Saturday, May 22, 2010

An epistle to St. Matthew


Doesn't it always come that way?
In the middle of of the journey, you suddenly stop, surrender the vows and say that's it. They have dumped on me in this city. I am going to move to another city where I can be the writer I am, to be around other writers, to be appreciated by my peers, to get out of this ghetto which is Shankvillle.

Well, a lifetime ago, I moved out of another kind of ghetto, an academic one and now, having done the Gaugin, I am sort of Gogol-eyed. Mad little Russian.
You say you want to get out of town.
Loopiness. Murder and mayhem. Gangsters....admittedly not a good place to live.
I wonder, when I compare your decision to mine years ago, whether I too was among gangsters. I was among teaching masters, but they seemed gangsters all the same. Intelligent thugs whose jibes could be like a shank in the ribs, who would not stab, but hurt you badly. Wreck your career.

Let's get off thread a bit.

I will tell you of my situation those many years ago.

I reached your impasse at about age 39. I was very successful on the short essay stuff. I was getting $175 oldfashioned dollars as a salaried d freelance writer. My essays and columns in TOPIC Magazine (later to become absorbed by the Newmarket ERA) --were bringing in money, but the wife had said, "Make more money. Be a prof!"...So I gathered up whatever paperwork I had (Ryerson Pyromanical Institute (B.A A). U. of T. in Slavics--hey, I had to make my ethnicity pay off--my thesis could be my novel, and I was on my way to becoming a doc.
But damn, it was my wife's prodding.
I was so happy as a paid freelancer in writing. But who could live on an income, which in todays money was about $12,OOO." Make more money"....She was becoming "liberated" in any event. "You want a traditional marriage? Make more money."

College teaching. There is the misconception of some students that teachers are kindly men and women. With some exceptions they are assholes on the squash court and assholes in the faculty lounge where the game is a headhship "Im gonna build me an empire boy, with my own department, a secretary, and important professional contacts". In short the madrechigados carried knives this long. Fuck your friend and go for a headship.
Head of medicine said, "Ivan, you gave up your column? Now you're an ordinary teacher like everybody else. You're fair game."
Presently it wasn't the students you were devoting your energies, to it was fending off the knives.
Head honcho and gameplayer in my department said, "Look at him. He's Hamlet...Doesn't know whether he's coming or going. And that Ophelia of a wife of his. We have hurt him. Gimpy now."

They were certainly getting to me. I was running out of energy. Students absorb energy. And it took so much more energy to ward off the blows...I was running out of gas.

And then the unexpected prostate problem which led to a lot of bullshit, prodding --up the urethra with the old umbrella...they found nothing and there was in the last count nothing wrong with my prostate. I think they finally broke my prick. But pissing blood and trying to teach and working with idiots was getting to me.

Parallel situation, but later in life?

Okay, I did my thing. Did a Gaugin, f*cked up, and spent thirty three years in the wilderness until, I think, intellectual maturity at 62, when I began to pull it all together.
Damn, skeet shooting is hard. You got to lead the target, and it takes a long time to learn. Like maybe golf.
You are reaching intellectual maturity.
And its natural to stop.
So stop.
I like it when Hunter S. Thompson would say, quoting St. Paul, "If they shit on you in one city, move to another city."
F*ck it.Be a real asshole and poseur writer. Live in the subdivision, but like Elvis, you might have to cut your hair and like a Frenchman here, Moudelawn. "Grass is getting a little high there, Mathias. You have to keep up with the Joneses. Shapiros?

I think you once took a creative writing course at the local State university.
Take another...But there are so many unpublished assholes teaching creativewriting. Go to a course whose head is a writer's name you can recognize.
In a word, you might not have to leave town. Just go where the serious writers go. Like maybe Steinbeck who had practially zero education, enrolling in a writing course at the local California State university.
Go where the writers go. But don't leave town. I augur you are not in any shape to travel, though I know one guy in a wheelchair, also a graduate of old Ryerson Polytech, who went to South Aftrica, tried to write his own "Down All the Days," f*cked it up, became a parliamentary reporter in Capetown, f*cked that up too, and was eventually dumped by the Boors, steerage class, back to Toronto and called a prick.
So many times I have been dumped and called a prick. Like the third time I tried to get back to Seneca College fulltime.

Damn don't these things happen pretty well the same way all the time? Then it takes years, decades to rebuild.

I am not Bruce Cockburn for sure. But he said somewhere, into his mike, "Don't follow me."

Actuallly, you have been going flat out for years and years.
People used to tell me, how can you crank out those little masterpieces for years and years and not get mental blocks?
"Years of self-denial," I would say.
And wife would pipe in, "Hah. You never denied yourself anything. Ever.

