becoming

becoming_ryalwoodsFriday was an amazing day. Kind of an understatement – it was a landmark day, historic. I woke up to the news of the SCOTUS affirming the right of all citizens to marry whom we love, wherever we live. Then President Obama delivered a moving eulogy in honour of slain Reverend Clementa Pinckney, so personal and touching and managing to touch on points about the things that divide us, like holding onto weapons and past shames, the symbols of our shortcomings, without politicizing it, yet bringing forth in the wake of tragedy the call to re-examine views and stances with the grace of compassion and positive action.

Oh, and my second novel was released. Which left me standing there, wondering how it fits into all of this – if it fits in at all. What a day for it, yeah? Kind of left me in a lurch. Do I say something, do I keep quiet out of respect for the things that deserve to take precedence? I decided to tweet about it, and leave it at that.

But now, today, I want to say more because it is an achievement for me, and I don’t want it to pass unacknowledged. And yes, upon reflection it does belong, it does apply. The message of Becoming is clear: embracing the inborn yearning of humankind to become more than we are. The fear connected to change, and the will to push through that fear, creating a greater understanding, a richer experience. That is us at our best. We’ve witnessed a huge stride forward as we collectively said yes, it is the will and right of all people to share the greatest gift of our human experience, the inherent ability to love and to express empathy for one another, and to offer the selfless wish of loving kindness for every heart that beats.

Yes, there are those whose fear is so great that they are unable to reach inside for the best of themselves and openly share with their fellow human beings; that is their personal sorrow, a sad burden of ignorance to carry around. But the majority celebrated our step forward to becoming.

At its heart, my series, Secrets of the Senses, is a tribute to our natural super powers: our ability to see ourselves and one another, hear our individual voices, taste our collective passions, feel our personal joys and sadness, our fears and hopes, and breathe freely in the purity of understanding one another. We have five gifts to guide us, and it’s only by engaging fully and opening to our senses—common sense, the sensibility to reason, the knowledge that sensation is how we process and communicate and share in the mutual experience of life—that we advance. When we learn that we can part with the fear and open to fuller engagement, we find our individual lives are part of a whole, and our personal sensations are richer for it.

On Friday we became closer, we united in compassion and strength and joy, and didn’t it feel wonderful? It felt like Becoming.

Please accept this little offering as my contribution to the celebration.

prurient poppers: poetic prose

john clare, painted by william hilton in 1820

john clare, painted by william hilton 1820

Poet John Clare (1793-1864) was committed to asylums for the last 24 years of his life, diagnosed with insanity caused by an addiction to poetical prosing. So naturally, I’m quite fond of him.

He was definitely depressed, with no money, six or seven kids to feed, and a powerful thirst. He also claimed he was Shakespeare and Lord Byron, so the diagnosis perhaps wasn’t incorrect, but the suggested cause is ridiculous. He wasn’t thought to be much in his own time, but later (because of course it’s always later), when his original work was restored to him, he became considered an important poet of the 19th century.

He’s one of those nature-loving romantics and big on rhyme, though he gets extra points for using odd, archaic, dialectic words, like rhyming lost with tost. I don’t even know what context he’s using, because he “lives with shadows tost” could simply be tossed, or the Gaelic word for silent, or a sort of Latin-y, French-y mash-up meaning early or soon, or the Polish definition, toast. Tossed shadows, silent shadows, early shadows, shadows of toast. It’s probably not that last one, though I’d like to think so.

He reminds me of an ersatz Thomas Hardian Jude, a poor, moderately literate romantic who dared to reach for things considered outside his wheelhouse. In fact, his work was edited, dumbed down to appeal to the ladies who lunch crowd, who had adopted him as their pet. His “slang,” saucy expressions and political statements were considered more than could be accepted from a common poet. Was, in fact, what made him common. He was allowed to have humble origins, that’s partly why he was such a charming little bauble pass around. He wasn’t allowed to express his experiences, because that’s not charming, it’s untidy. This censorship could be what kept him from receiving the recognition he was due in his own time, and is perhaps what pushed him over the edge. Unable to publicly reveal himself in his writing, he began to babble out loud, and sealed his fate by spewing things such as, “Why, they have cut off my head and picked out all the letters in the alphabet. All the vowels and all the consonants, and brought them out through my ears!” Madness? Sounds like poetry to me.

Prose is communication, poetry is art.

I came across that opinion quite a while ago, and have been pondering it off and on ever since. I think it’s a load of tost. Once again, someone tries to banish prose to the realm of conventional transmission, negating any attempt to experiment with sentences as a means of something more than directing the way down a straightforward path from point A to point B. Circuitous routes – that’s something we’re not supposed to attempt. Remain staid, remain undemanding, remain obscure. “Why, they have cut off my head and picked out all the letters in the alphabet. All the vowels and all the consonants, and brought them out through my ears!” Poetical prosing. It’s dangerous stuff, it’ll drive you insane.

