Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Creativity, Cynicism & the Comets Inside

"Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist when one grows up."  
To remain an artist when grown up - well,  that requires courage, determination and  an almost constant child-like state of viewing the world; one of enthusiasm, awe,  an insatiable curiousity and an indestructible belief in magic.  

Most creatives are of the opinion that our inner artist self is an inner child. 'The Artist's Way' by Julia Cameron, the hugely popular and seminal text on creativity, strongly advances this theory. We must treat our artist self as a child, a child who looks at things anew and not with cynicism, who wants nothing more than to be let loose to experiment and express their love for the world and to have fun in the process.  (Read more here)

Also, to be an artist is to challenge reality. To challenge its artifice trappings and iron-bar rules and routines and imprisoning of imagination. To rebel aginst them, refuse them and reach beyond. To believe that everything isn't simple black and white 2D; that there is something more; that beneath the surface of things there beats many multi-coloured heartbeats, a kaleidoscope of imaginings unfurling and swirling colours of every hue, shapes of every reckoning, possibilities and viewpoints and meanings and layers upon layers of love and beauty that make up this 3D thing called life. 

To be an artist is to have access to this world within our world, to be blessed with the ability to transcribe it somehow, in paint, pen, music or many varied ways. To put the pulse in our 'living', to rupture routine with revelations and set fire to banalities with the truth of existence - that life is to be enjoyed not endured, a wonderland not a worryland.
Now I don't mean to sound all hippy-chick psychedelic far-out babbling, but creativity is far out. Far out from the rigmarole of routine and  reality, but not from each one of us. Not from our grasp. It's just been forgotton and laid aside by most of us in favour of more 'grown-up' things like materialism, status and security. 
And I'm writing this as a sort of affirmation for unfortunately I am in the shadows of disillusion  right now. I am just about sick of the attitude I encounter that creative pursuits are a waste of time, a la-de-dah hobby affair and not a full-hearted soul commitment. And I am getting tired of battling cynicism in my everyday environment. Cynicism and disillusion on all fronts and a great big blank ennui cast over the place like a dark toxic mushroom cloud suffocating any sign of life beneath it. It throws me in the doldrums at times, it really does.  

But I battle on against it, like all we creatives do. Tooth and nail and brick-by-brick goddammit. Battle against the slate-grey attitudes of people who believe in practicality first and foremost, the debunking of dreams, and the erasing of wonder, the stalemate that afflicts most of humankind, at some stage or other, but especially at present, especially where I am.

And just when it all seems hopeless, a handful of stars blow my way, proof of the great creative constellation I map my way by. I just happened to stumble upon this extract last night, from a young adult novel 'Boy's Life' by American author Robert Mc Cammon, which featured as a voiceover on one of my favourite TV shows 'One Tree Hill.' It's a coming-of-age story but from all accounts (I've been excessively googling), beautifully written and underpinned with a sense of creative 'magic'. The narrator, a young boy, who writes stories to get to grips with the world, and the whole book seems to focus on creativity and how it enchants, to those of us who embrace it, our view of the world. The adults are as always the bad guys, the cynics who belittle and cast aside the power of creativity in favour of the rigours and structure of routine.  This extract is truly wonderful. It zings and sparks and sends stars shooting up my spine everytime I read it. Goosebumps. Those wonderful tremors of truth. Look, read and believe:
"You know, I do believe in magic. I was born and raised in a magic time, in a magic town, among magicians. Oh, most everybody else didn’t realize we lived in that web of magic, connected by silver filaments of chance and circumstance. But I knew it all along. When I was twelve years old, the world was my magic lantern, and by its green spirit glow I saw the past, the present and into the future. You probably did too; you just don’t recall it. 

See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.
After you go so far away from it, though, you can’t really get it back. You can have seconds of it. Just seconds of knowing and remembering. When people get weepy at movies, it’s because in that dark theater the golden pool of magic is touched, just briefly. Then they come out into the hard sun of logic and reason again and it dries up, and they’re left feeling a little heartsad and not knowing why. When a song stirs a memory, when motes of dust turning in a shaft of light takes your attention from the world, when you listen to a train passing on a track at night in the distance and wonder where it might be going, you step beyond who you are and where you are. For the briefest of instants, you have stepped into the magic realm.  –'Boy’s Life' – Robert Mc Cammon

There you have it, a little piece of magic, a handful of stars, discovered by serendipity. The opening of a portal to a part of ourselves I'd almost lost sight of. A ta-da poof of proof when I needed it most  A remembrance and a reaffirmation, and a rebuke - to all those sceptics and naysayers and their black clouds.  

