We respect the known, the definable. But we also hold this too tightly.
A stable foundation prevents total chaos.
But all that gives life so much meaning – exceptional meaning – comes by
We respect the known, the definable. But we also hold this too tightly.
A stable foundation prevents total chaos.
But all that gives life so much meaning – exceptional meaning – comes by
Part of the beauty of words is their definitions. But poetry understands definition to be a light thing. Lightness. An inexact art. Yet also a very precise art. But art requires flexibility, mutability, permeability, transformation. Art requires the flowering of unexpressed potentials.
Poetry is obviously the art of words. But because words are also useful, because they are also practical, because we associate them with a function, a very necessary and functional part of life, we want to understand them. We must understand them. We must, essentially, conquer them. Force ourselves upon them.
Poetry can not be forced upon. Poetry will always resist conquering. Not necessarily on purpose, but by nature. Meaning can be beautiful or it can be tyrannical. Poetry resists tyranny.
This is the problem with poetry. “America” does not like to think that there is anything that can not be conquered. Poetry is an unacceptable defeat.
Where we do not win, we reject.
Bad art isn’t low-quality.
Art itself is neutral. It assigns neither meaning nor value to itself. Art is just manifestations of consciousness that already exist anyway.
In truth, low-quality has nothing to do with art.
Low-quality is a state of mind. Low-quality is when you think you are better than other people — or, it’s when you let yourself think that other people are better than you.
A tea kettle whistling – someone else is up at 5:53 am too. A neighbor.
I’ve had a writer’s block and an artist’s block at the same time – I don’t remember the last time that happened.
Suffering gets boring.
I don’t regret recording it.
Paralysis, though – that’s an empty space – but something happens in it.
In the space of doing nothing.
A mystery to us. It doesn’t seem worth examining.
Consciousness needed to shift.
I prefer the hand just a little bit childlike sometimes.
Like what’s always come most naturally – a style mostly resisted.
What was wrong with that?
Why resist anything? Why resist anything?
It’s not always worth it to be so adult. What is beyond adult?
The struggle is too adult.
But artists aren’t childish, like they insinuate.
Art is ageless. Period.
To create something of this time, speaks to the now and may realize impact now. But with no guarantee of a future.
To create something ahead of its time, could only realize that level of impact later. And may not have significant influence now, nor enjoy full appreciation now. But its value may increase beyond expectation later.
Nobody really knows exactly what later will look like. Nobody really knows the values of the future.
But the now has its flaws, and the future is more likely to admit it. The future’s success is the inevitable incompleteness of the now.
And the success in the now, is that which is concerned with yesterday’s weaknesses.
It’s not the job of artists to create only uplifting or lighthearted work that makes everybody feel good. That can be part of the job. But the primary job is to tell the truth. Some kind of aspect of the truth. Sometimes the truth is something joyful, elating, comical, optimistic, inspirational. But the truth can also be brutal. Life can be incredibly brutal sometimes. And the worst of it, is when we are made to feel that our less palatable reactions to such brutalities should be any different than what they are.
There is a time and a place to look on the bright side. Or to “act as if.” But the artist is mirroring. Reflecting all of it. Not just the one artist, but all artists. Art is just consciousness. And its patterns. And we will never be done with that. Consciousness is always evolving. Sometimes art needs to show us what we already have and know, cast in a new light. Sometimes it needs to show us what we can’t see. What we would rather ignore. Art can show up for that. It won’t always make the artist look good. It won’t always make the artist look for that moment “enlightened,” at least not in the mainstream understanding of that word. But this is the whole point of art — to bring things to light. To expand what is seen. Whether that is dark, playful, ironic, simple, etc. But art is not here simply to make us feel better. Nor does art need to act like a winner. Art doesn’t need to project a million dollar smile.
To assert that some emotions and experiences are worthy of attention but disregard or insult the existence of others is to fail to recognize the total abundance of all that is, the total fullness of life. So it’s not about just telling people what they want to hear, or only showing them what they want to see. It’s not about what we think should be said or done to “make the world a better place” in the common understanding. It’s about getting all of it down, whatever is speaking to us, and be willing to be that honest. Because what makes the world is a better place is also when honesty and integrity are valued and expressed and held. The result of honesty and integrity should not be to run. It should be to come closer.
A world that just only agrees with you all the time, that’s a world in which no one grows. That would be a very stale world, a world in which we stagnate. Art is capable of appreciating all of it. What we cherish, and what pains us.
Hackneyed optimism and hope — trite, dismissive, insincere, and even inappropriate as they often are — help no one.
every moment with you. every moment with you. every moment with you. every moment with you. every moment with you. every moment with you. every moment with you. every moment with you. every moment with you. every moment before, during, and after. before, during, and after. and after. and after.
We need to get unlost
they are fighting and
because the truth is it belongs
to no one.
anyone. that’s an
illusion. that’s the
but how does a
you don’t. you
I took photographs of the long row of palm trees in the way off distance that we’d soon enough cross in the car.
The palm trees looked like fairy flowers, the kind you pick and blow wishes off when you’re a kid. Like dancers of all different heights, lined up in unison. Like the way your heart feels inside, when free of comparisons and worries.
