Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

Roy G. Biv (sorry, I can't let indigo go)

This is a view of Skull Valley, taken while standing on my front porch at Cipher Canyon Ranch, looking east to the Sierra Prietas. Weather in the mountains of Arizona is a wild thing, often entirely unpredictable--this is a picture of November, an odd time for rainbows, perhaps, which are not a permanent feature of this view but rather an entirely conditional one.

I'm missing this desert a bit. Mountains are unique, and memorable and, as such, a little like friends.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Where It's Always 20 to 9.

Miss Havisham's Table
"Look at me," said Miss Havisham. "You are not
afraid of a woman who has never seen the sun
since you were born?"
-- Great Expectations

She is not the old bat you were taught in school.
Her dress is a little loose, a topiary form
on a withered yew, rough like cast bandages.
On the dresser, a jeweled brooch welters
in a bride-to-be's mess, its sunburst pattern
impressed in dust. The only clock running
is Miss Havisham herself, who sweeps the room
on Pip's shoulder, round and round
the wedding table. 20 to 9. 20 to 9. 20 to 9.
What's different here is simple: loss
is fixture. Memory occludes each crystal
on the chandelier; her foot is a rag of silk.
She has refused to play Time's brunt,
triggering a mortal spar: each wrinkle, each
sallowed sag of skin, each mouse that rattles,
eats away the ordered universe. The cake,
a one-time ziggurat of cream and froth, hums
with the clicking shells of beetles. Cobwebs
drape like aviary nets. She has accepted ruin.
She expects to lie down on the dilapidated feast,
a pyre of dark and lovely light. What else
is there? She's done the best she could:
cursed the day, trod on a few young lives,
preserved a world that's cantilevered.

In Defense of Objects, available now from Bear Star Press. $16. No shipping fees.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Itch That Must Be Scratched.

I read a poet-blogger the other day describe her inability to find the time or opportunity to write as making her itch.

I get that. Only I feel like I've gained weight, rather than broken out in hives. I feel bloated. And like my clothes don't fit anymore. Everything is too tight and about to pop buttons.

This is a metaphor.

I've been retaining words all summer, and I finally intend to shed some serious pounds. I'm meeting my muse in the morning, and we have a bruising work-out scheduled.

Tomorrow, my daughter goes back to school.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Innovative People.

I enjoyed reading this article from the Harvard Business Review on the five "discovery skills" that distinguish innovative entrepreneurs.

They are (I'm quoting from the article here):
  • associating -- a cognitive skill that allows creative people to make connections across seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas;
  • questioning -- an ability to ask "what if," "why," and "why not" questions that challenge the status quo and open up the bigger picture;
  • ability to closely observe details, particularly the details of people's behavior;
  • ability to experiment -- the people studied are always trying on new experiences and exploring new worlds;
  • ability to network with smart people who have little in common with them, but from whom they can learn.
"You might summarize all of the one word: 'inquisitiveness''s the same kind of inquisitiveness you see in small children...

If you look at 4-year-olds, they are constantly asking questions and wondering how things work. But by the time they are 6 1/2 years old, they stop asking questions because they quickly learn that teachers value the right answers more than provocative questions. High school students rarely show inquisitiveness. And by the time they're grown up and are in corporate settings, they have already had the curiosity drummed out of them."

Obviously, I'm less interested in this issue for corporate settings and more in terms of the creative act. Does a similar skill-set translate to creative types--artists and writers and poets?

It's an interesting question to me, as I've become less and less satisfied with discussions of left-brain and right-brain cognitive dispositions, or handedness, as indicators (or contraindicators) of creativity. Obviously, this list above catalogs behaviors, rather than cognitive function, so we're tracking effects rather than causes. Nonetheless, coming at the issue from the rear, so to speak, could be helpful.

This past summer, I attended a lecture given by an aesthetics scholar, who wanted to claim that language (which lives on the "rational," left side of the brain) is an ugly hindrance to the unmediated apprehension necessary for right-brained, artistic creation. Problem is, he couldn't explain poetry. He conceded that poets experience unmediated apprehension, just as other types of artists do; yet he couldn't explain how or why they then use language as their medium, particularly as they're not transcribing the experience at some later moment, but writing exactly as they're creating. Hmmmmm...

I did take one of those brain hemispheres quizzes on Facebook. Interestingly, I was *exactly* 50-50, right and left, which I guess is fairly rare. But the real point is, if hemispheric interpretations of creativity don't really work for one medium, why would we assume it works for others?

As for this new research into creative behaviors, I can only say that most artists I know (in any medium) would say that they're naturally inquisitive. Yet I'm not sure all or many fall in line with others of these behaviors; for instance, many artists I know are not all that keen observers of other people. They're fairly inept when it comes to reading social situations or understanding the nuances of a particular culture (Facebook, again, comes to mind). Artists tend to stick to their tribes. Now, the "associating" behavior is right-on-the-money with artists and poets--my mind certainly connects weird stuff together. It's the act of metaphor.

Nonetheless, a lot of artists simply know what they know. Ya know?