Friday, July 27, 2018

haven't written enough fiction

I continue to write poems. I've written four now. An unimaginably high number, I know. They are not good poems, but writing them has been interesting. They remind me of other poems, of poems that I've read. I tell myself that this is a good thing, that I am doing less plagiarizing than I am working with what I've absorbed of the poetic mode. This, if true, is a direct rebuke of Bloom's claim that the primary inspiration behind a poem is another poem.

I think that I've discovered a way of being honest in a poem that I was unable to achieve in a novel. This discovery--or whatever it is--is a recent thing, in fact it dates back maybe ten minutes as I write this post, and so I'm not at all sure what I mean by it. But there seems to be far less artifice in these poems than in the novels and stories I write. I cannot just now be more specific with definitions of "honest" and "artifice," but I am sure I'm right. Possibly this is because I've promised myself that I will only write true things in these poems, that I won't write toward cliches or whatever, toward an idea of a poem being a beautiful artwork about beauty and love, that sort of thing. No, you're right, I don't quite know what I mean. But I sense a directness, a sincere connection to what I'm writing, that I do not get with novels and stories. Possibly it's that the idea of "fiction" is missing from these poems, and were I to try my hand at an epic tale told in verse, I'd be back to the dishonesty and artifice inherent in fiction. Could be. I haven't written enough poems to really know yet. Maybe I also haven't written enough fiction.

At this point, I've also noticed that I'm paying a lot more attention to word choice and structure in my writing. It's taking a long time to write anything, because I look out for specificity and effect much more now than I did a week ago. I swear that the poems are much less vague than this post.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

none of these poems is worth reading

I've begun trying my hand at poetry. This is valuable, in that attempting to do something myself almost always makes me aware of how hard the job really is, and illuminates that vast gulf between my results and those of really capable folks. A good learning experience, in other words. None of these poems is worth reading, but they have been worth writing. I have no grasp at all of form, so I'm working with rhythm, texture, line and language. A blind man painting tiny canvasses. My dilettantism ever seeks new outlets.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Dark house

Sitting beside the road, watching the wagon mount the hill toward her, Lena thinks, ‘I have come from Alabama: a fur piece. All the way from Alabama a-walking. A fur piece.’ Thinking although I have not been quite a month on the road I am already in Mississippi, further from home than I have ever been before. I am now further from Doane’s Mill than I have been since I was twelve years old. 


I'm reading William Faulkner's Light in August, and it is one of the best things I've read in a very long time. Faulkner is a giant, an immense writer of great power. If the world were a better and smarter place, people would forget about Cormac McCarthy and read Faulkner instead. McCarthy writes a lot like Faulkner, except that McCarthy lacks empathy and a broad vision. As I Lay Dying is 10,000 times better than The Road. That is a fair comparison, as both novels feature odysseys and take as one major theme the relationship of parents to their children during traumatic events, each book starting with a dead wife, to boot. I don't know why I'm having a go at poor Cormac. My own novel Cocke & Bull is quite Faulkneresque, and is also a wee little insignificant thing in the shadow of Faulkner's books. Which is perhaps the point of this short but rambling post. I've always admired Faulkner, but for the first time I've actually seen what he's doing, how well he's doing it, and how amazing it all is. Of course you can also see the influence of Chekhov in the works of Faulkner, that awareness of man's bafflement over his predicament, and the moral fog in which most of us stumble and fall.


The whiskey died away in time and was renewed and died again, but the street ran on. From that night the thousand streets ran as one street, with imperceptible corners and changes of scene, broken by intervals of begged and stolen rides, on trains and trucks, and on country wagons with he at twenty and twenty-five and thirty sitting on the seat with his still, hard face and the clothes (even when soiled and worn) of a city man and the driver of the wagon not knowing who or what the passenger was and not daring to ask. The street ran into Oklahoma and Missouri and as far south as Mexico and then back north to Chicago and Detroit and then back south again and at last to Mississippi. It was fifteen years long: it ran between the savage and spurious board fronts of oil towns where, his inevitable serge clothing and light shoes black with bottomless mud, he ate crude food from tin dishes that cost him ten and fifteen dollars a meal and paid for them with a roll of banknotes the size of a bullfrog and stained too with the rich mud that seemed as bottomless as the gold which it excreted. It ran through yellow wheat fields waving beneath the fierce yellow days of labor and hard sleep in haystacks beneath the cold mad moon of September, and the brittle stars: he was in turn laborer, miner, prospector, gambling tout; he enlisted in the army, served four months and deserted and was never caught. And always, sooner or later, the street ran through cities, through an identical and wellnigh interchangeable section of cities without remembered names, where beneath the dark and equivocal and symbolical archways of midnight he bedded with the women and paid them when he had the money, and when he did not have it he bedded anyway and then told them that he was a negro. For a while it worked; that was while he was still in the south. It was quite simple, quite easy. Usually all he risked was a cursing from the woman and the matron of the house, though now and then he was beaten unconscious by other patrons, to waken later in the street or in the jail.