Suspended in a Leap of Creative Faith… Part 3.

John Lambert says, “more specific,” he tells me, “remember that shaman? I relate to this dandelion as a carpenter; how can I remove the carpenter from the poem? How would the shaman then, in this light, relate to this seed?”

John read this poem to me at Molly’s At the Market in New Orleans last week when we were discussing the prompt of placing ourselves as someone, or something, else into the perspective and writing how the experience would play out through that belief system as we understood it.

His primary poem was one of a shaman seeing a dandelion seed float in front of his face – to which John wrote the following piece.

The Suzerain Speck

the shaman recognized his aura
in the star of a weightless seed
riding the wind

that pilgrim curiously paused before him
as if taking-in this stranger
and mirror of itself

as one infuses what another
reflects
by one’s expression

the seed bestowed on him
the thrill of being buoyant
blown from the womb

the shaman gave the seed his feet
on the earth, bearing weight

his encumbrance of thought
traveling many roads at once

and felt its mind
devoted to one knowing current

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Suspended in a Leap of Creative Faith… Part 2.

As I continue my understanding of why we create and what purpose it serves I continue to fill a toolbox of endless shelves with techniques, prompts, exercises in expanding our creativity… And while I am compiling most of these techniques and understandings in order to share them with my partner – it’s important to me, to others, that a more public access to these techniques and prompts are available.

I know your methods my friend, I know your framework.

I know this red door…

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The hallways, allways, like walking into a bead of dew on Indra’s Web and seeing, and being that being with a panoramic view of some absurdist’s infinity; I am home. This is where the filaments of Whitman’s spider land and cast, cast, cast themselves in and out of balcony windows from the swing that keeps us playing, keeps us young.

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In the eleven-hundred block of Decatur St. in New Orleans I stand in the kitchen of John Lambert’s apartment – I know I cannot function as a whole unit without this place, without him. We are yolks of the same egg, I ask him –

What are we writing this time?”

“Why is the kite behaving the way it does? Is it trying to be a flock-less eagle? And if you were this kite; if you the juggler were this kite, if you the poet, the carpenter, the shaman were this kite – how would it relate to itself within the framework of your belief system?”

This shaman, for example, encountering the flight of a dandelion seed head…

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“…the prompt is projecting the self into the kite, the chair, glass, the dandelion…”

The juggler… He sees the dandelion seed in flight before him; the wind is a juggler too; he feels jealousy at the ease of the wind’s ability; he is grateful that it would be willing share its technique; they share methods without speaking.”

“Yes. This is the prompt exactly. How do you, I, we behave as this object while existing within our belief systems? I am this kite and I possess the belief system I understand now. I am glass – with the same context.”

[John pulls his notebook out, flips a page, smiles, rolls a cigarette, hums a small laugh and reads…]

in the land where we are glass

we give thanks to make it home
unbroken, crowded with the reflections
we collect come end of day

I set down the glass box i’m always carrying
you draw too close for me to see your edge
as you peel away the panes
dropping explosions, whispering

“I’ll clean-up the mess later”

we click into a sheet
double-backed and carousel
as a threat to the furniture
the glass cat mrowls and darts away

“the floor” i moan

we drop together, we slide
into the stained glass kitchen
here your hair is a church
my face a prism grinning up

“what are you smiling at?” you beam

I dare the stupidest thought
blushing chromatic, for i had imagined
a land where we were unbreakable things

“sounds much too safe” you chide
and i nod, quite certain

how boring, no fear of breaking
in the act of love–no real test
of another surface against one’s own–nor ever
the measure of what a mirror can take…

“Do you see? Everything is poetry waiting for us to write it, correct? Then everything is a mirror waiting for our projection.”

“Yes. The flora that bears fruit as an artist, for example; what Roland Barthes called, “the death of the author,” here, the tree speaks, “I have built this thing of myself – take it and do with it what you wish without me.”

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The prompt then can be extended into any object or stimuli whatsoever. I found myself driving across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway on my way to an ASL convention and as an interpreter I found myself provoking my surroundings with how they would act within the framework of needing to hire an interpreter for communication means. The clouds in the above picture were an easy call; they would hire a poet to convey their message, their intents.