The lines have since embroidered themselves in gold in my heart, especially: "We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand." We are.  Our creativity is the consequence of this magic. It's our way back to that 'magic realm.' We are all entitled to honour it. 

No more disillusion and cynicism. Just a little flare of this magic would flame everything back into potential and possibility again, I'm sure of it. 

So that's what I'm going to focus on now. And see if I can spark the flint of everyday life  into the flames of art again, to sustain and nourish and warm the cold cynics out there (including the one hiding in some dark corner of my mind, planted there by reality...) And to convince myself again that this is worth it, that there is a magic in all of this that's worth fighting for. And as the anti-dote to my current doldrum drear - that I do believe it all, I do, I do, I do.

Keep creating,

~ Siobhán.

*This blog was soundtracked by: 

'Show Me What I'm Looking For'- Carolina Liar  (the search for something more...)
'Back When You Were Good' - The Hours  (reclaiming a better self...)
'Bring on the Comets' - VHS or Beta  (enthusiasm and high-thrills of possibilities...)
'Wake Up'- Arcade Fire (spine-tingling accompaniment to the trailer for 'Where the Wild Things Are', the movie of the book about growing up but never losing your childhood wonder and imagination...)

Check them out!

pics from www.weheartit.com as always, :-)

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Saturday Short

Saturday morning. Sunshine. The last of the August hay-bale-yellow kind maybe. And what it brings: many possibilities on the horizon, like a host of amber-lit lanterns being set off into sky. (The Chinese lanterns pictured; stumbled across these surprisingly in a shop yesterday and was so tempted to buy them. The ritual of lighting and setting off, all in the name of new beginnings, is one I find hard to resist. It'd be like a small-scale meteor shower, the Perseids part two, the ones we never did get to see here...)
So just a short entry today. Just a few words before the day begins. Before an afternoon of coffee and newspaper-browsing, punctuated by some sun-lounging and day-dreaming in between, and an evening of laissez-faire luxury. Because Saturday is the one day where we seem able to throw off the shackles off the week. It comes like a breath of fresh air at the end of the week, fresh cotton, a green-grass rest.
The sun is shining today, like a long-awaited encore. And what better way to start a sunny day than with Mary Oliver, the American spiritual-nature poet, whose poems are truly uplifting in their awe-filled and joyful look at the world. (If a poem was ever a vitamin for the soul, it's hers.) This poem captures the sentiments of a sunny day, how everything seems beautiful again and full of possibility and renewal. Which could also be said to be the predominant feelings in any of Oliver's poems.


~ Siobhán.

'Morning Poem' -Mary Oliver 
Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange
sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again
and fasten themselves to the high branches —
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands
of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails
for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead —
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging —
there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted —
each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
every morning,
whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Up, Up and Away: 99 Balloons, 1,000 Views!

Yay!!! I have just reached that pinnacle point of 1,000 page views and am so excited about it - YIPPPEEEEEEE !!!!! THANK YOU to all my readers, regular and random!

I feel like I need to mark the occasion in some way, hence this spontaneous celebratory post! I don't know - maybe this isn't such a big thing in blog world - but it is to me. I'm glad to see any traffic on my blog,  but 1,000, I never thought I'd reach it! So it's kind of like a birthday of sorts. Or the awarding of a gold star. A milestone passed. And motivation for more to do. (Instead of candles and a cake, my blog stats posted on the left...!)

And I can tell you it was with much glee that I picked out this picture of balloons! Just like  a 5-year old, and oh so fun  to my inner artist self, (who is roughly about the same age...) Balloons have always seemed a symbol of buoyant hope to me  After much dejection and disillusionment on the writing (and blog) front,  I now feel buoyant. Inflated. 

And it's at times like these when the sky seems to be the limit. When I feel myself swept up, up, and away, into the helium-high realms of possibility.

