Report from the Field: Struggling with Creative Nepotism

At Vida, writer Dallas Athent confronts one of the thorniest issues plaguing the literary scene: the unspoken nepotism-fueled culture of connections and reciprocal favors that determines who gets published where.

via Report from the Field: Struggling with Creative Nepotism — Discover

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9 Sure-fire Tips to Expand Your Mind!

April 2015 )

“Nobody understands you because you are Alan Turing reborn. Haruki Murakami with extra wasabi. Yoko Ono on steroids and the beating heart of Jaden Smith’s Twitter account. Plants vilify you in the chasm between the primate amygdala and reptilian metacarpals. Buttermilk splash in your eyes when the red dawn of the event horizon explodes like a gokkun glass on the floor. Space pizzas and gorilla tits. Pimple soup. Keanu Reeves. Exactly.”

Read the full item here: 9 Sure-fire Tips to Expand Your Mind!

Go Down the Rabbit Hole: A Writer’s Manifesto

Alice in Wonderland: falling cards

Alice in Wonderland: falling cards

“You are the work. The work is you: both an articulation of the self and a possibility for self-reflection. “

Writing for Digital Media

1. You are the work. The work is you: both an articulation of the self and a possibility for self-reflection. Be honest in creation: allow yourself to bleed into the work, but also allow it to work on you. Your work can show you things: illuminate and clarify your own thoughts, motivations, actions. If you do it right, you will find the work changing you, too.

2. Thinking is process. Laying on the floor. Sitting on park benches. Getting lost on purpose. These are all working. Learn the difference between mindless distraction and mindful wandering.

3. Go down the rabbit hole. Sometimes the work isn’t about what you think it is. Allow yourself to get lost down alleyways, to follow a train of thought around a corner. Don’t feel you need to reign yourself in. Too much focus squeezes all the possibility for revelation out of the work.

4. Fear…

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Giving up the past

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

A little piece I wrote back in 2010 – Sanitation? … or sanitization? – has been receiving a bit of attention from blog-readers in recent times, so I took another look at it myself … and it seems quite an appropriate topic for the season of Lent (which began last Wednesday (05 March).

Responding to a comment on the original post, I explained that “The between-the-lines inferences and implications of my post [had] to do, on the one hand, with destroying incriminating evidence, hiding my inner life … and, on the other hand, with holding on to mementos and souvenirs, and maintaining a record of things I [wanted] to remember.”

A bit cryptic – to say the least.

In the original post, I quoted something from A. Whitney Brown: “The past actually happened but history is only what someone wrote down.” (A. Whitney Brown, in The Big Picture)

What I didn’t make clear, in that 2010 post, is that what happened in the past is still in the past – nothing of the event itself is actually happening now. In effect, all that’s happening now is that a voice in my head is reading aloud what got written down in the past, and maybe reminding me about the wrong I have done and the good I have not done … and maybe I’m cringing, feeling guilty.

An act of contrition is one thing; getting rid of the rubbish is another. But this is not a lenten sermon, so back to the crux of the matter: “Giving up the past”.

In my experience, the inclination to clutter is often the outcome of either of two impulses: at one extreme is the Proustian urge to document everything (see note 1 below); at the other end of the scale, I hang on to things I cannot find the inner resources to attend to, process, or deal with.

Of late, I’ve been managing pretty much all the day-to-day chores and commitments, but there is a persistent residue that is harder to shift. A high percentage of that stuff still clutters my living-space; the remainder clutters my mind and my heart. The physical clutter is the manifestation of inner states, and its persistence is invariably anchored in the past.

The prophet Isaiah – who, by the way, had some worthwhile things to say about fasting and repentance (see Note 2 below) – said: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” (Isaiah 43:18, NIV). Whilst digging around on the interweb, I found a nice paraphrase: “When your past calls, let it go to voice-mail. It has nothing new to say.”

So I have plenty of work to do – giving up my past, and putting out the psychological and emotional trash.
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NOTES:

1/ Proust, who claims to have no memory, keeps track of everything. His letters (there are several thousand) provide a running inventory of his bodily functions – letters to his mother providing an update of his respiratory condition, letters to his doctor listing the details of his menu, little notes handed to his housekeeper every morning reporting the number of times he coughed the night before. (Rebecca Comay, in Proust’s Remains)  

2/ The symbolism of the familiar Ash Wednesday ritual – a cross smeared on the forehead using the ashes of palms gathered up after the Palm Sunday procession – connects back to repentance practices in Old Testament times – see Isaiah 58, for example. 

Questions to which there are no answers

clarice lispector
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So long as I have questions to which there are no answers, I shall go on writing. (Clarice Lispector)

Reading Rachel Kushner on the subject of Clarice Lispector: “… a visionary instinct, and a sense of humor that veered from naïf wonder to wicked comedy. … novels that are fractured, cerebral, fundamentally nonnarrative …” As I read, I find words I myself might have considered writing.

Truth is, I have never read any of those novels – have somehow not even consciously heard or read the name of this Brazilian writer. Regarded by some (including Benjamin Moser) as the most important Jewish writer since Kafka, acclaimed internationally for her innovative novels and short stories, Clarice Lispector was also a journalist.

As a child, so many of the responses I wanted to give could not be given using any of the logical templates available: Yes/No. Good/Evil. Right/Wrong. Black/White.

Eventually, I began to develop an understanding that was all paradox and antithesis, uncertainty, indeterminacy … shades of grey.

In her 1973 novel, Água Viva, Clarice Lispector writes: “Reasoning is what it is not. Whoever can stop reasoning – which is terribly difficult – let them come along with me.”