I considered the crepuscular moment on the French Quarter from the perspective of a writer of haikus searching for its perfect kireji; that precise expression that indicated a cutting and joining of thoughts and content and filled its readers with awe. It was in that 4 a.m. growl where the night was turning into morning. I considered this further and found unconsciousness attempting to find the same thing and it was in that involuntary, effortless and automatic instinct where we wake up from sleep.

What is the chess piece going to convey about its purpose if it were a carpenter?

I, joyously, came upon the idea of how an entomologist would behave if she were a bartender and all her clients were spiders; tossing the balled up and thumb and forefinger squashed remains of last night’s drunks at their webs – knowing their tipping is the most gracious of all – she gets to keep living.

The chair, if it was a priest?

The painting if it was a mathematician?

The cigarette if it were a scientist?

If Siddhartha were to watch a symphony?

If the Buddha himself were driving down an endless I-79 South?

What would their poems convey?

Suspended in a Leap of Creative Faith… Part 1.

What is it, then, that I’ll know is worth writing about?

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October 12th, 2013, roughly 1 month into the past, I was sitting in the nook of my attic’s north facing window alcove with notebook, pen and beer. Suspended in a   leap of creative faith…

I could not commit to a word without reason…

The wind, through the window, was easier than I expect October winds to be.

Always,” I thought, “all ways, the same – October bolsters the worst of me.

My dog barking downstairs, the skeleton of the tree next store was showing, fall is here, the ouroboros was swallowing its tail and it felt like, in a stallion fear of creativity, it finally realized it will have to shit itself back into his own mouth.

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I was met with the same, cliché, crisis of creative faith as all artists have, presumably met or will meet, at some crosshair of their life.

Why should I write? Is this just some form of approval seeking behavior? Is it just for, “that slap on the back? And the gold watch? Look at the clever boy with the badge, polishing his trophy? Shine on you crazy diamond?” And will anything I write be of any value? What is the worth of a poem?

I couldn’t have answered these questions alone and I knew that others have had to have met this same situation.

I was gifted a grand reliquary of ideas from a variety of places and each of which illuminated a path worth drawing a map for here.

Perhaps I am posting this so that I may have a reference I, myself, may have access to when needed but since this seems to be a common insecurity among artists, in this post I am going to share the collection of answers I came across and, naturally, ask for your answers in the comments…

In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting more about this as it has helped me begin writing again and from a place within that matters to me.

I polled the Twitterariat

(Joe Navarro is an ex-FBI agent who specializes in the area of nonverbal communication and is the author of 6 books on the subject… Most importantly though – he is patient and kind enough to answer my endless inquiries on  the subject.)

(Jessica Fenlon is an ex-Pittsburgh film artist and fellow poet)

Polling the Vox Facebook Populi I found a varied set of answers as well –

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Doing a simple Google search for why artists create gave me access to this fantastic article from which the quote most memorable…

“So back to the question why I make art. In my case, the projects that I do allow me to meet people I wouldn’t ordinarily meet, travel to places I wouldn’t normally go to, learn about subjects that I didn’t know I would be interested in, and sometimes even help people out in small ways that make me feel good. I like to say that what I’m after is to have an interesting life, and doing the work that I do as an artist helps me achieve that.” – Harrell Fletcher

Naturally I discussed this with my mentor John who gave a more precise explanation to why we create and share –

Because in creating resides joy.  We mimic god-work, unite with our next rung on the ladder toward source, which propagates health in us.  It’s the ne plus ultra of meditation when you document a new experience in something you’ve made. […] Also, it keeps you young.  Trust my anecdotal certainty on this. You need something to communicate to create, meaning one has to be feeling something, some- thing you’re willing to look at–and have seen. If you don’t like the content of your heart, you will not create. why confess what you can not address to a resolution? The advice of those I read is to acknowledge the ‘life’s lessons’, the ‘contracts’ we’ve accepted, the facts about ourselves and the lives we may have. Then drop them and walk on instead. we can choose at any time to release our contracts–we have to want to release the pain to which we cling, that feeds us like a mother. you must believe pain, like any old thing, can be thrown in the river, and you can walk away knowing right where it is, and will stay.

