A Notebook is a Kid’s Best Friend

You know that feeling of a brilliant idea you’re sure you had, now just out of reach? Like waking from a vivid dream with no memory of the dream.

Or maybe you had the wording for what you wanted to say just right, but you didn’t jot it down and now none of your phrasing feels as poignant. 

One of my mom’s artist’s magazines told me to carry a notebook everywhere I went, no matter what, for that perfect image waiting to be sketched. Most writers will say to have it beside the bed, for when inspiration (a drawing in of breath) strikes. That is, by the way, how I’m writing this, on a night when I fell asleep too early and woke up at 2am wired. 

So why do I forget to write things down? Because I’m at work, driving, or otherwise find it impossible or unsafe? Sometimes. But as a member of the human race, no matter how well I think I know something, I have to keep learning these lessons. I’ve gone whole weeks with a bag filled with novels and crochet projects, but no notebook or no pen. 

Plus, and I’m sure you can relate, I act like my phone can do the job. I have Evernote, the WordPress app, can even sketch with a stylus. Which is fabulous! My phone is more mini computer and writing implement than communication device in how I use it. Sure, I get distracted, but more than that, half the time I want to write something on my phone, it’s dead! Paper is amazingly reliable. 

Even as I’m writing this I’m struggling with formatting issues that aren’t a big deal, but take me out of my flow. 

Plus, it’s easier to avoid editing while writing on paper, and save that pesky judgmental voice for later, when typing up. Of course I’ll keep using my phone for creative endeavors. But there still needs to be a notebook on me at all times.

What about you? Is your phone enough? Are you attached to a notebook or sketch pad? Is there some other method that works for you? I’d love to hear!

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And a time to fly by the seat of your pants

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Nostradamus, band we crashed with, killing it on stage. Fave song: "You'd think by now we'd have learned how to treat other people" (slight paraphrase)

12.19.15
I had weekend plans, reasons to stay, excuses, the reality that I went through surgery like two weeks ago and voilà, I’m still here in Tallahassee seeing an awesome slew of punk bands and finally, finally far enough away for my brain to be quiet.

Last Saturday I saw this poet Jake read from his book of essays Blue Collar Nomad at the Civic Media Center. He had this line, and I don’t remember if it was in the essays or in one of his introductions, about moving when he felt he needed to move. There will always be reasons not to, but sometimes you just have to…go.

Of course I know how to choose path over hearth. I know how to live on passion and sky, more basic to me than rice. How do you explain to someone who hasn’t felt the tremble in their bones, the itch on the bottom of their feet? Some things are necessary.

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Fire & friends & music. I met Nana Grizol and Toby Foster and a bunch of cool people and dogs. My friend Kevin and I danced like hooligans. A night that won’t soon be forgotten.

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"Sign it to my sort of girlfriend"

Before leaving Tallahassee we stopped at The Black Dog Cafe and I got the best London Fog I’ve ever encountered in the States — when in doubt, go with the Zeppelin reference –, I took a lot of pictures of the lake and bought yarn at Yarn Therapy for Ariel and Brittany’s Christmas presents.

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12/29/15
Everything got too hectic for me to finish this blog in the fervor of purpose where I started. Mum was miffed at me for leaving town spur of the moment, and then I predictably got sick, whether from sleeping in a punk house without any heat two weeks after having surgery or because my brother gave me his flu. So I'm on this green drink and hot tea and lemon water and lots of fruits and vegetables cleanse to keep from having anything inside of me that can turn into mucus. Yes, that sounds gross. It's working. I'm alive, and I'm taking good care of myself. I'm just also trying to remind myself that books are as good a way to travel as cars, as I have nowhere to go and no money to go with and am no better at sitting still.

The holidays happened. I'm grateful my loved ones are alive and well. My brother left for his semester abroad in Italy on the 27th, and my mother leaves for India tomorrow. I love my family, very very much, but I also missed my friend-family more this past week than I can say.

I've been crocheting a lot.

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I think somehow I know how to make things special with my friends. The time with my family went to running errands, transferring my mom’s music onto her new phone, and the like. But my brother and I are starting a vlog correspondence, so I may see more of him than I did before.

Now the year is almost over. I’m oddly superstitious about New Year’s, in a way I can’t say I am about anything else. I have to have something to show for the year, and some ritual to invoke the new. But, honestly, I got top surgery, which was top of my to-do list, and that’s FANTASTIC. 2015 is the year I finally got top surgery, met Ariel and Kevin, got a lot closer with Ali and Brittany. My half-finished Goodreads list and my guilt complex will keep. I’m so grateful for my friend-family and for having a body that I enjoy living in now.

