Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

Existential Expansion

August 10, 2017

Styriaxis

(making your life more difficult to justify complaining about it)

Donald Trump cat 

 

I have been writing poems about made up words posted on the Internet from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig.  When my friend, Donn Trenton, heard this, he sent me the above word among others he has invented.  Serendipitously, the word ‘Styriaxis’ has provided the bit of grit needed for my oyster like mind to shape a pearl around – one whose nacreous layers of meaning have been searching many years for a nidus around which to condense and harden.   (Beautifully, I hope.)

Styriaxis is a word which describes a process of existential enlargement.  Styriaxis defines a method or an intellectual ‘machine’ for creating an expanding world of complaint.  It is an idea, embodied in a word, whose actions, be they beneficial or not, create a larger and larger playing field for a further action, which would be ‘to complain’.  There are many words like this, and not just words but aggregations of meaning which act the same, which have been fascinating me for some time.  They are thoughts which perform as generators of existence.

For example, take the county/folk singer John Denver.  He sings in a lovely, clear, tenor voice about love and other matters of a mostly lyrical nature in verses that are general positive and suffused with warm feeling for the modest life.  But, especially on his Christmas album, the ringing clarity of his voice has the chiming of a struck bell.  There is a profound hollowness, an expanding emptiness within each note.  This expanding emptiness is covered over by the warm and good wishes of his lyrics as best they are able.  Nevertheless, we hear and feel it.  The hollowness of his vocal clarity creates a demand for the warm embracing quality of his songs.  The two qualities thrive and expand each other.

And it would seem a lot of popular art has incorporated this self-expanding mechanism.  As another example, take a simple black box theater where the performance takes place under the klieg lights against a black backdrop.  Visually, we are seeing existence portrayed against nihility.  The nihility demands life.  And the life is dramatized by the nihility is skates across.  Put together, the two are an emotional machine for generating and capturing audience interest.  Their synergy is compelling.

Most of art criticism, to my mind, is of the surface exhibition and not enough of the nihilism which underscores it.  I would think that the artistic evocation of this nihilism would be as important a contributor to the total power of the aesthetic experience (and perhaps moreso) that the surface exhibition itself.  As examples of artists who might excel at the creation of the nihilism of the background and who are balanced otherwise, I would suggest the sculptor Giacometti and the playwright Beckett.  (Though here, I would have to say, my thinking remains ‘unfinished’.)

 

Which brings me to politics.  These ‘existential generators’ do not exist I think only in the art world.  I would hypothesize that they are everywhere, and perhaps more are being created as we speak.  In fact, perhaps these ‘existential generators’ are the precursors of our conscious existence.  Perhaps they create the stage on which we play out our lives.  Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.  But they certainly exist in politics.

Reality is like a rock; it neither knows that we exist nor that it exists.  (Okay, this is my guess.)  A rock pretty well describes the nihilistic backdrop to all life as described by a materialist.  If we were to compare Socialism to a John Denver song, the materialism of their outlook would be the ringing silver bell of his voice.   Socialistic dogma would be the warm suffusing lyrical melody and lyrics.  “Isn’t it lovely to think so,” as one of Hemingway’s characters once said of another character’s hopes near the final page of “The Sun Also Rises” – a finally bleak, barren narrative.  The blindness of the lyrics to the realities of the sound leads to bad outcomes – which in turn accentuate the nihilism of the background demanding an accentuating of the foreground, and vice versa, ad nauseum.  The existential expansion occurs.  Socialism can generate its own popularity.  So can a Hemingway tale.  So can a John Denver song.  So can Donald Trump.

Contrast socialism with capitalism and free markets, whose goal is to fulfill the need.  By fulfilling needs, the free market decreases the volume of the nihilism or the vividness of reality, and in turn requires less of itself.  It is a machine which naturally disintegrates audience.  It is a machine which gradually begins to look unnecessary.  Humans are problem solving creatures.  Left without problems to solve they suffer cultural collapse.  Socialism creates problems and brings about cultural hardening.  Free enterprise eliminates problems and creates cultural softening.  This pretty much brings us to the political state we are in today.