I've chronicled some of the downs of a writer's life, now here comes the jubilation of one of the ups: readership. It's so great to have frequent readers - a heartfelt balloon-buoyant 'thank you' to all! And I hope you'll stick with me for a thousand more... (well here's hoping!)

awed, giddy and extremely grateful, 

~ Siobhán

image from www.weheartit.com

Friday, 19 August 2011

Sea Musings and Mind-Scapes

'I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;' - John Wasefield 'Sea Fever' 

No sooner had I published my post about rain than we have two solid days of sunshine.  Typical! Talk about schizophrenic weather! (But now it's raining again in blustery skifts, in what seems to be some sort of summer storm...) So before 'summer' is over I think I'll write a little bit on the quintessential muse of the season: the sea.

I live beside the sea and indulge in the odd beach walk or two now and again.  The sea offers up a plethora of metaphors to the imagination. It's maybe the ultimate muse for a writer and that's why I'm always cautious writing about it, for fear I step on that dreaded danger all writers recoil from: cliché. 

I especially like summer evening walks. When there's still light in the sky; when the sun is dipping on the horizon like a huge mirrorball; the warm soft feel of sand beneath my feet and the slight sting of the salted air:  'The soft lap of sea on land, a gentle kiss. Blue sky and water like a landing strip of silver light. Dotted with gulls swooping in sharp arcs. Curly debris sand from spontaneous stick etchings and the bric-a-brac of daytime revellers. Water like polished glass, glistening aluminium grey. Drumlin grass dunes decorated with daisies and purple spiky heather like small microphones trying to catch the breeze.  But all quiet with the lullaby of evening. Stilled. Soothed. Volume of the day turned down, so significance can whisper in. And the sun hanging over the scene like a luminous guest, offering some kind of promise. To-and-fro thoughts swimming in my head, high-tide, low-tide washing ashore flotsam and jetsam revelatons.'

Why does the sea hold such a fascination for us? Writers have explored it at  great lengths throughout the ages. One of my favourite sea-faring books has to be the American classic, 'Moby Dick' by Herman Melville.  In chapter one, the narrator Ishmael muses on this:  "Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all."  

In the novel also, life at sea seems to be a metaphor for a way of life that is not sequestered by routine and settling down. It is the very opposite: random and wild and dangerous and forever drifting, for flighty free-spirits and lost souls like Ishmael, who goes off on the whale expedition in the first place to 'find his bearings', stating that the sea is the only place to do this: "Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul.... then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can." It's like the sea can fix him, or at least, stave off the boredom and stifling security that land offers. I myself would rather be swept out at sea than stuck on land (metaphorically speaking) i.e. drifting rather than being docked to something that I don't want. (And there's a summing up of my whole philosophy right there! Call me Ishmael!)

The sea is also used as a metaphor for fluidity and movement. As Shakespeare famously wrote: "There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures." Hmm...are these the thoughts that we're thinking of while watching the to-and-froing of waves? Or maybe it's more along the lines of Shakespeare's sonnet: "like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore/so do our minutes hasten to their end." Gloomy a tad. But maybe the sea does put us more in touch with our mortality. And brings into focus our solitude. How big and vast and majestic it is can certainly help put things into perspective now and again.

Let's not forget that water is also the element of the emotions. Water signs in astrology have the main trait of being emotional, Pisces the most notable for depth of feeling.  Also, to dream about water is to signify a state of emotional flux. Drowning means that you can't cope with some emotion. Dreaming of a tsunami means a total overwhelming. All my life I've been dreaming about tsunamis, before I even knew their technical name, before they swept into popular consciousness with a dire legacy.  Freud would probably see it at as an emotional fear of some kind...me, more as the malevolent power of the ocean, coupled with my slight fear of water. Whether this is due to the fact that I'm a Fire sign, or more to do with the memory of being made hop waves at the beach when I was a teeny-tottering child who hated bath-time, never mind sea-time, it's stuck with me ever since.

Just imagining the unfathomable depths of the ocean makes me shudder. Is it because the ocean is so mysterious that we're so drawn to it? That we know so  little about it? 20,000 leagues under the sea, there lies..... what exactly? Stories of sea-monsters kept sea exploration to a minimum before the days of Columbus. And then mermaids and sirens. Now rogue waves and tsunamis and ship-sinking squalls.  That it's so dangerous and powerful could explain why it's so compelling to us.

Or maybe it's more to do with this: 'The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea' - Isak Dinesin. Because we are composed of mostly water, maybe we need the sea to keep us in harmony, to calm our  inner seas of turmoil. Its syllables soothe our souls. Maybe it allows us to see horizons we don't see on land. Reminds us of who we are, how everything is in a state of constant movement, constant flux, nothing is static, nothing is permanent.  