This mood of movement still grips me, a certainty that I’m best in motion, dancing or on a bus. 2016 needs to be the year when I figure out how to tour with my poetry, how to get the work done, and then play like mad. I’m sure I’ll post a goals list in a few days. I promise, for my own sake, it will be more realistic than 2015’s.

Sometimes we just need to start the journey, to feel the dirt beneath our toes…Thursday’s child has far to go….

But sometimes (now) I need to be realistic, to buckle down and get the work done, to pay the bills and live in an actual house with heating. There isn’t a real conclusion here.

I leave you on a book recommendation: I tore through Clementine Von Radic’s new collection, Dream Girl, that weekend in Tallahassee and have been trying to get everyone to read it since. I’ll do a proper review when Brittany gets done reading, but just know, Clementine tore me open and rebuilt me with those poems in the best way possible.

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My secret garden, home.

The Trifecta of Healing: Boredom, Loneliness & Patience

Boredom is good for us. Play. Rest. Time for our brains to do all that imagining. Time to go inside ourselves.

But for me, personally? Ick.

Here’s the sitch (my 90s kid cred, roll with it).

I can’t work right now, and I should be applying for new jobs but I don’t know what I’ll be up for or when. My physical activity is limited. Normally I work off anxiety with physical exercise, which is currently limited to Qi Gong and rambling walks.

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There’s plenty I had laid out for myself during these months of recovery — and I am notably doing so much better than projected — but I’m having trouble making myself sit still long enough to do any of it. I wanted to crochet presents, edit my novel, learn to play You Are the Moon on keyboard. Instead I wander. I watch Jessica Jones. I get up in the middle of episodes or paragraphs to just walk.

Am I finding out what I really care about, while the pressure is off? I don’t think so. I think without a set schedule, I’m at the whims of my house mates, often lonely and restless. I wanted to be walking all summer, and now I am, because the air has finally cooled. It’s all in the timing.

My restlessness comes from feeling like I don’t get to choose when or how I’m alone, but I can choose this place. Today I choose to walk, and write.

Tomorrow I will choose again.

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I’m discovering some strange things about loneliness. When I was a kid, I would read for hours every day, curl up in a tree or a fort, in a closet nest, on my bed. I still do that on days off. But without anything to play hooky from, less satisfying. Unless someone is coming over, hard to care about cleaning my room.

Maybe it’s not about being alone. I get this illusion of connectivity, through twitter and Facebook and my phone. I feel lonelier with the illusion of connectivity while physically alone. For a writer, I’m a very physical person, needing affection, and the closeness and human smells of very specific people. And having my phone in line of sight actually reduces my attention span, according to several studies. I can feel it. My phone is also how I took these pictures, and I’m writing on the much more user friendly WordPress mobile app. So it’s a matter of balance — combating the feeling of being available but unwanted in the way cell phones are so good at making me feel.

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What I need is patience.

Patience to see what shape this feeling takes when it blossoms. Patience in love, so I don’t crush or over water what I believe could be an oak tree.

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Patience in work, while I relearn my body, and allow the healing to happen. Patience because not only does my body tire easily, but it feels like right now my mind does too.

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Patience with my heart and mind, while I process the depth and breadth of my feelings, instead of trying to sort them and get them over with. Staring into the hearts of trees, the ripples on the water, present but still not wanting to sit with myself, it’s clear we have different ways of avoiding feelings. While I had been frustrated until recently about a friend refusing to face his feelings, I think I put my feelings on an agenda like a business item, and am surprised when I’m still feeling them, and still need to talk. We already made a decision in the meeting — why are we still here, heart?

Ah, patience.

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The mosquitoes got me. Worth it.

And the need for patience feels so much more clear when I have nothing I have to do. Hundreds of books to read, a dozen shows to watch, projects to finish or edit or start, my brother’s graduate school application to edit, but everything unscheduled, often waiting on someone else. Without work and my time scheduled for me, waiting becomes a new kind of meditation. So I’m just…here. And just here is a hard place to be.

But it’s worth being grateful for being here. As people have time and reach out to me, I’m realizing that while I have often been lonely and restless due to a lack of control, planning more than one activity or hang out in a day sounds exhausting. I still need a lot of time to rest and do me-things. I’m applying to start massage school in a month, and I’ll have plenty of work before I’m ready.