My greatest understanding of creating was when film maker Rachael Deacon collared me by asking, “why can’t it just be magic?” 

What she was labeling as magic was something I’ve long since understood as, and seemingly have forgotten about, the psychology of Flow as put forward by Mihaly Csikszentmiha –

Of course! It was precisely as Pirsig said when he was asked why he wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He responded by saying that, “writing it just seemed to have higher quality than not writing it – that was all.”

What every one of us strive to achieve is our highest-excitement and the way in which we do this lands us, whether consciously or not, in what Csikszentmiha labeled as Flow. When the challenge before us meets our skills for this challenge in very precise ways – we find ourselves within this diagram –

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That magic that Rachael reminded me of is the Flow Channel – and it appears as though when we do create from those lessons learned and then share with others – we are met with the feeling of magic and excitement that is so ingrained as a need in us as humans.

All of this together… All of these opinions and insights… I am left in a loop of trying to paraphrase and condense this information for myself and for others.

What is it that you are finding through all of this? Why do you create? What and where is your flow channel? What is your highest-excitement when it comes to your art?

The Hypertextual Poem; a Teaching Tool or just Pleonasm?

We grew accustomed to sharing the story of each poem; we were not willing to kill the author too quickly. When we were teenagers in the 90s – few of us had ever attended an actual poetry reading.

Our intent was simple; share your poem and your feelings towards it and we’ll discuss it as long as you want to.

Ray had an amplifier that he lay on its back, speaker to the sky, we sat in a circle and passed the microphone between us.

One thing was certain with us – we wanted to know the story behind the poem we were hearing.

Now, it seems, this is neither easy nor cared for among the established poetry circles.

I had the thought this morning while combing through a series of old poems that I could experiment with a form I once thought had potential – I wanted to write poetry hypertextually.

The poem would stand as itself and would have an unobtrusive platform from which would explain the history, the intent, the story behind and within the poem.

I hypertextualized and footnoted a poem some time ago and never felt any need to share it with anyone but myself and figured this poem could be the Friday post.

The poem was a wonderful homage of sounds and great flavors in dedication to the gnostic god, Abraxas. I first learned about Abraxas when I read Hermann Hesse’s bildungsroman, “Demian.” That story still stands as one of the more influential texts of my life.

When my father read the poem he, as he always has, asked me what the poem meant. Where did I get the ideas from? What did this mean?

I’ve always had a soft spot for talking poetry with my electrical engineer father; he couldn’t understand it without me and yet – he really does show a great appreciation for the poet’s work. I don’t believe he’s ever missed a performance of mine.

It’s in those conversations where I have the opportunity to share, to teach, to explain poetry to another person that I feel that light from within shining with a suggestive radiance saying, “this is why you do this.

I always encourage poets to share more of the background, the reasons, the history of their ideas – hopefully someone will hypertextualize and footnote another poem someday in the way that I am going to now… I advocate the use of hypertext and footnotes because it still provides the reader with the option of the author being dead or still alive from inside the poem. Furthermore, as I mentioned, being a teacher of creative outlets – this method has the potential for grand conveyance of information.

And so, I ask you, does this add to? Subtract from? Deter the reader? What does utilizing poetry as a teaching tool, a conduit of information, in this way do for you?

Abraxas…
 
Abraxas staves his mood he
plays his saxophone in a tame and scaly
Coltrane¹ refrain.
 
He parallaxes² this duality with a note –
 
“From, where I have been to –
where I may go.”
 
From here on!
 