Personally, I enjoy a little insanity.

“a way a lone a last a loved a long the riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.” What a fantastic playground that creates!

“imagination is not to avoid reality, nor is it a description nor an evocation of objects or situations, it is to say that poetry does not tamper with the world but moves it—It affirms reality most powerfully and therefore, since reality needs no personal support but exists free from human action, as proven by science in the indestructibility of matter and of force, it creates a new object, a play, a dance which is not a mirror up to nature but—.” But what? But what, but what, but what? Go ahead, finish that sentence in any way you choose—the author left it up to you.

“I can feel the heat closing in, feel them out there making their moves, setting up their devil doll stool pigeons, crooning over my spoon and dropper I throw away at Washington Square Station, vault a turnstile and two flights down the iron stairs, catch an uptown A train…” Well that’s candidly evocative, yes?

“Morning. Frozen rime lusters the grass; the sun, round as an orange and orange as hot-weather moons, balances on the horizon, burnishes the silvered winter woods.” That’s lovely, that is.

If this demonstrates an addiction to poetical prosing, I willingly commit myself.

Quotation 1 from “Finnegans Wake” by James Joyce Quotation 2 from “Spring And All” by William Carlos Williams Quotation 3 from “Naked Lunch” by William S. Burroughs Quotation 4 from “Winter Woods” by Truman Capote

crushed as the goal is reached

the walk - falling leaves  Vincent Van Gogh

the walk – falling leaves
Vincent Van Gogh

I’m back in the mode of thinking about art. Fine art – paintings. Out of any artist I can come up with, Van Gogh’s art is the most intimately communicative of his state of being. You can see what he’s feeling in the colors he uses, the textures of the paint – not just the concept he wants to capture, but his emotions, his connection, his outward expression of inward perception. That’s why I love him so much, and why his art hits me right in the gut when I look at it.

When I saw my first Van Goghs at the National Gallery in London, I reflexively let out this little squeak, almost a distressed sound, and several people turned to look at me, probably to make sure I wasn’t about to upchuck on the heels of that crude display. Sunflowers, a chair, a pair of crabs – fairly simple, innocuous stuff, no hidden messages or symbolic meanings, no profound statements or grand, sweeping canvases, and yet, there’s a poignancy in these paintings, as if he’s left pieces of his self inside the images, with their shaky edges and thick slaps of paint.

One of my favourite paintings, not at the National but at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, is The Walk – Falling Leaves. I first saw a picture of this painting many years ago, when I was reading Jean Paul Sartre’s “Nausea,” and it seemed to me the perfect representation of Antoine’s confrontation with existence in the park, a sort of melding and separating that he experiences between himself and in particular, the trees, and describes as the melting of a veneer, a residue of “soft, monstrous masses, all in disorder—naked, a frightful, obscene nakedness.” He’s frightened, horrified, and also mesmerized and grasping for understanding within himself, in the deepest resonance he can manage.

Van Gogh’s paintings seem to me to exist on this level of revelation. In The Walk, the trees are lovely and majestic representations of a fall day, and also twisted and blackened around the edges and at the roots, grasping at the earth as their temporary death approaches. They are, as Antoine explains, a breathless understanding, a “belonging… that the sea belonged to the class of green objects, or that the green was a part of the quality of the sea.” The objects and landscapes he painted belong in that same way: the chair a part of the quality of the man, the sunflowers a class of yellow objects, external things he managed to capture without changing anything in their nature. They live in a way that, as Antoine explains, inconveniences us – or me, at least. A wonderful, breathless, squeaky inconvenience.

I think that’s the best individuals can hope for when searching for some form of elevation. I think it’s a mistake to believe that a sense of achievement ultimately comes in the form of spiritual comfort. Or no, that’s not quite what I mean to say. I guess it’s the thought that we’re really getting anywhere by seeking comfort that is the mistake.

Not that I think Van Gogh was an enlightened man. I think he was a troubled man, battered by his own emotions and his inability to control all that he thought and felt, until he picked up his palette. Then, there is evidence of controlled chaos on his canvases. Controlled chaos is the true awakening of the “spirit” as it’s known. I’m not suggesting this comes with self mortification or the slashing off of body parts – not the sense of being in the way as Van Gogh felt himself to be – nope. Controlled chaos is the trick of it. To see with an “artistic eye” the abstractions of life, to allow ourselves to actively experience the horror, and obscenity and the nausea, and then to be able to find our way out of the park, stand opposite of the image, and smile back as it smiles at us. To be conspirators in the depictions.