The genius of Donald Trump’s nature is that it reverses the background and foreground.  His foreground is the authoritarian, ignorant, undisciplined, bellicose, impolitic and bullying personality which forms the background of the Socialist aesthetic.  His antics – narcissistic as a rock – absolutely rivet his opposition’s attention.  Meanwhile, his background employs the capitalistic/business principles he wishes to advance and in which his backers believe – and which actually does make things better.  Trump’s existential expansion wraps up Socialism’s  existential expansion in bravura antics and twitter feeds.  His paper wraps their rock – and gains him the election.  His capitalistic/business principles will cap his administration’s successes.  My take.

If you enjoyed this post, you may try more of Carl Nelson found here:  http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html

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The Joys of a Poet

December 14, 2016

(And His Arrival at this Most Minuscule of Positions)

carl-nelson4

I cross the Ohio everyday.

Of the many experiences I remember of my theater years, the most compelling occurred on stage.  They were small moments, mini-scenes, in which the characters seemed so autonomous that the actors no longer needed to please the audience.  They were little sections of life that didn’t need to sell their plight to the audience; didn’t need the audience’s approval.  No great injustice needed be fought.  Rather, the tables were turned and it was the audience which could either watch or not.

These scenes from my work which have so stuck with me were quiet areas in the midst of the plays’ turbulences where this balance had been achieved… if only to be enjoyed for a short time, the world and theater being what they are.  Looking back, it’s occurred to me that the theater was not my calling as it is not rising conflict which energizes me but balance.  I love playfulness.

Amount and quality of audience are the two measures of a playwright.  If you cannot attract an audience and/or critical stalwarts, then you are not a playwright.  Those are the realities.  But like most practitioners I fudged.  I could attract a smidgeon of an audience, and some of them liked it – so I rationalized and called myself a playwright.  For I did write several plays, and they were produced, and, as unsuccessful people are apt to say, (with each career change), “I learned a lot!”

I would guess one of the reasons artists would yearn for great success – aside from the money and fame and beautiful lovers – is that it gives them a forceful argument when dealing with the complaints of people they have known privately.   For a very successful playwright, the easy reply is that, “Well, you are just a small minority of the many, many who loved it.”  A small time playwright cannot use this defense.  The troublesome person lives right next door.  The hope for audience is partly a defense mechanism.

Also a large audience will grant a artist the opportunity to command better and better opportunities.  For a playwright this would mean access to the best actors, directors, set designers, venues and… even audience.  But it also means restrictions.  The more money, the more pressures to reduce risk and to frequent travelled ground.  The better and more powerful your collaborators, the better they are at stealing the audience for themselves.  A popular actor might want the scene re-written to better showcase them.  A powerful director might insist upon their vision.  A powerful financial source might prefer the politics slanted a bit differently – or removed.  And the venue has a very worried view of what their regulars will endure.  With the acquisition of a large audience, there is always the risk of losing it.  The second guessing becomes as bothersome as pushing a huge rig down the road, squinting ahead, all the while glancing in the mirror at a wandering trailer.

I’d guess the first audience for most of us would be our parents.  And perhaps many of us found theirs as frustrating as I found mine.  Mom and dad would pay attention, but only in their terms; not unlike strangers.  This was a bone of contention between us for many years.  Finally, I gave up.  I no longer shared how I felt or my hopes, and oddly enough, our relationship improved markedly.  Mom and dad were intelligent, generous, caring people once I got over the fact that they didn’t want to know me very well.

Segue to the audience…

Since that time, I have employed this tactic often.  The solution to many an insoluble problem is to ignore it; proceed as if the world were created without that problem.   If acquiring audience seemed an insoluble problem for me, why not eliminate the audience?  For all these reasons – and the fact that I’d pretty much played out my hand as a playwright – poetry looked pretty good to me.

So after I had moved from Seattle to this Appalachian area, I looked around and found a poetry group which looked compatible.  They were close by, met frequently, weren’t attached to any college or university, and most importantly had sympathy for the spirits – albeit pagan, (in their case).  When I first read my poems to the group for their reaction, one of the first individuals to respond asked skeptically:  “Who do you imagine your audience to be?”

They all looked to me.

“I didn’t think poetry had an audience!” I responded.

“You may leave now,” the next laughed.

