Oddments

In search of story


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October 30.21: Coping

My muse sent me this. Very funny.

What is it with writing? Why do the words  jump up and down and clamor to be heard in my head sometimes, and other times they are dead silent in some black hole?

I had a wonderful instructor once who said that when we hit a writer’s block it means we’re avoiding what we should be writing about. But writing is always avoidance, it seems to me. When I’m trying to write, I am not reading the news, cleaning the kitchen, or driving among our homicidal species. Isn’t that avoidance? How do I know what I’m avoiding if writing helps me avoid so much?

At the same time, I know that writing often pulls us into places we’d rather avoid. I get that. But it doesn’t help.

There is only one letter difference between writing and writhing. It’s close no matter how you look at it. I’ve been writhing mentally for days with no writing to show for it. A word will float up in my head like some defunct alewife on Lake Michigan, then another, another, and suddenly I’m up to my keyboard in lifeless words.

I am thinking that this intentionally blank paper will be the perfect gift-wrap for the lump of coal a certain muse might get this Christmas.

 

 


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May 22.21: Coping

Victor Herbert wrote songs for my parents’ generation, so I was raised with some of them. One, I think, he wrote especially for writers: “Ah, sweet mystery of life!”

Writers know the mystery of life is words. Mysteriously they come. Mysteriously they go. Who can understand?

I’ve been without words for a few weeks now. Total blank. Tabula rasa. Nada. Zip. I’ve started a few blog posts that were the undead of writing.

Meanwhile we’ve gone overnight from Too-Cold-To-Garden to Yikes-It’s-Suddenly-Summer-and-Get-Those-Plants-In-NOW! It’s been wonderful to take my dejected writer self to the dirt.

It used to be that digging in my dirt was about worms. Now it’s about cicadas. More, there’s a little bush in front festooned with their overcoats. Apparently a bunch of cicadas got together and decided to shed simultaneously, leaving their outsides dangling on my little shrub like so many crispy-looking ornaments. Ick.

That ghostly emptiness speaks to me. The writer is only an exoskeleton when she doesn’t have words, and the wind whistles through her as she dangles from some metaphorical shrub.

I know that my sadistic muse is nearby, smirking.

 


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April 1.21: Coping

It’s Poetry Month!

Awake, Chanticleer!

It’s a Word Party

for one-twelfth of the year!

Such rarified air —

how best celebrate?

Use words like behoof,

whence, vulpinate?

Will I write my to-do list

in tripping dactylic,

wear diaphanous robes

though I look imbecilic?

What shall I read?

Some Dickinson, Frost?

Maybe an epic

like Paradise Lost?

Yes, I’m name-dropping;

it’s only a ruse

for what I tuck in them:

my friend, Mother Goose.

Does rhyme make a poem?

I think not, but then

I don’t know what does —

it’s out of my ken.

I’ve read and I’ve wondered

if anyone knows

why some works are called poems

and not just fine prose.

What makes a poem?

Can I know beyond doubt?

Will Poetry Month

help me figure it out?

 

 


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March 19.21: Coping

When metaphor is obvious,

should writer take the bait?

Should she write what all can see,

then self-excoriate?

Such conundrum filled my head

as I marveled at the sky;

two swells of salmon brilliance,

sharp blue widened my eye.

But intruding on the beauty,

unwelcome imposition,

a bar of light reflected

like ghostly apparition.

It came from light behind me,

insubstantial, weightless thing,

reflection like a wall

blocking, interfering.

Herein the metaphor,

the cliché all writers dread:

how often what’s behind us

interferes with what’s ahead.

 

 


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February 18.21: Coping

One of these is my muse, dear reader. Standing stodgily and stupidly on the frozen pond. Hanging out with someone else’s muse, no doubt, both determined to be useless.

So, uninspired, I will write about what is.

Snow and more snow. Cold and more cold. A world in pandemic, a country in turmoil, and, at the moment, with millions battered by the weather with no power, and some without running water.

