Tag: creativity

poem: courageous or insane

When i read this poem
months and years from now,
i will be able to tell you
if i am insane,
or if i am courageous
with a smattering of stubbornness
poured on like gravy.

i am doing
what i know how to do –
finally making pottery again,
drawing and painting,
falling into orgies of words
that form in black and white –
the base pair of my creativity.

Reason tells me i have no hope.

Physically, i struggle every day
to do the most basic things
like breathe and move through space.
Socially, i am awkward and afraid,
hamstrung by my anxious incompetence.
Financially, i may be too far gone
for anyone to help,
other than a steady stream of customers.
Spiritually, i am shifting
away from that image of God
so many people have said
cannot love me,
into a broader vision of Spirit,
which unsettles everything.

i am incapable
of surviving
in a world constructed
solely of logic and reason,
dependent upon the tangible alone.
i envy those who can.

i tried,
and barely made it through
the devolution that followed.

So now
when stress eats me alive –
held at bay
only by 10,000 poems
and countless hours of meditation –
i keep fulfilling
my purpose and my dreams
with every able moment.

i throw
my worries
onto the pyre
of art.

After the frenzy of terror passes,
i always return
to a quiet space
where i am certain
i am on the right path.

In a life
during which
i have been sure
of so few things,
this is an irresistible encouragement.
A few seconds spent rejoicing
in that sublime confidence
and i am awakened.
i make more.
Words, clay, and pigment
bend to my need.

i am either embracing madness
or taking an inconvenient path
into tomorrow –
i have no idea
which this is.

But, i am aware
that right now,
in this precise moment,
i am doing all that i can do
and praying i survive
my folly and drive.

6 december 2015

i ask again

poem: writing’s work

Months ago,
something terrifying happened:
writing became hard.

Having word follow word
no longer felt effortless.
The flow of story
would wash over me,
not with the glorious
outpouring
of a waterfall,
but like rapids –
filled with bumps and turns
and inconsistent quality
and speed.

Letters smashed artlessly
across the page.
i think they knew
i had lost faith in them.

My words must have known
that my fear
had left too many works
utterly forsaken –
story and novel
stillborn
in boxes and harddrives.

So, they moved back,
away from my greedy hands.

They became coy,
hard to follow,
even harder to press down
onto the page.

They refused to cooperate
until i promised
to do better
by them.

Tonight, line follows line,
a marvelous orgy of poem
that might be a monument
to horrible, self-absorbed drivel.

i cannot judge,
because everything i do
feels woefully inadequate –
but, my heart
has begun to beat again
just because
of this glorious
outpouring.

During a pause
in this miracle,
i open up my hands,
palms heavenward,
and sing thanksgivings
that the river
has begun flowing
again.

22 november 2015

poem: the value of life

Finally
the veils of ambition,
purpose,
and merit
lifted
just enough
for these myopic eyes
to see a clear truth
that utterly contradicted
something drilled into me
with fierce intensity
since i first learned
how to walk:

the idea
that a life
is only of value
when a body is working –
and when that labor is judged
to be successful –
is corrosive.

The command
that i acquiesce
to a form of honor
that demands
constant proof
that i am worthy
of the air i breathe
lies like a false idol.

That mindset
so gleefully judging
merit and irrelevancy
bears all the hues of cruelty.

Oh,
yes,
being of service,
doing good,
bringing art and word
into being,
much more
feeding,
sheltering,
and clothing
other people,
brings joy,
stokes satisfaction,
elevates the world –
but in this quiet stillness
as i stare out
at the brilliant sun,
i realize –

Oh,
yes,
wonders exist
in an existence
where space
can be found
to breathe slowly,
to nap,
to dream,
to scribble some nonsense
over the page.

Surrendering my ambition
for a spell of peace,
sacrificing my stress
on an alter of quiet,
these acts
do not make me
irredeemable.

In this perfect moment,
the pause in frantic action
does not diminish.

Life
as it is
has value.

Within this stillness
dwells
uncounted riches.

17 November 2015

the madness of poetry

Something strange accompanies this kind of inundation. This crisis has been going on for so long that i have lost track of its beginnings and my ability to see endings long ago vanished.

But i am like a cork, bobbing in a sea of failure, but still fighting for breath, still treading water. Either from stubbornness or stupidity, i refuse to surrender completely.  When i can open my eyes, i see so many others fighting the same currents i cannot complain of solitude.  For the first time in my life, i am surrounded as much by love as i am anxiety, which is a greater blessing than i can express.