Hmm, from a simple beach-walk to all this ocean musing. Maybe the ocean is just a great big metaphysical metaphor for our minds, a physical manifestation of the unfathomable depths of our subconsciousness. Whatever it is, there's no doubting that it certainly is one of the greatest muses for writers and all kind of artists.

ahoy shipmates,

~ Siobhán.

(Apologies for the blooper I made earlier of prematurely posting this blog while  only on the first paragraph - email recipients- I hope you ignored it, sorry!)

And some poems. The first by Pablo Neruda, which talks about the poet's relationship with the sea, and the sea as a metaphor for poetry. When I think of Pablo Neruda, I think of turquoise waters, he has written so many poems about the sea and with  such beautiful imagery and sound, it seems as if the sea itself is echoing in the lines. Infact his collection 'On the Blue Shore of Silence' is a collection of all his sea poems, a veritable love-letter to the sea.  The second, is by EE Cummings, once again. The last two lines say it all, but I also love 'as small as a world and as large as alone.' Simply complex, as always. Enjoy.

'Poet's Obligation' - Pablo Neruda 

To whoever is not listening to the sea
this Friday morning, to whoever is cooped up
in house or office, factory or woman
or street or mine or harsh prison cell;
to him I come, and, without speaking or looking,
I arrive and open the door of his prison,
and a vibration starts up, vague and insistent,
a great fragment of thunder sets in motion
the rumble of the planet and the foam,
the raucous rivers of the ocean flood,
the star vibrates swiftly in its corona,
and the sea is beating, dying and continuing.

So, drawn on by my destiny,

I ceaselessly must listen to and keep
the sea's lamenting in my awareness,
I must feel the crash of the hard water
and gather it up in a perpetual cup
so that, wherever those in prison may be,
wherever they suffer the autumn's castigation,
I may be there with an errant wave,
I may move, passing through windows,
and hearing me, eyes will glance upward
saying 'How can I reach the sea?'
And I shall broadcast, saying nothing,
the starry echoes of the wave,
a breaking up of foam and quicksand,
a rustling of salt withdrawing,
the grey cry of the sea-birds on the coast.

So, through me, freedom and the sea

will make their answer to the shuttered heart.

'maggie and milly and molly and may' - ee cummings

maggie and milly and molly and may 
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang 
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing 
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone 
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me) 
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Pitter Patter: Thoughts for a Rainy Day

Two blogs in two days...? My cup of inspiration runneth over...? Not exactly. Just an reaction to the relentless rain that's been raining on our parade of summer here in Ireland. Need I utter the refrain? - Rain, rain and more rain, never rains but it pours!, and especially in this country in summer.

Met Eireann have just announced that it's the worst summer on record for about 20 years. I could have informed them of that a month ago when the whole country was up to its eyes in puddles and I had to endure the recurring personal tragedy of soaked flip-flops turning to soggy cardboard. 

We're all gonna be suffering from SAD by the end of August, I know it. I already am. Help! Drowning in monsoon misery! Right now Travis' song 'Why Does it Always Rain on Me?' seems to be playing in my head on repeat, most suitably morose for these incessant downpours. It just ain't natural to look out at winter weather in summer. Drip drip drip: bring on the melancholy.

And funny that in films and books, rain is always some kind of dramatic prop. Be it revelation, some sign of redemption ('Shawshank', to be specific), or realisation. And even romantic. Look at 'Breakfast at Tiffany's.' And a few hundred more that I just can't name right off, but if you want proof, check out this well-assembled montage. And of course, the ultimate film featuring rain - 'Singing in the Rain.' Who the hell dances their way through puddles in reality I ask you? More like stomp. And music makes big of it too. Rain as romantic and regretful: 'Kiss the Rain' by Billie Myers and 'November Rain' by Guns 'n' Roses; rain as revelatory: 'January Rain' - David Gray; and rain as redemption-in-waiting: 'Prayers for Rain' by The Cure, are just a few that spring to mind right now. 

But I did get another blog out of it I suppose. Been having a dry patch for so long, and now....need I say it, the rain ah, who would have thought it would be inspiration?

