writing


howl

Five stars out of five.

This puts many of the other films about the Beats to shame. Make sure you Don’t… Miss… This one, if you’re a fan.

Well, okay. I’m a big Ginsberg fan. I loved James Franco’s portrayal/characterization. It’s very believable, in a lot of ways. Even if it was only because I wanted to believe it. Everything was well researched and thoughtfully put together.

It had a clear point of view about Ginsberg – I liked that. Maybe they gilded the lily, somewhat – but so what? Ginsberg stands up to it. He deserves to be romanticized.

What comes through, though, is: self assurance; belief in self; an inspired authority about writing; and a human quality.

The film itself is quite an achievement. Filmed on a shoestring budget, it captures the mood and flavor of the times and subject. It distills things down to a few essential events, ideas and elements. It incorporates courtroom drama, ‘interviews with Ginsberg’, ‘flashbacks’ and animation – all very effectively, masterfully. Great stuff for film buffs and students. And hey. It’s just a really good, fun movie.

If you’re interested in writing, you’ll want to see this. Listen to the commentary, too! Virtually every bit of dialogue was culled from interviews and court records.

The court scenes – kind of unbelievable! But it wasn’t so long ago. Coming out of the McCarthy era and the repressed Fifties, the uproar and trial over the publication of Howl was a game-changing watershed in American law and free speech.

photo by Melissa Eagan

Richard Hell, photo by Melissa Eagan

On ‘growing up’:

“It seems to me like the dividing line, kind of, between being a kid and being an adult – is that, when you’re a kid, you want to impose yourself on the world and change the world to be like you; and be congratulated for being yourself.

“The other side of that line is you realize that maybe the world itself is interesting and you should take a look [laughs] instead of wanting it to pay attention to you.”

On being a musician:

“To do it right, you’ve gotta always be… you’re never going to have an audience that likes you, because you’re going to always be changing; and they’re always going to be coming there to see the person you had been before – you know what I mean? To really do it right, you’ve got to accept that and live with it and not care.

“But me, I’d rather stay at home and write a book than have to go out, and go from town to town, doing something that everyone hates me for.”

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Richard Hell, punk rock icon and co-founder of the bands Television, The Heartbreakers and Richard Hell and the Voidoids, as quoted in the documentary ‘Un-Defining Punk’, part of the DVD extras from ‘The Filth and the Fury’ (Sex Pistols documentary.)

Hell has written two novels, Go Now and Godlike. He also published a collection of essays, poems and drawings called Hot and Cold. This year he published a memoir called I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp.

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Nov.6th, 2014:

I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp was good!

My favorite Richard Hell line of all time is from the song Oh:

“Then I step outside and – oh!

The sun is breaking through the clouds

The sky is like the face of god

And all there is to say is…”

It’s a feeling I can relate to – I felt that way, one time (while slightly chemically altered) – but I would never have thought to express it so exquisitely.

 

Yes! I do recommend that you join Goodreads.     http://www.goodreads.com/

Share your thoughts about books; find out what your friends are reading; follow and find out what your favorite authors have to say.

I started getting particularly enthused when a Facebook friend invited me to join (even though I was already a member.) I accepted the Facebook application (one of my very few) and soon I started getting emails about what some of my other Facebook friends were reading. Nice!

I’m a writer that has trouble knowing what to write about. I’ve found this to be a great motivator!!!

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poetmcgonagall said: “….you must get up at an incredibly early hour, given the time difference.”

me:  Thanks for your remarks about my early rising. It made me think a bit about my habits.
No, I’m not an early riser – I hadn’t gone to bed yet. I tend to go through several days of sleeping a lot and then a day or two of not much. In the summer I tend to work more and sleep less.

Another interesting note about people who work at night: several years ago I heard  an interview on public radio with either a monk or someone who had done a study of night-dwellers.

In it they talked about the monks’ habits of praying/chanting in the wee hours of the night. It seems that at that hour, there was a better, more clear connection with the cosmos. How wonderful! and something that I’ve found to be true, re: my own connection with the muse. I don’t necessarily make a point of it or recommend it.

However, neither do I try too hard to resist the calling, if it happens at that hour. I’ve learned to trust myself. Particularly as my blogging has begun to blossom into something that gives me real spiritual sustenance.