I watched you as you talked, for the right moment to take a photograph.
The first lights of cars on the other side of the freeway began to flicker on. Dusk was not that near. Some must have been daylights auto-sensing impeding change, prematurely.
I focused on the line of your jaw. You looked handsome but I didn’t tell you. The landscape flat, the clouds thin, orange trees and wiry weeds to the sides.
I wanted to talk to you about music, but didn’t. I was tired of feeling stupid. I do it to myself, I guess I find others to confirm it.
Later, once we’d settled in to the cabin, once we were walking, the mood was about to shift.
I sensed the irritation when I lingered too long at the top of the hill. I love you, I thought. I’m sorry. I had to take more photographs.
I’ve never seen clouds like this in my life. It’s special, I’m sorry. My heart was sinking. I had to get the pictures. I tried to take them faster.
I recall the gorgeous picture of the palm tree in LA, the one you’d sent me in the very beginning, when we first met. Large imperfect leaves reaching into irregular directions that collectively balanced out into an odd symmetry.
Not a banal snapshot; it captured a wildness. It wasn’t about the tree – it was the way you had framed it in the shot. Your style of looking. You get it. You were speaking my exact language. I thought “this is my man.”
I don’t know if it was on purpose or an accident, the innate sense of choice. What’s called an eye. Or maybe not even that – maybe you just understood how to capture a feeling.
“Why can’t you catch the next flight, I’ll pay for it” in a smile I could hear over the phone.
I don’t know if that was the real you, or if this is.
We have different sides of ourselves. I guess I held the sides of you, that you’d rather disown. I held them along with the rest of you, with all of you, or I tried so hard to, but from your point of view, maybe, there was only one side to be on.
It just, wasn’t mine.
Artists are immature. Artists just need to grow up. It’s just, not very adult.
I didn’t understand.
It was all a mistake, a misunderstanding.
I focused the shot on your silhouette in the light. Beautiful.
Hurry up, I told myself.
The 3,400 words of lockdown/pandemic journals posted here are removed, because I don’t want them here anymore. I’ll be reposting them somewhere else. Plz contact if interested..
The 960 words of lockdown/pandemic journals posted here are removed, because I don’t want them here anymore. I’ll be reposting them somewhere else. Plz contact if interested..
I’ve been making these haiku banners or posters or whatever you want to call them. This one feels a bit over the edge compared to the others – but I know where to take my misfits. More of these on my instagram here.
Rain. Blue-grey-violet light filling the room. It’s late, 10:45 am. Waking to dreams of the one I’d loved the most until finally many years later I didn’t – not that same way, pointing at a studio apartment for rent in the paper. A large hexagon shaped space with beige floors in the photo, possibly carpet but nice, facing the street through bay windows. I wanted to live there instead of him, could I – but hadn’t I already? The thought makes me feel a bit sick. Something bad happened there? Can’t remember. Many years ago, yesterday. Being alone, wine, my computer, music, emails and IM, that’s it. Scribbling in my journal in red and purple ink in bed, at my green desk covered in scraps of paper, notes, purple orchids and pots, flipping through thousands of photographs taken traveling and academic papers, lost in a foreign history of my own. Plants, tall stacks of drafts, paintings beautiful amidst abstract misery and desperation. Had I really lived there? Or just imagined it? The memory makes me ill. Did I just make it up, the feeling? The place?
Now staring into asphalt and a partly cloudy sky, intermittent city trees, standing in the street, waiting. Forever. Where is my friend? We’re going to eat some sort of special bread from the bakery, a sweet bread or something? As the sun falls hours later she finally shows, separating from a group of people I don’t recognize, surprised when I bring it up as if she’d never really intended to go.
Another fuzzy event I can’t recall, another one putting me off for some unidentifiable reason too. So out of character for her, I don’t understand. There was no one to be with.
Sitting outside on the sidewalk uncertain of what to do now. Nobody around. The air is fresh and bright. There must have been a porch there, or some stairs, then a book appears in my hand. I open its nearly eight by ten cover and skim. 50 or so pages, with illustrations. Joy. It was about joy. This was written by a friend, a pianist, he’d given this to me. No longer conscious of the street, completely absorbed in its lyrical writing and sparse, minimalistic line drawings lightly watercolored until an elation grows and spreads too immensely to look down any longer, too much to process any more information mentally. I close it to feel its weight in my hands instead and look up lifting up into the air like years before, planes floating off a runway above shapes shrinking and tightening viewed through tiny windows. So happy. Magical. Then I’m here. Rain. Blue-grey light filling the room. It’s late, 10:45 am. Curtains. Oakland in the window. My room. No one’s around.
Were all of those people trades for someone I really want to be with today? Not sure I care what it means but it resonates for a few minutes.
