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Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

My cathedral is made of trees, but it has seen the downslope of my attention. Its pillars are still sound, standing strong through storm and summer heat, but the branches and leaves of its soaring roof have become crowded, ragged, thick with deadwood and duff.

Its nave and transept, too, once clear and open, are now overgrown as the plantings set down in years past have grown relentlessly upward, reaching out, filling the vaulted space.

The reason for this deterioration has been my inexhaustible neglect, piled year upon year, as life and events sapped me of my faith, my devotion, my love for this quiet place. Leaving nature to do as nature does has only compounded the situation, as self-sown volunteers sprang up in open spaces, and Seattle’s often rough sea-borne winds snapped off limbs twice as long as I stand tall, dropping their five-stone weights from the canopy down onto the hapless undergrowth below. (more…)

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The Princess Gang rolled into the cul-de-sac on the same day Mr. B’s plum tree decided to bloom.

That’s the first line from a story that started flowing yesterday. Remembering, of course, that (say it with me) all first drafts are crap, it’ll obviously go through some revisions, but the important thing is that it was followed by a thousand words of a quiet little story that’s been pinballing around my brain for over a year.

The reason I share this is because nothing like this has happened for a long, long time.

Yes, I’ve written some fiction in the past handful of years. Most of it has been in posts on this very blog—vignettes, word imagery, poems—all meant for immediate consumption. I’ve also been slugging my way through a championship bout with a new novel which, though reportedly of good quality (especially for a first draft), has been the most difficult fiction project of my life. But a short story, a for-real short story? It’s been years. The last one I wrote was “The Book of Solomon.” It’s good, and it found a home in The Timberline Review, but I wrote that story years ago, and there has been zip-a-dee-doo-dah since.

Then yesterday: Boom. My pen began to work. My brain began to conjure. It was like my voice suddenly returned after a decade of muted trauma.

Why? (more…)

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Kurt R.A. GiambastianiAugust, without a doubt, is my least favorite month. It’s when the garden starts to pant and parch, spiders build massive obstacle courses in the yard, fruit goes from unripe green to fuzzy grey within minutes, and wildfire smoke descends to choke our skies, our lungs, our eyes.

And this August, it’s also when a “great” idea for a bit of topical poetry falls totally flat. (more…)

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On long winter nights, there is a wall that sings, quiet and low, as if to itself alone.

It stands beyond my sleeping, snow-mantled garden, an ancient guarding the limits of my land, gap-toothed, slope-shouldered, its windward side rough with scree, cragged and worn by storm-fed furies, by blistering sun, by generations’ neglect.

Once, it had been naught but an idea, a homesteader’s dreamed-of bulwark against the forever wind until, with stinging sweat and stone-torn fingers, the imagined was made real and the builder stood back to see it, whole, strong, chest-high, stone nested tight upon stone, snug in haphazard uniformity.

But Autumn’s rains sluiced through unmortared cracks, and Winter’s glass prised fissures open; Spring brought seeds to lodge and widen each minuscule flaw with root and tendril, until Summer’s hearth-eye withered flower and stem alike, reducing them to dust, leaving paths for ant, beetle, and mouse, to enlarge, improve, extend.

And so it went as lifetimes passed, as children were born and grew tall, as owners lived, flourished, and bequeathed this home, this garden, to new custodians until tonight, this night, as the clouds lour down from above, as pale patches of snow lie recumbent beneath the gloom, as the ice-sharp wind soughs and sighs through every crack, every gap, every hole the years have bestowed, transforming the stones into a zephyrean choir, and the night-shrouded garden fills with the wall’s song, a song of patience, a song of years, of cloistered nights and brazen days, of climbing children and creeping vines, of a life spent in somnolent solitude, a discordant moan-filled yearning for sunshine, warmth, and vernal rebirth.

On long winter nights, there is a wall that sings.

Quiet and low, it sings, as if to itself alone.

But I hear it. I hear it plain.

k

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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If I were to have followed the standard advice of “write what you know” (meaning only write from personal experience), then none of my books would ever have come into being. I would never have written about anything historical (how could I, if I was born in 19-hrmahrm?), or about anything set in Brittany, or certainly I could never ever have written anything to do with dinosaurs (who could?).

The only book I’ve written that had a shred of “what I know”ishness to it is Dreams of the Desert Wind. The setting was a place I lived in for a time (Jerusalem) and I drew on a lot of personal experience for descriptions of the street scenes (like the one mentioned here, with “Samovar Man“).

No, when I started writing, if I’d written only what I knew, then I’d have written a book about working in IT (now there’s a page-turner), or something set in the world of classical music. (more…)

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the blank page
sleeps before me
pale
bare
eternally patient
unaffected by my
anguish

the unwritten story
assails my brain
cajoling
shaming
begging for release
unmoved by my
anxiety

between them
my pen
my hand
my fear
my wall

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Integument
Casuistry
Disquisition
Jackstraw

Books. You never really know what you’re getting until you crack the boards and step inside. Cover art, blurbs, reviews, recommendations, they paint a picture, but as with all art, though the rest of world might love it, for you can be a big fat nothing-burger. Or worse. Will it be a breezy fun-filled page-turner? A deeply engrossing dive into the belly of the dark societal beast? A slog through a mire of typos, anachronisms, and cliches stitched together with wooden dialog spoken by lackluster characters? It’s hard to tell at the outset.

Spillikin
Tergiversate
Congeries
Houseled

A good book isn’t always an easy read. Some very good books take a lot of work to get through. Complicated, intertwined timelines can make your brain hurt. You can get lost amid involuted syntax, tripped up by participial phrases and subordinate adjectival clauses. Or you can be barraged by salvos of words unknown or unfamiliar to you. This doesn’t make the book unreadable; it just makes it a challenge. 

Bathos
Panopticon
Nugatory
Irenic

I don’t mind if a good book is a challenge. I don’t mind having to work for it. It’s part of the journey, no? Where a single “there”/”their” mix-up can be the last straw on a book already fraught with issues, I’ll work hard with another book if the prose is exceptional, the story compelling, the characters so interesting that they draw me in and hold me down as I fight my way through the convoluted plot.

I am halfway through a book right now, and have had to look up a ton of words, more than in any other book I’ve ever read. These words were either wholly unknown to me (spillikin?) or ones that I was only “pretty sure” I knew (integument, disquisition). In a lesser book, I would likely be put off by these words as being out of character or too highfalutin for the subject, but in this book these words are a perfect oriel from which I can peer into the minds of the characters (a pair of Victorian poets). And, hey, new words.

Oh, and in case you didn’t know: spillikin and jackstraw? Synonyms. 

k

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