Enroll in a course. You might meet some real people. Again.
Don't change too much. They'll like you just the way you are, the way your adoring public loves you.

Anyway, things come together. But it takes so long. Decades. And I am not sure if you (or I) can survive the waiting game.

Get a brochure, I would say. See who the instructor is.
Check her out...You had a positive result with Michelle. There might be another Michelle...And the paperwork from the university won't hurt...And they surely have a press, like I found out with my alma mater, Ryerson U.

Living with assholes. It can get you down. Working with assholes--can also get you down.

I would say, don't do a Gaugin.
Stay in the U. S

Ray Charles,
"I'm gonna move babe.
To the far side of town..."

To lighten up, Seems in these years of chasing each other around--in poetry anyway--
I sometimes wonder who is whose role model.

Take care, Matt.



TomCat said...

OK, I'm lost. Is this about you or someone named Matt?

Charles Gramlich said...

You paint the picture of Academia as red in tooth and claw, and sometimes it is. It's a microcosm of it's own though, with various kinds of habitats. I was in the main predator/prey stream for a while, but now I've found a bit of a quiet backwater enclave where I can eat the ripened fruits that fall from the trees and scratch myself a lot. And it ain't so bad over here.

ivan said...

Dang. Symphonic writing is darn hard to execute.

I must say I didn't entirely avoid
solipsism, the philosophical idea that only one's own mind is sure to exist, or everything centres on the self.
Neigher did I avoid considerable scatology, and I won't go into definions for that--it's largely crap. It must have amused Charles, down below to find a foul-mouthed former academic.
Maybe I was a little like the late Tillie Olsen--thoughts and ideas seeming to come out of the blue, almost willy-nilly...But I like Tille Olsen and I like writing that way.

Anyway, didn't mean to be obscure...That sort of worries me. obscure.

ivan said...


I think I was on tenure track but was too immature at the time to realize it...Said to the wife, "I'm an artist, Martha"

Wife said, "finish vaccuming, artist. And here is the broom."

Mona said...

No one is going away Ivan, I have the word from the horse's mouth uptil now at least...I don't know about future..

The moon & sixpence hero got famous posthumously right?

Aadmi bulbulaa hai paani ka
aur paani ki bahti sathe par
tootta bhi hai doobta bhi hai

phir se girta hai
phir ubharta hai

na samandar nigal sakaa is ko
na tawareeq tod payee hai

waqt ki mauj par sadaa behtaa
aadmi bulbulaa hai paani ka...

( Man is a bubble on the surface of water, and upon the flowing stream he breaks and drowns too. then he rises again & breaks again...
But neither the ocean could swallow him, not history break him completely. On the waves of time floating forever, man is a bubble...)

Mona said...

Ps> Martha should have said instead : " Ok , do the vacuuming 'creatively' mr Artist. Bring a quality of love to the process" :)

Mona said...

Plus, you are not obscure here. It is only that the people who read this are not aware of the 'wind of change'

Now if anyone was obscure, he was that Eliot, or that Joyce! The former did a patchwork of pompous erudition ( in various languages too) of flotsam & jetsam of his age, in Wasteland. & believe me, If I were not from India, I would have only half followed the DA DA DA theory of the thunder speaking god named Prajapati!

Mona said...

& STILL those obscures became famous, so don't be afraid of being obscure

Yikes! four comments in a row! Egad! said...


Thanks you so much for your thoughtful comments. I welcome them all.

Yes, Mr. Eliot. I hear he had relatively little fame until Ezra Pound took the unreadable Waste Land and made it into a masterpiece.
...Recently, I had to laugh when my former factory boss (to whom I recently went for a loan :), said
"All right, Ivan. You have this dream of dying with your magnum opus in your hand...But you haven't finished editing the damn thing yet." said...


I think there is a chapter in Herman Hesse's Siddhartha, where the pilgrim, after a lifetime, is still a pilgrim and his friends becoming luminaries and burgomeisters.
The mayor offers to lend a hand, but all Siddhartha seems to want to know, "Is this the road to Gebersau? Does he mean nirvana?
Well, I certainly seem to have been in that groove for a long time.
It blows. :) said...


I am so glad to hear that St. Matthew (you could see through my veneer)is not leaving town.

He can not give up his poetry.
It is his life- assertion. And inspiration for us.

TomCat said...

The cat is still lost.

JR's Thumbprints said...