12309914_10206910370509278_3227795177658048976_oThings are changing, although i do not quite know if it will be in time to save me.  However, this hardly matters in the face of tremendous glories.  Seven weeks after surgery, i can throw again.  My novel, long stalled by pain and exhaustion, has begun to reform in my mind and on paper.  A new collection of poetry gathers itself together, much to my delight.  There is an abundance of art, queued up in my imagination, ready to leap forward from my hands.

Most glorious of all, i am starting to notice world beyond the rim of my own navel.  The tucking in, the wounded hiding, that i needed to do most of this summer and right after surgery has begun to ease off.

i am opening up.

Slowly, i am beginning to see a use to me, despite this precarious position.  Such grace came, in this case, from eight pots, at least half a dozen massive pen and inks and over thirty poems.  Anchored in art, everything else becomes either more possible or more ignorable.

For the rest of the year, i am anchoring myself in poetry, painting, pen and inks and pottery. It is the best defense against melancholy and stress i have found.  To encourage this plan, i have challenged myself to post something new every day, and so far i am off to a good start.  A decent line of posts has formed behind this one.

And for today: this poem, while short, is at least filled with madness and joy.

#

It can only be madness12304443_10206894248626241_7047647740143388939_o
that brought me up here,
giving words a chance to flow
when other things
should be done.

Yes, i was breathless.
Of course, i was exhausted.
Undeniably, the words
had to flow,
or i would not be here
ten minutes and three poems later,
wishing that there was a purpose
behind my actions
other than primal need.

One word following the next.
It is a flow
as essential to my life
as the journey of my blood.

Inside these patterns
of language and silence
inexpressible joy sings.

This is a supplication
for connection,
a prayer
to be heard,
an offering
of hope
in open hands.

i throw myself
into the madness of poetry
and pray it brings me
a soft landing.

28 November 2015

the floor

All day, i have yearned for the clarity of a thin ribbon of ink – the desperate purity of art to come and wash away my doubts.  i wanted to work on a story, one that explores the depths of our human ability to survive when the rug has been pulled out from under us.  However, neither were in the cards for me today. This is the fourth day of a migraine.  Quickly, the rest of my life conspired against my artful urges. Instead of throwing or painting, i have taken tests and done busy work and had my heart broken.  Over the course of a few hours, i found myself accomplishing much, demonstrating my limits and failings again, and landing once more on something solid and firm within my depths.  This strength always shocks me.  Usually, i see my spirit as having no floor, that i could collapse down into the void, frictionless falling that would never cease.  Yet, every once in awhile, something happens so grievous to my soul that this miraculous floor appears.  It keeps me from falling into complete devastation.  It gives me a chance to rest, to catch my breath and to think about how to climb out of the pit. Yesterday, this strength was not there – or rather, i did not know it was here.  Today, it is keeping me aloft as beautifully as any drawing or painting or story or poem.

Hopefully, as i gallery sit tomorrow, i will find my way to more words and ink.  But, for now, i will be going taking this strange, solid stillness and letting it coax me into dreams, into sleep, and perhaps tomorrow, if i remain seated on this foundation, i can build myself a way out.

The pen is not the poem

The pen is not the poem,
nor is the ink
coming forth,
forming the curves and wonder
of letter after letter.
i ask again
Indeed,
thinking that the language,
these blessed words,
are the poem is closer –
but in reality,
the poem is more
than noun, verb and adjective.

It transcends,
lifts off the page
and takes on a life
of its own.

The same configuration
of sound and meaning
means something different
to everyone.

i am like this poem,
not my body,
not the visage you see,
not the pain,
not even the joy
and wonder
and need.

Instead, i fly within
this confinement of skin,
i weave around arrows
of despair and fear,
in order to keep pulling
these miracles through me,
art flowing
like these ribbons of ink
through the pen
of my being.

11 may 2015

started to write one blog and this one sprang up

Ok, out of procrastination, i started one blog (i will endeavor to get that out tomorrow) and now i am distracted from that one to write this.

(Sometimes i think i have attention span issues.)

At any rate, this is what struck me like a slap to the cheek. i am getting a huge amount of advice from a lot of intelligent, knowledgeable, well-meaning people lately. Not just from other small business owners or from people involved in banking or sales, but from other artists, from friends, from neighbors, from customers and students who sense the struggle behind my work. i even got a thank you card out of the blue from someone i met last year, indicating that i had been an inspiration to him.

No matter how hard or wonderful these assessments are to hear, i am grateful for all of them. Actively, i seek advice out, asking anyone that i think can give me some perspective on my art, my business or on the transition i know i have to make. Perhaps if i ask enough people, i will find that one solution that rests more comfortably in my soul than all the others.

