Handwritten Pages #2

The second instalment of Handwritten Pages. This one was inspired while reading Amanda Palmer’s book, “The Art of Asking.”

I cannot recommend her book highly enough if you are a creative person. It is a heartfelt and affirming read; quite challenging to accept her premise sometimes but as a creative person there is such a wealth of ideas to gain from it. If time is of the essence, listen to her TED Talk.

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The couple sit across from each other at the dining room table, each with a pen and a pad of Post It Notes.
In silence they share a communion of scribbled notes, stick figure cartoons and random doodles intermingled wiht a chorus of laughter, sighs and whispers.
There is a solemn but playful sincerity to their ritual as the notes pass back and forth.
He passes a note to her; the body of Christ.
She receives it. Reads and responds.
She passes a note to him; the blood of Christ.
He receives it. Reads and responds.
He offers his hand and they stand to leave with the benediction spoken on paper.
They leave the notes as holy writ.

Handwritten Pages

What I don’t do enough of is write by hand, letting the pen and paper become an exploration. Yesterday I was inspired by a blog post on calligraphy to use my notebooks more effectively.

I know writers who use Julia Cameron’s (The Artist’s Way) technique of morning pages. The idea is you free write first thing in the morning as it clears the head and channels a creative flow. Mornings don’t work for me but the concept of free writing association can be done at any time. 

I want to use a specific notebook of mine for this exercise as it is unlined meaning I can use the space on the page to convey meaning as much as the words do. I can alter my handwriting style, use colour, draw shapes or doodle images. Over the coming months I will share more handwritten explorations.

Below is the first attempt at using a notebook for handwritten explorations. Nothing fancy. Just text. 

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“I dab the tissue at the pinpoint of blood on my fingertip, blotting the word that pools. The tissue is spattered with random words bleeding into one another in a random game of Scrabble. Another word forms and I place it on my tongue to break it down to letters and reabsorb it. The blank page waits patiently as I resist the urge to open a vein.”

New Publication – Untethering

 

Coming up at the end of May, my good friend and writing co-conspirator, Jodi Cleghorn, is releasing a companion volume to her collection of short stories “No Need to Reply.”

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The new volume is “The Heart Is An Echo Chamber” and it is a little different. It is different in that Jodi is not the author of this collection. In fact, it is a collection of writers responding to the stories from “No Need to Reply.”

The writers include Tom Dullemond, Kristen Erskine, Stacey Larner, Ben Payne, Lois Spangler, Helen Stubbs, Rus VanWestervelt and myself.

We each took a story from the original volume and reworked it, taking it to different places, from different angles, from different perspectives. 

 

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My story is “Untethering,” the companion piece to “Squeezebox.”

You can grab a copy of “No Need to Reply” here at the link before the new volume drops. If you want a physical copy, you can grab it for cheap. Ebook is Pay What You Want.

It will be published as a limited edition chapbook (hand numbered by Jodi) or you can grab the ebook.

If you’re in Brisbane, Australia, keep an eye out for the launch in late May.

Stay tuned and I’ll let you know when the new volume is released.

 

Two New Poems for Old Acquaintances

At the end of last year, two of my colleagues left. One retired and one was returning home to another state before heading off travelling.

In a sudden moment of ideas, I composed a poem for each. I couldn’t read them aloud myself because I hate farewells and ended up a blubbering mess in the corner while other colleagues read them for me. Wuss that I am.

I will share them with you, even though you don’t have the context of the people I know because I like them as stand alone poems.

 

Athena’s Owl

The light is extinguished at day’s end
the filament fades from white to orange to yellow to black
                                                              to signal slumber’s rest
          shadows encroach where light once reached

Athena’s owl ruffles her feathers for one last flight
          preens from quill to tip and one soft downy feather
          falls like a summer cloud
          rides the drafts and settles in the corner

In the silent moment before flight
          she takes one final glance
launches on soundless wings
          the warrior of the night.

We wake at morning’s first touch and
                               find the roost empty

Our hearts turn to sorrow and mourning
for wisdom’s presence is no longer amongst us
we run our fingers along the perch, the grooved indentations
of claws leave furrowed rows of knowledge

The wind reaches into the corner
                              lifts the single feather
the movement catches our eye; we reach down
                              hold the quill between thumb and forefinger
                              our extant memory
a reminder of wisdom’s presence,
                              her integrity and compassion
We are made the wiser because of her.

Diaspora

The wind asked,
“How now, spirit? Whither wander you?”
Wherever you may take me
But I will not be driven like the autumn leaves
Aimless, directionless, at your capricious mercy.
I will set my sails and use your strength
To take me to foreign lands.

The wind said,
“You have not moved.”
I have travelled the length and breadth
Of my imagination; my feet are not weary.
I will choose when to tie my laces
shoulder my pack and
Cross the threshold of my volition.

The wind asked,
“When will you find a home?”
I find a home where there is a bed for rest
a cup of tea
a book to read
a pen to write with
a nook for study
a place where my heart is at peace.

And the wind was silent.

The Earthen Man

This was an attempt at a spoken word poem whose genesis was at school where a group of Year 10 students were being introduced to slam poetry.