Shaking off these dreams I get up to go out to the cafe. The significance doesn’t feel so important, but I’m pretty sure I know why I’m remembering them so readily. Vacation – no work for two weeks. Whenever there’s more space, when more time is sensed and freedom and days ahead open, the volume of dreams I remember increases and changes: popcorn strings of memories like momentary portals into a higher consciousness about these experiences, mixed with creative currents more otherworldly and imaginative, like being inside of a hidden universe that rarely reveals, suppressed by routine realities. Routines both necessary and destructive. I used to take them too seriously. And now I just don’t believe that I have to anymore. Everything in my spirit won’t even let me anymore; it’s over. My own way of seeing and being wakes up and takes priority and the space just has to be made for it, or it’s like I’ll just die.
This is the thing that may not make sense from the outside but it’s been said before many times over that a certain type of artist – perhaps so-called “real” artists – create because they have to. We have to. Maybe this is not true of all artists but in my own experience the choice has been to create, or to suffer a progressive downward spiral into an internal hell, self-imprisoned. I’m fine to coast for a while but finally these become my two options and for others who are like me I wouldn’t doubt them to feel just as lost and miserable without creating. Not that creating functions as a universal remedy for bad feelings – that would be silly. For me though feeling bad and not creating would be an even worse if not dangerous condition than feeling bad and creating. I didn’t desire this aspect of an artist’s life to be true of myself and I thought the idea sounded corny and overdramatic when I read about it in Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet,” at nineteen. Coincidentally it was the only idea from the book I never forgot: write if you must write, if your need for writing is as though your life depended upon it. I was too young then to understand these words more comprehensively, but cross the age of 30 when the focus of your generation suddenly becomes status and success and power and out of nowhere you feel like a complete loser. Your dreams of being an artist or writer become even more naive and irresponsible and idealistic than when you were nineteen. They’re beyond merely objectionable now, if not borderline reprehensible in a way they weren’t before. Those benign impractical fantasies of young adulthood suddenly become things you could actually harm yourself with.
Was it Henry Miller who pointed out something like anyone can be an artist — until the age of 35? This is not the same thing as declaring an intention to go into teaching or law or nursing or politics or business. Creative ambitions might be treated as a curiosity or a bit of fun at best, but taken less and less seriously as time progresses. It’s especially challenging for those choosing to abandon their former career path, to pursue art no longer as a hobby but as a primary occupation. Are you published? No. Do you have a professional website? No. Business card? No. Portfolio? Not in any organized fashion, not yet. Not yet. Not yet. Not yet the unsatisfactory answer to every question. Some start early, going ahead despite the odds to establish a position for themselves in the creative arts, publicly – others like me punish themselves for years first instead. Just for inevitably being who you are despite every attempt to be something else, yet not quite understanding why you just can’t fit in to the occupations or places you’ve wandered into for safety and security. By the time you finally come out of it to recognize what the trouble really is and you’ve already spent your money on degrees in other fields for other careers, who will indulge your grandiose aspirations now at this point? But if you find that this is something you have to do – and you know this to be true of yourself because of the consequences you’ve experienced in avoiding this truth for your entire life, then the choice is clear. Whether or not you’re any good at what you create at this point, whether or not you have everything you need for success in place, it ceases to matter. You’ve worked your way to the top in places you didn’t even want to be, simply by showing up and working hard. If you have to start at the bottom all over again, it will be worth it. And how long will it take, exactly, to get to somewhere in the middle, if you even dare to imagine you could? This ceases to matter also. You’re tired of pretending, of lying. You don’t think about the people who would criticize you as much anymore, or the what ifs, or the opportunities you’ve turned down or run away from in the past. You think about what you need to do to make it happen.
I don’t feel sorry for myself or for those in my shoes. I feel for those who are like me but still unable to create for whatever reason. I know these people are out there so when somebody says they’re an artist, I tend to believe them no matter their current occupation or lifestyle or hobbies.
Two weeks of taking pictures and assembling them, drawing, writing, cups of tea and coffee, sleeping, planning, going to the gym, seeing friends. I pour cream into my coffee as I only do in cafes – anywhere else, it’s black. It’s noisy in here, there’s nowhere to sit comfortably. Each conversation this morning is too loud and too much as I move from table to table seeking a place where I can think. Think and write. I’ve been desperately needing solace from these crowds. Yet appreciate an unexpected sense of relief in this scene too, full of friends telling stories rather than singles with their devices. I settle in near the speakers, faint music, not overbearing mainstream sounds like they often play but sounds with real feeling, though not especially edgy. I realize I’ve forgotten to put in earrings this morning, which I’ve been wearing since I was three months old. It feels oddly troubling.
My mind and body are glowing, not in a physical sense. Something else. I remember all the other times like this. I remember the soft sunshine and the libraries and the roses in the window and the moped and the kissing and the airports and the poems scribbled out for fun with no concern for editing and the smells of cattle in foreign places and the miles and miles of road and ancient redwoods and the river. I remember the intense dreams. Stories of living life as art.
You’re free today. You have two weeks. Sit down. It’s been a while since I’ve written, instead relishing the easy relief from words I enjoy so much in working with images. Writing is so exposing, really so scary. It doesn’t matter. Text messages pop up, you ignore them for now.
Go write. I’m dying to write now. It doesn’t matter how it turns out, doesn’t matter if it’s good writing or bad, doesn’t matter if it’s real art.