Real, Live Poet

A new friend asked me yesterday about my writing process, whether I wait for inspiration or make a determined effort to face the blank page or screen. My answer was that I live as a poet. A poet’s job is 24/7 and encompasses all of experience, all of life. I read frequently and keep notebooks to capture thoughts. I also write at my desk on the computer. I am most comfortable on the computer writing in a Word document.

A writer writes. I don’t wait for inspiration but am attuned to it and if it rises, I capture words as quickly as I can. I face the blank page or screen and set aside time to write every day in some sense. There are dry spells, to be sure, but often I accept them as evidence of the way I am expending my energy in other areas of my life. I don’t blame myself for not doing it–I just find my balance again and follow words where they lead.

I am what I am and that being a poet, I have trained myself to “see” and “say” in poetic ways. An ordinary act such as washing dishes, or catching a glimpse of the sun rising when I take my daughter to school at 6:45 in the morning can be transformed into a writing lesson and a poem.  There is magic (imagination) and always there is mystery because the act of writing brings us deeper into the self. For me the ‘exaltation of the ordinary’ is how I approach my life and often my art. Moment by moment life feeds us material for poems, or any creative art.

SCORPIO horoscope for 10/26/12: “Creative energy fills you up today, and that could mean that you’re ready for a big challenge that’s on the way. Even if you don’t feel ready, you are sure to find good answers.”

For the past several months, I have been occupied with work related to the publication of Eating the Heart First (Press 53, 2012) and its promotion. I have been laying the groundwork for events and readings that are book-related.  The plans have been set for the rest of the year and I am turning again to writing creatively since energy has been freed up. I have been working so hard and it is rewarding work, but I am ready to shift. I am buoyed by a renewing creative energy.

I am especially excited that I will be presenting a workshop tomorrow at Cite des Arts in Lafayette, LA through the new “Acadiana Wordlab” literary drafting project, founded and directed by Jonathan Penton of Unlikely Stories, online at www.unlikelystories.org  The workshop will be from 2-4 pm on Saturday, October 27th at Cite des Arts on Vine St. in Lafayette.  I expect it will be fun and inspiring, non-judgmental and encouraging.

Please join us if you can.

We Write

There was a time when I could not put words together in any meaningful way. There was a time when clarity, sanity even, eluded me. I could not fathom my place in the world. I could not meet my own path. I was shell-shocked by traumas and heartbreaks. My very own mind betrayed me.

I have found my way again, thankfully. I have outlived a self-accepted shame which held me back, which kept me locked in inaction and fear. Gratefully and purposefully, I have pushed through and made something I dreamed of real.

I go deeper into life; I go inward to my own heartspace and learn. I go outward; train my eye and ear to the world, take in the hoof beats of thunder, the wild sun rising through the loam of night—

Writing is my calling and passion.  Writing has saved my life.

To write you need comprehension of a language, certain instruments to write with, the will to do the work, the curiosity to investigate what is below the surface–time. Believe you have something meaningful to say and go forth. Your skill will improve and you will perpetuate a habit.

I always begin with an old-fashioned “free-write.” I compose mainly on the computer in a Word document.  This is my method and practice. I do keep journals close to capture fleeting thoughts, but rarely if ever do I write out a poem in long-hand.

Below is a handy collection of wisdom that I often share with students that I have had the privilege to instruct in creative writing workshops. Feel free to utilize its advice but please credit me for thinking and compiling these thoughts.

WE WRITE

Writers write.  Writers read.

Fall in love with words.
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, smell—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.

Breathe.

FIGHT FOR EVERY WORD.

© 2012 Clare L. Martin

Hello, World! Let me move you with my words.

Clare L. Martin

My debut collection of poems is now available for pre-order from Press 53 as a Tom Lombardo Selection. Click on the cover image to take you to my page where you can order it. If you pre-order, you will have your book in hand, signed by me approximately one month before the publication date of Oct. 1st.

So much of my heart went into this book, it pulses. I hope you will enjoy! Love and thanks,

Clare

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“Eating the Heart First” Now Available for Pre-Order

My debut collection of poems is now available for pre-order from Press 53 as a Tom Lombardo Selection. Click on the cover image to take you to my page where you can order it. If you pre-order, you will have your book in hand, signed by me approximately one month before the publication date of Oct. 1st.

So much of my heart went into this book, it pulses. I hope you will enjoy! Love and thanks,

Clare

Retreat Writings, 2012, Part 5

My time at the Casita is coming to an end.

What sense is left in these hands?  What do my fingers know that my mind has yet to discover? I type and words appear, or scrawl a script with my pen and there seems to be a meaning that was elusive to my tongue.  The words I write have more sense than the words I speak. The body knows things the mind does not.

I go outdoors to feel night. Through a lighted window shade, I see the silhouette of a woman adjusting her ponytail. It is almost midnight. Watching her inspires the beginnings of a poem, but I feel a little guilty watching  so I close my eyes.  I listen to frogs and crickets harmonizing. Something rustles behind the casita and it scares me. I enter the casita and lock the door quickly.

Meditations

I pick up a book of meditations that I have read off and on over the years. This book has a strange effect on me, sometimes sending me into peculiar mental states with glimpses perhaps of a deeper reality we only sense in extraordinary moments. (What moment is not extraordinary?) I am hesitant to name the book. There has been controversy around it. I will only say that when I read it and meditate on its passages and teachings something opens in me and I sense the resonance of the Infinite. I have experienced fear and awe when reading deeply in this book. I will take it in small doses…I hope that these truths will permeate my life.