 

In truth, I had had my fill of trying to acquire and please an audience.  A writer gets tired of playing the whiskey drummer.  Some of my misgivings are revealed in a previous piece I’ve written.

the-audience-is-a-mob

Poets have little audience, generally make no money, and, unless they misbehave, command little attention.  We wander about in the artistic world a little like derelicts or the homeless.  All of which allows us great freedom.  And we catch our audience as we can… perhaps spouting off in a bar – or wherever we find ourselves for that matter, like the local hardware.  People don’t believe they are listening to poetry in so much as they believe they are arguing with a drunk or indulging an eccentric – which is a time honored practice in small, out of the way spots like here in Appalachia – or hope of hope, enjoying a laugh with a clever fellow!

Poets talk among themselves swapping words and a cleverly turned phrase in a verbal one-ups-man-ship.  And now and then when the urge to flock comes upon the poet community, they hold readings.  The grudges are dropped, the qualms muffled and a general comity of fellow feeling along the lines of “We are all in this together” and “I will listen to you if you will listen to me,” contains the aggregate of assembled oddballs.  Aside from this, poets send out their little missives to journals and odd sorts of publications as if spreading sparks in hopes of starting a fire.  This is the off-the-main-road-poet’s life, aesthetic nobodies chipping flints over damp wood and hoping for a conflagration.

As far as rewards, there is the quiet joy – something like that of a stamp collector – of having trapped a bit of life in verbal amber.  I’m reminded of the New Yorker joke showing the painter in his studio sitting to admire his painting on a Friday’s night with a coke and a theater pail heaped with popcorn.  Only the artist fully grasps the ins and outs and the subtleties of life captured in a well done work.  His lack of audience allows him unfettered freedom.  And his inability to market successfully frees up his schedule.  Find a bit of work or arrangement to pay the rent, add a few understanding spirits to voice admiration from time to time, and you have a satisfied fellow.  Or, at least someone satisfied enough to continue working…

A good poem doesn’t need an audience to be alive.  It’s alive all by itself.  It’s the audience which needs the poem to feel alive.  And that is because a good poem has balance.  And we rest in its achievement.  Not everybody of course, but there are people out there who delight in a little heaven here on earth.

So, to the number of audience an artist needs?  Just enough to keep him working, I’d say, and find him a little rent.

No more than fifty to a room at any time.  Anymore and it’s just the sound of hands clapping from somewhere out beyond the circle of light; the circle of trust…  but quixotically, always with the possibility of many more, if only to make the writing of the poem like purchasing a lottery ticket.  We keep talking and writing, hoping for that conflagration.

If you would like to read more of Carl Nelson, visit:  http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html

Schn00dles Finds a Publisher

May 22, 2016

Schn00dles now has a publisher.  Magic Bean Books is now stocking some of the collected work found on this blog, and also that of other fine authors.  Drop by for a look (and a read).  They’d love to see you.

Magic Bean Books

http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html

March 23, 2016

John Ashbery1

The Confusion of Poetry / John Ashbery

 

Americans like things which are clear and make sense.  I share this proclivity.  But poetry is the source of many problems in this area.  Some poets are provocatively vague, others are sophomorically vague, still others are vague because this aspect of reality speaks to them, others just can’t manage a coherent thought, and then there is one who is scrupulously confusing as he believes reality is an experience rather than a description, and that his crafted perplexity can stimulate a ‘visitation’.  Such is John Ashbery.

‘That’s all very well,’ many Americans are wont to think, ‘but I have no time for that.’  Like the American philosopher, William James , they are very much interested in the “cash value” of an idea.  They feel the experience of it can wait for later but generally do not have a slot free in their day timer.  “Call me back in a few months.”  Or, they have tabled all conversation about mystical value, and suffer a sort of hay fever around poetry of any sort and must immediately leave the area.

Enter the translation.

As Google defines it, to translate means to “express the sense of (words or text) in another language”.  And right away, we can see the differences in the mission statements between “translating” and “poetry”.   Which is, as Google defines it, “the art of rhythmical composition, written or spoken, for exciting pleasure by beautiful, imaginative or elevated thought.”

I’ve often wondered if the wonderful simplicity and clarity of Chinese poetry were due to its nature or because I have only read it in translation.  Perhaps it’s a bit of both.  But with it came the notion that people who object to the confusion of modern poetry – might try reading it in translation.

