Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Random Meaningless Cubist Unblocking Post

'The Poet' - Pablo Picasso
'Oh, 500 channels and nothing on....' D'you ever get that feeling where there are so many things to do, so many thoughts to think, so many ideas to write about, that you can't possibly settle yourself to sit down to do just one???!
There are all these ideas floating around in my head like dust-motes right now, but until they're lit by a passing sunbeam (focus/inspiration/realisation/eureka/aha/yes), they'll just stay there as random meaningless entities. 

That's where I'm at at the minute. Synapses flaring, but nothing going to press. Yada, yada, yada/nada, nada, nada. I've been flirting with writing ideas for the last hour or so, but none gaining any worth in weight over the other. But I have to write something, so here it is - a nonsensical blabber about this existential grey area of writing (or any kind of creating - or doing - for that manner.)

I feel like a Cubist painting, a Picasso to be exact, all jagged pieces all over the place. (See aside and above). My blog posts are usually neat and themed and organised, so I thought I'd now chance a random roulette type of post, because that's all I got folks at the mo. And because today feels like a rock day, as Ernest Hemingway so bluntly put it: "Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly: sometimes it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges."

So here I go with the blasting. This blog set out to be mostly about thoughts on writing, so here's some I've been having. (Granted, written not today, but somewhat relevant I think - pardon my opportunism.)

This reflection would come in pretty handy at a writing group equivalent to AA; or as a defence to an editor when deadlines are passed; or as a definition of a writer's job description; or as a balm to calm the neurotic babblings of the inner writer self while in block or disillusion mode; or as a justification of the see-saw writing curse; or an explanation for that numbed zone, the Bermuda triangle of the mind so to speak (where I am now, latitudes, longitudes I no longer can see.)

Ah-hem...Here goes:

I am a reluctant/rampant writer. Schizophrenic, even. Meaning, I do and I don’t. Write that is. To write or not to write.? To be or not to be? Double-sided double-edged sword dilemma. 

Writer and non-writer. Pick up a pen, put it down. Jekyll, Hyde. Do, don’t.  Do or die. One side doesn’t know the other. Me and my doppelganger self. Lions and tigers and bears (oh, my!) 

Binge, block - that’s my days. Stoicous, sober. From verbose to vacant. Overflowing to overwhelmed. Motor-mouth to mute. Raving random writer. Sometimes it’s white page wilderness. Big blank block. The weight of the world hanging over my words. Arctic cold isolation. Icy death. The page is too white; I could get lost there. 
Others, blessed white. Blessed blank, clean slate. The world hanging in my words. Arctic pristine landscape. Glittering ice-rink for show-stopping back-flips. I want to stun, shock. Fly free, trapeze through words.  Arctic wide open possibility. The page is so white; I could get found here.
I write to live, I live to write. Sometimes I think I have it. (The gift.) The tongue of flame, rain of words, lilt of language. The words write themselves, they write me. I write and feel right. I’m in a meadow of possibilities, blue skies, green daisy smiles, horizon inked with thousands of tonnes of pages. I’m the little mermaid, voice found, singing the song of myself. I’m every fairytale’s end. Sparking. Alive, alight. The world was blank; now my words colour it Impressionado style. 
And then, sometimes, I don’t. Sometimes it is transient, comes out of the elusive ether, like a snow-storm; settles, then melts away. Sloppy words and wishy-washy sentences. Dark, dank depths of winter quiet.
I can’t write, I can write. Angel of inspiration battles the devil of delusion and I shoulder the strife. The words stick, stutter, clog up the passages of thought and trapped, fester. They want out but I can’t let them. I can’t do them proud, will only sell them out. They fall to stick-image words, scrawl, and crawl away. I feel like a toddler muffled by a language I don‘t know. Tongue-tied-cotton-wool-stuffed-mouth silence. I’m deaf, dumb, blinded by the script of silence. I don’t write for a while and things feel numb. Bland. Like I’m colour-blind. Word-weary makes me world-weary. (Yawn).

Words come and go. They’re my allies, enemies. I live in words, I love words, I cower before their might. I listen carefully for them. Feel them float up from some hallowed place. Unknown portal. But first I have to put my hands to my ears and listen. Quiet the static. Quell the voices. Remember how to tell a story. Remember how to tell the story. 

I collect stories like a magpie, shiny silver fragments of life. I sift through days for the gold of poems. Little shavings of meaning I carve carefully into words. Putting them together is the hard part. So I stash them away. Until they grow. Grow up, grow old, stray away. Fall through my fingers like sand, unwrapped, untold. Sometimes I feel brave enough to write them, sometimes I don’t. I get rusty, out  of practice, afraid to get on the saddle again incase I fall off, fall to earth, break a leg, a wing, dream. 