I take note of my level of excitement and concentration. If I’m becoming too excited, then I may not heed the call, if it will interfere with a period when I really need sleep. If I’m well rested and don’t have too many pressing demands the next day, I may proceed.

And if I’ve been working for hours on something, then consequences be damned – I will try to finish it before quitting. I feel that it’s important to sustain the level of thought. I think it makes for more integrated, better writing.

If it’s an email I may give it a period of gestation to see if I want to send it, as is; change it; set it aside; or honor my own clarity, beliefs and expressive impulse by following through and sending it. If it’s something on my blog, I will usually just post it.

With thanks to my friend poetmcgonagall!

check out his blog “Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay” here

I published 2 short little poem-ditties yesterday.

Wow, 47 views yesterday. Plus 4 comments. That’s doing pretty good, for me. It’s very gratifying. And oh! this lovely weather in Seattle! Finally.

My best day ever was 82 views. One guy viewed and liked a bunch of my posts, and I’d just posted some pictures of rhododendrons that people really liked. It’s so gratifying to find creative outlets of expression. I’ve really learned a lot from my blog.

One thing I’ve learned is how “image conscious” we as a species are becoming. I started posting pictures with anything I published, knowing that it attracted interest from people.

The net result? Many days I’d have maybe 10 views. I’d check my administrator’s page, and see that they’d come to my blog via Google image search. That meant that they may not have even read anything – they were just searching for images. Ugh!

So I’ve made a resolve to read and write more. This week the local Seattle Times carrier stopped by my place with an offer of 10 weeks for $20. Wow! That’s a pretty good deal. I couldn’t pass that up, and it fit in with my resolve to do more reading and get more in touch with current events. One thing I miss about not having a TV for these last 2-3 years is that I’ve gotten behind on things.

“Journalism without a moral position is impossible. Every journalist is a moralist. It’s absolutely unavoidable. A journalist is someone who looks at the world and the way it works, someone who takes a close look at things every day and reports what she sees, someone who represents the world, the event, for others. She cannot do her work without judging what she sees.”    – a quote from Marguerite Duras (b. 1914), French author, filmmaker. Outside: Selected Writings, foreword (1984)    – as seen on Quotes @ dictionary.com

This quotation jibes with my own beliefs and point of view. For me, it speaks to the human condition – in the parade of life, there are no spectators.

Speaking of opinions, I think that not enough people have ’em. Too often what passes for an opinion is merely a cliche or others’ rehashed ideas. What am I trying to say? Think for yourself and don’t accept other people’s ideas wholesale. Practice critical thinking. There is no patent on ideas.

I’m unable to categorize my “about this blog” page, on which I also talk about one’s muse, art, writing and social commentary.

Some of Virginia Woolf’s thoughts about her diary, transcribed from the “extras” section of the DVD of “The Hours”:  

“What sort of diary should I like mine to be? Something loose-knit, and yet not slovenly; so elastic that it will embrace anything – solemn, slight or beautiful – that comes into my mind.

“I should like it to resemble some deep, old desk; a capacious hold-all in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking them through.

“I should like to come back after a year or two, and find that the collection had sorted itself; and refined itself; and coalesced – as such deposits so mysteriously do – into a mold; transparent enough to reflect the light of our life; and yet steady, tranquil compounds with the aloofness of a work of art.”

From the same source; the son of a woman who was a friend of Woolf’s recalls what she said to him:

“She once said to me, ‘Nothing has really happened until it’s been described.’ And she meant described in words.

” ‘Therefore,’ she said, ‘Write a lot of letters to your family and friends. Keep a diary,’ she said. ‘Don’t let a day pass without recording it, whether anything interesting has happened or not. Something interesting happens every day,’ she said.”

Working in the suburbs one day shortly before the second invasion of Iraq (2003), I experienced a feeling of dread. I had been active in the SGI-USA (Buddhist) Victory Over Violence campaign, visiting kids down at the Youth Detention Center. I thought about what the Reverend there had said about the government cutting services. I got to read this poem and a couple others for some of the kids. I think I read “Seattle Rain” and/or “Diggle Rhyme”. They kinda looked at me like I was crazy but you never know what’s going to get through to somebody.