You don’t understand Chinese; can’t make heads or tails of poetry?  Try this poem by Meng Jiao Tr. Graham:

“The thread in the hand of a kind mother
Is the coat on the wanderer’s back.
Before he left she stitched it close
In secret fear that he would be slow to return.
Who will say that the inch of grass in his heart
Is gratitude enough for all the sunshine of spring?”

Easy enough, huh.  Now try this Rilke from the German:

“His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly–. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.”

Clear enough, and enjoyable!  Don’t you think?

But…  it’s probably plain that we can’t tell if the poem in its original language is confusing or not.- since we don’t know the language.  Perhaps the translation is no clearer than the original,  or even worse!  So what I’ve done here is to write us all down a rabbit hole where I am searching in the dark for a turn around where to re-direct this poetry tour bus of mine.

Still, it was an interesting notion and remunerative in that by following this line of thought I fortuitously bumped into what amounts to a good primer about “How to Read John Ashbery” :  http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/the_highbrow/2005/03/the_instruction_manual.html  In which we find that one of the strategies you might take with poetry is to just scan for those portions which clarify the mind.  It’s like snitching the pepperoni off a pizza.  No one’s watching and wouldn’t mind if you do.  Here’s some entertaining lines popping from the clutter of  John Ashbery’s  Houseboat Days taken from “Daffy Duck in Holly wood”:

 

…“Where Pistachio Avenue rams the 2300 block of Highland

Fling Terrace.  He promised he’d get me out of this one,

That mean old cartoonist, but just look what he’s

Done to me now!  I scarce dare approach me mug’s

attenuated

Reflection in yon hubcap, so jaundiced, so de’confit

Are its lineaments – fun, no doubt, for some quack

phrenologist’s

Fern-clogged waiting room, but hardly what you’d call

Companionable. …”

 

And here’s a truth widely witnessed everyday:

 

…”Enough vague people on this emerald traffic-island, no,

Not people, comings and goings, more:  mutterings,

splatterings,

The bizarrely but effectively equipped infantries of happy-

go-nutty”…

 

Ashbery can get hilarious.  But also serious.  Again, from Houseboat Days:

 

“… he

Said, that insincerity of reasoning on behalf of one’s

Sincere convictions, true or false in themselves…”

 

Who says we have to understand everything we read?  I certainly don’t understand everything about a beautiful spring day, or a woman (for sure).  Nevertheless there are these moments.  So perhaps it’s best to think of poetry as a woman, and enjoy the confusion.

Take her out for just the evening.  Enjoy the evening.  Glance at her now and then.  Go ahead, high-grade the pepperoni.

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From the Editor’s Perch

April 30, 2015

BusCarl2

The Road Not Travelled

 I’ve learned with age “never to say never”.  But this road (far) less travelled has reached its end.  The last posting was February 25, 2015.  And it is now April 30, 2015.  Over two months without a post, and what have I been doing?

Well, besides all of the backwash of life, I’ve been writing poems.  They seem to fit in the little crevices life allows.  It takes only a few moments to scratch down a phrase and stuff it a pocket.  Then, when the safe harbor of a few free hours is reached, poetry assembly can take place.  There is a certain enjoyment that a good poem contains that a blog post doesn’t.   I can’t say I’ve sat down and read over my past blog posts at all.   (Excepting those concerning my son.)  However, I do enjoy mulling over a poem I’ve written and liked enough to store.  In fact, I pour over them fondly now and then.  And doing so – especially, if I’m down in the dumps – makes me feel better.  I’m reminded of the New Yorker cartoon where the artist is settled back with his bowl of popcorn as if to watch the TV for the evening – but instead of a TV, it’s his painting that he is enjoying.  That’s how it is with a poem for me.  They are a bit of my life I continue to enjoy.

Checking back, this blog was begun March 9, 2010 with the caption “Hello world!”  That’s a pretty good summation of the joy and trepidation every blogger has felt setting out, I would guess.  Here is this whole world beckoning, without an intermediary to be seen.  No gatekeepers.  No editors.  No business or financial razor wire to cut through.  No deadlines.  No restrictions.  And I’m typing the first phrase of the rest of my life.

