Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Borges Borg


Every so often, in every writer's life, there is this Big Break, where he's finally fought his way up the mountain and sees before him a wide plain. He (or she) has finally landed a contract.

He has worked for years, had reached a level of extreme fitness, mentally and physically. This is finally it.
The big leagues.

And suddenly, unexpectedly, The Flash.

Immobilization. A sudden stoppage. ( Elizabeth, a correspondent here, calls it fear).

Not only are your frozen at the switch with the go-ahead on your story, but, as in the case of marital separation, simple things are suddenly impossible to do!

The magazine wants you to fax the contract back with your signature. Your hands are, suddenly, like dowels, unable to slot the faxed contract back into the machine. You are a big raw nerve, incapable of doing anything. You are experiiencing The Flash.

The phone rings. You look at it. "What's that?"

Synapses seem gone with the sudden, unexpected success.

Well, thank God there is someone around you who can unscramble your butterfingers and put the paper in the right place. the contract goes back, signed and your are on your way.

But now you have to produce the story.

Oh shit.

The Flash has you hallucinating in technicolour and there is a touch of Ferdinant the Bull as you envision buttercups and meadows.

"Hey, it's just me that's about to get this national exposure.

"I am an asshole. I mean, ask somebody."


Nevertheless, the deadline looms up.

You are supposed to write a major piece on the earthquake in Mexico.

You have all the facts in--Mexico City is really built on a floating island-- the fatalities, the rubble the tremors again and again, the skyscrapers built on gimbals and springs so they would not fall.

But as the deadline comes up--nothing.

It is now that you will have to pay for all those superiorities you held as a writer on the way up.
This is the moment of truth, bunky. You either got it or you ain't.

The newspaper approach. Kipling's Five Stalwart Men.
WHO? WHAT? WHEN? WHERE? WHY?


Yes, yes, you apply all this, but it looks like just another newspaper account-- UPI, l946? It is cryptic. It is garbage. It is not a magazine feature, first-person.
Deadling time. And still nothing.

"How are you doing with that?" comes the phone call from the editor.

"Two hours, John....Just two more hours."


Oh, you have the piece drafted out all right. The facts are there. But the writing, the writing!
There is no style, no magic, nothing to differentiate the piece from a thousand others.

I mean, what would Jesus do?

I close my eyes.

I try an old est technique. Close your eyes. Imagine yourself in a cave. There is a wise thing down there. It will tell you what to do.

I close my eyes, and I see not Jesus, but Jorge Luis Borges, his aristocratic Spanish face, the Argentine fighter's resolve. He is saying something, but it is in Spanish with an Argentine inflection I don't immediately get.

The vision fades.

And suddenly it comes to me.

"On the night Beatrice Viterbo died in the earthquake, they were advertising one or another brand of cigarettes.

Carramba.

This is now what I would write, but this was the way to go. My Beatrice, an old love, is dead.

Now I will have to, metaphorically, go through the rubble in Mexico City to find her.

A man will have to go through the l985 rubble of Mexico City to find the one he loved.

Son of a bitch!

By Jorge, I've got it!

I conjure up the vision of the great Jorge Luis Borges again.

He says something. "Por nada!"

And:

Esto que yo hacere.

That's how I do it.


I complete my story. I put the -30- at the end.

I take it to the editor. He reads it.

"Top drawer," he says.

The thing has worked.

I stumble out of the office, the accountant's cheque in my hand.

Okay. I got away with it.

But there will be another Flash the next time, the feeling of panic, of immobilization.

I conjure up the image of Borges again. He is giving me a kind, Borgesioan smile.

"Eat Bazilian beef," Borges seems to say. It's good for you. Clears up the logjam.

The Canadian stuff is mierdo!

I sincerely hope that the Great Borges will be there for me next time I'm in a pickle like this.

But somewhere along the line, I will have to stop leaning on him and strike out on my own.
As in the final lecture on philosophy at Trinity College:
"You can no longer lean on us. You will have to now find your own way."


# #


53 comments:

EA Monroe said...

"You can no longer lean on us. You will have to now find your own way."

That's sorta what my old painting instructor George Calvert said -- "I've taught you everything I know about painting. Now, go out and paint, paint, paint."

By Jorge! Great post, Ivan!
~Liz

PS -- I will send you my friend's recipe for Great Plains Buffalo Stew.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Thanks, Liz,

Yes small world, isn't it.
I remember George Calvert.
He seemed just a tad critical of me.
For good reason, I guess. He was a paintng master. I seemed to be working with crayons.