That’s what his paintings are. That’s why they are so much more than paintings.

my mind was blown

Isabella Blow at the American Embassy in Paris, 1998

Isabella Blow at the American Embassy in Paris, 1998

…By this iconic Ms. Fanciful. A cheeky, insightful, unapologetic fashionista with a natural exoticism that she played up and played with, and shared with others. She is one of my first fashion idols, who taught me what that world is truly about: play-pretties and dress up, pantomime and art. Performance art, yes, but also about inspiration and inborn talent, things that can be faked and mocked and copied, can even be bought and sold, but can only be found in the heart of a true artist. She knew how to find it and nurture it and extoll it, but I don’t know whether she realised that she was IT, smack in the middle of it all.

Dress-up is a great game for those who are hesitant to reveal the uncertain underpinnings beneath it all; to others, and to themselves. At some point, the veil between worlds grew too thin, and she couldn’t cover for herself anymore. I miss her, but I’m still inspired by her. That’s the effect you have when you’re an icon – you never go out of style.

c’mon release me, c’mon relieve me

why is ian curtis here? because i fucking said so

why is ian curtis here? because i fucking said so

Lawd, it’s been too long since I’ve made an entry so I’m gonna, in spite of my downed inhibitions. I just preached about downed inhibitions to two people tonight, so guess I better step up and take myself down, too.

I’m always blahblah going on about ~shit~ that is occupying my mind, and that’s what I’m hesitant to put down in print because it all sounds so incredibly twattish and self indulgent (as dicks and twats are by nature) but underneath it’s really just me, my crazy mind trying to figure out things and make sense of the maze we’re all winding our way through. So….

I’m reading Franny and Zooey again. One of my favourite books, because it’s about deconstructing spirituality to find the divine. The divinity in the mundane.

I’m not a religious person, I’m not a spiritual person, but I am someone who appreciates the origins of the divine. People don’t like to examine their religions, their gods, because to examine is to deconstruct, to pull apart. And when you’ve done that, the individual pieces are just parts, little springs and gears and cogs that individually mean very little. The mystery is solved, the divinity is gone. But maybe not. Maybe what you have left in all of these pieces is the true breathless beauty of simplicity. And when you see that, it’s an ecstatic moment. It’s sad, and it’s funny, and it scares the shit out of you. It’s the irony that lingers. Divine fucking irony that shoulders you with a burden that’s yours to carry for the rest of your life.

Religion is about comfort. Spirituality is about superiority. And pulling apart is about creating a mess. You can’t ever put the pieces back together in the original form.

What this little tome all comes down to is that, ah Buddy, ah Buddy, the fat lady is christ himself. Forget divinity, forget apotheosis and theology, just concentrate on the fat lady and shining our shoes for her. She can’t see them, but she knows. She knows. And that is the essence of giving ourselves over to the selflessness of self actualization. That’s what it is, Buddy. That’s it. And that’s what I’m striving for in my own reckless and flawed way. That’s the core of it. I’m a fucking idiot reaching for the selflessness of self actualization.

I’m going to shine those fucking shoes, Buddy.

murmur becoming echo

ode to joy - immortal beloved

ode to joy – immortal beloved

I have a novel coming out in the fall. No, it’s not an erotic novel, but it is a very sensual story. In fact, sensuality is a key characteristic. It’s the first book in a series of five I have planned. The third in the series is the one I’m working on now, it’s my wayward child.

Murmur did not give me difficulties. It came pouring out so quickly, I could hardly keep up with the flow. I’d easily write for 18 hours at a time, and be ready for more. I began it as soon as I had finished writing a book I had started years and years ago.

That first book was the birth of the concept, and I’ll get into what inspired that one at a later time. I began it as a stand alone story, but saw about ¾ of the way through that I could easily expand the initial concept into a series. In fact, it was the only thing to do. Murmur came soon after, and when I had finished, I realized that it made more sense for it to be the first book in the series. So the first book I wrote became second, and Murmur took over first position. Follow?

I’ll reveal more as it gets closer to the release date, I just wanted to offer a bit of a touchstone for my Third Book rants.

blue is the colour of the rainbow

The election results from last night have given me a renewed sense of hope, not only for our country but also for my little right-angles-right-living state of Colorado. Last night we turned a lovely shade of blue, and I am floating on a sea of tranquillity.

Our senate and house now have democratic majorities, and our presumed speaker is openly gay. This is huge for our state. For years we’ve been struggling with the possibility of civil unions, which has been turned down time and time again by an unfavourable government. Now with a more supportive majority, I believe we can go forward with confidence. In fact, I’d like to see Colorado skip over civil union in favour of marriage.

One day, we as a country will look back on this struggle and feel like we’ve come out of the dark ages. Marriage equality will not be a novelty, but a fact of life that the majority will shrug our shoulders, shake our heads at and say ‘but of course – how else could it possibly be?’ That time is drawing nearer, and I have great hope that Colorado will be the next state to step up and do what is right.