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catpajamas, a blog

Flames & wells...

Thanks to Scabland Books for publishing this page...
I read a post the other day wherein a fellow poet lamented feeling "nonexistent" because her submittable portal was empty... and then later, in the campus arts center, I ran into a colleague who said something like: Oh yes, I always have to have a full page of active submissions, just tons of work out there all the time... And this set me to thinking again: it's true, the more proverbial irons in the fire, the more alive with potential I feel, and therefore inspired, to forge on.

But of course, before the work is anywhere near ready to send off... there's the process, first of bringing anything at all to life, of tapping into the syrup vein, of fanning embers into flame, of making words cohere into poems, lines into pictures. And yes, with drawing, with writing... the more I do it, the more I do it. Not exactly profound, but tuning fork, talisman, mantra.

As a child, I lived for several years in a house so old the lead pipes had corroded such that when one first turned the faucet for a drink, the water ran blood-red for many seconds before one could fill a glass. It happened even more with the "hot," so the old porcelain tub could look pretty gruesome for a bath. Truly. But I knew I was lucky in so many ways.

And what a metaphor; creatively, when I open the faucets wide and let the rust run, clearwater comes eventually and more easily, and I'm inclined to drink often and deeply. There's a wonderful kindling, the way a picture or poems licks up into existence, teasing into being a sister-vision, a brother version, igniting variations, questions, decisions so that a bonfire around which one night warm hands, over which one might toast a made thing grows. I'm mixing elements here, but perhaps you get the picture?

I'm pretty sure I read once about how Lanford Wilson wrote across the top of each page of his play of the same title, "burn this" in order to stay true, to run his mind against the searing blade of truth in each moment of his saying, to not shy away, to write with such open honesty that he'd want to burn the pages before anyone might come upon them. What a goal. I don't think I'm making this up. And, what a thing, to spill with such open ferocity and hunger that a truth might rise up out of words one's seeded like a phoenix from ashes.

Submittable is like that, kind of, isn't it? A portal into worlds of truth and wonder found in pages that live in print and in ether, like mirrors and mansions. And pressing "submit" is a bit like sending missives, love letters, winging out into the cosmos like possible prayers, launched with hopes once might find an ear or eye to fill with sweetness, a hungry heart, a wound to balm, a quavering cousin voice to still with shared ballast.

There's satisfaction in the act of accumulation, drawing bucket after bucket of water up from the well, seeing sequence, pattern, take shape, following an arc brick by brick toward argument, a manuscript toward completion... But there's equal satisfaction in streamlining, in clearing the table, the slate, in torching as you go, in gifting each trinket along the way so your hands aren't too full for another fallen feather when you come upon the next somewhere on the scattered forest floor.

Anywho, loves... thanks for reading. Just a little Sunday morning spill.

And here's Robert Louis Stevenson's "At the Sea-Side":

When I was down beside the sea
A wooden spade they gave to me
To dig the sandy shore.
My holes were empty like a cup.
In every hole the sea came up
Till it could come no more.

(Source: The Golden Book of Poetry (1947))
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