Sunday, March 29, 2015

Week 56: Seven of Letterpresses, - Creativity Has It's Own Clock

This week I drew from the Poet Tarot deck a suite card from the Letterpress series. The Letterpresses focus upon completion.  I don't know about you but this is a scary topic for me.

I suppose the discomfort or fear that comes with any conversation related to finishing any type of art project, including writing is that somehow getting said project completed is not always on our own schedule.

One of my favorite issues of Poets and Writers that comes out each year is the one with the debut writers. I think usually there is a dozen writers that have made their mark during the current year with a first major manuscript published. What I like about the issue is that  it will have a short bio and then some information about the length of time it took to complete the work, but that is not all, how many times was it sent out before it was selected. There are exceptions but so many of these  are in fact years in the making. I suppose if there is any comfort in these bios, it is that these people were generally not an overnight success.

Am I glad that it often takes so long? Of course not. But the truth also provides some comfort because if everyone was publishing overnight then of course I would be concerned that I was an aberration and that would be particularly discouraging.

The Seven of Letterpresses is clearly wanting to keep me focused on the norm. That is that from  first conception until a piece of artwork or a poem or a collection of poems is completed takes time and we are best to not get too impatient. Any successes seem to be tied to a methodical work. Allowing the process to move itself forward, but knowing at the same time it will not advance at any certain pace, but at varied stages, The writer's clock ticks at a pace that only it can set. The only control that is left to us it that if we stop the project stops was well.  

Thursday, March 26, 2015

kisses are a better fate than wisdom

kisses are a better fate than wisdom... 
for life's not a paragraph...
 and death i think is no parenthesis 
e e cummings 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Week # 55: e e cummings Master of Uncharted Territory and AWP

The e e cummings Tarot card rules my week. This is probably a good thing because I am embarking on uncharted territory in so many ways.

I am feeling unsettled. I am both unsettled and and anxious. Unsettled because I am back to being a pretty ardent self critic.I know that self criticism has it's pluses, but it also has a very slippery downside. Once you let it take control it seems that it can more negative than any writer or artist needs to deal with. When that critical voice is questioning most everything you are writing it can become a self fulfilling prophesy. You think there is something  wrong with everything you are writing and soon you lose the ability to free yourself to take the risks you need to take to be the best at what you are doing.

I'm anxious because I want so much to move on past this questioning phase. I'm anxious to push myself and to try new things  or try things differently. Unchain myself from predictability. And While I am anxious or wanting to do this I am on the verge of something about two and a half weeks away. That would be my first trip to an AWP conference.

Currently there are two overriding aspects of the conference that create nervousness. One is that it means I will be taking a week's vacation time from my regular job. People who know me well also know that I always have accrued vacation time that hovers at or near the limit I am allowed to carry without being truncated. That means if I go over the limit, the I lose and new time I would acquire until I bring it back under the limit. My vacation time is generally used a day here, a half day there. Tag a day onto a weekend or a holiday to maximize time off. My job tends to be crisis driven and when I take time off I come back to more stress. So just taking a week off is freaky.

The second aspect for which I am experiencing some consternation is that I hear war stories about the conference. Some of these are very veteran attendees. Some people try to be helpful by writing essays or blog posts with suggestions of what to expect or how to get the most out of it. Still, each one seems to emphasis survival.  It doesn't help that well meaning people use such titles as:

I could go on, but you get the picture. It's insane, not a place for introverts, it's a beast, there are lots of dos and don't and that 11,800 people in agony is an old number - it will probably top 14,000.

If there is anyone out there who doubted I might be experiencing a little high anxiety about now I'm guessing  that partial list above has built a strong case. But I digress....

Mr. Cummings (or cummings) is probably who I need for this trip. This seems like the Poet Tarot card I should have drawn the Sunday of the trip - but maybe there is yet a better one in store for me then. Maybe Mr. Cummings is just softening me up a little before in hope that come the 8th (departure date) that my feet will seem steady and I will be of (mostly) clear mind to experience this event and by experience it mean learn some things, garner some excitement and come away persuaded that I can better meet any challenges, including that nasty Nemesis of all artists of any stripe self doubt. 

Things I believe I need to embrace:
  1. spontaneity
  2. experimentation
  3. the possible instead of impossible    
  4. quieting the fear
Looking at the weeks card - I hear Mr.Cummings warning me not the turn away from uncharted territory but to use it learn new ways for it is in fresh language and unique approaches that art blossoms. 

So AWP can serve as a beginning of uncharted territory - My goal is to tame the beast, come home with a fresh perspective and energized (after a day to decompress).  

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Week 54: The Four of Letterpresses - Look fro ways to learn & grow

This card reminds us that there is a wealth of information that can be obtained by turning to others. Be it workshops, small groups of like minded artists, or one particular person who has some area of expertise that you can benefit from by interacting with them and learning from them.

Look for free events put on by bookstores or libraries or even an online course as sometimes free ones are offered by online colleges instructions.

I have already identified one such class coming up that is online. It will be starting in about a week.

Going to AWP15 I can also look for opportunities from individuals and discussion panels. This Spring and Summer - make an effort to learn to improve myself.  Never stop growing in knowledge and experiences.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Week 53: William Yeats

If Yeats (this weeks card) is to carry any message with it, it surely relates to change.Why? Because Yeats poetry straddled the Victorian era with  romantic poetry and the twentieth century with modern poetry that had a flavor of political and social discourse.

I think it must be true of every poet after a while that they have an early voice or style and as they progress through the years that may change. Presumably the quality of the poetry will improve but  this is obviously not guaranteed.

But for many, change is scary. Doing something a little different than you did before can be downright frightening and can paralyze you, so to speak. But a Yeats has demonstrated we can move on in our work to new styles, new voice, new themes.  Anything that brings freshness to art has to be positive because art is about the new. It's about bolder, different, risk. If we all do the same thing the same way, that becomes old and stale. That becomes boring.

We may be carrying old baggage in our writing life that provides no positive value. Shake it off as the song goes...

This week consider these possibilities:

  • Try a different poetry form or invent your own
  • Do I have old work scattered that could be brought together in a new manuscript? 
  • What new directions can you move with your work? 
Yeats gives up a template for shaking up our writing life. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Week 52: King of Letterpresses - Walt Whitman

It's been fifty-two weeks since I started this project of drawing a Poet Tarot Card to see me through the week. That's a full year of this project.  This week the card is the King of Letterpresses - Walt Whitman.

So, what can I learn from Whitman?  My first thoughts about this poet are the following:

  • He self published 
  • He pretty much rejected established poetic forms in favor of free verse
These two things are a testament to Whitman's fierce independence. I think independence is something that all artists can benefit from.  Striving to be independent is a way of insuring that we are he would be true to himself.

He was also a risk taker. as evidenced by his self publication. 

Considering these examples I must consider if I am true to myself when I write? 
Do I rake risks with my work or am I inclined to play t safe?

Perhaps it was his independent nature that kept him striving for something better. Leaves of Grass was revised many times, including on his death bed. Always looking for the right words.

Would I take something of my own and revise it if I knew I were on my death bed?  Would You?