I look forward to the recipe.

Ivan

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

::waves bye::

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

What do you mean, jellybean?

JR's Thumbprints said...

Not the Flash! Fear creeps up on me instantaneously. The moment I put pencil to paper, or fingertips to keyboard.

ivan@cresativewriting.ca said...

That's pretty honest, JR.

I'd sometimes tell my long-suffering wife, "I'm a blocked artist, Martha."

eric1313 said...

I've learned not to ever think "I'm good", no matter what.

That is the kiss of death, to feed your own ego on sugary self-sweets, because as soon as you doubt yourself even on a sub-conscious level, the ego doesn't like it. It can't eat garbage thoughts, just doesn't have the stomach for it.

I might for a second or two be pleased with something I write, but I always make sure each time to remind myself I can always get better. I can always do try harder, read more, learn more.

I'm always looking toward the future (even though that's bleak as hell right now). I used to get so impatient with my writing, wanting to be as good as I will be a hundred stories down the line. It was sometimes too much, and I started going into the tail-spin flash for months.

Last year, I wrote maybe ten pages all year long. I was OK before that, a story or two or three a month, spurts of poetry to shore up the time between. Now--heck, it's been a few months since writing a new story (check my June archives, there's a few in there). I got into a poetic groove back in April, writing to a friend, and now I have probably written two hundred plus poems in that time. Not all good, but enough decent ones that if I stopped writing, I'd have enough to post for months at my current pace. A couple months, anyways.

But the secret now has been to not let myself fall into the "damn, you're good!" trap. I can always get better, turn a phrase a little more deftly, be a little more original, gut and wear an old cliche like it's brand new because I turned it inside out a little better the next time.

I hate to say it, but I took a lot of this philosophy from what Ted Hughes had to say about his deceased ex-wife, Sylvia PLath. He said she always attempted to exhaust her ingenuity every time she wrote a new poem. It worked for her, she got better each one. Too bad being married to an asshole like Ted Hughs made her turn into a self-psychotic pile of human rubble. She might have always been heading down her dark road, but he sped her along with a 'chip-chip, cheerio' and left her alone as he went on "fox hunts", which should have been more accurately labeled "beaver patrols".

But her work, to me at the very least, is undeniably brilliant. And also, at the very broke barrel-bottom, this ethic of pushing ones self a little further into the unknown each time is an ethic we should all apply in our quest to better our selves in our art, if not bettering the art itself for our participation in its very creation.

That, I'm sure, can be agreed upon by all.

Thanks for reading this far! Write me at 2034 Hamilton Road in Okemos, MI, 48864, and I'll write you a personalized poem, in place of awarding you a medal, since I'm busted butt broke.

Peace out.

eric1313 said...

Ivan

I obviously liked this one.

The spanish influenced parts remided me of Hemigway. I saw a copy of "Death in the Afternoon" at my local bookstore, but it was twenty eight bucks! Egads! I have forty to my name. I've been priced right the f--k out of literature!

Bastards...
-----------
Good morning, Tara

Mark

Josie

JR

Liz

And the rest of the gang. See you all once again soon, I hope.

the walking man said...

I just write, no one told me i had to obsess over it...no wonder i don't give a shit. Jesus where is my obsession now that i don't drink Jim Beams cum anymore?

Peace

mark

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

I feel when I write... is that good or bad?

Good Morning you, Good moring everyone.

TomCat said...

Good morning Tara.

Writing a blog dcannot be compared to the big time, but I often have blocks. I just start writing in a stream of consciousness. Then I go back and fix it.

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

Hi Tommycat.

Ivan and Tomcat.

I think blogs can be just as frustrating as writing something we are sending in for publication. Some write for the heck of it, others want their visitors to be honest with them and express how they feel about what they have just read.

I think the difference here is having something published by a company instead of blogger, although the intentions may be the same ... quality work that is accepted.

I wonder if we all realize the pressure that is involved as you, Ivan, has described in having to constantly create something that will kep them knocking down your front door. I Imagine that is why people drop out of the business or just write for themseves never diving into the cooking pot of publishing.