So much to say. So much to tell. So many ways through the snow. Why can’t I write right? Is there a right way to write? The way is lonely, cold. The way is bright. Watch the pen shake in my hand. Watch it saunter, soar. Go-getter, then gone. Bound in words, blinded by words. I’m up, I’m down, written, un-written, black, white, blank.
I write and don’t write. Am and aren’t. Juxtaposing joker. Ambivalent anti-self, schizophrenic split-self scourge. I pop pills of placebo poetics, drink inspiration as a tonic, while I wait for the lightning strike. From depth of shadows to buoyancy of light.
But in the end, epilogue, last word honour, I am nothing without my verbal skin. Shed, re-grow, shed and grow again. I carry my word-world around as a satellite, seeing lamp, moon by my side; sometimes light, sometimes dark, full, fingernail-thin, but there, nonetheless. Always there. I feel it pull the tides of my mind. Keeping its quiet orbit. Keeping me in orbit. Writing keeping me right.


Until the next right time, 

~ Siobhán.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

How Do I Love Thee? Let me Count the Poems...

Love, love, love. The most written about subject in poetry since poet first put quill to paper! Since it's Valentine's Day, I thought I'd share a few love poems.

For those of you who aren't familiar with poetry, love poems aren't all cheesy. There's a lot more to them than 'roses are red, violets are blue....' squabble.

From classic Shakespeare - the infamous rhyming couplets of Romeo and Juliet and his 150+ infatuation sonnets - to the more traditional poems that worshipped the beloved from afar, to the besotted unrequited romance of Yeats played out in his oeuvre, to the more modern quirky lyrics dealing with love in all its modern guises, you'll find all kinds of  poems written through the ages to suit every elation, emotion, heartache, break and high of this thing we call Love.

I've just picked a few here from Penguin's Poems for Love, a great collection that chronicles love through the decades in all its forms and expressions. In the introduction, the editor explains: When we try to say exactly how we love someone, it's difficult to sum it up. Our feelings can be so powerful, and so personal to us, that we struggle to put them into words. But that's where poetry can help - for if one of the conditions of being in love is feeling somewhat lost for words, then perhaps one of the conditions of being a poet in love is a belief that the right words can and must be found.

Here are some of what I think are the 'right words' found by poets and beloved by masses.  Enjoy. (And please feel free to share/recommend your favourite love poems, I'd love to hear - there are so many out there!)

Happy Valentine's Day, 

~ Siobhán.

From the superlative and famous:  

How Do I Love Thee - Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

To the classic definition: 

Sonnet 116 - William Shakespeare
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
   If this be error and upon me proved,
   I never writ, nor no man ever loved. 

To the original, modern, witty and weird:

Valentine - Carol Ann Duffy
Not a red rose or a satin heart. 

I give you an onion. 
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper. 
It promises light 
like the careful undressing of love

It will blind you with tears  
like a lover. 
It will make your reflection 
a wobbling photo of grief. 

I am trying to be truthful. 

Not a cute card or a kissogram. 

I give you an onion. 
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips, 
possessive and faithful 
as we are, 
for as long as we are. 

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring, 
if you like. 

Its scent will cling to your fingers, 
cling to your knife. 

And finally, truly, madly, deeply, beautifully:
i carry your heart with me - EE Cummings
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you 

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Friday, 10 February 2012

A Romantic's Creed

'We are all of us in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.' - Oscar Wilde

'The only things you ever really have are the ones you hold inside your heart.' 

As Valentine's day approaches, I'm beginning to wonder what exactly it means to be a romantic  - or Romantic, should I say.

I'm a romantic by nature, by default. Always have been, always will be. And I'm not just talking about romance. I'm talking about being a Romantic, a believer in beauty, dreams and ideals as well as just love. A believer in being devoted to that what moves us, discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary, seeking the best possible versions of ourselves and our world and of following the heart first and foremost in all endeavours of life. It's an entire way of life, a way of thinking and acting, feeling and appreciating, not some misused lovelorn label. 

The dictionary defines a 'Romantic' as being one who is 'marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious or idealized.'  Also as 'imbued with or dominated by idealism, characterized by a preoccupation with love, a quality or spirit in thought, expression or action, and above all, an emphasis on the imagination and emotions.' It's all about the imagination and emotions, their power, their importance in creating and marking our lives.

