Friday, May 31, 2013

This Week, Feeling Inspired by...

The incredible pieces (“necklace” just doesn’t cut it here...these are more like gilded bibs or breastplates) fashioned by the sisters behind DylanLex. They dismantle and reattach the oddest, most stunning combinations of silver and rhinestone jewelry. I can’t stop looking at these. Much to be learned here, methinks (and not just about jewelry):

Wow. Much more at the DylanLex blog.

This song, "I Need My Girl," by The National! I’ve been listening to their new album, Trouble Will Find Me, and writing to it this week. Looking forward to catching their show in Columbus in a couple of weeks...


This hall of mirrors on Wikipedia: a list of lists of lists. For example, Lists of Bulgarian Military Aircrafts, Lists of Swedish Swimming Championship Champions, or Lists of Unsolved Problems.

And you?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

If a Painting Stops You

If a Painting Stops You

Let it grab your shoulders,
fasten its lasso

around your neck, pull you
in by handfuls.

Consider what it wants
to show you,

now that you are alone

what land or bodies, what
light. What eyes

has the painting swapped
for yours,

in what direction is your
head swiveled.

See it, see through it to
the invented

place, this realm, real,

continuing in all directions
around the bit

you take in. Imagine what
you must

look like over there to them,
from within

the edges, peering into a room
like a mirror.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Perfectly Natural

Perfectly Natural

You are falling into your life
and you don’t even notice it
except when it feels terrifying,

tunneling down, most things
rising around you, the walls
of an elevator shaft. What

will you forget next, without
even knowing it, a name,
a place, an accidental taste

of hairspray vapor, dish soap
lingering on a licked finger,
grit from a pencil’s pink eraser

run along a tooth. Think of all
the plants growing around your
home, and within your city,

and in this country, and in
every forest and jungle, plant
to do lists completed each day,

no need for us. Our remnants
wander from our hands, receipts
left behind in plastic grocery bags,

last year’s airplane ticket stubs
zipped into the suitcase. Everything
cannot be remembered, don’t you

know this, aren’t you used to it.
Forgetting is supposed to happen,
it can be beautiful, the release.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Not Smoke

Not Smoke

Dingy clouds lifting
from the green fields,

right away, I look for
fire, not for the truck

kicking up dust,
leaving this place.

What should I expect
from the land, watching

the fields, the ponds
like rained-in giant’s

footprints, the trees
playing statue.

Even if you have
a staring contest

with the moon, you
won’t see it moving,

won’t see morning coming.
Gazing at the picturesque

will always hurt you
if you’re doing it right.

Monday, May 27, 2013

This Is How Birthdays Work

This Is How Birthdays Work

When you started
as a human in the air,
ah, here you are!
Appearance triggers
time. Not age that
we celebrate (hey,
you’re still here!
but the birth day.
There was no you,
and then, you, new
person, squirming
pouch of genes,
and our wonder,
how did we ever
get along without
you. The birth day,
the moment you
tumbled into this
crowd, iridescent
membrane covering
plastic wand’s ring,
given a little breath,
suddenly a bubble
moving through the
bee-ridden garden.
Become of this time
that we share, maybe
you will like it here.
Every second, what
will become a birth
day years from now,
all the birthdays-to-be,
all the humans whose
parents haven’t even
arrived yet.

Friday, May 24, 2013

On Creativity: How to Kill Ideas

The mani half of a mani/pedi.
I used to write lists, entitled “Ideas for Poems,” that would contain items like, “Sonnets for every bone in the body, somehow connected” or “Poem about Steve Bartman and his family” or “Limerick that isn’t funny.” I’d write, at the top of a page, “Steve Bartman Poem,” and then, maybe a line or two (“He began to recognize death threats,”), Then, nothing. No more to say. The idea would be completely wilted.

Does this happen to you, too?

For me, the surest way I know to kill an idea is to envision it as a final piece--to see its shape or game, to plant the way I want it to work on the reader. The minute I think “I should write a poem ABOUT x,” I don’t have anything else to say. It’s the “ABOUT” that kills it, specifically. I’m sure some writers are able to create brilliantly, according to plan. But if I know where I’m heading, I suddenly don’t want to go there anymore. (Weirdly, this isn’t true in any other area in my life....if I know the ending to a movie, I’ll still watch it. I’m not particularly spontaneous. I like inventing little routines and rituals.)

I still write little lists (in my tiny notebook, or on the simulated legal pad on my phone--isn’t it funny that it’s yellow?) that I use in my writing process, but I use these very differently. Instead of writing the concept for a poem, I write an image or phrase that occurs to me, that I overhear, or that I overhear from inside my own brain. For instance, one from 408 days ago (the phone tells me this!): “in a joking manor” (that has to be a typo I read). Another, 43 days ago: “mani/pedi.” Another: “the petite mermaid.”