And now for the impetus behind this blog. Here's the only anti-dote (rainbow?) I can think of to this season of rain: two brilliant poems on the subject. Only Seamus Heaney, a poet I am most in awe of,  could make something magical out of it. Just listen to the sound in his poem 'The Rain Stick', which is so glorious and graceful, full of 'glitter-drizzle' and 'diminuendo'. I feel better already. And another great modern poet,  Don Paterson, a Scottish bard, who I recently had the good fortune to see read, (on a sunny day too) gives his rhythmic metaphorical take on it. Enjoy.

not singing, but trying not to whinge about it as much -  

~ Siobhán.

'The Rain Stick' - Seamas Heaney  

Up-end the stick and what happens next
is a music that you never would have known
to listen for. In a cactus stalk

downpour, sluice-rush, spillage and backwash
come flowing through. You stand there like a pipe
being played by water, you shake it again lightly

and diminuendo runs through all its scales
like a gutter stopping trickling. And now here comes
a sprinkle of drops out of the freshened leaves,

Then subtle little wets off grass and daisies;
the glitter-drizzle, almost-breaths of air.
up-end the stick again. What happens next

is undiminished for having happened once,
twice, ten, and thousand times before.
Who cares if all the music that transpires

is the fall of grit or dry seeds through a cactus?
You are like a rich man entering heaven
through the ear of a raindrop. Listen now again.  

'Rain' - Don Paterson

I love all films that start with rain:
rain, braiding a windowpane
or darkening a hung-out dress
or streaming down her upturned face;

one long thundering downpour
right through the empty script and score
before the act, before the blame,
before the lens pulls through the frame

to where the woman sits alone
beside a silent telephone
or the dress lies ruined on the grass
or the girl walks off the overpass,

and all things flow out from that source
along their fatal watercourse.
However bad or overlong
such a film can do no wrong,

so when his native twang shows through
or when the boom dips into view
or when her speech starts to betray
its adaptation from the play,

I think to when we opened cold
on a rain-dark gutter, running gold
with the neon of a drugstore sign,
and I’d read into its blazing line:

forget the ink, the milk, the blood—
all was washed clean with the flood
we rose up from the falling waters
the fallen rain’s own sons and daughters

and none of this, none of this matters.

Check out more Don Paterson here and Seamas Heaney here

 'January Rain'(Instrumental) - by David Gray

Monday, 15 August 2011

Writing Poetry (Or Channelling & Chasing Butterflies)

It's one thing saying you're a writer, but a poet? Well, that's quite another. Or should it be a poetess? How in the heck to define it? Conjuror, magician, wordsmith, visionary, shaman?  Or just language-lover? As W.H. Auden defined it: "a poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language." And I am. Totally. Irrevocably. Swoon.

Poetry is language "raised to the Nth power" and so the ultimate in extreme language pursuits. I compare my love of poetry to my love for strong spirits over bland beer and the likes.  I like the strong stuff in life and poetry is surely a showcase for the strongest: love, death, hope, hopelessness, loss, happiness - all kinds of feelings. It's an electric humming arena of emotion.  'To be a poet is a condition, not a profession." Oh yes. It's a way of looking and responding to the world. And a condition that is continually satisfied when the right words come together and there's a clicking somewhere, an aha! moment of clarity and revelation and supreme harmony. The world fits, everything fits and clicks into place, all because of words.  There's nowhere better to witness the wizadry of words than in poetry. 

"A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness." - Robert Frost. A poem's first twinge comes as just that: an inkling, a half-whispered word, an image, an idea, a feeling that just has to be realized into words. Ever observe a butterfly fluttering around the garden? Notice how quick it moves, how it only flittingly comes near you before flying away. Well poems arrive just like metaphorical butterflies, floating and fluttering overhead before landing lightly, only for a millisecond in our imagination, enough to trigger an impression.  And off we go, we poets, nets in hand, chasing butterflies, trying to capture this experience before it evaporates. (Nimbleness, skill, feather-light footsteps, swift swiping and an ear like a recording studio all required.)

And we never know where the butterfly will take us. Like Alice and the white rabbit, it could be to Wonderland. Indeed every poem is written in such a surreal mode, some kind of Wonderland zoning-out and honing-in on the core matter of things.  The best poems write themselves (I've heard songwriters say this too.)  Derek Walcott says "if you know what you're going to write when you're writing a poem, then it's going to be average." And Robert Frost too: "writing a poem is discovering." We never know where the poem will take us. That's why it's so exhilarating and exciting. Like following a treasure map of lines and rhymes and metaphors and ending up with the riches of new wisdom at the end.

