Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Idea like a hit song, a virus in the brain.

I'll admit it. I like a big blockbuster. Quality of the plot and character development are unimportant. What's important? Explosions, the bigger the better. Good, fun things that look good big. And good looking people.

I went to see Inception today. I should mention size also matters. Sitting in an air conditioned theater for 2 hours and 22 minutes was an excellent idea. For the two of you who mightn't know, Inception is the Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle about dreams. The visual effects in a word were: stunning. Especially the scenes with Joseph Gordon-Levitt trying to get the team into position for a wake-up "kick" in zero gravity.

This is not it, but here's JGL running funny:

As with most of my favorite stories, we are presented with the concept that the real world and the unreal world (sometimes fictional, but in this case the dream world) are divided by only the finest of lines. In the best of cases, we can't really decide for sure what side we're on. As a writer, I kind of feel like I live on this line. Actually, that's even pushing it. Differing from some of the characters in this film, I do not have trouble knowing what's real and what isn't. I have trouble maintaining a strong presence in the RW.

I had a conversation just this weekend about this. Over drinks and dinner with a group of writers who live in my town, and a few from out of town, we talked about babies and traveling and TV and a lot about writing. One friend writes poetry, but may be better known for her nonfiction. She admitted that her poetry tends along the lines of nonfiction as well. I contended that I am unable to write "anything true" because every time I try to tell something that happened, things immediately get added, deleted. Not so much that the story is unrecognizable from its origins necessarily (well, not always), but enough that Oprah would chide me if I tried to pass it off.

Necessarily we all do this. Our brains do this in creating memories. We can't not leave things out. But I am aware of the major changes I'm making. I do it willfully, yet uncontrollably. It's just not that interesting if I don't change things around.

From my house I often walk to the grocery store. When I get home, I often find myself adding details and characters to the deli counter and produce aisle. Right now I want to tell you about the boy behind the counter with the incredible, bushy eyebrows, but that was someone ahead of me in line. It's much more interesting if I was asking him for cheese.

I recently invented a woman dancing with tomatoes in a denim skirt. The woman was real. A quick glance gave the impression of dancing. When I turned fully to face her, I realized she had her hands full and was getting the hair out of her eyes. Much less interesting than dancing, which is what I had seen initially. Was this a lie?

Maybe it was. In this relationship C and I have an agreement never to lie about big things. If she tells me she couldn't answer my call because she was watching a house fire, when really she was just in the middle of a thought I'm okay with this. If I talk about long-haired women dancing with produce, I assume this is okay too. This works for us. And I don't mind not always knowing what's real. We tell each other stories constantly. It's who we are. Some are true. Some are better. What I want always, and what I expect from others is an emotional truth.

This is the distinction I make. The facts are not so important as the emotion conveyed. What was felt is prime. Primal.

My nonfiction writer friend of mine and I were talking about how maybe people (or writers anyway) are predisposed towards either fiction or nonfiction. Like on a continuum. I like this thought. Kind of like Kinsey's scale for sexuality. I'm much farther gay and much farther fictional on the scales.

Sometimes I like to break the world into either/ors. Binaries. Such as: 'there are two people in the world: those who like, deal compassionately with animals, and those who don't.' But it is more useful to think of all things in a more complicated way. Perhaps a book could be given a number from 1 to 6 indicating its relation to the facts. We would want most of our textbooks to bear closely to them, but for me all else could gather happily on the other side. (By the way, as expanding as I am of all definitions and breaking down binaries, I probably won't like you if you don't like animals. Although, that said, I'm not much of a cat person. Yes, I know: I have three cats. This does not make the statement any less true, and possibly more so.)

So the movie! I think it bolsters/illustrates my claim that the emotional truth is more honest. It's where we live. There's little to no character development in anyone but the main character, but that's mostly due to the fact that I don't think an audience could hold any more details in their brain while parsing the rules followed in the dream world(s). Kudos to whoever cast the film's stars though; there's someone for everyone.

Also, it's a film that times itself out. So many times (especially in long films, and with me of tiny bladder) I'm left wondering whether I can wait it out or if I should dash off to the ladies' so I can finish the film in comfort. (For those who also drink a lot... I've never used it, but supposedly RunPee.com is an excellent source that tells you when to go.) In Inception everything must happen before the van hits the water. The different dream levels are toggled between (the farther in the dream, the longer time is expanded), and the van makes it's slow descent. Actually, visually these moments were probably my favorite. Sleep-filled arms flailing in the half-light of an overcast day, the water somewhere below, everything riding on a few seconds dragged impossibly and unfelt to the man awake at the wheel.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

There's no one at work in the world.

Yesterday I spent some time perusing the Verse Daily archives in a successful attempt to put off work. I made dinner at 9am. I boxed and did sit-ups in the garage. I watered the plants. Mary B had yesterday's poem over at VD. Exactly a month ago Khaled had a poem up. Perhaps Shane will get one August 13! (My blurbers.) So then I started reading backwards; I like this one a lot. It's Ander Monson. Repetition makes me happy. Just keep saying bags. Keep saying stars. Keep saying beauty. Drink. Take this. It's yours. Tell me that last line again.

More Precisely 

What I meant was stars: lots of them.