I don’t know if these will ever leave my notebook or phone, but they might. Mostly, this is because I have no idea what these poems would be about. The “mani/pedi” ingredient might turn into a poem about pedicures, but it might also be about candy, or about Lee Press On nails, and how we used to get those to put on each other during sleepovers, or about how much I hate my nails. “Mani/pedi” might go all oranges/sardines on me, as I work.

One of the thoughts I have while writing that excites me: I have no idea where this is going, or if it’s any good, but I’m going to keep working on it anyway and see what happens.

I have learned that if the framework is more interesting to me than the content, whatever I produce will be useful only as an exercise. I will be less present as I write, and I will make something formulaic and unsatisfying.

How does this compare to what you know of your creativity? What habits kill your ideas?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Welcome Wagon

Welcome Wagon

Terror’s Hollow Woods aren’t trying to scare you.
I know, spiders lower from the trees
right in front of your face,

the path is messy with mud and tangles of twigs,

you hear whooping and growling
from within the darkness.

Rest here just once.
When you wake up,

imagine that the woods are yours.
Can’t you just see a little house, a little garden,
all of Terror’s Hollow for a yard.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Not Every Problem Can Be Solved

Not Every Problem Can Be Solved

There are no problems
in and of themselves, only
the world’s reluctance to bring
you decadence and comfort,
a woman spooning luxury
cat food into crystal for her
fluffy Himalayan,

or even what you want,
or expect, eighteen good years
with the cat.

Friday, May 17, 2013

This Week, Feeling Inspired by...

Amy Monticello, again/always. Here she is at The Nervous Breakdown with “The Faces We Carry,” on cold sores and public grief. WHEW. Beautiful and uncomfortable.

The assignments from this art project, Learning to Love You More (A sample: “Assignment #52: Write the phone call you wish you could have” or “Assignment #20: Take a family portrait of two families.”). There are also examples of what people have produced in response to the prompts--very fun!

Artist’s sketchbooks and process pieces (again/always, again). In particular, Cody Rocko’s sketches. I admire how she invites us into her brain here....that’s something I always love in artists (those who allow us in, instead of holding us out).

And you, friends? What’s feeding your brain and heart right now?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

What’s a Flower an Emblem For

What’s a Flower an Emblem For

With one half-green thing
we suggest the rest

of the world’s unending
supply of flowers,

and all that it took for this
flower to grow.

Petals imply sky, light,
water collapsing

over the fields, protectively.
This flower is

the garden, and the garden
is the wilderness,

and the wilderness is the dark
fields beyond us

and in those dark fields, stars
that are and stars

that once were, and all the stars
that one day will hatch.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Camp Sight

Camp Sight

There’s this life, streets and parked cars,
and only rarely can you see the other

kind of living, before it dissolves back
into the ordinary. From between the curb

and car, an idea flinging itself up
your flagpole. We should get away,

should go, find a meadow, take to
canoes, build fires. Leave, you are told,

go see the stars unobscured, temporarily.
Nothing between you and the sky

out there except for time, so much of it
you couldn’t live it all with thirty of you.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Pain You Feel Really Is the Worst

The Pain You Feel Really Is the Worst

This whole time
something has been wrong
with you. How have your shoulders
managed like this. What did you do,
train at lugging buckets of water
up a mountain all day. You look like
Swiss cheese inside, there are
polka dots of absence all over you,
within you. We call this doily soul,
we call this a case of the paper
snowflakes. The thing you feel,
that’s pain. How long have you
been hurting for. Do you remember
where you were when it started,
and where you were when you
were able to forget it. Brave,
is what you are, and with all
of this still in front of you, who
knows what you’ll lose next,
everything, I guess. You deserve
unending ice cream sundaes,
a ribbon the size of a lion’s head.
What I’ve learned from looking
at you is you are a wonder.

Friday, May 10, 2013

This Week, Feeling Inspired by...

This article, "So That If I Died It Mattered," by Jon Sands, over at The Millions. On love, meaning in life, and how being a writer sometimes allows us to serve those we love. A beautiful, open piece. Plus, part of it takes place in Goodale Park in Columbus (I was there last weekend for a yoga class--Goodale Park is a staple of Columbus life!).

The flowering trees (duh, I know--I keep writing about them!) as their summer coats of shiny green leaves come in.

My students, who are finishing their classes, and turning in final projects to me within the next few days. Summer is quickly approaching...

These wonderful antique prints. Here's one favorite (from 1889), of microscopic views of Mineral/Rock :
For more info, or to purchase this print, click here.