Surreal and sacred. Poets have often described the process of writing poetry as 'following dictation'. They don't write the poems, they merely listen to them being recited in their heads by some all-knowing clear-cut quartz voice from the vast well of creativity. I totally agree with this. Writing a poem does not involve hanging around at a blank computer screen for ages, editing and pasting and inventing lines. It only happens when I hear 'dictation,' hear the Muse's voice in my head. 

It could be when I'm dozing off to sleep or waking, sometimes during a moment of late-night waking, out walking, travelling, eating. ...Whenever a line or snatch of a line or word or image comes fluttering into my head, I grab it, write it down and let it develop from there. Sometimes it will take a few days or weeks to gestate into more, sometimes I get the full poem and work at re-arranging lines and words until it echoes pitch-perfect (and when it does, it feels like I've caught a scattering of stardust and smoothed it into language, or pinned a  rare specimen of  butterfly to the page for observation and analysis.)

Poetry is totally different to prose, where you show up at the computer and start typing and firing out rounds of words like extended gunfire. Prose is much more linear and logical than poetry. It can be planned and mapped and structured. Poetry can't. It just happens, just manifests out of the imagination like genie smoke. You can't force  or foresee a poem. You can only be aware, and listen out for it rising up through the subconscious like a timid butterfly. Prose comes from black and white straightforward thinking; poetry from that blue and green sparking starry space of emotion fusing with thought before being transformed through the alchemy of words into art.
And it's something I cherish, this ability to 'write' poems, just like some secret sixth sense. Something that will forever intrigue and mystify me. When I'm met with poetry-haters who scoff at my writing of it, I feel like I could stab them with their imagined feather quill!  It's not fluffy or frivolous or frumpy but real and profound and sacred and goddamn tough. It is all to do with truth and guts and mystery, not tedious or trivial or la-de-dah. As Allen Ginsberg of the Beats fame said: "Poetry is not an expression of the party line.  It's that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that's what the poet does." Another fitting definition of a poet.
I'll leave you with EE Cummings on the experience I've been trying to describe. Notice how the whole structure of his poem delightfully and accurately conjures up the itty-bitty delicate feel of putting a poem together. Enjoy.

Any comments from poets, poetesses  and loony language lovers especially welcome!

~ Siobhán.

one(Floatingly)arrive - ee cummings 


(silent)one by(alive)
from(into disappear

and perfectly)nowhere
vivid anonymous
mythical guests of Is

unslowly more who(and
here who there who)descend

deathful earth's any which
Weavingly now one by
wonder(on twilight)they

come until(over dull
all nouns)begins a whole
verbal adventure to

illimitably Grow

Friday, 5 August 2011

Message in a Blog Bottle

Lots of flotsam and jetsam floating around in my head to write about, but only one of them  keeps bobbing to the surface again and again: LOVE. 

Now I don't want to get all sentimental and sappy, but bear with  me. We're in the month of August, of sandy beaches and yellow hay-bales and harvests, honey-warm evenings, and last hurrays for summer love. (And I also want to change subject lest I'm boring readers, was going to change font, but opted for the personal option instead...)

Love is what it all comes down to isn't it. What we all want to hear about, read about, experience. And what could be more heady than summer love? That daisy-chain delicate ditsy ice-cream-gooey head-over-heels-tumbling evening-rose-glow lantern-lit type of love. 

Romantic love has been thee Muse of writers for millennia. Without it would poetry even exist I wonder? Poetry is the medium for strong emotion after all and what could be stronger than love? I bet the sheer unexpressible agony and torment of it drove people to try and unleash it in words for some peace of mind. Poetry unravels knots in emotions, gives them depth and breadth of expression so they can become clear. If you have a dilemma you can't figure out  - try a poem. They're like wizards - they provide answers in an instant. And oh, when it comes to the pain of unrequited love what better to relay your misery than a poem? All the best love poems speak of unrequited love. Just look at the multiple volumes of W.B. Yeats. Where would he (and we) be without the object of his unrequited affections Maud Gonne?

Also, dipping your pen into the ink of love can create beautiful blooms of poems, elaborate with emotion. With a Muse, poems write themselves, glorious treasure you never knew was there, distilled from the sweet nectar of love we keep at our cores.