There are so many things in life that stink. As I'm trying to write this my wife's telling me what needs to be done around the house and I'm typing and scrolling upward so she won't see. I know all to well--not so much about writing--but about being tired. The only satisfaction I get is seeing those working stiffs above me taking suckerpunches to the back of their heads. I'd much rather see it coming, and the crazy inmates have been kind enough to tell me they're waiting for my teeth to get fixed before swinging. It's all about the timing of such events. I've always had rotten rotten luck. Can't even get my chapbook distributed with all the gangstas taking over the city and one hell of a poet taking a much deserved timeout. -JR said...


I notice you seem to also get lost as to meaning on other blogs.

We can't be all playing confuse-a-cat.
Dr. Mona gets it, but maybe it takes a PhD.
...Not that the writing is so all fired highfalootin'.
I'm an early community college graduate myself.
Took them years to improve my spelling when I kept writing FOK on the wall. :) said...


Well said, brother.

Mona said...

Ivan, I think you are being a bit too harsh on Tomcat here. The present post does not need a PhD for understanding. What it needs is the awareness of the contemporary situation regarding a particularly popular blogger; and everyone may not be aware of the situation.

When we blog, we get a feed back of our posts in the shape of comments. Having Taught Communication skills, I know that a communicator has to encode his message via the medium he chooses and sends it to the audience or the reader. The reader, has to decode it to be able to understand. If he fails to do so, he has to send a feedback, for which the communicator has to send the message again via a language which is comprehensible to the listener or the reader.

That is why , when you want to make your message comprehensible to the reader, you have to KNOW your audience and explain it likewise. The best way to make yourself comprehensible is to use the jargon according to the understanding of the reader, or better still , not to use jargon at all, but use layman's terms.

Since you are writing this blog & since you have readers ( tomcat being one of them) Tomcat is just giving you a feedback ; and it becomes your duty to explain things to him in a way that would make him understand the situation. said...


Well, as they say in redneck Northern Alberta, "I've been schooled!" said...


Re The Poet's progress:

Mark, the Walking Man, who seemed to have experienced a really dark night of the soul, killed his blog-- and me here trying to offer a balm for--has resurfaced, but only partially. He has an entry in his blog today. But he seems to speak of being in Hades.
But he has resurfaced.

However, there is no comment space, and barely out of his dark night,maybe he doesn't want any.

But it is heartening to know that he is coming up for air.
Killing your own blog. Manuscript burning...I think I have been halfway there.

Anonymous said...

way too hot for all this "tightness"...time for cold beers and a couple of sloppy burgers...Ivanovich...I bet you could put your journey on canvas...maybe a road map for all who seek a non-judgemental non GPS's a river,bud,but every now and then there are real rapids and real falls...not everybody does this particular river,and not everybody can...your paddle is both blessed and challenged...enjoy the rewards...

JR's Thumbprints said...

Ivanovich? Oh to be compared to Janet! Uggggghhhhhhh! Think of the money!!!! Not Janet Jackson you fool! Evanovich! Wicked wicked wicked appetite! Is it out yet? said...

Plot of one Janet Evanovich book:

Vinnie, of Vincent Plum Bail Bonds, has run up a gambling debt of $786,000 with mobster
Bobby Sunflower and is being held until the cash can be produced. Nobody else will pay to get Vinnie back, leaving it up to Stephanie, office manager Connie, and file clerk Lula to raise the money if they want to save their jobs.

Do I cry uncle or Jesu Cristo!

ivan@creativewriting.a said...

Anonymous (Tony):

The worst part, metaphorically speaking, was not to disgruntle the mountain man.

Funny things happen on that river. :)

Erik Donald France said...

Hey man, there's definitely worse things than becoming "Gogol-eyed." I dig. And am happily divorced. One thing I can't abide is nagging -- from anyone, ever. said...

Worse with my second partner.

"Did you know you could be a real asshole at times?"

Me: "I knew that. Don't keep reminding me." :)

Anonymous said...

your epistle,someone else's epiphany...or?...St. John's life was the river...even Springsteen encountered light of a sort in the river... said...

Well, Springsteen can certainly claim something like sainthood.
Certainly lots of hard work.

But he's getting old. And not so bold.

TomCat said...

Thanks Mona! :-) said...


Mona said...

You are welcome Tomcat!

Ivan..yea :) ... no man is such a fool that the wisest cannot learn from him...

then fool like a wise fool...

((HUGS)) I hope the Moon was kinder this time... said...

Full moon fever.

I'm out picking stars on the front lawn...well, I do have a bag for them.

Mona said...

Send some for me, if you have a few to spare :) said...


You'd be too young to remember Perry Como's "Catch a little star and put it in your pocket."

(Ooh. That's a hot Palookis!)

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