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For now, I breathe through this.

Love,
Charles

P.S. I’d love to know the classification of my new mushroom friend.

New Video Poem! Before You Looked

Art poem of the last week, or that time when I hallucinated selfies and mused via bird metaphors. Everything, good or bad, happens to us inside the body. The body becomes an 8mm projection.

My first full blown video poem in a while. I’m really pleased with the increases in quality since my last releases, and having a lot of fun using more effects and playing with a partially pseudo “stop-motion” effect (selfies in succession etc). When I said I was influenced by L’étranges couleurs des larmes de ton corp, I partially meant I’m obsessed with switching between film and chains of still images after seeing the way the effect was used by directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani. (For more on the state of internal operations that fomented this video, see the last entry.) I don’t necessarily recommend the film if you have issues with violence or sexual violence, however. It was a bit traumatic. 

I don’t think I’m the kind of person who goes for skill and technique so much as the kind of person who attempts an emotional wrenching -documentation – and a phantasmagorical sensory experience if all goes well. So – this is that at least.

Your comments and responses are welcomed & cherished here and on YouTube.

Cutting the Cocoon

Today is the longest day since surgery. I’ve been sleeping up to sixteen or eighteen hours a day, bonding with the bed and Jessica Jones and Alan Hollinghurst. I’ve had in depth dreams about popping pimples. Instead today I’ve been active and creating from 7:30am to…it’s looking like 2am.

Pieces return bit by bit.

I walked on the beach in Fort Lauderdale this morning.

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Having a camera that can do my imagination justice again supports my willingness and desire to share and create. I wanted to do everything before, but it never looked quite right without the details.

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After getting dirty and enjoying the sea breeze, I went to work on the current video project. I’ve been inspired by such a barrage of strange, different things lately, and I’m sure it will show. I’m all about strange art film though. Two of my current muses, are L’Etrange couleur des larmes de ton corps, or The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears, and Selfie – A (Short) Book. Both of these have a lot to do with the nature, and even inherent violence of art, photography specifically, about expressions of the body, and with nonstandard use and abuse of film stock.

Perhaps where my theme becomes most evident is in my favorite poem from Richard Siken‘s new collection, “Portrait of Frederyk in Shifting Light.”

And everyone secretly wants
to collaborate with the enemy, to construct a truer
version of the self. How much can you change
and get away with it, before you turn into someone
else, before it’s some kind of murder? Difficult,
to be confronted with the fact of yourself.

(Read the rest of the poem. Read everything Siken has written. After you finish the blog.)

Did I mention I just got surgery? Of course Im fascinated by body horror, by the constructed doppelgänger of the selfie, by the mutibility of art and identity! And ftm top surgery (double incision…) is classified as cosmetic, which bears weight even though it’s untrue. But having my breasts removed, my chest restructured, not only makes me smile every time I look down, but also has gotten my mother to call me her son (at least more consistently). The effects are tangible. At the same time, I’m unable to do the kind of work I was doing while recovering, and am attempting career introspection and overhaul. This is a time of positive, but intense, turmoil.

And as everything does, my experience has jumbled up in my head to create art. I’m finally feeling good about making video again, and it’s everything. So after the beach I walked to Starbucks, worked on a video that involves drawing and musings on identity and a lot of selfies, and then waited in the purgatory of Christmas carols to be called into the doctor’s office — the place where my cocoon would be cut away —

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Forgive me if I keep the results to myself a while longer. I’m (still) too covered in bandages for a selfie at the moment. Suffice to say, no regrets.

As to the art incubating inside me, video rendering on my computer as I write, that will see the light very soon. Yes, on this blog.

Love,
Charles

P.S. Thanks for stopping by.

Goals for Writing & the Blog in 2015

Fig Leaf

And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.
Rainer Maria Rilke

At the beginning of each new year I like to assess where I’ve been, what I’ve accomplished, and what I want for the future. In 2014 my dad and I recorded my first poetry CD, Riverbed, I put together a full-length poetry and multi-media show with Yocheved, and Prairie published “Anansi and the Moon.” I also blogged for One Green Planet, and wrapped the first full draft of a novella I’ve been playing with for five years. 2014 has been a productive year in many respects, but also personally difficult. I struggled with believing my work was worth the effort to create and share, and would be worthwhile to other people.

