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Writing

What good is it, my love, that words outlive us if we are no longer there to read them? I am uninterested in posterity. The path I trace on the flare of your hip is a literature far greater than the contents of any book. It’s meaning is truer, more certain.

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I almost never include images on this blog, because part of my purpose is to emphasize textuality through a medium that emphasizes visuality. However, my mother, Mary Jo Gordon has created a painting in response to one of my prose poems, “The Genuflection of the Moment”, so an exception is in order. I’ve also reprinted the source poem below.

The Genuflection of the Moment

There is a drifting and a falling that seizes time when the sun is setting and a summer is becoming an autumn and the heat of a day is fraying into the cold of a night. Each moment then genuflects to the circling of the sun and of the seasons, and their adoration makes us all the hushed attendants of a mystery. This time disdains all measure, passing with the incalculable rhythm of rustling leaves and blowing grasses and singing insects and cresting waves, finding the hollows and the spaces of the dimmed day. Such moments are marked only in their passing. They leave no inheritance. Without memory or remainder, they are only the splendid instant of their worship.

Why is there such general terror of the empty page? It is because people discover in it that they have nothing to say — no stories to tell, no ideas to share, no passions to express. They look at the empty page and see that they too are empty.

For those who are full, however — full of living — the page is no terror, however empty it may be, because its emptiness is an incitement to make it full, to pour it up to the brim.

This is the lesson of the empty page — if it terrifies you, do not waste your time trying to overcome it. Instead, go, live more deeply, think more carefully, do more passionately — live — and then, when you are full, the empty page will beckon.

How is it possible to write the beautiful without writing the ugly also? And if we write both as fully as we feel them, how would the writing of it be comprehensible? Who would pretend to know it? It would surpass both the writing and the writer. It would no longer be writing but living. To read it would require entering into it bodily, like another universe, and there would be no returning from this journey, for there is no returning from the beauty and the ugliness of a life once lived.

I want to write about nothing except home, nothing, to write about nothing but being at home, coming to home, finding home, because it is the only thing in me that is worth writing.  It is the one true thing that I have to say.

I’ve never been someone who writes to music, neither to create a certain mood nor just for the sake of background noise.   When I write, I prefer just to write.

Recently, however, I’ve discovered the immense benefits of headphones when I’m trying to work in the midst of the lovely, terrifying, wonderful, impossible chaos that is my house most days.  That is to say, I have discovered music in the way that most teenagers have long known it, as an insulation against the world, and even with all the attendant temptations to antisocial behaviour, at this point I’ll take anything that lets me get editing done.

I’m also gaining a new appreciation for some of the music that’s been sitting on my drive mostly unplayed since I downloaded it in a fit of musical optimism or since my youngest brother dumped it there in a mostly failed attempt to improve my taste in music.  So here’s a brief list of what I’ve been putting through my earphones as I edit lately, keeping in mind that I have an extremely low tolerance for stupid lyrics and so listen almost exclusively to instrumental music.  These are not necessarily my favourites, but they’re the ones I find myself listening to at the moment.

Animals as Leaders
Do Make Say Think
Explosions in the Sky
Irepress
Jason Becker
Jeff Beck
King Crimson
Marc Rizzo
Maserati
Magwai
Mono
Ozric Tentacles
Pelican
Russian Circles
Scale the Summit
Solaris
The Yage Letters

The often made assertion that most people read and write less now with the advent of smartphones and tablets and other such teletechnologies is patently absurd.  It is only necessary to watch people interact with their devices a short time to see that they actually do little else but read and write for considerable portions of their day, churning out more words with their thumbs than writers of the past were able to accomplish with pens or typewriters or computers.  It is not the case that people read and write less.  Rather, it is the case that what they read and write, to a degree that no one could have expected, is the minutia of each other’s lives, the commonplaces of their immediate social relationships.  The culture of the device has made this fact seem obvious and natural, and yet, no previous generation could have imagined that reading and writing would come to serve this purpose, that the personal and the commonplace use of the written word would come to eclipse any artistic, political, economic, or practical use of the written word, at least in sheer volume, that the verbal chatter of our kitchen tables and office water coolers and gym locker rooms would become the dominant literary mode of our time, not in a form that tries to raise it to any artistic or practical significance, but in a form that revels precisely in its commonness, in its insignificance, in its detachment from any greater social or political meaning, because to our great relief, we have at last discovered a literature that will not disturb, by any means, the isolation of our own lives.