I once was offered a chance to publish something I wrote, but turned it down. Call it stupidity, but I was young and afraid of letting something go out into the world. Not to mention I wasn't the one who sent it in. I suppose it was a compliment that they did send it, but I was taken back a step. Maybe this was my frozen moment and instead of unthawing, I stayed frozen. I still have the contract tucked away, I guess as a reminder of the possibilities.


Wonder if the possiilty still exist?

Tara

http://www.creativewriting.ca said...

Folks,

Technical May Day over here.
Microsoft has taken over my computer. I am automatically put into safe mode, then finally, I can access people's blogs and my own blog.
At this stage, I can receive emails and comments, but Microsoft will not let me transmit...Maybe it's just my bad keyboard or a loose connection, but I am seriously winged over here.
At this point, I am writing from the library, which, as in the case all libraries--is never open when you need it.
"Creative Writing" has a broken engine.
I have advised my techie, but the poor guuy is out in L.A. or somewhere fixing something.

Great to get all your comments.

....Maybe I should get a crank-up radio or something. May Day.

Ivan

http://www.creativewritng.ca said...

Eric,
Your expository writing is beyond compare.

The great Borges seems to go well beyond Hemingway in almost asserting that all problems are solved by violence. At least that's what I get in Mr. B's frequent descriptions of desperadoes and knife-fighters.
There is also a Cabala aspect in Borges' writing that Hemingway never touches.But it's not Madonna touchie-feelie cabala, more like Moses Maimonides' "Guide to the Perplexed" cabala--then Borges puts this through a prism of the entire range of Western and Arabic literature. Lord, what a kaleidoscope!

Death in the Afternoon is a short work, as I recall.
Try googling text and then the title.

I am in receipt of your call to have me write you,snail mail, but small paparazzi are after me these days and I suddenly have weird speaking engagements...What a time to be out of smokes and booze.
Why does relative success happen when the sky seems to be falling?
Again, I am getting the Flash. :)

Ivan

http://www/creativewriting.ca said...

Mark,

I have done my best writing
when I didn't "give a shit".

You're right.

Obsessing about it only leads to knots.

Anonymous said...

Tomcat,

Is CSIS, the Canadian Intelligence Service after me?

Every time I write something political, my computer goes all to rat dung.
At this time, Microsoft forcibly puts me on SAFE mode, then NORMAL, upens up my computer, but I can not
type anything in. The cursor just sits there; I start to type, and suddenly I'm into something I did't need from my task bar.

...Dunno. Late on my internet bill?
Who knows.
It's either technical, or somebody is giving me a hint.

You find yourself bugged too?

I am writing this from yet another computer.

Ivan

http://www.creativewriting.ca said...

Tara,

It is small wonder that you were once offered a writing contract.
You were writing, no doubt, from a feeling state, and that is where the gold is.

Ivan

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Oh crap.

Looks like I'm getting some control by pressing Control.

Woo-ee.

Let's see if I can get the rest of this messhuga going.

Ivan

Donnetta Lee said...

Everybody hits that block sometime. It's finding your way to move things along (laxative?) that gets you going. I went to a tarot card reader last weekend. She said my life had hit a block! Maybe I need a dose of exlax.
Donnetta

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

Ivan,

I am feeling right now... I am guessing a new poem is about to come alive. We miss you here.

Tara

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

The great French scatalogical writer Rabelais suggests communal ralief.

I think we all need to pull that loo chain.

Nothing went right for me today.
And a big nerve and stomach storm on top of that.
I have pulled the loo chain, and things seem to be working out now.

On awaking in the morning, I found no ciggies, no booze and the computer very nearly crashed.
That computer is my tranquilliser.
Son of a bitch!

Thank god I had one brain cell left and hit the CONTROL button in-between MSN's gasps.

So far, so good.

Even found the booze and ciggies.


There will be a break here.

(I deserve it. Heh)

I will be out like the proberbial light for a few hors.

Cheerio,

Ivan

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Hang on, Tara.

I am having a mini-breakdown over here.

Will have to reach for "DO NOT BREAK GLASS" emergency supply of
Smirnoff tranquillizer.

Once compos-mentis, I'll float over to your site.

Cheers,

Ivan

eric1313 said...

As Mark put it, I do obsess about my writing--about doing it, at least. About making sure I have time every day to do so.

As I said, I see it as ethic.

Why not persue excellence? To reach the finest example of excellence, one must live by exertion. Exertion, or obsession, I am guilty od seeking excellence as my final product, and I will let nothing distract me from that.