Okay, I'm drifting off target. (And here's where it gets personal; but writing is hardly for hiding, its for proclaiming) Me, I kind of like someone. Well no 'kind of' in it , hence the heartbreak (sigh). And he's like a summer's day (so no need to compare thanks Mr S.) Does he love me, does he love me not? Oh damn those tiresome age-old refrains! I'm reminded of Romeo's definition of love at the beginning of Romeo and Juliet, that "love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs; being purg'd, a fire sparkling in lovers' eyes; being vex'd, a sea nourish'd with lovers' tears: what is it else? a madness most discreet, a choking gall, and a preserving sweet." Hmm, bittersweet alright, but spot-on. Shakespeare knew his stuff when it comes to matters of the heart. All very relevant especially when things are as that great old love cliche goes: 'complicated'.

And in the midst of endless pining and wallowing, it strikes me that love is a bit like being involved in the creative arts. Following the dictation of creative urges is a bit like following the dictation of your heart: they both demand daring risk-taking, believing, trusting imagination and intuition time and again over logic and reality, and an unrivalled, fierce degree of honesty that leaves you vulnerable and utterly exposed while all the while urging a total disregard as to what others will think of you. Ahh. Neither easy pursuits, but ultimately necessary if you want to  be: a/a great artist and b/experience real love. 

Both also require a huge leap of faith. When the words come, you have to grab them and transcribe them and believe that they'll yield results. Believe in the starry void they materialise from and that it'll always be there.  Believe that they will close the gap between imagination and reality. Love also demands a big leap of faith. Almost equal to that required for a moon-landing. Or a trapeze jump. A believing in possibility over all else. A leap that will close the distance between two people, just as it does with imagination and reality. 

By the way, what I'm always reminded of when talking about these 'leaps' is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade film, where Indie is on the hunt for the holy grail (coincidentally enough). When faced with a number of dangerous tasks to get to it, he's met with a giant gaping chasm with no way across. The clue says to take a leap of faith. So he does. He puts one foot out over the edge and steps forward. And voilá, a ledge appears, seemingly out of nowhere. But when the camera shifts, you can see it was there all along, but invisible from his (and our) angle. So there you go, straight from Spielberg, the rewards of believing. Everytime we write on a blank page, we're taking a leap. And when we tell someone how we feel, a leap into a white space, hoping for stars, with no net below to catch us, except for the buoyancy of faith.

And so dear reader, I am on the verge of leaping. Whether it be into a stone quarry or a bed of roses I don't know. Summer Love SOS: to be sorted out soon! Until then, I stand on a  metaphorical cliff-edge, wind whipping hair, fear and fantasy wreaking havoc with my mind, in amber-light anticipation. Until then, my pen is poised over paper, hovering in mid-air, somewhere between belief and beginnings. 
When love is wrecking your head - like me - turn to poetry. See if it can't put it in context for you. Are you as smitten as Carol Ann Duffy when she's pouring her lover some tea in 'Tea'? Or as melancholy as Pablo Neruda in his Love Sonnets? Try Shakespeare's Sonnets, all secret love and pained pining for someone he can't have. Revel in love's transformative powers in Slyvia Plath's 'Love Letter'. Or sample ee cumming's smitten sentiments in ''i carry your heart with me'. Or any of Yeats for that matter. Or better yet, try writing a poem of your own, for as they say, 'love makes a poet of everyone.'

So that's it, purging done. Message in a bottle (blog) sent! I could share some poems I've written here about how tides are turning in my heart, about mer-men and following sirensongs into deep water, rose-coloured evenings and sun-steeped states, but that would be a bit too premature for the perfectionist 'a poem is never finished, only abandoned' me... But watch this space! Here's something else instead -


~ Siobhán.

'A Summer Love Poem' - Nikki Giovanni

Clouds float by on a summer sky
I hop scotch over to you.

Rainbows arch from ground to gold
I climb over to you.

Thunder grumbles, lightning tumbles
And I bounce over to you.

Sun beams back and catches me
over at you.

PS/ I'd also like to share a song by one of my favourite bands The Cure to soundtrack my post! 'Sirensong' captures the dreamy, floaty, swept-away essence of summer love exactly. The melody will sweep you out to sea, all bobbing-wave like and the lyrics glint gold like sun in your mind. (Or so I think anyway....) Could be a mermaid's lullaby or indeed a real siren song... check it out here

*Images taken from www.weheartit.com