But, someone is going to be frustrated that i am not following their advice, because what one person says is often diametrically opposed to the suggestions of another. In each response, i notice how the prejudices of the speaker color their advice. For instance, if they do not value painting or flat art, something they would never spend money on, they will invariably tell me that cannot and should not be my focus. Stick with the practicality of pottery. Likewise, if they do not read poetry at all, they assume that is a labor of love for me personally that will not be of use. (Although the point about no one getting rich doing poetry has some merit.)

Part of learning to use advice has been seeing the place from which it comes. The ground on which the speaker stands must be taken into consideration. The most profound example: i have met a few people who could not envision a positive future in any way, we are hurtling toward inevitable destruction ecologically, socially and economically. Therefore all the advice they give is colored by this inevitable doom. Others have never experienced the type of precarious vulnerability i currently enjoy, so they cannot quite grasp that there are no thousands of dollars to throw into advertising or presentation.

Other advice tears me in two, because i see such validity in what they say while i realize that the execution of same will be wildly difficult given my energy and general disposition. i am not afraid of learning or trying new things, but i want to work with my strengths rather than push forward relying most on those skills at which i am weakest.

The confusion of multiple possibilities that sit uncomfortably in my own mind is reflected in the advice i am getting. i think this might be why i have been so quiet lately – barely any blogging, nearly no social media posts, phone calls only to a few and letters written to even less – quite literally i don’t know what to say. In this exact moment, i don’t know what to publicize or what to downplay. Each morning, i look around trying to figure out where my time should go – a decision i never had a problem with before – but i have lost the luxury of walking leisurely down the wrong path.

i have reached a watershed in my life. Looking back, i can see how a lot of external events helped bring me to this place, like a general downturn in the sale of art last year, but my own choices made the situation what it is. Some of them i own proudly. i am an artist. i am a poet. Chasing my dreams cannot be something i regret. However, being an artist, being a poet, i was unprepared for running a business and i have made decisions that someone more savvy would have laughed at.

icharusThe decisions i will be making over the next few weeks will change everything from the rhythm of my days to what types of art i rely on to make my living. Everything will change, even if i am successful enough that from the outside it is not noticeable. i am standing on the edge of a cliff, wondering in which direction i will jump. But the jump will occur. Hopefully, i will fly. However, i cannot help but notice the rocks so far below.

Knowing that i stand on such an edge, by the way, does not make the decisions i face less stressful for me. Quite the opposite. So i keep reaching out, questions flooding forth: check out my store, what does it need? Why did you buy that bowl? What drew you to that mug? Why does that sculpture touch you so? What makes my art viable or not? Which type of creativity should i focus on most? Where can i send my poetry? Where should i send my writing? What should i do about clay work? i hear a choir of different voices, singing different songs, asking different questions, positing different plans.

It is hard to hear the best answer for me, the one whispered by the still quite voice inside my heart, in the mix.

stealing time

A thief again,
i have been stealing
from my obligations
to other people
and giving time
to myself.

i hide away,contentment_alt
turn everything off
but the sweet stilling music.

Guilty like Robin Hood,
i steal from those tasks
that gobble up days in a mouthful
and give a few intimate hours
to mold a figure in clay,
to let these words
flow across the page.

Reality struck me like a blow
last Tuesday –
the ten thousand chores
on a dozen to-do lists before me
will never go away.
One task accomplished,
three rise in its place.
Requests and demands
will always come
like moths to a flame,
the light of energy and ability
being irresistible.

i have to learn to say no.

Even better,
i must learn to state
“not now”
with singular clarity and purpose.

In my heart, i begin to believe
that i am fully valuable,
deserving of peace and art.
Even without that justification,
the results are profound:
after a few quiet hours,
i feel restored.

Even the mountains of toil
for the benefit of others
do not feel as heavy
with ink staining my hands.

Darkness and warmth

roxi
Don’t blame me for your high heating oil bills, human slave.

For the past several years, the cats have defeated all attempts at weatherproofing the house with plastic.  Plastic over windows, like catnip, is completely irresistible.  Since they don’t pay the power bills, they don’t care.  Also, they wear fuzzy fur coats all the time, and their jobs are to hold the bed down (Roxi) and hug all the blankets (Martin) for at least twenty hour a day, so an argument to be made that they stay warmer than their hairless ape.