Ironically, rather than a blog releasing my views to the world, as I had anticipated – it has rather been like isolating myself on an island and sending a message off in a bottle, hoping that someone will discover it, and then respond.  Both have been shown to be very problematic events.

Like most ‘ground-breaking’ endeavors we try, even if we succeed, we find that there are real reasons for the way tradition operated.   Life is quite complex.  We form opinions without full understanding.  Older people maintain this is why they have become more conservative with age.  Younger people maintain it’s because we’re old, and that we should be polite and move to the side.  (I’m sorry.  You will have to wait until I’m dead.)

Blogging has provided opportunities for a small number of the millions out there to make a name for themselves.  And it has provided the opportunity for a much vaster number to write and post their thoughts and opinions.  I’m all in favor.  But, as for myself, I’ve found the fishing here to be quite poor after trying every bait imaginable.  So, time to pull in the pole and flip a line into the water elsewhere.

The irony is of course, that I’ve decided in retrospect, it’s the traditional modes of publication which look to promise the best results.  A traditional publishing model handles the business, the editing, the promotion and audience accrual and maintenance, that a blogger must handle all by themselves.   You may select the audience you would like to reach by submitting to the journal or press which has that sort of reader.  And you know that there is one there.  You needn’t carry the whole enterprise; you’re no longer a one man band.  Publishers have a stable of like minded writers to share in the heavy creative lifting.  The only problem being to find the right publisher and to present yourself as such a good opportunity, they will bite.

The irony is that in hindsight the personal blogging, which at first looked to be so active, proved to be passive in actual practice.  While what looked to be a quite passive tack, that is, submitting to various journals in hope of attracting their patronage – looks now to be the active pursuit.  Here I am now, as the hunter, setting my traps for the best looking journals, following their habits and reading their scat.   But, I don’t feel too bad about it.  As Santayana said: “Even our world is a contradiction of what it is trying to be.”

So, as to the future, what I intend doing is the writing and publishing of poems through traditional journals and lines of acceptance.  This blog has helped me formulate the belief that the poem and prose are quite differing ways of expressing oneself: the former quite relational, while the latter (prose) is quite hierarchical.  The audience for hierarchy (power) has always been greatest.  It’s clear, practical and focused.  But I think poetry has too long allowed itself to be cowed and kept barefoot and pregnant, when it could have brought its particular brand of argument to the table and formulated a better, or at least complimentary vision to the great debates and questions of the times.  These are the sorts of poems I intend to write – and to publish.  In other words, I am taking the last step from the stepping stones my blog has created, to the other bank where I am now planting my feet.

Look for me on the horizon!  – Carl Nelson / Schn00dles

 

 

The Short Version / Reviews

October 31, 2014

tony-hoagland1

Tony Hoagland / Poet

 

 

Every time I come across an article or poem by Tony Hoagland, I either turn to it immediately, or savor the thought as I thumb my way through.   He is smart, witty, enjoyable… and in his bio photo looks as I would imagine a leprechaun would as it had just cast a spell and/or achieved a little mischief with words.  The truth, for Mr. Hoagland, is mischievous.  I have no higher praise.

The fun begins, right off the bat, with his titles:  “What Narcissism Means to Me” and “Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty”, among  others.  His criticism has the bite and crunch appeal of granola and milk sprinkled with fresh raspberries.  As he says himself:  “This collection of essays about poetry, (from the book “Real Sofistikashun”), neither academic nor exactly for the reader off the street, is in fact a mostly homemade set of geographies, jerry-rigged descriptions, and taxonomies. They are intended for the reader who loves poems and likes to think about them.”

Tony_Hoagland2

Well, so are the poems.  I opened my most recent issue of “The Sun”, to happen upon three of them.  In “Ship”, he complains:

 

At dawn I get up from my bed and draw the blinds;

            the light through the bedroom window is too strong.

            I don’t want the sun entering my house so early,

            when the dreams inside my head are still wet paint.

 

In “Upward” he laments the loss of a friendship:

 

With the help of Zen,

            my old friend Jack

            dissolved his disagreements

            with the world,

            purified his quarrels,

 

            sushed his ego,

            stopped biting back

            when bitten,

            and gradually had

            no opinions

            other than wise ones.

