“One’s action ought to come out of an achieved stillness: not to be mere rushing on.”
~ D.H. Lawrence, English novelist and poet
But only a moment, okay? I don’t know about you fine people, but I’m having a crazy day at work, and chances are I won’t have much time for writing today…ugh. At least last night was relaxing and productive, more or less. If you are also in need of some cheeky good fun, go check out McSweeney’s Internet Tendency for their celebration of NaPoWriMo, resident poet Dan Chelotti doing a haiku a day. Today’s: “James Tate in the woods / petting someone’s lost donkey / a bear looks on.” I can think of no finer meditation on the nature of nature, can you? And James Tate! I am awed by his celebrity presence.
Speaking of meditation, though, today we’re going to try and pull back a little bit to find those brief bits of silence, trying to get some kind of inspiration out of them. At the bottom of any good-sized cascade waterfall is the plunge pool, where the water grows momentarily quiet before it begins to flow again. Every time I see a photo of some falls splashing against those mirror ponds at the bottom, I admit to being completely wistful and swept up with the desire to drop everything and go swim in one. Or just float; or sink to the bottom and sit quietly for a minute. I keep talking about wanting to make our interactions with the stream of thoughts and ideas this month three-dimensional, and discussing the different ways to interact with what comes along: so far we’ve been trying to move into different angles, leave topics and return to them with the certain beauty of a parabola, surround things with chaos, and completely the pull the rug out from under readers’ feet. Yet middle ground has a place in the third dimension, too, and it’s helpful to have a reminder of where we started from, as a reference point.
And silence of course has a role to play in process, too. Many a poet has generated some truly magical work in solitude (e.g. Emily Dickinson), and any habitual meditator struggles against the truth that in the absence of any stimuli, the brain will summon up anything and everything to engage itself. You don’t have to go that far: we want production, not negation, after all. Try this: read back through everything you’ve written in the last ten days, but try not to let anything stick. Then go sit somewhere, with your eyes closed, for ten minutes. (I know, it sounds impossible in this day and age.) You might think about the images you allowed to stay from yesterday’s winnowing prompt; you might simply be full of sensory input from wherever you are; and your brain might say, screw both of these options, and you’ll daydream. Don’t resist those scraps of thought. Sort them as they arrive, and keep close at hand the ones that attract you the most.
Then, when you’ve finished, write down what small things have occurred to you, and place them next to the things you’ve kept so far this month. Allow writing to happen: there should be no force involved. As each image rises to the surface and demands attention, place it in gently, without any kind of symbolism, emotion, or connection to anything else. You should be navigating among objects that mean nothing more than what they are; if you’re going to have any kind of opinion, let it be the slight anticipation that eventually we will begin moving again downstream. Or maybe the sense of relief at surviving yesterday’s plunge. That can tinge, lightly, this poem (which may be as simple as a list poem), but stay quiet. Afterwards, of course you can tweak and polish as much as you want, and now you might have several new unbidden images to work with for the next several prompts. Do come back and let us know…!