I'm on a mission, don't know what it is, maybe to get carple tunnel. Kidding.

But obsession, exertion, if you will, ends when I start typing--I have to be freewheeling, or otherwise, nothing flows.

But I do try to always surpass what I have done before because as much as I love witing, I am not excellent at it.

I am always a learner and forever may I be only that, if nothing else.

eric1313 said...

Ivan, if you break the glass, you can always drink from the bottle!

Is the 'puter up and running?

Hope all is well.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Eric,

(glug).

EA Monroe said...

Hey, Ivan! It's homecoming weekend here in Norman. Lots of out-of-towners in town. I emailed you the Buffalo recipe. I hope your computer doesn't eat it!

Hi Eric, Tara, Mark, TomCat, Donnetta, Josie, JR and everyone else!

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

Hi Liz, How are you doing woman?

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

I'm here Ivan, just biding my time... i have thoughts rushing through my head... my the thoughts.

eric1313 said...

Hello Tara and Liz, and my salutations to the imbibing doormouse. May you find that perfect level of buzz--before you pass it.

I may go and fetch a small bottle myself.




The words get lost
in a drowning malaise;
droning
dripping
foaming
they tap-dance on
the tip of my tongue...

And still
they are lost
as I,
as eye;
until another's word
another glance

Sets them free

Or sets them to burn

Sets them upon a shelf,
for a rain-soaked day
in bone chilling October
or a night when all feels
as lost
as drowning words
pulled under the surface

Until another's touch
gropes through the malaise
and I know--
not see
not hear
not feel
but know...
that most excellent luxury,
that I am never alone
and my words are never lost,
that they will always
find a welcome coming-home.

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

::lays in Ivans couch:::;

Be back in a few....

Josie said...

Hey, Ivan, you got your computer working again.

Hi, everyone. Did anyone save me some tequila?

ivan@creativewritign.ca said...

Liz,

MSN troubleshooters are based in montreal.
Some Frenchman ate your menu.

All I got was Pam's comment on the excellence of buffalo meat.

I'll keep looking around.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Eric,

The words do not fall upon deaf ears, though I sense that Tara might want an ear. (Meybe two). Ooh.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Hi Josie,

Nothing like at least one drunken Lothario here.

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

why do you do that?

eric1313 said...

Ivan

I was hoping we'd all get a writing circle going...

That's OK. Hows the buzzzzzz going?

--
Hello, Josie!
peace out

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

:::stretches:::

eric1313 said...

Fallen, Away
By E1313

It's always that way;
this time of year
the leaves change
red, burning
brown dieing,
fallen.

It's the way of it all;
we love, lose
love again and lose
one more time
we go through
the motions,
fallen.

All the ways it is;
we cannot have it all
so we will have
nothing--
nothing clutches
our souls,
fallen.

All of it--drops away;
do you smell the smoke
of burning, cleansing?
can you see
the opaque foxfire
of our breath,
fallen.

A mist that blinds
and binds us to the
dirt of this world.

Can you see me?
fallen
I am dead to somebody,
That is the way
of things...
All, fallen, always
in the dying seasons
of love's mortal bite.

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

Eric,

This is nice, but truly sad. Who are you dead to?

Tara

eric1313 said...

A Lament For The Lost
E1313

Sometimes we find our way--
sometimes we lose the path.

But always for the best
do we wander this earth
alone
or
in pairs.

The lost soul will find
a home.

The lost love will find
a true heart.

The lost path will find
or feet once more.

The lost child will cry
for only so long.

And the night only lasts
until the red crack
of the next dawn.

There is always a way
always a friend
always a wolf
and always a path
for the lost to tread,
a road some call home.

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

alright since no one is talking and I am frustrated I am going to lay down.


soft love

eric1313 said...

Tara

I was just writing...

Inspiration hits hard, sometimes. This is what I meant above. I make sure I have time to write, but when the wrds flow, they fly.

It was just a sad feeling that came over me. I needed to write.

eric1313 said...

Tara

Sorry to hear that nobody was talking.

I heard a voice, and it wasn't in my head.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

"All the things you said
Goin' through my head
Going through my head..."

ivan@creativeriting.ca said...

Whoops,

I got that all wrong.