Abrasax³ plays his saxophone
relaxes his throats to coax
notes out in a slow tone
melodious melodrama to make
 
synthesis⁴
 
Abraxas expounds
upon a brass saxophone with notes
hung stark. The air of negative
sky space of
white sky
black stars
slated moon.⁵
 
Abraxas plays a brass sax
and moans an abracadabra
abacas – he counts his toes
tally the tacks
across rods…
 
Abraxas smacks his
beak together and blows
deeper, Gillespien⁶ style,
while all the feathers
flutter from his head
to quill the dirt with
incantations…
 
The feathers dance like
hovering gnats
pirouetting like an autumn ballerina of leaves
twisting a child tornado on the sidewalk,
 
“IO IO IO IAO SABAO KURIE!⁷” Reads the dust!
 
And justly a brass saxophone blows deeper
than a reflection of facing mirrors.
 
Abracas abracadabracally constructs a melody
that human ears are not made to hear.
 
Like Goethe’s architectural music⁸ Abraxas
apexically dances a slithering moon walk and
moors the planets to earth.
 
Venus and mars tethered to the pantheon
 
Earth – no longer orbiting between love and war.
 
Abrasax plays his brass saxophone Orpheusly
and tames the conflict within me.
 
A cobra hisses
from behind his back
a rattle scatters (like the pills
scitter across a tiled floor from a last moments
peace – where you change your mind.)
 
Abraxas blows his saxophone and a beaked
last hiss without lips caws in the skylight.
 
The pillars fall to his ouroboros shoes and Abraxas
now with cigarette in beak –
 
moans a melismatic, perfectly poised, beautifully poetic –
 
cock-a-doodle-do
 
as the sun rises around us – in an unashamed world.

¹ I was schooled by Elizabeth Ross in my misuse of Coltrane’s name here; I am aware now that Coltrane was only a trumpet player and not a saxophone player. The name, however, fits with the sounds and alliteration remains for the effect of the poem.

² The idea behind Abraxas utilizing parallax as a verb makes perfect sense; what Abraxas stands for is his ability to collapse the columns of opposing forces. Abraxas was God and the Devil in one being. Thus seeing something from two different angles he was able to, double entendre-ically, play a note on his sax and leave the following note which just further states his purpose.

³ The multitudinous ways in which historians and very cultures have spelled the name, “Abraxas,” over the years is astounding. To the Egyptians he was a combination of the words, “Abrak,” and, “Sax,” which translated to, “the word is adorable,” or, “the honorable and hallowed word.” Some scholars speculate a Greek derivation from the words, Habros,” and, “Sac,” translated as, “the eye-catching, the successful liberator.”

⁴ Why just synthesis? By itself? Consider what the, “Hegelian Dialectic,” teaches us; all positions become relative to the person in a trifold manner stating that only through the conflict of a thesis and corresponding anti-thesis can one find absolute truth in the synthesis of this conflict… Precise Abraxas nature exemplified.

⁵ This idea starting to come because of tossing the name Abraxas around to see what else would come out of it. Often times, with sound poetry, poets with place single words in their mouths repeating them and all of their noises and syllables, tossing it from cheek to tooth to tongue like a wine they’ve just sniffed – from this comes a multitude of noise. Naturally words like Abracadabra, which speculatively comes from his name, and Abacas were two that came out. With this we have the notes of Abraxas’ saxophone leaving the sax to create stars on the day sky. The slated moon is just the sheet music that it created. And furthermore the sheet music, with it’s notes, creates an abacas.

Dizzy Gillespie was known for cheeks puffed out like canyons, you could probably hear an echo in that mouth.

⁷ From Aleister Crowley‘s Gnostic Mass, “Liber XV Ecclesiæ Gnosticæ Catholicæ Canon Missæ.” A friend, Dylan, had painted a near 6 foot tall portrait of Abraxas; across the top of which was written this chant.

⁸ While it is well known that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe stated the he called, “architecture frozen music,” I found an expansion on this idea in the novel, “House of Leaves,” by Mark Z. Danielewski that I felt worth mentioning further, “The unfreezing of form [of architecture] releases that music. Unfortunately, since it contains all the harmonies of time and change, only the immortal may savor it. Mortals cannot help but fear those murmuring walls. After all do they not still sing the song of our end?” Once we can hear what the immortals deem, “music,” then we too must be immortal and, necessarily, dead among them.