or blue Bic Biro) and get to work. It is not exactly toiling down the coal mines, but it is labour enough, and I undertake it through the good times and the bad, through the dry periods and the periods of abundance, and I keep on going regardless of my successes or failures. Inspiration comes because I put in the work.”Nick Cave, The Red Hand Files (06.10.22)
“He who fights, can lose. He who doesn’t fight, has already lost.”Bertolt Brecht
“Pleasure is the pleasure of the powers that create a truth that cannot be arrived at by reason alone, a truth that the poet recognizes by sensation. The morality of the poet’s radiant and productive atmosphere is the morality of the right sensation.”Wallace Stevens
“[…] in your life, if you’re a good artist, you have one good idea. But if you’re a genius, you maybe have two good ideas.”Marina Abramović (quoting her professor of art history), quoted in Mason Curry’s Subtle Manouvers newsletter (11.07.22)
“[…] part of the solution is not being so precious about ideas and accepting that they’re just a starting point. The other part—maybe the bigger part—is learning to tolerate discomfort. Is that, in fact, the most important skill for any writer? (Or visual artist or musician or fill-in-the-blank creative person?) It might be. Because so much of the process is just really, really uncomfortable. It requires butting up against your own shortcomings over and over and over.”Mason Curry, Subtle Manouvers newsletter (11.07.22)
final resting place …Michele L. Harvey
the wind decides
dregs in our glassesFrank Hooven
you lay your day
on top of mine
someone’s newspaperJack Cain
drifts with the snow
searching the cupboardFrank Dullaghan
for the answer
to why I opened it
“The bigger the issue, the smaller you write. Remember that. You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying on the road. You pick the smallest manageable part of the big thing, and you work off the resonance.”Richard Price
For years I’ve had a mild yet persistent interest in writing a play. I like the limits of the stage just as I like the limits of haiku because when there’s only so much I can do behind a closed curtain or on a page with three lines those limits become creative restrictions. And yet I have thoughts that there’s no point writing a play unless it’s guaranteed to be produced. What are those thoughts? Why is it so important to have a guarantee before starting?
A while ago Alan Jacobs wrote a three act play based on the friendship and correspondence between J.R.R. Tolkien and W.H. Auden. I have no idea if the play is any good because I don’t yet have playwriting standards (the mark of a true amateur perhaps?) but I admire that he gave it a shot and then published the play on his website as if to say it didn’t need to be produced by a stage company to be validated.
Sometimes I find that rather than trying to identify what feelings are holding me back from starting, in this case, a play, it’s easier to group them together under the umbrella of ‘resistance’. Could those thoughts be fear disguised as reason? Yes. Could those reasons be valid? Yes. But I suppose, if I really wanted, I could find a good reason not to do anything if I thought about it long enough.
Perhaps the creative impulse never “makes sense” because it doesn’t always lead to money and recognition in an artist’s lifetime (or ever) so I may never find an airtight reason to fulfil that need. And yet, it still makes me happy and I still need to do it, with or without guarantees.
entering the forest enters youRuth Holzer
one coyote –
the entire mountain
howls moonlightSandi Pray
of windPeter Newton
the room is white
until that red appleElizabeth Searle Lamb
a screendoor’s quiet
rain and the sound of spoons placed
carefully awayBurnell Lippy
When Leonard Cohen ordained as a Zen Buddhist monk in 1996 he received the Dharma name ‘Jikan’ which, according to Michael Dylan Welch in his essay ‘Going Nowhere: Learning Haiku from Pico Iyer’, means “the silence between two thoughts”. In haiku this silence or space between the poem’s two juxtaposed parts is called ‘Ma’ and this idea is crucial to the form’s power. Welch also refers to ‘Ma’ as the “dreaming room […] where the best haiku find their deepest reverberations.”
final resting place…Michele L. Harvey, Heron’s Nest (June 2021)
the wind decides
I read an obituary this week for a woman I met three years ago on a meditation retreat in the Lake District. We only met for five days and I had forgotten her name until I saw her photo in the obituary but I never forgot her. Carl W. Buehner, a speechmaker, once wrote that “they may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
I remember her mother had recently died before the retreat and in our circle talks she was open with her grief. I remember walking with her on a field covered with goat faeces while she told me about her work in makeup. I remember driving with her and a friend to see the lakes and we bought ourselves overpriced ice cream and visited the local souvenir shop.
Once I was reading Gary Synder’s poetry during a tea break and another man on the retreat, Keith, noticed the book and asked if I had read any other Beat poets. Sharon, sat on the couch nearby, joined in and recited a line or two from Allen Ginsberg’s ‘A Footnote to Howl’ on the holiness of the madman, the typewriter and, for Ginsberg, the holiness of balls. I enjoyed her quirkiness.
On the last day Keith gave her a lift to the train station and before she left she hugged me and said “I love you.” Then she put her suitcase in the boot and drove off. I sometimes wondered over the years what became of her and if we would ever meet again.
Before he died the Zen Master, Kozan Ichikyo, wrote:
Empty handed I entered
Barefoot I leave it
My coming, my going –
Two simple happenings
That got entangled
The Red Hot Chili Peppers released a song in their 2002 album By The Way called ‘Venice Queen’ about a woman close to the band who had died and one of the verses went:
Where you come from? / Where you going?
Coming and going. The Great Matter of Birth and Death.
Where has that person who said “I love you” gone?
I hope, wherever she is, that she’s reunited with her mother.
I love you too Sharon.