Blogging offers a forum for musing about the craft of writing and the events that surround us in a very frustrating and yet exciting time, as we are faced with many issues similar to those of the 1960s: A government that lies to us, neo-colonial incursions into other countries, repression of ideas and serious threats to the well-being of the human race, while offering bread and circuses at home in the form of rampant materialism. A groundswell of protests against authority again reflect the response that was given by youth in the 1960s. Writing once again can explore those moods and present an alternative.
“You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves,” writes Mary Oliver in “The Wild Geese.” This line has become an anthem for this generation, and for those of us going through changes. It might be the most quoted line of this decade. We need this growth and spiritual advice desperately.
Not easy to let the soft animal love, though, if you own upbringing has been difficult. One poet in our workshops is far into the journey of discovering what that might be. Who she is, what that soft animal might love. And poems are a powerful aid.
The journey might not be pleasant, and the poems can be dark. In fact, we were working with our poet and her poem, which has all the pain of being orphaned in a few compact lines. The images were energetic and troubled. The poet worked into the trauma and took a step forward. That step was dripping with pain, and it was only one small step. But the step was forward.
We could feel her exhilaration. We could also feel the darkness.
When it came time for the poet to speak, she was full of gratitude. “My previous workshops got so they wouldn’t read my poems. Too dark!” She mimicked those folks, holding up her hands with her index fingers crossed to ward off evil. “Don’t read us your poems!”
We looked at each other in astonishment. Hadn’t we just been given a few stations of her journey as a gift? Tough though it was, we were honored to join her.
I can’t speak for others, but for myself, my own journey is so difficult, I’m grateful for anyone sharing their own troubles. It’s trusting, for one thing. For another, it affirms the faith that we are together in this difficulty called life and there is common ground. Thanks are due her, from us, for such a gift.
I looked the poet in the eye. “I’m grateful for the company.”
(With help from D. Jayne McPherson.)
A date wanted to bring her portable drill to my bedroom and put up new paper blinds, all because I mentioned the old ones were soiled and tipping. She hadn’t even seen my bedroom. And I had spent barely two hours with her, she couldn’t have known whether I’m handy. I wondered what was going on, and I winked at her. “Maybe I should accept whatever you offer.”
“Whatever” sounds limitless. I thought I might be in for quite an adventure.
When Chalcedony offers something, I don’t have the choice of refusing. I don’t have the critical apparatus to make a choice, anyway. She exists outside my ken. I write whatever she wants, and afterwards, sometimes years afterwards, I dive into the poem and hope it will offer up its essence.
My date read a couple of these poems and, as fits her lack of gender bias, wondered why we don’t hear the boyfriend’s responses. Especially since Chalcedony is often ranting, taking him to task for his cluelessness.
I didn’t have an answer, and later it occurred to me that some of the songs might be the boyfriend’s responses. But his push back comes disguised in Chalcedony’s voice. Flamboyant and feminine as it often seems, it sometimes does not have any gender clues.
I never saw the drill, and my blinds are still soiled and tipping.
But the redhead in “Dream One” feels like a soul sister. She isn’t wild enough to beChalcedony, the spirit woman who writes songs.
A fearful excitement permeates the dream: the lions embody something powerful, untamable, and injurious. It’s startling that the lion’s den is also my writing studio. While the lion’s aren’t stationed at a portal to some treasure, this is the sense of the dream. There is a portal, however: the studio window. It looks back into the coliseum where the lions are, back into the ordinary world.
One doesn’t have to travel to find the – what to call it – the mythic? The other world? The super real? The dream indicates that the ordinary and the beyond ordinary are in the same place. It is everywhere, superimposed on, or beneath, or through, consensual reality.
Lions do guard the access, and Chalcedony lives in that territory. It fits her boundariless mind, her disregard for convention, her extreme passion. She is less a human than a spiritual, erotic force, or a deity. She is close to chaos. And in Greek mythology, everything comes out of Chaos. Chalcedony must be one of the first generation.
The portal is like a vagina. For the moment I look through it, with the redhead beside me, I am Chalcedony. She experiences much of the world through her vagina (though she’ll take issue with this idea, or with its common interpretation). And I must pass the lion’s scrutiny before I see her.
Does this mean letting go of my mind? My conception of what art should be? Of what life is? “It’s the creative process when there’s danger, when the conscious mind knows it’s at risk.”
A lot drops away when I’m in her presence. I recognize I’m there by a feeling in my body, so I’m spared any ratiocination. The barriers between us fall away as easily if they did not exist.
Chalcedony wants me as much as I want her.
(With help from Sarah Rees, Ezra Matson-Ford, and Lonner Holden.)