How typical and trivial of the realists to belittle us as 'hopeless romantics,' soft-hearted saccharine suckers who live for candlelit dinners and flowers! Rather, being a 'Romantic' is about having a view of and whole-hearted approach to life that is not cynical, not hardened, not resigned to reality. It's about being committed to the highest pursuits of the heart: beauty, truth and goodness, in all aspects of life, not just love. As Romantic poet Keats remarked: 'beauty is truth, truth beauty; that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.' 

But in today's world, Romantics are dismissed as naive, babbling, sentimental fools.  A world where materialism, cynicism and oh-so-boring practicality reigns, where it's deemed 'foolish' to pursue the heart's prerogatives over the head's. I've had a lot of unpleasant run-ins with realists in which I try to defend my passionate principles against their steam-roller sense of reason. It really gets me down how they dismiss anything other than what 'makes sense', what logically adds up. What does their life add up to then? Numbers and rules and routines and dreams quarantined to the realm of ridiculous, locked and shut away. Where's the fun in that!

Life is for dreaming and imagining and creating and ultimately living; for experiencing not tut-tutting. We only get to live once, why shouldn't we get carried away with it all? we Romantics sing, swirling notions like ribbons around our world, decorating days with dreams and ordinary with a tapestry of wonder and meaning. The realist's creed goes something along the lines of: savings - check, routine - check, work, work, work - check, mortgage - check, marriage (or attainment of suitable partner for society's sake) - check, duties completed - check, checklists - check, staying within the box - check. It's all have tos and shoulds, nos and nots; not curious maybes and wishes and whimsy, no dreaming, indulging, affirming, no passionate displays of anything,  no smelling the roses, no even noticing the roses, well, because face it - what's the point of that? (Readers, here's where I throw my arms up in protest - ahhhhh!)  

Instead of looking at the stars, their eyes are on the ground and they expect everyone, including Romantic souls to be the same, to give in to this drab version living. To give up our swooning souls for a luke-warm lacklustre existence. Well, never! 

We won't give up.  Romantics are tough, not stereotyped softies. Just look  at the Romantic movement in literature, music and art in the late C18th century. Romanticism, as it was known,  was characterized by a heightened interest in nature,  an emphasis on the individual's expression of emotion and imagination. It was a marked departure from the strict and confining attitudes and forms of classicism, and most of all, it represented rebellion against established social rules and conventions.   This can be seen most vehemently in French Romantic painter Delacroix's famous painting Liberty Leading the People. This painting was more to do with the spirit of rebellion and freedom of ideals than head-in-the-clouds daydreaming.  Vive la liberté is definitely a slogan of a Romantic if you ask me! (As is an affinity with the arts, needless to say.)

The Romantics held the imagination in the highest regard, and with it, emotions and the Self as a whole. It was the first time in literature that the individual began to take central focus and the imagination was revered. The literary Romantic movement began with the great Wordsworth, Coleridge, visionary metaphysical poet Blake and then bad-boy rebel Byron. Their poetry focused on nature and the great powerful spectrum of the imagination. Wordsworth encouraged us to 'fill our paper with the breathing of our hearts' and learn from nature, not the materialistic world which 'laid waste to our powers.' A new climate in the arts was engendered by Romanticism, one which led to avant-garde and bohemia and art for art's sake and being different and revelling in that difference and freedom of expression and living for the moment and smelling the roses, phew!

A Romantic Enters the World

But in this world, Romantics are backbitten at every corner by the snarling hordes of cynics and realists. (Like in the picture here, a classic by Richard Stine) Why do these people feel that they're always right and their opinions the right ones, the only ones? Who bare their teeth 'all the better to eat you with my dear' at every turn, huffing and puffing and trying to blow our big beautiful house down with all their cribbing and sniping. I've been looked over caustically by cynical peering eyes, my dreams dashed by their dismissiveness and irate sense of reality - but, oh no, in the real world, that would never happen! But I know better. Because I believe in better.

See, what exactly constitutes the real world? Is the real world not as how each individual sees it, 'if you can, you can and if you can't, you can't'? One of my favourite quotes is from Ayn Rand's novel 'Atlas Shrugged' which talks about this illusion of the real world: 'The world you desire can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.' The real world is what we see as real. Einsten once said that reality is an illusion, and Picasso that 'everything you can imagine is real,' so it figures that we create our own realities. Life is a blank slate and it's up to us to fill it. If it's black-and-white or grey, linear and logical, so be it. But if it's multi-coloured and shining and flowery and starry, then even better. How dare others criticise it? It is as much as real to us as theirs is to them. But more than that, it's better. Maybe they're just jealous.