For 2015, I want to take the craft, editing and sharing portions of writing more seriously, instead of hiding my work away. Of course it won’t be perfect! Of course I’ll screw up sometimes, and there are other important and more tangible ways to contribute to my community. But I know it’s worth it for me and for anyone who gets a little joy or understanding out of reading what I write.

So What’s in Store for 2015?

NaPoWriMo
To keep my poetry kosher for publication, very little gets posted on the website, but National Poetry Writing Month is the exception. Join me again this April, when I will do my darnedest to write and post a poem a day or catch up quickly if I fall behind. Can’t wait for April (and everybody else’s awesome poems)!

Collaborative Non-Fiction Health Book
My mother and I are aiming to write a book on one of our shared passions, health. We’re both excited about working together and the ideas we have so far. I want to get away from the absurdities of a lot of health stuff and focus on basic, reasonable ways to take care of yourself with a generous dose of sarcasm and punnery.

VidCon
I’m going to VidCon this year! I still need to figure out the nitty gritty, but I have a ticket for the creator track. In addition to potentially working for a local film production company this year, I’m hoping VidCon will help me improve my funky film projects and understanding of what I’m doing. And of course there’s networking.

Personal Manuscripts
I’m hoping to have the novella to the second or third draft stage where I can get feedback from a few close friends mid-year, by September if the non-fiction eats me. I also have all the poems written, I think, to put together a book I’ve been thinking about for a good while, a full-length for-publication endeavor focusing on the written word — “page-poetry,” if you will — with central themes of loss and mythology.

Blogging and Social Media
I want to stay connected! I want this to be the year with something like a regular posting schedule and more short films. The blog will update at least once a month with poetry book reviews, thoughts and helpful links on writing and the writing life. See about playing with some new ways of doing things, like podcast and visuals. And you can always say hi @poetrymytemple and FaceBook if you miss me.

What are you excited about in 2015? Are you doing or thinking about NaPoWriMo? (Not yet, probably.) Be sure to let me know  if any of you are going to VidCon, too.

NaPoWriMo Day 27: Fence

Fence

 

A winding of wire twilit dun

in the even of rustling grasses

halts eyelid closing and softens

the fall of night. Dun turns to

gold. The fences fade to naught

when night settles in.

 


Based on a randomly selected picture from Vanishing Breed, a photographic memoir on cowboy culture I found at Friends of the Library, which copyright prohibits me from reposting.

 

NaPoWriMo Day 26: Sit Down, Shut Up

Sit Down, Shut Up

 

These voices are too loud, less in volume

than their incessant surety. They speak

with the perverse authority sanctioned

by a life I cannot comprehend. See,

their pain, no less valid, is much louder

than the less-told stories could hope to be.

 

Were they born to the pulpit? Do they know

through privilege-glasses what we cannot?

No one ever told them to sit down, shut up

and take notes. People listen when they speak, or shit,

 

but now’s not their turn.


This is an attempt at a curtal sonnet, but I was very lazy about the meter, so it is what it is. I don’t know how well this subject matter is going to come across, if at all, but I feel pretty strongly about people attempting to speak for minorities and had to say a thing today.

 

NaPoWriMo Day 25: Don’t Write Poems for Me

Don’t Write Poems for Me

 

I could love a boy with scars.

I could kiss the foreheads of ash-skinned demons,

caress the raised tissue of too many deaths,

and yes, I could

love a boy with scars.

 

I could love a boy for his poems.

I could make love to a boy with words

alone, or allow my hand to find his

sure as ink to paper, and yes—

oh how could I not love a boy for his poems?

 

I could love a boy who isn’t mine,

and I could love a boy as only friends

and I could find new definitions for us

but I cannot straddle this chasm

alone, not now that I know.

 

I could love a boy with scars. I could

love a boy for his poems. I could love a boy

who isn’t mine. (I could keep my hands

to myself). I cannot put my love,

this birth-blind puppy, back in the box

 

now that I know he wants to kiss me.

NaPoWriMo Day 24: Intersection of Beauty and Power

He has beautiful hands, this mason.

Dirt and clay cake around his nails.

A white sickle scar, and a handful

of freckles adorn his fingers.

 

The mason lays one brick at a time,

from the first row at my feet:

each individual constellation

in shades of red and earth.

 

The mortar he spreads on

even, and careful. His hands

are thick, and strong, their rivers

highlighted the pallor of mortar.

 

I catch one last glimpse of him,

serene face and careful posture

as he evens a stroke with flourish

and places the final brick to seal me in.