Don't know the deal with the duo
TATU, but here is how they go:

All the things she said
All the things she said
Runnin' through my head (3x)
All the things she said
All the things she said
Runnin' through my head (2x)
All the things she said
All the things she said
This is not enough,
enough (Echo 3x)

I'm in serious shit, I feel totally lost
If I'm asking for help it's only because
Being with you has opened my eyes
Could I eva believe such a perfect surprise?

(The two little girls in school uniform hung up on each other)

eric1313 said...

There you go, Ivan.

TATU? I'll have to see about them. Luckily, youtube usually will have something.

You doing OK?

I had what Benjibopper would term "a random spurt of creative emporia" earlier. I feel sad. I'll have to do somethng with all the poems I've written here lately.

I like writing here, too. It's a different vibe, I'm not always trippin' through the daisies.

Not that I maind writing good things, I love it. I used to be all downer all the time in writing, because if I was in a good mood, I'd be at the bar flirting with my ex girlfriend Judi, who was the bartender.

Free drinks, baby! It was nice. And at the end of the night, they'd kick most of the folk out, and somebody would roll up a joint and we'd sit at the bar from 0200 to 0400 hours drinking and passing the spliff like a microphone.

Now, I've replaced all that with writing all the time. No bar, just writing, no video games or TV, just writing, and reading as well. I play my guitar, watch movies, but other than that, I'm a writing machine since April of this year.

Thanks for having a cool place like this. It's good for me to stretch out. I wrote with Singleton the other night, and we wrote some of our best yet. Other influences are good.

Thanks Ivan. It's appreciated.

eric1313 said...

Really, whenever I need to broaden my horizons, I have a knack for finding good folks--or they find me!

Singleton wandered by one day.

So did you.

So did Tara, actually.

Nobody can damn blogger in my presence without an argument. Unless they are siting a specific reason, like being harrased too much.

It kicks the heck out of myspace!

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Eric,

You are always welcome in this space.

Some good poetry comes this way.

There is this really good poetess from Jamaica, Janet Harvey. She is a nurse and she knows about life, dislocation, death. And, of course, home thoughts from abroad.

I have featured here quite a bit.

I can't find her defining piece, The Red Exit Light, but here is one of her
poems from last year.


Janet Harvey

This land I wasn’t born
My child wasn’t born here either
So we can leave, I guess we can
Will this land search for me, for alimony

This land I wasn't born is like my lover
Who hates me, wants all I have fifty, fifty
And gives me nothing in return.
No love, or act of love,
I am not happy in this union
One sided, my lover is sucking
Me dry and slowly killing me.

With toxin, un-readable labels and secret ingredients
Mental torture, and mountain of stress
If I drive a new car police fallows me
I am black, something wrong with that
This land I wasn't born is like a lover
Taking me for all I haven’t got.

Copyright 2006 Janet Harvey

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Eric,

Who needs FaceBook, or (dare I say it?) Lava Life.

It all seems here, all around us.

p.s.: Janet Harvey writes in Jamaican patois, in dialect.


I'll try to find her best poem when I'm less tired. She did blow me away...I gave up poetry for a long time.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Oh.

Eric,

I have just found that mainline poem by Janet Harvey.

I must say it blew me away the first (and tenth) time I read it.


The exit just inches from her nose




She’s dancing now;

Having been to hell and back.

Lashes singed from sweltering journey.

She’s travelled the darkest tunnels-

Had been embedded in forbidden furnaces carted over treacherous hills,

Beyond purple dawns of overdose.

Megadoses of chemo- tangle that whole eternity,

that same painful path her father had travelled to the promise land

when it was time to say, no more;

no more poking, or burning my internal demons.

Let go, I am tired

of that same tunnel her brother visualized, could almost taste.

And so it looms:

The family fear.

So many dried roses hanging bat-like in the basement,



So the cards and gift baskets

seem to unfold.

Uttering now the words

As if a stream



Climbing a tower, to be as strong as ocean

Wings lame yet she flies.

Higher than ever ;

What frigid winter lay dormant

in the stream of words

They all ask same question.

Who can fix all those


broken dolls facing upward.

on abandoned fields everywhere.

Why can't scientist save the world-

From boiling rain, and poison beams

--Just band-aids to halt it .

When the exit light is red and cannot hide

It is just inches from your nose.

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

Morning Ivan, morning everyone.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Morning, Tara.


I'm not all here yet.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I'm sick and tired of picking up after everyone. Least you could do is pick up your beer bottles and empty the ash trays.