It is almost daybreak.

I stayed up because I could. I drank canned espresso and fruit juices with yerba mate and I am buzzing. I want to take mini-retreats when I return to “reality”—whether it is sitting alone in the dark, taking a bath, sitting on the cypress swing in the backyard—healthy actions that will replenish me. I think there is an issue for me as a woman that makes it all the more necessary for me to retreat from the world. Note to self: explore this later…

The sun is up.
I sit on the little porch and smoke my third to last cigarette. I listen to the birds sing. They are going at it like crazy, telling each other their dreams. Or they are discussing their plans for the day—a ‘team meeting’ of sorts. Where is the freshest water? Where are the trees with ripened fruit? I sit on the steps and listen to them.

If I listen long enough I will understand them.

 

Two poetic lines that come to me:

 “The sheets are so white against new blood.”

 “She is unbelieved.”

Two Dreams of The White Horse (2005)

May 10, 2005

I dreamed of the White Horse again last night. In this new dream I was its master. On my command it leaped high fences topped with barbwire and lay still without breathing in tall grass to escape detection of the mafioso hunting me. When I’d fled the murderers, I strode into the house of The Don and walked directly to him. He was a thin, old man in loose clothing without a single gray hair. I whispered in his ear. The breathless hitmen falling over themselves to reach me were told: “Leave this woman alone.”

The dream that follows is the one I had February 5, 2005, which was my introduction to the symbol of the White Horse. I think this first dream of the White Horse could have been the awareness I had been chasing illusions and this second dream indicated I’d reached some mastery over my life.

Chasing the White Horse –Dream of 2/5/05

I had a psychotic break and was out of my mind for a year or many years. The years were black pages. I had to be placed in a secluded, secret house and attended by several plain-clothes, patronizing nurses. My husband divorced me and remarried a beautiful blond woman. My daughter simply forgot me. My ex had more children with the woman. I saw him and he was indifferent toward me. He said now, with the new wife, he knew what love really was and that the sex with his new beautiful wife was fantastic and meaningful. The most significant people in my life were unreachable, despite all of my efforts to remind them who I was and what I believed we meant to each other. I was totally lost and alone. The heart of my life dissolved. My loved ones had “moved on” and I was without direction. I had been fighting my demons only with the hope of returning to my family– but they were by choice through with me.

I wrote a book when I’d recovered my mind and gave the manuscript to the suspicious nurses reluctantly, but with desperate need that they would see that it got published. They smirked and took the manuscript. I escaped on a moonless night and ran barefooted through cold mud and unlocked several wooden gates to freedom.  I had no idea where I was. The place was rural and unfamiliar to me.

I attempted to be guided by constellations but my knowledge of the heavens was vague. I followed a river until I found a city. I entered a boutique that sold books, wind chimes and sterling silver picture frames. When a happy customer spoke to me I was surprised to learn I was famous. Many people had read the book and loved me but I didn’t know them and they meant nothing to me. I was helped my on my journey across America with money, shelter, clothes and food.

I arrived at my parent’s home. There was a wild, white stallion tearing up the lawn. My father held it tenuously by a thin string. The White Horse broke free before I could close the gates. I chased the White Horse. It ran into traffic and caused a calamitous accident but was unharmed. The horse bucked and galloped through my hometown and breezed into a weird pastel colored subdivision that looked like rows of storybook castles. I chased the White Horse into a house with an elaborate checker-pattern inlaid wood spiral staircase that rose into infinite space. I caught glimpses of the horse travelling upwards but it was far away. I was tired of running, so I climbed the staircase on my hands and knees. I became dizzy from looking up. Space tightened. I became disoriented. I couldn’t tell anymore which way was up and which way was down. The stairwell shut around me like a coffin. I woke up confused and hopeless.

Sunrise From Blue Thunder

 
I just purchased and received “Sunrise From Blue Thunder,” the new poetry anthology edited and published by Pirene’s Fountain as a response to the Japan earthquake and tsunami.  My poem “What Came After” appears in it. I’m honored to be included in this anthology with so many great poets. Sincere thanks to Katherine Herschler, Ami Kaye and Tracy McQueenJapan Project editors.
 
*Proceeds go to ongoing relief efforts in Japan.*
 
Click here to order. Quick and easy via lulu!

Happy New Year Publication!

The January 2012 issue of Thrush Poetry Journal has just been released and I have a poem in it, “What Winter Told Me”  alongside works by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, Lisa Marie Basile, Kat Dixon, Dennis Mahagin, M. G. Martin, Joseph A. W. Quintela, Jacob Rakovan, Richard Schiffman, Theresa Williams and Bill Yarrow.

Jacob Rakovan and I used to be in a writing group together years ago, I know him personally and think of him fondly, so this is a real kick to be in the same publication with him.  He keeps a place on the web here.

Thanks to Editor-In-Chief, Helen Vitoria, for selecting my work and for bringing these beautiful works to the world.

A Gift

THE ROAD BEFORE US

Let us travel the road before us

and enter into the mystery of trees.

Let us find the sleeping doe

attentive and aware

of the ever-wolf.  I will go

and find kindling. I will set

the fire that will engage us

and carry our heaviest thoughts

upward.  Clouds dwindle.  

Smoke trails us like a wraith.

I am caught in it. I rise

to the web of bleak branches,

to the very tops of trees.

Tonight leafless trees

are smothered with blackbirds.  

This night-smoke

becomes the blackbird

rising to its highest—

Drifting embers smite the moon.

©2011 Clare L. Martin