 

            …

 

            Goodbye, my friend, goodbye, I say

            quietly to myself

            like a character

            in some science-fiction novel

            as I watch the

 

            smooth spaceships of Zen

            slip the heavy harness

            of the earth

            and rise into the weightlessness

            of space,

 

            …

 

Reads almost like some monologue in a movie full of warmth and oddities – doesn’t it.   Tony makes me wonder if they haven’t a stable of poets somewhere on the movie backlot, who drift from light comedy to light comedy sprinkling bits of fairy enchantment.

His stuff just feels like it’s been around; never borrowed, but wise.

tony_hoagland3

Photos from Google Images / quotations by Tony Hoagland

From the Editor’s Perch…

November 26, 2013
Who Can't Sympathize with Someone Who Slashes Their Wrists at the Office?

Who Can’t Sympathize with Someone Who Slashes Their Wrists at the Office?

“Not Waving but Drowning”

 

The full poem by Stevie Smith goes like this:

            Not Waving but Drowning

               Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

                                                   –  Stevie Smith

For my money, Stevie Smith lived the essential poet’s life: monotonous secretary’s days so compressing in their accumulation that she finally lost her employment of umpteen years from slashing her wrists while at at the office.  You don’t have to be a poet to sympathize!

Not dying, she continued on living with her aunt while scrabbling together a living out of writing book reviews and doing poetry readings.  You might wonder why artists choose this life?  It’s probably mostly because they live between their ears.  Like religious ascetics, worldly things haven’t as great of a grip on them.  And between the ears, “The desire for liberty is the most powerful force for creativity in an artist; that is why even in the most oppressive places some of the most beautiful and powerful art is made.”  (- Lindy Vopnfjord)

Smith reveled in the liberty of the mind more than most poets.  As the novelist/critic Martha Cooley notes, “Over the years, Smith got called everything from whimsical, quirky, childlike, and silly to mordantly sophisticated, stoic, brilliantly comic, and plain old depressed.”  Smith aptly represents this blend of modest successes with great failure which I’ve tried to describe in these previous essays on the strategies of losing:  “She tolerated rather than apologized for her own misreading, believing them usefully deviant; and she took great enjoyment in reading in a desultory manner, grazing without aim.”

But, of course, she was a fine poet.  Great poetry is made of those lines, such as the poet Robert Bly describes of Whitman’s, which can sustain great weight across the span of a sentence.    “Not waving but drowning” is a gold standard of poetic phrasing.  It has all the features: off-rhyme, metrical emphasis, and a meaning which ‘contains multitudes’.   You can’t crush it, and you can’t brush it away.

You couldn’t crush Stevie Smith, and we can’t brush her away.  Her failures are enduring.

Photo plucked from Google Images

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

May 8, 2013
Chipmunk on Windowsill

Chipmunk on Windowsill

Ralph Bunch Paints 6×10 Foot Chipmunk Portrait

(Episode 46)

  Ralph Bunch has never killed anyone.  And he probably never will.  And it’s doubtful anyone would ever want to kill Ralph.  So what’s his play?  Why shine our spot on him?

Well, life is fleeting (especially around Kimmel County of late) and art is forever.  So while life in Kimmel County wound on, Ralph Bunch kept painting his paintings, writing his poems and drinking his alcohol – all in a small hillside studio where he lived, just outside of town, looking down on the twinkling lights of Kimmel.  Ralph was fairly satisfied.

Ralph wouldn’t say things were going especially well.  But things rarely go especially well for painters and poets, and Ralph was “totally prepared for that” – bragging to his wife, who was pregnant with child, as much – just before she left him.

But that was water under the bridge.  The years passed.  And his paintings sold enough now to just about keep him fed.  (He was on the fighting side of 120 pounds.)

At his monthly art showing/poetry readings held in the bar in the back of the Campaign Café, his paintings often sold from three to four hundred a pop.  Then, he usually took in around sixty dollars in tips.  He wasn’t entirely without an entertainer’s wiles, and often pitched one of the exhibited paintings, by reading a poem in a voice somewhat reminiscent of John Gielgud.

