"I am trying to check my habits of seeing, to counter them for the sake of greater freshness. I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I'm doing." - John Cage

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Day 22: Rikki Ducornet: Rational Rooted in the Imagination

The beautiful Rikki Ducornet began her week here at Vermont Studio Center by reading to us rapt writers from her imaginative book of little prose pieces titled One Marvelous Thing.  Read an interview with her and read the title story of her book at the links above. At her craft talk, she shared her writing process, a deeply intuitive process that listens to her dreams and her memory.  She taps into places that give her a power source – accessed through meditation, imagination, primal memories, and creatures in their world.  These places of power are where dreams and the hot material for her writing come from; this explains why a sudden idea can dissipate so quickly, as dreams do once we wake.  She urged us to take a great leap, to work on what catches fire, and to leave something behind.
She said we are the dreamers - and there is a great deal of rational rooted in the imagination.  
This idea of nesting the irrational in the rational, the imagination with the concrete, is the play and tension that I want to develop in my own writing this week.  Now, with 6 days left, I’m cutting up, line by line, poems of similar subject matter or imagery and exploring wild new combinations of phrasing and idea that question the definitions of irrationality and meaning. How can recombining lines from different poems access a place of intuition and the subconscious? Try it yourself and see -

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Day 17 at VSC: Transformation and Story Telling in Painting and Poem Making

KyleStaver comments: "Transformation…Painting is transformation. It’s like alchemy of something. I remember being an art student and making light for the first time. Feeling like light was actually coming from the painting. How would you ever give that up after once discovering it? And then the different kinds of light. Before my light was very exclamatory. Bright color, loud light! And then it changed, and I didn’t want it screaming. I wanted to control what it expresses. And the very last painting that I did in the show was the Syrinx, and when I was painting it, it came so close to being nothing, to just disappearing. So at what point could the light still be read as color? Some days I thought I just lost it completely, it would just disappear. All I had left were the little marks where the light sparked up. And then I would build the painting up again. I looked for the light that would just sort of hum."

I listen into this to hear how images and words could similarly capture light, transform, or disappear. How does a poem layer image and meaning in a word, in a line, as a painting might?

Staver's paintings try to capture a moment in the story where the transformation happens - see the painting of Daphne just as her father changes her into a tree to protect her from being raped.  As Robert Hass says in Twentieth Century Pleasures, "“In stories…I suppose there is always a moment… when the image, the set of relationships that seem actually to reveal something about life, forms.” In poem making, what is that moment the poem needs to capture?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

VSC Day 10: Life Drawing as part of the Writing Process

My charcoal is real vine cooked into a blackened stick.  The materials of drawing are physical and dirty.  No judgment of the body. The unprotected body is natural and bears no indicators of class, social and political identity that clothing and jewelry and shoes and bags broadcast. Creases lines bulges curves shadows arcs. Its language is skin and muscle and bone and nail and cartilage.  Now his chest curves in on itself, the belly squeezed into a Y.  Now I see the light coming on his shoulders; his eyes are open.  The charcoal lines can be smeared, dark and sharp, or misty, foggy. Here's a drawing from yesterday:

Someone tells me not to try and make my drawing resemble what I’m looking at.  I want to do this with my writing. The inspiring and lively artist Kyle Staver presented a slideshow of her paintings two nights ago and showed many different forms in which she experimented with the same subject: aquatint, plaster sculpture, linoleum print, oil painting.  How would a writer explore a subject with the same diversity of perspectives? Maybe a drawing, a sonnet, free verse, journaling, expanded, shortened and contained within other forms. 

Below is one of Staver's paintings of the myth of Andromeda and Pegasus. More on Staver in my next post!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Day 8 at VSC: A Frozen River

This is April in Vermont.  They say mink may mate outside my window. I can cross my legs in this raisin-colored chenille chair and rest my head back on a wing, close my eyes.  Who am I? I’ve become someone who habitually distracts herself and now I’ve brought myself to Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, to see if I can break this habit. The print-maker from Lisbon, Portugal, asked me what kind of trees we were passing in the shuttle from the airport and I couldn't say.  Through busy-ness, I’ve lost touch with myself as I would a childhood friend. On my bulletin board in my studio here, someone wrote “Don’t forget to get out of your own way. Let go.”  I can feel my worn anxiety shedding like corrugated sheets of snow off a roof, leaving that jagged fracture line.  Writers’ footsteps cross the hallway above my studio, doors slam, paper jerks its way out of the printer like a wagging tongue.