And you, dear readers? As always, thanks for stopping by and reading this week!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Since When

Since When

The valley is full, just not full of land,
but since when is surface what counts

as a thing. In the inverse living room,
the negative of your room, the invisible

stuff lights up, the air, the microbes,
the fuzzed dust stubble on a fan blade,

great clouds of sun light, the breath exiting
you in your chair. Think of all that lives

between the bark and the tree. Think of
your windows as walls of an aquarium.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Too Much Time in the Garden

Too Much Time in the Garden

Beauty comes from loving
the thing you stand before,

staring, and knowing you
can’t have it for good, or

it can’t remain. That’s it,
petals in the trees for one

week, ten days, and then,
the all-engulfing green.

Your souvenir of beauty:
longing, the feeling you

can extend the day by
rolling it thinner, stretching

the pizza dough carefully.
The shape of memory is

hollow and fragile, glass
dome, snow globe shell,

mason jar. Tell yourself
you will return for more

later, go on, each jar of sand
burying you up to the chin.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Heat

The Heat

Sun hot on my eyelids and face
and then, relief, a burner switched off

means a pile of water vapor
is sliding across its floor in the sky.

As the 45th story in the building
knows little of the lobby, for they will

never meet, that is the cloud up there,
me down here. And above it all,

the sun, engulfed in its own burning,
nothing on its schedule except bash bash

bashing all protons into one another,
a forcing together of all its own pieces.

Friday, May 3, 2013

On Creativity: Joshua Young

what would happen if the camera/ knocked against the table? what would happen if we/
became aware of a presence just behind the lens, manipulating?

So asks one poem in The Diegesis, co-authored by Joshua Young and Chas Hoppe. Likewise, the entire collection keeps exploring and stretching the concepts of storytelling, film-making, observer and observed. It’s a strange, intriguing, delightfully-disorienting book--I love how it plays with the idea of the written word as a film/performance for the reader.

I was eager to ask Young, who is also a filmmaker and musician, some questions after reading this book.


NOTE: (Be sure to watch the book trailer above, which appears with the permission of the authors.)

Q: While reading The Diegesis, all I could think about was the concept of space and place, as it figures into storytelling. You (and your co-author, Chas Hoppe) pull us, the reader, into “the diegetic space.” The pieces in this book feature settings marked for creating and narrating: the frame, the editing booth, Disneyland, an auditorium, footnotes beneath the main text, the interior of cars, trap doors.

I’m wondering about where these pieces take place, for you...what is the world that you envision this book, and your other writing, occurring in? Not the literal setting, of course---but what kinds of images/sounds/ideas do you associate with creating? What are your tricks for entering and inhabiting the space your writing creates?

A: While writing The Diegesis, Chas and I talked early on about this being a film of some sort. He claims that I said right away it would be a documentary. I don't remember that, but it sounds like something I would say. I guess it's got that feel to it. If the book had a setting it would be two places in Washington, blurred together: Seattle and Bellingham. Chas and I met in Bellingham, but we both grew up near Seattle. So there's this camera just moving around, capturing images, actions, scenes, dialogue, people, dogs, cars, etc, etc. But the camera is doing more than that---it's subjective because it chooses what it wants to see; it's subjective because we're aren't just capturing, we are digging into it. Right now, I'm reaching composition and I'm trying to talk to these young writers about how to "unpack" an idea. I like to think that Chas and I are constantly unpacking what our camera captures, commenting, questioning, revising, interrupting, and so on.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Florist Throws Away Her Flowers

The Florist Throws Away Her Flowers

The bouquets
in their refrigerated cases

breathe against the glass, turning to slime.

Ok, maybe not slimy yet,
but ready to let their beauty go to gook
ever since, well,
ever since they got here.

In a cut flower’s life
every hour is a year,
a lifetime in seven days.

Bunch of baby’s breath can’t be
reattached to the plant,
inhaled back into plant,
returning to its days as a seed
in the sweet soil.

Flowers are the gift
that keeps on

but first makes room for a little visit.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Love Thy Neighbor

Love Thy Neighbor

Here is a life that could have been yours
in this house you pass, walking at night
past houses and trees. Windowglow
and shadow inside, a man and a woman
dancing, a record player with its lid
propped open so the sound will drizzle
out. Next door, another, Japanese Maple
shuddering under the window, dogs,
babies, parents preparing for sleep.
How did you get here, do you know
where you live. Porch swing and
magnolia, perhaps, or blue siding
and trampoline in the back yard.
Quadrupled duplex, brownies baking
on the end, the whine of a beginner
violinist in another. You can’t choose
a new place, now that the others
are all moved in.
The Storialist. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.