Monday the winter storms barreled into Indiana. In my best swaddled shmoo look, I shoveled the first wave of snow, which was fluffy and light, and, having congratulated myself on that, I decided to start the car and let it run a few minutes. I was walking in the garage when one of my booted left feet found something to slip on and went its own way. I grabbed the car and went down in one of those memorable slow-motion falls. It was not a serious fall. Except. Except that my cheekbone hit the rim of a plastic flowerpot. The crack heard ’round the world.

This in a monster winter storm. I was scared.

My son was able to get me to Urgent Care the next day. Nothing is broken, but if you are picturing an old lady with half her face the color and shape of an eggplant, you’d be close.  An occasional Tylenol is in order.

The past twelve months have taken a toll on us all. We’d be foolish to understate that. Everything that happens to us right now hits hard and cuts deep. We all wish our muses would bring us magic words to make things better for each other. Failing that, we can only write about being human.

 

 

 

 


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October 31.20: Coping

All Hallows’ Eve,

and my muse has gone astray.

When last seen, a bluebird,

most likely bat today.

I’ve written and deleted

a tome or two of late;

nothing’s any good —

I’ve just an addled pate.

Where are those perfect words

that say just what I mean?

Have they been scared away

by this looming Halloween?

I think it’s much more likely

my muse is somewhere stuck

among the fangs and broomsticks

of politics run amuck.

 

Thanks to photographer D.J. Berg,

and a salute to her complimentary Halloween bar.

 


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July 12.20: Coping

My muse! Impertinent,

wayward thing!

Taunting me

on mighty wing!

Graceful she,

in bluest height,

indifferent

as I try to write.

I watch her float,

from earth unbound,

while I, like stone,

am stuck to ground.

In those clouds

vocabulary,

eloquence

extraordinary.

She could bring it

to cloddish me,

but prefers to soar

metaphorically.


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June 26.20: Coping

Well, dear reader, here it is again: writer’s block/slump/wasteland — call it what you will. I’ve been a big blank for over a week now. Yesterday I spent hours on a thought, trying to transfer it to words. I think I wore out the delete key.

What a mystery writing is. Not that I’m telling you anything you don’t know. Why do the words come and why do they not come? Where do they go, for heaven’s sakes?

I’ve not caught a glimpse of my muse, except perhaps in a particularly muscular buzzard, a.k.a. turkey vulture, hauling roadkill into the woods. Usually she’s a hawk, but she could have morphed. Right now I’d happily call her a buzzard. Now there’s a word. Don’t you love words that mean something just by the way they sound? Have you ever seen the book “Sound and Sense” by Laurence Perrine? My tattered, moldy copy dates back to my college days in the 60s. It says it’s about poetry but I don’t think so; it’s about the way the sound of a word makes it the perfect choice. Meaning isn’t the whole of it. The word must sound with the meaning. That’s prose, too. Just ask Sam Clemens.

I hope you are well, dear reader, and can still cling to sanity.

 


9 Comments

June 18.20: Coping

I see many references to isolation and aloneness these days. As an introvert, I’m comfortable with aloneness. Usually content with my own company, I do not crave the madding crowd. Aloneness isn’t always loneliness.

But I haven’t been with my family since March 6. No hugs for three months! There’s loneliness in that, as many elderly (and not-so-elderly) know.

It has recently occurred to me that there is another dimension to my aloneness. My close friends vary in age, but all of us have experienced family death in our parents’ generation. However, among my friends, I am the only one to have lost the sibling connection to the past; I’m the first to be The Last. This hit me as a revelation. Unaware, I’ve been grappling with a sense of aloneness among my friends.

I am an old single parent who is also The Last One of the family she grew up with — those are my particular circumstances — but I think most of us are grappling with some kind of aloneness, and maybe loneliness too, at this time. It doesn’t mean we have the same life experiences, only that we are in the same human condition. Human, but dangerously corrosive, all the more so swirled as it is with anger.

As I’ve said before, I think writers write about two things: what is, and what could be. Sometimes we can’t write about what could be until we write about what is. For me, this is what is.