What was in the bag: a hundred other bags,

each filled with a star. What came after the world:

silence, lots of it. Like being in a bag for a year,

a portable hole, losing the sensation of sound.

After only two nights stars appear

where there were none. So: I'm sorry. I'm here,

not the star of this poem, nor are you. Nor beauties
in bags draped down by the river in books about bodies

and necks stretching upwards to sky. What comes after beauty
is water, just water, nothing reflecting in it, not even the song

of water. Drink. Take this. It's yours. There's no one at work
in the world. No dogs rambling the park.

Nothing in darkness or pressure arising by depth.

What was in the works but ears, ears everywhere,
on the land like leaves, caught up in updrafts like silk,
like slick maps written on it and worn on a body.

You know it's a beauty. Even seen from a mile,

at which point it's only a dot, it stretches and grows.
Comes closer. She's coming for you. She walks like a star.
Towards you. In her bag is a book. Each page

draped with stars. You'll know her
when she arrives. You've seen her breathing before.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Frances and I sat in the park.

Sometimes, especially when reading, I look up and am shocked to find myself where I am. So transported by the world I have entered through language that the "real" (what I'll contend is not-as-real) world has dropped away. It is also like napping in an unfamiliar place, dream state to new sometimes equals a moment of surprise. Who needs vacations? Okay, I do. And will be taking one soon.

In my studio I nap on the hard indoor/outdoor carpeting, my head on some rolled up piece of fabric I've snatched from studiomate Lisa's vast shelves. In those few moments upon waking I'm not sure if I'm paralyzed, in grass, underwater or what.

Yesterday I was in the co-op (in Mount Vernon!) and I wasn't sleeping. I was reading (re-reading) Stacey Levin's Frances Johnson. I figured it was re-released, I could read it again. New to me! Not so, but it's been awhile. It's a good book, strange. What I'll call the Seinfeld school of novelling. A novel in which nothing really happens. This is also what my most recently completed (and recently begun circulating) novel is like. Something happens towards the end, but it's not big. What happens big is internal. This, I think is more how our lives really are. No one I know has ever been shot. (Wait, I don't think. Though I did see someone get stabbed when I was a kid. He survived! It was OK!) And wild romance isn't really that interesting. I couldn't write a murder mystery (the ultimate SOMETHING happening) or a thriller or, well, no, maybe I could, but it would be an alien thing. The book and the experience. Maybe I'll write a mystery. Really most of the world (and the internal workings of everyone, myself included) is a mystery. So any novel--

Anyway, Frances Johnson. Like this (this is where I was going), this is how I feel: "Immediately, she fell into a hapless, jagged doze, only to wake moments later, frightened back from the horizon of unconsciousness, for she had seen a turtle there" (12). This is what it's like to read in public.

It doesn't always take so long to get to a point. Sometimes it takes longer.

It's kind of how I feel in opposite though. It's not the turtles I'm afraid of. Maybe falling brick. I've been dreaming about earthquakes again. (This morning I walked past a house in my neighborhood with a sign out front advertising that it had been retrofitted for earthquake proofing and had a number to call. In my usual overzealous panic I thought, should we do this? we should do this. But our house has been standing for a hundred years. I trust it. As much as one should trust a house.)

Like the day C's father died and I had just woken from a dream in which an earthquake occurred in a hospital room and the nurse and everyone in the room was freaking out and he was in the bed and said, why is everyone so upset; everything's okay. We're all fine. And then we got the call he had died. In dreams lately it's no one I know; sometimes it is, but rarely. Last week before seeing Deb Poe I had a dream about Deb Poe and Karl was showing me around their house at what they had done.

So the book's out. Luckily I read everything, Kate Greenstreet's blog interviewing poets about first books, some other personal accounts, and talked to people I know, C and others. All of this was kind of like reading What to Expect When You're Expecting. I didn't expect my life to change and it hasn't. Except this month I'm letting myself off the hook a little about submitting things and writing new things (which means I am writing new things, but relaxedly). The time off's been nice. And next month the train. I was going to give myself time off then as well (at least I can't really do submissions), but I'll make that decision come the first of the month or so.

I'm working the earthquake dreams into the new stuff I'm doing, trying not to make it at all about dreams though, but real things that happen. Backdrop of a city, buildings coming down. Not coming down, because the earthquake is mild. But enough shaking that people start thinking more concretely about a "big one."

(Read about tsunamis from a thick blue book. Read about the Big Ones, the ones that killed, the causes, how many dead. Read about velocity and volume, then go down to the water.Walk the beach, feet tipped in low waves. Imagine every tremor an earthquake—waves, birds beating quiet wings, a waterfall—then shiver as you watch the horizon for the swell.)

The above is actually from a poem in Money for Sunsets, but every time I say or think "big one" that's what runs through my head.

So I'm relaxed, sort of.

I'm also sending the book places, which takes some time. Who knew 5-line cover notes could take so long?

How else the book has or has not changed my life: holding it. I understand it's possible. That the others can find homes. That maybe I'm a Writer. Also that no one can take this away from me. Maybe I am still that younger version of myself with the threat of heartbreak in its varied and maniacal manifestations hanging over me. Any floor can drop. But this one I can walk on. I feel like a teenager who has just given birth so that someone will always love her. How's that for mixing metaphors? MFS, be a good little child.