Romantics don't give in to these cynical predispositions though. We keep smiling, keep smelling the roses. It's not that we're ignorant of the rain and the practical must-dos and all the bad stuff that goes on, but rather, we choose to rise above it, to assign more importance and energy to the good things in life, to the wide open world of dreams and imagination and all the possibilities it offers, over the boundaries and restrictions of reality's iron fist, to what really makes life worthwhile. We live by possibilities, not restrictions; hope, not doubt; faith not fear. We don't settle for indifference, because we know there's real treasure out there to be found. We push the boundaries; we know rules and routines are not the be all and end all, that there is something beyond. We choose to believe in this great big beautiful beyond and navigate towards it, pinning our hearts to our sleeves and setting sail on a wish and dream, a wink and a smile ;)

Granted, maybe it's a bad thing to be a romantic,  a starry-eyed sentimental focused solely on love and its ideal. But to be a Romantic -  is quite an accomplishment. How lucky to be endowed with a love and appreciation of all the wonderful things the world has to offer (love included) and  having the dedication to honour and pursue them and the freedom of mind and heart to unabashedly express and embrace them.

I'm proud to be a Romantic. And I'll defend my grounds - whimsical or no - passionately, courageously, infinitely.

with my heart still furiously beating, 

~ Siobhán.

'Late Fragment' - Raymond Carver

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

'Gray Room' ~ Wallace Stevens 

Although you sit in a room that is gray,
Except for the silver
Of the straw-paper,
And pick
At your pale white gown;
Or lift one of the green beads
Of your necklace,
To let it fall;
Or gaze at your green fan
Printed with the red branches of a red willow;
Or, with one finger,
Move the leaf in the bowl--
The leaf that has fallen from the branches of the forsythia
Beside you...
What is all this?
I know how furiously your heart is beating.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

February Fervour

'Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.' - Rilke
'The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring'.  ~Bern Williams

Today is the first official day of Spring, yay! And to celebrate its energy (lots of green, blue, and sunny energy), I'm going to dedicate a post to it.

Today, here in Ireland it's St Brigid's day, one of our patron saints. It's also Imbolc, the first of the four Celtic celebrations of the year. Today is a day for celebrating the first signs of Spring and today there were many: golden sunshine, big blue sky, daffodil shoots appearing, and now, a beautiful amber-warm and blue-cool dusk. And of course, that buoyant fizzing energy of Spring ahead.

In T.S. Eliot's groundbreaking poem 'The Wasteland,' he begins with stating that 'April is the cruellest month/breeding lilacs out of the dead land', but somehow, I always think of February as a lilac-coloured month, before all the greening ahead. Like the colour of a bud before blooming. Or crocuses. It's also supposed to be the month for clearing out before the  growth of the months ahead. A breather if you like, between the darkness of winter and the fresh green hands of spring. 

And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.

~Percy Bysshe Shelley

Roll on the greening!

~ Siobhán

And some Spring poems. The first by American poet Carl Sandburg, whose dreamy mystical renditions of nature sing through his poems. (To read more on him, click  here)
And Irish poet, Paula Meehan, whose homage to the transformation of Spring in 'Seed', both within and without, is lyrically and profoundly affecting. (To read more on her, click here)

'The Wind Sings Welcome in Early Spring' ~ Carl Sandburg

The grip of the ice is gone now.
The silvers chase purple.
The purples tag silver.
They let out their runners

Here where summer says to the lilies:
“Wish and be wistful,
Circle this wind-hunted, wind-sung water.”

Come along always, come along now.
You for me, kiss me, pull me by the ear.
Push me along with the wind push.
Sing like the whinnying wind.
Sing like the hustling obstreperous wind.

Have you ever seen deeper purple …
this in my wild wind fingers?
Could you have more fun with a pony or a goat?
Have you seen such flicking heels before,
Silver jig heels on the purple sky rim?
Come along always, come along now.

 Seed ~ Paula Meehan

The first warm day of spring
and I step out into the garden from the gloom
of a house where hope had died
to tally the storm damage, to seek what may
have survived. And finding some forgotten
lupins I'd sown from seed last autumn
holding in their fingers a raindrop each
like a peace offering, or a promise,
I am suddenly grateful and would
offer a prayer if I believed in God.
But not believing, I bless the power of seed,
its casual, useless persistence,
and bless the power of sun,
its conspiracy with the underground,
and thank my stars the winter's ended.