I am heartened. Encouraged. Inspired.

I have some unexpected reading to do. And some more writing.

Dian Fossey and the Google doodle

Google doodle celebrates Dian Fossey's 82nd birthday

Google doodle celebrates Dian Fossey’s 82nd birthday

Google has celebrated the 82nd birthday of late American zoologist Dian Fossey with a Doodle on its search page, The Independent reported today. The Guardian carried a similar story. Dian Fossey was born on 16 January 1932, in San Francisco, California.

Considered the world’s leading authority on the physiology and behavior of mountain gorillas, Dian Fossey fought hard to protect these “gentle giants” from environmental and human hazards. She saw these animals as dignified, highly social creatures with individual personalities and strong family relationships. Her active conservationist stand to save these animals from game wardens, zoo poachers, and government officials who wanted to convert gorilla habitats to farmland caused her to fight for the gorillas not only via the media, but also by destroying poachers’ dogs and traps.

Tragically, on December 26, 1985, Fossey was found hacked to death, presumably by poachers, at her Rwandan forest camp. No assailant has ever been found or prosecuted in her murder. (Biography.com)

The capacity of human beings to embrace, support, and protect life stands in stark contrast to our willingness to plunder, exploit, and murder.

The Dian Fossey doodle is the latest in the more than 1,000 doodles created for Google’s homepages around the world. Answering the question, “How did the idea for doodles originate?”, an About page explains that “In 1998, before the company was even incorporated, the concept of the doodle was born when Google founders Larry and Sergey played with the corporate logo to indicate their attendance at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert. They placed a stick figure drawing behind the 2nd “o” in the word, Google, … intended as a comical message to Google users that the founders were ‘out of office.'” (About Google Doodles)

A marker to measure drift

A Marker to Measure Drift [cover]

A Marker to Measure Drift [cover]

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A yacht in full
sail, white as the moon, cuts
across the bay.

(Alexander Maksik, in A Marker to Measure Drift [p47])

My summer reading – such as it has been – has included Alexander Maksik’s second novel, A Marker to Measure Drift, which “recounts a season of homeless exile in the life of a 24-year-old Liberian woman fleeing an episode of gruesome violence incidental to the overthrow of the tyrant Charles Ghankay Taylor, in 2003.” (Norman Rush, in a New York Times review dated 23 August 2013)

In describing the writing as hypnotic, I find I am not alone: the GoodReads review also calls it spellbinding. Which helps brings me back to the point of this post: in the seventy days since starting NaNoWriMo, my commitment to this blog and its twin has tended to drift. Rather than attempt to return them to their original headings, I am now actively looking for “new angles” – as I did in fact signal on |A Twisted Pair| on Christmas Eve.

I have been missing the haiku I had been in the habit of publishing – and likewise the states of mind and everyday routines within which such haiku so easily composed themselves. The fourteen syllables that begin this post were not written as a haiku; they are simply a sentence that appears on page 47 of Alexander Maksik’s beautifully written book. But when I read them, they leapt out at me … and have stayed with me. And they serve as a marker against which I now measure my own drift.

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Maksik, Alexander. 2013. A Marker to Measure Drift. New York: Alfred A Knopf.

Link here to Alexander Maksik web-site.

Petrichor: the smell of rain

rainy day in Cuba (08 August 2011)

rainy day in Cuba (08 August 2011)

A writer – and, I believe, generally all persons – must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art. (Jorge Luis Borges)

The sinews and ligaments of this post – its interconnections, if you prefer – are somewhat tenuous. (Our ability to stay alive is tenuous.) There is no great need for the reader to make any real effort to fathom any of it.

Jorge Luis Borges: an Argentine writer of (among other things) short stories “interconnected by common themes such as dreams, labyrinths, libraries, mirrors, animals, fictional writers, philosophy, religion and God.” (Wikipedia: Jorge Luis Borges)

According to Bella Jozef, his work embraces the “character of unreality in all literature”. (Wikipedia: Jorge Luis Borges)

The image was shot in Cuba Mall, Wellington, in the last month of winter 2011. The word “petrichor” refers to the smell of rain on dry ground. The word derives from two Greek words: “petra” = stone; “ichor” = the blood of gods and goddesses (from a video titled 48 things you didn’t know had names on mentafloss.com).

Knowledge on Dark Matter

File:Dark-matter.jpg.

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I know less than I used to –
or more to the point
I newly distrust what I have known;

discard certainties, ask more
questions, live more with no answers
to old questions.

From: Knowledge by Tony Brown

On his blog, Dark Matter, Tony Brown says of himself: “A veteran of both page and stage in the poetry world, I’ve been publishing and reading in journals and on stages around the US for over thirty years.”

The medium is the massage

 

97 Victoria (26 March 2013)

97 Victoria (26 March 2013)

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The white tag is one I’ve begun to recognize,  although I can’t begin to decipher the letters.

The word ‘TOWER’ is part of a two-word phrase I suspect of being an anti-capitalist slogan.

The orange-red initials? Territorial marking, perhaps.

Recognition and familiarity are by no means synonymous with legibility, and comprehension does not necessarily follow.

Some degree of communication has taken place, nevertheless.

In noticing and photographing, Photoshopping and posting, I have made it art, have I not?

The premises upstairs at 97 Victoria Street used to be a brothel. More recently, Club 97 offered massage. It seems not to have succeeded.

“Any work of art that can be understood is the product of journalism” (Tristan Tzara)

“The medium is the massage.” (Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore)