The Writing Life

ONE

one-life

I have this one life. I am addressing areas that have been neglected and treating myself with love and care, whereas in the past I harmed myself. I have no apologies for reclaiming my energies to prevent myself from living in a wheelchair, suffering from joint disintegration, or dying from a heart attack. Of course, we don’t know how we will go, but I am revolutionizing my mind and body to squeeze every bit of life out of life.

I haven’t felt inclined to write poetry of late. That is okay with me. I feel that I will come to it when I am ready. What inspires me is other writers, other artists of many forms. I have a photo by Annie Pluto on my computer’s desktop that I am allowing to consciously and subconsciously resonate with me. I hope to write an ekphrastic poem inspired by it.

I am being very selective about what I will do in my Writing Life. I have set boundaries; and will respect my own authority to make decisions in regards to how I will proceed. Otherwise, I firmly believe, the work will not be authentic or any good, the goals for which I have always strived.

I have had to let go of things that at one time meant so much to me. My mother’s death changed me in ways that I view as positive, which I believe she would have wanted for me. My hope for the New Year is that I can continue the progress I started in late 2014, to better myself, in a holistic way.

My determination is strong. My hope is rising. My will is palpable; and I have the love and support of those dearest to me, thank God.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Clare L. Martin

Watching the Wheels

 

I forgot who I was. I knew the age spot on my left cheek. I knew the sagging breasts and the overlapping belly. I knew my feet; my unusually small toes. I knew my eyes and what they had seen. I knew my lips, now shaded in regal purple. I knew my place in the bed next to the dog, and further away, my husband. I knew him; his wants and needs. I knew the losses: friendships, a friend forever, my father, son and now, almost seven months ago, my mother. I knew something of my values, but not as clearly: my own value. I had forgotten the tools of my fingers; except to inconsistently pleasure myself, wash my face, shave the stubble here and there, or grip a steering wheel. I knew my daughter; but already this knowing is an ocean away. I knew the reason I withdrew from an outside life that filled others more than myself. I knew the shame of saying one thing and doing another. But I had forgotten myself.

I know that in the past six months I put words on paper. I know that as soon as those words were written I forgot them. I forgot the thrill too, and felt only dislocation.  I forgot the feel of words in my mouth, as though my tongue had been numbed for surgery. I forgot the clicking taps on a keyboard except for inane mumblings; wretched gloats and ambiguous streams of babble. But back to dislocation: my writing setting has been unsettled. There are two sofas in this room. One does not belong here. Things are unplugged that should be plugged in. There are china cups wrapped in newspaper in boxes that haven’t been unpacked. One curtain hangs and another needs to be hung up. Where is my grounding? Files and files and no skeleton for them. Unopened mail. Books unread. I became dislocated in the aftermath of death. I do remember the tenderest parts of me and the kisses they received.

Before I progress, I need to familiarize myself with myself. Yesterday, I wanted to disappear. I wanted to drive on a road I’d never traveled and tell no one if I was going north, south, east or west. Instead I went to a bakery and bought my favorite dessert. My husband ate half and my daughter the other.  The yearning I have is to be left alone. JUST LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE.  That has been my mantra, but I do want to engage. Those closest to me understand. I have enough time. I just need awareness of the ever-presence of the opportunity of solitude and the will to delineate myself into its holy grasp.

Drained. I have been drained. Lately, I have related an adage that came to me: “If your own kitchen is on fire and your neighbor’s house is burning, put out the fire in your kitchen and then bring water to your neighbor.”  This is how I must live my life, for now, until the fire is put out, until the long task list is accomplished. I do not feel guilt for saying no. I do not feel remorse for expressing wrath when only wrath, justified, would accomplish the necessary. I had forgotten wrath. Wrath can be useful. I accept my own blamelessness.

God help those who elicit my wrath. It is life-stopping in a metaphorical way; and profoundly affecting. Good, good, good. Now you know. Now you will pay attention and show me respect. Wrath: a wolf in defense and defiance for survival. It is necessary for the continuation of my living with no ill intent at all.

I talked to a friend today. It was nice. She offered refuge and calm water. I cannot do for others outside my closest family and my core friendships. Loss. We have lost so much and I am in transition. Part of what I forgot or tried to unburden myself from was writing; what it had come to mean for me.  But what it meant, or what it was starting to represent for me was obligation and burden. Yes, there is a burden to carry as a writer and almost always I carry that with joy, but the elements of operating in a society of writers was what I felt trapped by. I came to a conclusion to only write when I feel like it and to not submit my work to journals anymore unless I am solicited to do so. It is not because I feel I have reached a level of status that it is beneath me; it’s just that I am not hungry.  I do not have the time to write, submit, write, submit, etc. I think of the John Lennon song’s “Watching the Wheels” because it expresses how I feel about my career as a writer.

What is it about writing that brings me joy? I am no longer playing the game. I am vitally more interested in growing my family, as we have lost so many of our blood and kin. If I can solidify my core family, blood or not, I will find that inner resolve to write something worthy and authentic. I will write words with blood-worth, with the meaning and impact that has always been my fiercest intention.

THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS

THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS*

That summer I was tobacco and burnt sage; a carnival ride that lurched midair—

The barefoot, bra-less girl who watched thistle seeds carried on the wind, listened to King Crimson on a mix-tape and sneaked her grandmother’s mulberry wine—

I tore you open: a lusted-for letter that announced my emancipation. I nearly choked on love—fervently sucking the pit for every last sweet string of flesh.

Now we watch CNN with thunder in our chests. It is how we feel all of the time—a marching band parade of all drums and tubas.

We have grown so old sugar cane fields are malls, Taco Bells, and neighborhoods obscuring magenta sunsets. Where are our horizons?

There is a collapsed mine in China on the TV. The newscaster spends 15 seconds on it.

And somehow a memory rises of a stranger: his taut arms cradle my hips; his deft fingers twirl an ice cube on my nipple—before you.

I begin to tell you about it but remember that twenty seven years ago
you asked me not to.

 CLM ©2014

*Based on the prompts: a wax seal, an apricot pit, distant thunder, a collapsed mine, strangers fornicating, a blissful magenta sunset, devils in the details, tobacco, burnt sage, spit, carnival rides, a thistle, wind, mulberry wine

We write.

I use the following as a handout for discussion in creative writing workshops I present.  It is great for youths and adults. It’s a compilation of motivational advice I have given and have received over the years. It’s a simple direct way to keep yourself on task when embarking on the path of The Writing Life. More can be said, and I encourage others to use and amend this list.

 

WE WRITE

Writers write.  Writers read.

Fall in love with a dictionary.
Vision—it takes courage to see.
Face the blank page or screen.

Don’t wait for inspiration.

Practice and play. Make mistakes.
Observe. Pay attention to life.
Experiment with language.
Write to express, but even more write to see and make others see.

See, hear, taste, touch, discover and know.

Bring the reader into the world of your poem with concrete images.
Dream journal –peer into other worlds, seek out unconscious connections.
Write your responses and impressions of poems you like.
Free write to music. Free write to static.

Write “in your head” then write it down.
Fight for freedom on the page.
Keep a journal.
Cultivate the desire to write.
Get out of bed to write if an idea strikes you.
Write what you need to write.
Say what you need to say.

Listen for your voice. Befriend it and trust it.
Uncover the processes of your psyche.
Aim for tension in the words.
Write from the depths of your experience—the writing itself will deepen experience.
Free write and then control the words with form.
Strive for a precision of language.
Nurture your discipline.

Do not punish yourself.

Give it time.

FIGHT FOR EVERY WORD.

 

 

© 2014 Clare L. Martin

Good Fortune

 

“Things I once thought unbelievable in my life have all taken place.”

~PJ Harvey, “Good Fortune”

 

Ten years ago, I set forth on the path of The Writing Life. It has taken me to places I never dreamed of. I think of PJ Harvey’s “Good Fortune” which is one of my favorites. It gets me fired up today to believe in the unstoppable force of Good.

Every occurrence that I have perceived as a failure has been transformed to a reason to celebrate. Because of the will and commitment I made to myself to persevere, because of positive actions and beliefs–I have persevered. I have overcome so much tragedy. My good fortune to have the people in my life that I do, and that I had, is something I am grateful for beyond words. Some people who lifted me up are gone, but they really are beside me, whispering encouragement. I will join them someday and bring my own force to the living, giving palpable inspiration through the spirit.

Many years ago I faced what I believed to be major setbacks and failures in my life. I lost a job due to illness that left me in shame and hurt for a long time. Prior to that, I had left graduate school because of my illness, which was also a deep hurt for me. But I realize now the full force of how those perceived losses were transformational; steeled my will to make something of myself, and turned my attention to the things in life that really matter, which are love for one’s self without compromise, care for our loved ones and movement forward on the high road, even if that means the road traverses a mountain.

Right now, I feel I am nearing a summit, but it won’t be the only summit. There are many mountains to climb, metaphorically, and I am up for the challenge.

Daily, I reclaim this life. I honor its restoration. I accept the calling to inspire and lift others up to meet their own paths of transformation. I am where I am because of where I was and because I chose to commit to a life that seeks truth and personal revelation through dedication to an art  that I was blessed to be gifted with some inclination towards.

I offer praise to the Universe, God, the Divine Whatever for this life, and peace and resolution to you.

And if you care to read an interview with me about Eating the Heart First and my approach to poetry, I would be much obliged. Today, Flash Fiction Chronicles has published an interview Susan Tepper conducted with me about a month ago. Enduring thanks to Susan Tepper (www.susantepper.com) for this interview with me in her series UNCOV/rd at Flash Fiction Chronicles, and to the editors there for extending National Poetry Month one day, to feature a poet instead of a flash fiction writer!

The direct link is: http://www.everydayfiction.com/flashfictionblog/clare-l-martin-uncovrd/

 

Words Across the World

One of my poems, “Litany” has been translated into Turkish and will appear in a small print journal in Turkey called Gard thanks to poet and translator, Şakir Özüdoğru. How cool is that?  Just to know that this poem has impact and has moved another to share it with readers in his native tongue is thrilling. Much thanks to Şakir and best to him in all his artistic endeavors!

The original poem can be read, in English, in the current issue of MadHat Annual in addition to four other poems by me here. 

“Hands like flushed doves”

Washing my hands this morning, I thought of  Noami Vincent, who was like a great aunt to me. She was my grandmother’s neighbor from the time that my grandparents (along with my mother and her siblings) moved from the country after a terrible flood that took everything they owned, to the house where they lived 50 years, where I live now.

Noami lived into her 90s, became my closest friend for many years until she passed in 2007, the same year as my father. She was a lively, seemingly impervious Cajun woman who had so many losses in her life.  She was one of the strongest women I have ever known. She lost seven children. She miscarried six times and the only child that she birthed, a girl, died in childbirth. This woman saved me so many times in our great friendship. She was family to us and is dearly missed.

I looked out of the bathroom window this morning and could see her house, empty still.  When she lived, her door was always open to me and to so many loved ones.  She was brave, funny, stubborn and deeply faithful. Here are a couple of facts about her:  she kept a bayonet in her closet to defend herself, if needed,  and she traveled alone to California from Louisiana without knowing how to drive during World War II. 

Noami’s story is complex. Both of her parents were deaf and mute and her mother went blind, too, after contracting diabetes. The poem below is collected in Eating the Heart First, and was written with inspiration from events in her life. She was very close to my mother, too, and I incorporated something of my mother’s narrative in it.

I will leave it at that.

I don’t want to use copyrighted images in this post, but please look at this painting, “Hands #1,” oil on canvas, 24″x24″, 2011, previously shown at Saatchi: Gallery Mess, London by Daniel Maidman that really struck me today.

 

MUTE

 

Hands like flushed doves

flutter to say: dry the dishes—

 

sweep the floor, but never be quiet.

When she went blind, too,

 

we spelled goodnight and I love you tenderly,

tracing each alphabet

 

on the scattered leaves of her palms.

I married and she touched

 

my hips, spreading her hands wide

to note I was getting fat. She patted

 

my growing belly

but never cradled my offspring.

 

When the infant died,

pantomime cries

 

fell like trees

in storms from her mouth.

 

 

“Mute” first appeared in Blue Fifth Reviewthe blue collection 1, anthology series, 2010 and is collected in Eating the Heart First (Press 53, 2012)

Copyright 2012, Clare L. Martin. All rights reserved.