I took one of the prompts and explored the origins of my name. It is rough but a fun activity to explore. Hope you enjoy it.

The Earthen Man
When I heard the minister pronounce the benediction

At my grandfather’s funeral
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust”
the recitation of symbolic circulation
I hear echoes of my name

Adam

accent the first letter with exhalation of breath, “Ah”

“Ah-dam”

a whisper of life escaping.
Count those breaths, man of earth, keep a record, keep a tally.
Know its origins lie in ancient roots and ancient lands
your genesis is found in holy writ
the clay, the breath, the man created
the Play-Dough of God’s creative work

“Ah-dam”

a synonym of man and earth
a story deposited and poured from one jar of clay to the next
through eternity’s hourglass until the dust and ashes settle
inverted and another life begins

“Ah-dam”

this life begins as the conjugation of my father’s seed, my mother’s soil
the banker and the occupational therapist
the handy man and the artist
and I look at the dirt beneath my fingernails
see it is more my father than me
but I have mown my fair share of lawns, dug holes and shifted topsoil
I am more likely to find ink beneath my nails
from pens where words seep out like
the sap from a tree I never planted but I am learning to climb
now I garden with words
planting syllable seedlings in the the dust accumulating on the windowsill
in notebooks and diaries and journals
whose pages I imagine falling out like the petals of the cherry blossom
in my parents’ backyard, a delicate cascade of vowels and consonants

“Ah-dam”

in retrospect, memory is an archaeological examination of a past
digging through layers of soil
stratified artefacts poured through a sieve of inconsistency

“Ah-dam”

while the root system seeks out good soil
the surface is choked by weeds and caged by thorns
the fruits of labour harvested
a meagre handful, barely a morsel
a portion for one
let alone enough to feed a family
or the overflow to lay out a feast for friends
and strangers
I would be wise to reap the harvest
plant new seed at season’s turn

“Ah-dam”

the late starter to a race
trying to peg his pace with the front runners
rather than running his own marathon
the rhythm of a heartbeat
I have not kept time with
a pulse I lag behind most often
while trying to rush ahead

“Ah-dam”

Feet of clay baked over many summers
Running barefoot through the streets
Dodging bindies, stones and once, a rusty nail
Embedded into the sole of my foot
A fissure that now lets the water in
disintegrating in the tides
of people

“Ah-dam”

are we more than bags and bags of soil or fertiliser
stacked on shelves in mausoleums of DIY self-aggrandisement?
let me remove the speck of dirt from my eye
form the rain around this granule of dirt
and I will water the ground
from which I came

Book Versus Movie Part 2

A little while back I argued in Book Versus Movie that there is much to gain from seeing film as a different language of art. 

But I’ve been thinking about it some more and watching The Book Thief on tv recently crystallised another aspect of the book versus movie debate. I didn’t watch the entirety of the movie (I will watch it in full one day) for one reason that  I hadn’t thought of: voice.

I love The Book Thief. It is a magnificently written book and one of my favourites. Death narrates the story and it is this voice, and the voice of the author, that makes it such a stirring novel for me. While watching the film, I didn’t have the same sense of voice. The film looks superb, the characters well defined, but it was the lack of authorial voice that I was expecting that made me turn off. 

Similarly, my viewing of The Lord of The Rings is informed by my reading of the novels. There are parts that I love and adore in the film, and others that are just downright cheesy and lacking the right voice to give the scene its proper gravitas or humour. The voice of LOTR is sometimes as dry as mortuary dust but that is what gives the novel is authenticity and pathos and humour.

Voice is one of those almost intangible aspects of writing; you know what voice you like, those you do not, those that sound mellifluous, those that sound like a Year 9 class on Friday afternoon. I think voice works for cinema too but it is more a chorus.

The “book was better than the movie” debate is too simplistic and we need to unpack it to understand why it is said, and whether we believe it or not. Both are art forms, with different voices and different modes of production, and should be treated as such. To simply divide is to denigrate one art form, extol the other and the division is not helpful. 

Appreciation and understanding is the aim.

One Image, Two Conclusions

Last Friday I had a shocker of a day at work; the end of a long and tiring week which meant that I did not shower myself in glorious brilliance. And, as they say, the hits kept on coming.

It was nothing earth-shattering and it didn’t affect me directly but a piece of news that hit me at my weakest in terms of creativity and my own writing progress because over the past few months my writing time has suffered due to work commitments, and the ability to find the mental and emotional energy was sorely lacking. And it manifested itself in frustration and, if I am at all honest, jealousy.

I hit up a creative friend and simply vented in private. In the words of John Farnham, to “take the pressure down.” And it felt better to whinge about my own predicament and celebrate the success of others.

Over Saturday I was playing around with my phone, a new notebook and my fountain pen, to take a photo.

The first result was this:

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Aside: The fountain pen was a gift from my colleagues for my 40th birthday a couple of years back and the inscription reads, “When your heart speaks, take good notes.”

And every writer knows this feeling. However, in my current feral state of mind about getting stuff done, it was a challenge, an affront, a curse, a mockery.

But, shaking off the negativity, I changed the photo to this:

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Comparing yourself to others is a sure road to bitter disaster. Pursuit of your own goals and dreams is the correct path.