The paintings and poems often were of someone – or something dear to someone – living there in the valley.   Which meant their wives and friends and relations would attend the fete.  And then the person’s mother or father or closest would purchase the painting.  On other occasions Ralph unveiled a commissioned piece.

The criticism of those who did not like the painting, often fell on the ‘painted while drunk’ side, with the comments those who did like the painting falling otherwise, and all of them drinking and getting a little more vocal as the evening progressed.  And this was how cultural life was conducted in Kimmel.

This cultural get-together was considered one of Kimmel’s more serious and proper occasions, often covered in the County Journal.  And it ranked just slightly below the Church Social as a place where a person could bring a ‘serious’ romantic interest.  Currently, Sheriff Leland was figuring just how he might invite Agent Hailey to attend with him, without it appearing too much to be what it was or would be, which was a date.

Anyway, recently Ralph was working on a large painting of George Everlee’s prize Guernsey.  He was squinting at the thing, while stepping back, trying his best to recover his original inspiration, and under a little time pressure to do so as the ‘opening’ was only 2 days away, when he caught movement in the blurry background where there, set on the mossy rock of the windowsill, was a chipmunk looking back at Ralph with an intensity Ralph had never felt in the face of any animal before.  Ralph blinked.  Then he blinked again, and kept blinking.

Ralph stepped further backwards, squinting at his work.  Then he found himself going through his cupboards looking for crackers and nuts and knocking things aside and chewing tops off.  Even later, he couldn’t recall quite what had come over him.

To be honest, the rest of the afternoon was a blur, with Ralph finding himself that evening surrounded by empty cracker cartons, paint tubes, broken brushes, snack bags and emptied cans of nuts, while on the easel in place of his nearly finished portrait of George Everlee’s prize Guernsey was a still wet 6 x 10 foot portrait of  the chipmunk – more or less.  It was probably the most intense thing Ralph had ever painted and probably supported the most paint Ralph had ever committed to one painting.  Paint covered Ralphs hands and elbows.  In the mirror, his face, looked as though someone had smeared war paint on him and then rubbed, and rubbed…  Ralph Bunch gazed around, still disoriented, as if recovering from a very vivid dream, under the bare bathroom light bulb and wiped a dribble of sweat from his nose.

The actual chipmunk, meanwhile, had disappeared.

Photo by Carl Nelson

Travelling Expenses

April 15, 2012

Editor:  Time to catch up with Paul.  Not hard, as he’s not moving very fast…

Taken on the set of The Divine Marigolds with Lorraine Montez as Ruby Marigold.

Climbing out of this mire is so hard
The past clings to my strength, trying to make me stay
To face the opposite and slip into the ease that would be death
And then there is you!
I am not sure which I want, when you cast your cloud over my heart
… I am not sure if the knife needs to be twisted, or removed
Would love win, or would I be drowned in the blood of this impasse
It’s going nowhere this debate, me, the protagonist, me, the antagonist.
I have no say, I just listen.
                                                                     – P Eenhoorn C 2012
 
Photo by Carl Nelson

Travelling Expenses

March 23, 2012

Editor:  Meanwhile, Paul’s been busy finding work, finding alcohol, losing his mind and writing poetry:

Paul Has Been Dealing with Life and Death Issues of Late

A Monologue From Men and Women

JAKE.
My Theory is, some of us are meant to love,
and we keep loving but it’s not enough,
… I don’t mean the room mate kind of marriage love,
I mean deep abiding heart destroying love,
and we think that should be enough, but it’s never enough,
we have to get a job, buy a house, a car, medical,
why can’t we just love? You see I think that shit kills love.
We keep falling in love you and I, deeper and
deeper each time until we meet “The One”.
The Big Kahuna, and when that happens
we’re gone because there is no coming back from that one.
You see each time we fall into a woman
we leave a piece of our heart there,
it’s like you cant get it back, and when you meet “Her”,
“The One”, instead of running which is what any sane person would
do you just walk towards her like a zombie and say,
“Rip what’s left of my Heart out Baby oh Yeah, I love the pain”.
And I have met her, I have loved her and I died for her.
So what I’m saying Jess is that you really you haven’t loved enough
yet! You’re still alive.
Paul Eenhoorn Copyright 2012

 Photo borrowed from one of Paul’s film projects. 


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