I had been journaling a lot and had gotten so much out of it, including the muse for poetry. I had become more articulate; I thought of new original ideas concepts of my own; and I actually had something to say. Wow. That was a good feeling.

I suggested that they try their hand at journaling, too.

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quiet down at juvy
things are quiet nowdays
down at juvenile hall
“they’re giving ’em more little nice things to do, but even so…
they’re cutting down on the numbers
cutting down on funding”

“you can feel the quiet”
what does it mean?

war;  the horror!
is it locked in
like a laser-guided missile?

Do you have to ask?
All that money!
All those lives!

it’s all about to come down
like heavy dope on the street

people around the world are saying “No!”

and civil disobedience  – people are going to jail
“I don’t agree with your war!”

at the White House, Laura Bush cancels poets
because what’s going on is
“a violation of the most sacred values
of poets through the ages”

out in the suburbs
even a crow chatters its complaint
but things are quiet down in juvy

With a special thanks to Maia, a poet-teacher friend – a muse, even. She suggested that I edit out some harsher self-judgmental words – and leave in some of the ones I was squeamish about. It was a lesson in itself.

I tagged and categorized this under “muse” because it’s a good example of how I sometimes work out my grief/depression/confusion through prose or poetry. It often serves to clarify issues, codify ideas and concepts. Writing gives us time to reflect. We find ways to say things that we might otherwise be unable to express.

I have strong opinions about the romantic notion that art can only be produced  through great suffering.  From my own perspective as a survivor and Buddhist believer in the holiness of life, I came to the conclusion/rule-of-thumb that the art is never more important than the artist.

Which is quite different from saying one who suffers can’t or shouldn’t attempt art – there should be more art in our lives, not less. My love of classic reggae has taught me about that connection. One’s problems are often a great muse, a spark, a great starting point; as long as one doesn’t wallow in it; as long as it doesn’t become the object itself.

I question the wisdom of seeking the derangement of the senses as a muse (a la the popular conception about Rimbaud.) I’ve managed to do quite enough of that, without actually making a point of it. I suggest taking healthy risks as an alternative – like risking an unpopular opinion, or being thought foolish…

I seek for my muse to come from a higher life-condition, from more positive things – kindness and the sanctity of life. Art for me is a spiritual thing – or a function of spirituality.

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Memorial Day

Driving home in my truck
on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, 2006
after a job
risking my neck for something that seems so silly –
Well… money’s not silly!

But for clean windows?

I caught myself, mourning the passing of the oil age
No one’s troubling with the design of new cars, as much…
What’s the point, for an object so soon to be obsolete?
But then, I thought – oh! A return, for us, to god’s green earth
– a chance at regeneration for our much-maligned planet
and thus, humankind’s inadvertent partial redemption

Then, shortly after that, the blues tried to sneak back in on me
oh! They’re so insistent!
What is it this time!?

On my way home – to what?
Loneliness? An awful aloneness, so unconscious of itself…
Another transition in the structure of my day…
Is this what my freedom – being self-employed – gets me?
– Because it will force me to look
– at where in life – my actions have led me…
Yes, alone with my own thoughts – how bleak is that?!

Now, making a detour of one or two blocks
so that I can see the horizon
and have a guess at tomorrow’s weather
I’m lucky to be able to see the western horizon,
so close to home…
There’s so precious few places that one can do that…
A treat for this grizzled old sea-bitch
How long before something so soulful as the horizon is gone?
Replaced by higher buildings – apartments and progress…

Oh, god! Remembering another Memorial Day,
so many years ago, when I was 19
a huge, tacky Iron Cross around my neck
I think it said 1914 on it
painted pink on one side from fingernail polish
catching a bus, downtown
accusing stares, that made me remember what day it was
of which I had been so oblivious…
Ah! I had much to learn!
You pay a price for such youthful folly!…
Oh! The awful uncomfortableness of myself!
The shame I felt, to be in my skin!
And oh! The awful ignorance of that cross, worn in the name of hipness.

Did those German hordes not yearn for glory, too?
Were they so unlike us, today?

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footnote: one sign of my spiritual/personal growth/recovery was the day that the loneliness I felt when returning home alone changed into a pleasant realization that my home had actually welcomed me into its warm embrace…