Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Writing on the Run

Sunday, April 8, 2012—Long Beach, CA

Digging out from an avalanche of busyness. Tests, papers, lecture writing. I’ve hardly hard time to do anything but work for the last couple of weeks. I don’t like it when it gets like this: It’s very easy for me to lose my center when I’m not writing (even if it’s just here), when I don’t have much time for myself. I’m hoping to have things a bit more under control by the end of the week. Unfortunately I could also see it going on until the end of the semester in the middle of May. I’m definitely burning out this semester. I want it to be over.

Speaking of school. I received an email telling me that I’ve been granted an interview for the full-time job at IVC. I have to decide by Tuesday if I want to go thru with it or withdraw my name. I’m leaning against it. I don’t want to teach anthropology in Orange County for God knows how many years. I want to write, maybe get second masters in English, teach literature. I’m bored and tired with the day-to-day aspects of my life and I want to move on—and taking a full-time position doing what I’m doing now would be the opposite of that.

There’s some good stuff going on too. I’ve corrected the Edgewater galleys and have just finished painting a picture for its cover, which I think turned out really well. It’s a kind of impressionist watercolor/gouache of two palm trees done mostly in rose and black, with some sepia ink mixed in into to provide some depth and variance. I think it really captures the feel of the book. I’ll hopefully get it scanned in the next day or two and then finish off the designing the book cover. If that happens the book will probably be printed up and ready to be released by the end of the month. If it turns out like I think it will it’s going to be a cool looking book.

Not much else going on. Somehow I’ve found time to do some bike riding and weightlifting. I feel like I’m starting to get in pretty good shape (I’m still not drinking—it’s been two months now—and that’s definitely helping. I’m still having a bunch of digestive issues, though.; no matter what I do with my diet they don’t seem to get any better. I’m going to give it until the summer and if there’s no improvement I’ll probably make an appointment with my doctor.

Been doing a bit of reading. I’ve gone on this big jag where I’m rereading a lot of Gary Snyder’s poetry. So far I’ve gone thru Axe Handles, Mountains and Rivers Without End, and Regarding Wave and I’m in the middle of Turtle Island. Next up is Left Out in the Rain, which I just bought a copy of (I read a library copy years ago). Still reading Philip Whalen’s On Bears Head. I’m really enjoying it. He has a freedom to his verse, to his process of writing that I’m love to have with my poetry. His much closer to a true free verse than any poet I’ve ever read: there are few formulas and self-imposed (sub-conscience) rules in his work. I’ve read a couple pieces from my Paul Shepard reader as well, along with a few chapters of Huckleberry Finn, which haven’t read in at least twenty years. Been writing a little bit too. I’ve been picking away at Sunshine Seas (I can’t get the sustained work time I need to really make much progress, though) and most interestingly I’ve turned out a couple little poems. I haven’t written any poetry since 2009 and I hope these pieces will lead to a resurgence in that area. Lately I’ve been really missing writing poetry. I’ve also noticed that my life tends to be a touch out of sink when the poems aren’t coming. Poems for me come when I’ve come to conclusions about things. If they come back it surely means that I’ve finally made some decisions I’ve needed to make for quite a while.


Josh Mahler said...

I love how you distilled Gary Snyder’s work down to one simple phrase: “true free verse.” That's it.

I find it difficult to articulate why I favor certain writers over others: Gary Snyder, Gregory Corso, Lew Welch and Frank Stanford (who in my opinion, are criminally underrated), but for me, I think Snyder remains essential because he wrote (and writes) without ego. I'm sitting here, looking up at my collection of Snyder books: The Back Country, Turtle Island, Axe Handles, and Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems, one of the beautifully written books of poetry of the 20th century (forgive the hyperbole if you disagree), and I believe the truest writers succeed almost by accident. Meaning, they write because they must and have no other choice. Think Kerouac – he wrote a dozen or more books between The Town and the City and On the Road…what compels a person to do this even after being rejected? Most writers write for prizes and adulation. Many succeed through creativity and imagination, but the ones that suffer, the ones you believe have suffered, well, they inspire and haunt you enough to return to the story. We become masochists for the haunting in order to be affected.

Back to Riprap…I picked up the 50th anniversary hardcover edition with a CD of Gary Snyder reading the poems – revelatory, illuminating, perfect right from the first poem:

Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout

Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain
Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies

I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.

I work in an office in Washington D.C (hell, I even have a door) and this poem made me want to take a sabbatical of sorts to become a fire lookout in the Blue Ridge Mountains, around Skyline Drive…or somewhere, Alaska, why not? His respect and quest for truth, laying it down proper through eye sounds and the visual evidence of our mind’s journey allows this book and others to last.

My apologies for the long post. I check in on this project and enjoy reading about your adventures and literary musings (Greece, Hemingway, etc. I was at a used bookstore recently and found a first book club edition of Hemingway’s A Movable Feast. The cover is pretty beat up, but a great illustration on the front. $2).

Also, I found this website by way of Burning Shore Press and learning more about Heaping Stones. I look forward to reading more about Edgewater. Keep it going. Always write for yourself.

Rob Woodard said...

Hi Josh,

I really appreciate your comments. It's nice to know that people are reading this. It's also cool to find another Snyder fan. He's been a huge influence on my work and life for more than two decades now. Interesting that you'd pick out "Mid August." A few years back I wrote a piece for the Guardian on Snyder an I used a section from that poem to represent his work.

One thing. I was actually referring to Philip Whalen when I was when I was writing about "true free verse." Though I understand your point, I find a lot of recurring rhythmic underpinnings is Snyder's stuff that I don't find with Whalen's. Whalen's way with a line is about as wild as it gets, in my opinion.

I've never read Frank Stanford. I plan on checking him out soon. Thanks for the head's up.

Josh Mahler said...

Ahh, a true oversight. Luckily the phrase still applies, especially, in my opinion, to Snyder's later work. And yes, Whalen was a bull following the muse.

The Poetry Foundation has a nice selection of Frank Stanford's poems: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/frank-stanford

I wholeheartedly recommend that you read some of these. He is one of the few poets I've read with the ability to create a palpable mood. He was truly in touch with the mythology of his own creation.