So, Saturday, i went to my friend Lara Max’s house and used one of her marvelous, vintage Singer sewing machines (getting a severe case of sewing machine envy in the process. i forgot how much i liked it) and made heavy curtains out of fabric – taping them down like i do the plastic – to stop the precious heat from seeping out the house.  Yesterday, i put them all up, took some advil for my aching back and stared at my work with pride.

For about five minutes.

Then i had to make myself feel useful.  Since i was waiting for responses for a website job, the next logical thing was to attack something on the monstrous to-do list, squatting on Stickies (the app, not actual pieces of paper) on my computer.  Of course, i wanted to choose the most fun thing…Print

So, i started working on my presentation for PKBucksport – our local Pecha Kucha event happening February 5.

Sometimes, i think i develop short-term creatively-based OCD.  i didn’t have to finish the project last night.  i already had all the slides together – getting the text done was gravy.  But try as i might, i could not stop.  i knew what i needed to say in a way that might have disappeared if i waited until morning.

i finally fell asleep at 4 am – having finished the job.  After some more advil kicked in, i slept like a baby until nine-thirty when Roo, my new tenant’s dog, woke me up with her angst (the poem she inspired will post tomorrow.)

Once i straggled into wakefulness, i found myself dealing with websites and moving furniture and stealing time to walk the dog for a half an hour on the Bucksport boardwalk while the weather was good … not doing what i wanted to do all day.  My house feels like a womb now, as though i have sealed the rest of the world out.  The light of day was muted through these brand new heavy curtains.  There is the perception of warmth, if not the reality of it.  For whatever reason, with the view of the outer world cut off, it is making the inner one light up.  It feels like words are filling this space, bouncing off the walls, floating up to the ceiling (like the bed would if it were not for Roxi’s diligent efforts.)

Transitioning my work to the house has been slow.  Except for painting and my new standing desk (yay!), everything is thrown into place, not organized and sorted.  Other labor demands several hours out of each day, and thank God for it, but i still find myself craving stillness and quiet and the chance to pluck those words out of the air and put them down onto paper.  i have written so many poems in the past week, stealing time from one task or another.  The PK writing felt like theft too – as though i was stealing something from the universe that felt indecently good – and happily will be able to give it back on the fifth.

The house is filled darkness and warmth.  i stole time to write this from the dishes, but i don’t actually repent …  the dishes are patient.

without technology’s hum

IMG_0004Since we closed the popup, i have been avoiding technology.  All the social media accounts have lain fallow, i have not even typed in the poetry that is literally gushing from my fingers.  Not content with the solitude of the house, i have been keeping myself walled off in the newly created house-studio, locked inside what had been my livingroom and spare bedroom.

Even the kitchen seems to be too convivial for my needs.  Each time i go to do dishes, i wind up listening to music and singing – which seems at odds with the peace that i am actively seeking.

Sunday, in response to some interpersonal strife, i became truly draconian – unplugging one phone and turning the other off.

i have needed silence. i have needed stillness. However, the silence has not been that quiet – it has been filled with word and image.  My heart felt too heavy (interpersonal strife-wise) to write long prose.  Instead, i focused on pen and ink haiku. As soon as the art began to trickle out again, it turned into a flood.  In forty-eight hours, i have written about twenty standard poems and i had to refill my ink jar three times, i drew so much.  i have made over 30 tiny pen and inks – this form of art feels like a compulsion at this point.  i feel agitated when i am not making art, fully content when i am.

Today, though, i have been forcing myself to work on somewhat unpleasant jobs, taking time away from the flow of creation.  I enjoyed no fewer than six phone calls to the Healthcare Marketplace (five were disconnected midway through), two to local health insurance companies, one to my current health insurance company.  But in the end, i got new health insurance to replace the plan that the old company canceled.  The dog went to the vet – he’s lost over ten pounds! – and got his license for the year.  i got more dishes done, along with the litter, and the laundry is sorted to wash tomorrow.

Practical and necessary jobs were finished.  The weariness i feel is somewhat earned. Yet, even as i type this up, i stare at the bottle and pen.  With all my heart, i want to throw myself into drawing and forget the rest of the world.  Even through the chores of the day, every spare moment i could (including the two hours on hold for various healthcare entities), i drew with pen and ink and wrote these wee poems.

Too many were just for me, expressing my current frustrations, sadness, gratitude, hope, confusion, as well as my dismay at the cruelty and oddness of people, and repeated calls to be stronger within myself.  This art made me feel a bit self-indulgent, but it helped to create. i lost myself in the flow.  Everything else became quiet.

And, now, i am overloaded again – ready to throw myself into the search for silence.