Seven

I told you I had a dream about a creature that was all legs – something like that – long, long legs, a bouquet of them, and a powerful muscular body at their centre, all terror and frantic flailing. I told you about this creature knocking me around with its limbs, beating me up, throwing me into the sand (to you I said dust) over and over, and each time I found myself with a mouthful of sand (dust), and the creature screeched ‘spit it out, you can’t have it, it’s not yours’, throwing me into a different patch of sand (dust) before repeating its scream.

You made it about writing.

What I didn’t tell you was that I read the poem you wrote likening your ex to an ostrich and yourself to a bed of sand and that I woke up this morning with the line ‘something of you still buried in me’ pounding against my eyelids.

Six

There is a strange consensus – I don’t want to generalise too much so I’ll confine this particular generalisation to the world of Academia – that the things/phases you have been through and have left behind automatically seem miscast in the next gaggle of people (often younger) come to replace you.

In other words, once you cease to be an undergraduate, all undergraduates start to grate on you (or perhaps just on me and the people I know), especially if their way of filling the post, enacting this role of “undergraduate” (an idea, a shell), diverts greatly or even just slightly from your own version from what you remember your undergraduate days being.

And when you cease to be a philosophy postgrad, the whole world of (academic) Philosophy starts to seem like a cult, a closed group you escaped from, are no longer part of; it now behooves you to point out all of this world’s flaws and hypocrisies. I believe there is a technical term for this sort of behaviour: Continue reading

Five

What is so surprising about life, and what also kind of constitutes its grace, is that our minds can be so pleasing to us. The way they use and remember and combine data is exciting, all of it so lovely if we let it, if we don’t cripple ourselves with anxiety, if we accept that alongside our brilliance also lies a lot of necessary darkness and unpleasant impulse.

What I’m trying to say is that some days I am struck by the fact that our minds exist for us, that they deal with the world, our dwelling, in a way that can be pleasing only to us as a species – our art and language games and music cannot evoke for anyone but us what we value in it. Our minds are and function for us, not for dolphins or aliens or dogs but for us, the humans that we are, and that, to me, is extraordinary.

 

Our minds and the universe – what else is there? […] In our marginal existence, what else is there but the voice within us, this great weirdness we are always leaning forward to listen to?

Mary Ruefle – Someone Reading A Book. In: Madness, Rack, and Honey. Collected Lectures

 

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Four

Doodling is often made easier by distractions. If I have something nearby to soften the sharp tones of my mind, starting a doodle is easier, and bridging those moments of suspension where I fall out of the flow becomes easier, those moments when I finish a segment or line and suddenly find myself staring into the blank space where any new line is possible but I don’t know how to choose which one is ‘right’.

Music distracts me from that fear of doing something wrong by creating a rhythm I can let myself fall into. I can follow the music and use it to quiet the thoughts that come up whenever I stop drawing. This, however, does not work with writing, where the distraction of music becomes a distraction from words. Music, in my head, tends to replace words; it becomes a case of either-or.

I was musically trained according to the French system, meaning the notes have names:

Do-Ré-Mi-Fa–Sol-La-Si-Do

And those are the names I hear in my head when notes are being played. Those names push out the sounds of words, distract from these English words that come easily but are nevertheless never completely my own. I have to chase them sometimes, woo them. There is always the possibility they might abandon me.

In some way instrumental music is worse for writing than music with lyrics – if the lyrics are insipid enough I might manage to drown them out for a while. But the notes and their names are something else. They are the first language I learned. They were there when I was a baby, according to my mother even earlier, in the womb, they were there in my parents’ living room, in the kitchen, in music school. They call to me in a different way. They like it when I draw, they don’t when I write. They are jealous of the other language, the one I’ve chosen over them. But they are alright with lines, with colours, those complementary movements, just as they are okay with dance.

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On that day I felt vulnerable, I guess, to the seriousness writing can represent. I wanted to hide, as I often do when doodling, in a nook of my mind where language is not king, where only shapes and movement and music reign. That nook is a silly place, and things in there don’t need to make sense. I’d watched O Brother, Where Art Thou a couple of days earlier, and what stayed with me the most was 1. the music (obviously) and 2. the bright yellow of the grass and trees, anything that should’ve been green, really. I found myself walking through the world for a while colour-correcting it in my mind: mustard yellow grass, orange leaves on silver tree trunks, a bright lavender sky.

In my head, personal jukebox, the lullaby from the film that plays as the Sirens walk out from the stream and seduce Ulysses, Pete and Delmar. The song sung and written by Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, and Allison Kraus.

I walk around for a few days with that song in my head until I finally sit down, let it pour from my speakers, and start drawing line after line, winding lines, squiggles, until there are enough of them and I start filling them in with as many colours as I can find.

The second to last line from the song has always been the most striking to me, although I am not sure why. There’s something about the words ‘bones’ being laid down on ‘alabaster stones’ that embodies fully the closeness between the kind of sleep called forth by lullabies and the rest of death, both extreme forms of exhaustion that long to drift away in a cooling, safe embrace, the softness of an arm’s flesh, the smoothness of water-polished stone. In Madness, Rack, and Honey. Collected Lectures, Mary Ruefle says this:

And in the best of all possible lives, that beginning and that end are the same: in poem after poem I encountered words that mark the first something made out of language that we hear as children repeated night after night, like a refrain: I love you. I am here with you. Don’t be afraid. Go to sleep now. And I encountered words that mark the last something made out of language that we hope to hear on earth: I love you. You are not alone. Don’t be afraid. Go to sleep now.

[Mary Ruefle – On Beginnings]

 

 

 

 

Three

Like a lot of people who write I own way too many notebooks. I have to stop myself from starting more than I can handle. At the moment, I have three on the go, which is a lot, but I tell myself that they are all for different forms of writing, or rather, for different methods and moods of writing.

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One of them is my personal diary in which I record (with less and less gusto, recently) my gripes and complaints about the world, my insecurities, the moments when paranoid thoughts get the best of me. Continue reading

Two

What might be the reason or driving force behind this blog if not my fear, I suppose, that without the MFA – the academic cradle – without a push, without a motivation to write, I might simply not write. I might just sit here and my sense of being a writer – the need to express thoughts in writing – might slowly fade and eventually disappear.

Continue reading