painted pole (11 January 2015)
There are times – yes, you know them, you have them, too – when the world clicks into a new position and nothing can ever be quite the same again. Or maybe it isn’t the world that goes ‘click’. Maybe it’s something that happens in the mind, as a response to or a consequence of one’s experiences. Okay, I need to be specific.
For more than three years I have been professing that I’m writing a novel. It’s not the first I’ve attempted – my personal history is littered with the wreckage of those failed projects. My previous major writing effort – ‘clinically obese’ might be an appropriate diagnosis – boasted double the planned word-count, and it was only halfway through when eventually abandoned.
In recent days I’ve been looking back over the text which purports to be the stuff of the ‘new’ novel (working title: You Wouldn’t Dare). The opening scene I wrote on ‘day one’ is delicious, delectable. I’m really keen to continue. But aside from a few promising scenes, very little of the rest of it will find itself in the final draft.
So what’s clicked? what’s shifted? It’s something I’m still fathoming. In the meantime Vincent van Gogh’s advice is pertinent:
“If you hear a voice within you saying, ‘You are not a painter,’ then by all means paint … and that voice will be silenced.”
Posted on 12 September, the first of the two haiku presented here was my attempt at reconstructing the verse I believed I had written on 08 September, on a piece of paper I had subsequently misplaced. Having now (on 13 September) rediscovered the original, I am amused to see how poorly my memory had served me.
Brushed by tree branches
the moon, clear and bright, escapes
the billowing clouds.
Brushed by tree branches
another full moon, bright and
clear among the clouds.
(11 September 2014)
- “This is not haiku”
All poetry is extremely difficult to translate into another language. The biggest error is to attempt to impose an alien structure, like verse forms and rhymes. Then one cannot say the result is translation in any meaningful way – merely that the original has inspired the later version. (Simon H Lilly in This is not haiku – extended version)
My earliest experiences with haiku were – in Simon Lilly’s words – “not haiku”. By which I mean that I was taught the five-seven-five syllabic form many English-speakers have been using for decades. And, despite reading many superb examples of English-language haiku which do not do so, I have found the five-seven-five form invaluable as a discipline within which to attempt poems in the Japanese manner.
My recent reading of This is not haiku – extended version has powerfully shifted my thinking. Not that I am ready, at this point, to abandon the old five-seven-five I have come to love. But it strikes me that I, too, “am after the spirit of haiku, not the letter.”
water feature (25 January 2009)
Nothing of my past
(or virtually nothing)
seems suitable now;
not quite inappropriate
– merely ineffectual.
This morning I snapped
the connection between now
and my history.
Don’t ask me who I am; time
starts now … and again starts now.
(10 June 2013)
Written yesterday, the tanka serves as a marker: I am starting again … again.
The image, shot in 2009 but not selected for display, now appeals to me afresh.
vast emptiness nothing holy
I have more than a few friends who all seem desperately to need to be right. Each and every one of them has a favourite topic – a hobby-horse – and an incontrovertible line of argument.
And well-thought-out opinions, in fact, on every subject, whether crucial or trivial.
But they don’t agree among themselves … and not one of them agrees with me.
There must be some over-arching or all-embracing truth somewhere, but the only thing I’m sure about is that I haven’t got it sussed.
It would appear that the “grumpy cat avatar” has become a sacred icon, an oracle, the mouthpiece of truth. Click on him and you’ll find he redirects to a painting by Seki Seisetsu (1877-1944), which features the same text.
And when you’re done with that, you might look at a piece about some famous words of Seng-ts’an: “Do not seek the truth; only cease to cherish opinions.”
“Do you ever doubt your own ideas? All the time. You should read what happens in linguistics. I keep changing what I said. Any person who is intellectually alive changes his ideas. If anyone at a university is teaching the same thing they were teaching five years ago, either the field is dead, or they haven’t been thinking.” (Noam Chomsky)
There is nothing that is permanent. There is nothing that stays. Everything goes. Which is an interesting fact about life. Everything goes. And when you understand this, everything goes. There are no restrictions anymore. You can do anything you wish, say anything you wish, think anything you wish, because you’re not trying to hold onto anything anymore. (Neale Donald Walsch)
There’s a Bible meme that fits here: “And it came to pass …” More to the point, though, is an old proverb known to the medieval Sufi poets and with versions in Persian, Hebrew, Arabic, and Turkish: “This too shall pass.”
Buddhist traditions also have a story in which this simple phrase is central.
So, given that there’s nothing to hold onto – and nothing to hold me back – what can I see myself getting up to next?
John Cage. Portrait by Susan Schwartzenberg/ The Exploratorium
Our intention is to affirm this life, not to bring order out of chaos, nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply to wake up to the very life we’re living, which is so excellent once one gets one’s mind and desires out of its way and lets it act of its own accord. (John Cage)
The first question I ask myself when something doesn’t seem to be beautiful is why do I think it’s not beautiful. And very shortly you discover that there is no reason. (John Cage)
Loose : a wild history (cover)
‘I want to get published!’ my heart cries out.
‘But you can’t!’ my mind says.
‘How long will it take them to recognise my genius?’ my heart says.
‘Probably for the rest of your life,’ my mind says. ‘But then why do you bother? Books are not important. Life itself is.’
‘But I want to get published because I am good and I am better than most published authors here in this country!’ my heart cries out again.
‘Well, that has yet to be proven,’ my mind says.
(Ouyang Yu, in Loose : A wild history)
Ouyang Yu. 2012. Loose : A wild history. Adelaide, SA: Wakefield Press.
“The novel combines fiction with non-fiction, poetry with literary criticism, diary with life writing, with multiple stories weaving in between, told from different points of view by different characters.” (Wakefield Press)
See my previous post on the topic of Ouyang Yu: https://xties.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/on-new-years-eve/
If you examine the great religions of the world, you can discern philosophical and metaphysical views, on the one hand, and daily spiritual practice, on the other. Although the philosophical views differ and sometimes contradict each other, in spiritual practice all religions are connected. They all recommend inner transformation of our stream of consciousness, which will make us better, more devout people. (His Holiness The Dalai Lama)