Monday, July 25, 2011
Let's imagine for a moment that the students (er, "registrants") aren't exhausted and over stimulated; let's posit that we are helping draw connections between this mixed bag of offerings. We are in the thick of it all with one week to go. For sure, anxieties are high. "Surely, my writing would be further along," some posit, "if not for this book project." Others choose not to engage embodiment and performance. Most of the folks here are participating for their own "enrichment;" who can really argue with their choices not to engage in certain dishes at the buffet?
I also tell these folks a little about my process. How I work an idea in multiple media at the same time. Try writing about it. Try drawing it out. Collage some photographs. Improvise a monologue. Find a gesture. At some point, the idea settles into what it wants to be: a performance, a poem, a painting -- sometimes all three, sometimes all at once. But always the different ways of approaching the idea influence each other -- call this a kind of "lateral thinking."
I know, for some this approach is profoundly uncomfortable. What does waxing a car really have to do with karate, Mr. Miyagi? But when you relax into it, when you trust the process, you discover that pretty much everything plays a role in creative expression, whatever the medium. Even a walk in the woods is part of the writing process (in my experience, often the most important part).
I think our students are lighting a different kind of fire...if they can just get over their fear of matches. And their belief that rigid categorical distinctions will keep them warm, or keep them from getting burned.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
creative writing faculty for the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. Curious turn of events (networking and chance) how I ended up with this gig: it turns out writers (some of 'em, anyway) are interested in more than writing. I am interested in the embodied nature of writing, in trying to understand it not only as a cerebral craft but as something that involves our entire being.
So, that makes me the exercise and "invention" guy. I'm the one (but not the only one) who will get participants out of their chairs and moving about and then reflecting on movement as something that also happens on a page.
And so I land in the creative writing program, but this is unlike many creative writing programs. Here we not only practice poetry and essays in writing circles, we also make handmade books and (thanks to me) explore stage pictures and dynamic movement and improvisational sound production. And I'm pretty sure the participants are eager for the opportunity. Here, on the frontier, there circulates a rich community of folks eager to create and to combine, to explore in new ways, to abandon rules and conventions, and to set out into new and uncharted territories. God love 'em!
her blog where she will be (I believe) filing daily reports of what she learns with us. I hope we don't let her down; I'd hate to become the model for a vile alien parasite in a future novel. A writer's revenge is never something to be taken lightly!
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
So, I've been fascinated for the last week or so by this picture. It's a self-portrait. The macaque took this smiling picture of herself. Sure, one could use this to start a conversation about authorship of a photograph, as some have.
What engages me, though, is the expression. The practice. The photo fits so many of the genre formulas of the self-pic. That this monkey can reproduce recognizable codes without apparent access to knowledge of and intent to produce a photograph matters little (to me, anyway). This is what we do with cameras (or stinky whir boxes that flash and go click). I prefer those pictures where we forget we're making pictures, anyway.
So here I look into the eyes of a non-human Other and see something recognizable. Rather than being freaked out by the "uncanny" (as if the macaque is a strangely animated thing), I see joy and wonder. And a big toothy smile.
When we aren't treating our primate cousins as nuisances or exotic entertainment, we amuse ourselves with stories of their vengeful rise to power. How much nicer it is to look into the eyes of the Other and encounter both similarity and alterity. If our guilt (so few species have really benefitted from associating with us) leads us to fear, that is at least understandable. But I think regret is better than fear -- regret for the missed opportunities. What vacations, parties, rituals, or adventures might we have shared, with or without the camera?
In this case, it's all about what makes you smile.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
|Page from "Vacation on the Moon"|
The "therapy" part worries me, though. I've spent much of my career cautioning folks about engaging in therapy publicly. Beware, I tell the neophyte public speaker, of going places with an audience you are not ready to go -- they are not paid to listen and be kind. To the experienced performer recently enamored of confessional narrative and the chance to air personal pain, I remind: there has to be something more to your story than just what concerns you; it needs to reach a broader audience and speak to some level of shared experience. Even if therapy is not a "scare word," we should at least remember that, for it to work, all parties involved should be aware they are entering a therapeutic context and consent to the "treatment" -- we record this wisdom with impressive concepts like "norm of reciprocity" and "expectancy violation."
|"Light," a one page comic.|
|"Crepuscular Avuncular," some recent digital art.|
A little over a year later and those pages seem even more prescient. My mother is now diagnosed not with Alzheimer's but with vascular dementia. She now lives in an independent living facility with in-home care, though getting her there was no easy task. The dementia and its complications came on her with a vengeance in late fall, and the holiday season required a difficult family intervention. So much of the conversation in the family was retrospective sense-making, looking back for signs and wondering if we could or should have intervened sooner. I look back at "Vacation on the Moon" and see in it the pre-tremors of a major quake, full of harbingers and warnings.
|"Klexmur, Alien Reporter," a weekly comic originally |
published at the now defunct Black Magpie Theory.
|Recent "Self Portrait"|
Let me know if they do.