Archive for June, 2007

It’s the end of June. ybonesy and I will be traveling over the next two weeks. Different times and separate destinations. Expect slight delays, possible blasts of summer rain, seeds of a sunset poppy, the beat of a gyrfalcon.

Tonight I feel like poetry. Away from home, there is ground in the simple. A blinding light pours through the picture window. And I am not alone.

Fourth Moon (June)
by Li Ho

Cool dawns and dusks
lots of shade
a thousand emerald mountains
rising toward the clouds

a fragrant rain
patters through green foliage
thick leaves and blossoms
shine behind gates
water in the pools
quivers with green ripples

in heavy summer
blossoms expect to fall
fading red flowers
glowing in light and shade.

…every day he would go out riding on a donkey….with a tapestry bag. As he wandered through the countryside, he would compose poems and toss them into the bag. At home in the evening, he would dump out his day’s work and finish the poems, allegedly provoking his mother’s comment: “My son will not stop until he has vomited out his heart.”

-from 12 Poems on the Months by Li Ho (791-817)
Five Tang Poets, Translated and introduced by David Young
Oberlin College Press, 1990

-related to these two posts:  

Among Ruins – Li Ho (791-817)
Tu Mu on Li Ho, 15 years after his death

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

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Just Sitting, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Just Sitting, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I’ve been in a daze since I got back from the trip. Tired, unfocused, full. Obsessed with flashes of detail, and snippets of conversation. I’m getting closer to laying down my stories.

I want to write memoir. And the recent trip to the South, researching history, family, and roots, ignited a fire in me. The coals are still glowing. They infuse and invigorate my desire to write.

But it’s one thing to dig up details and memories, and write them down in practice. And another to risk the exposure of mothers, sisters, brothers, friends, fathers, lovers – and me. Every detail I write reveals more about me.

Detail, truth, and honesty – how are they related to writing and art? Every time I post a piece on red Ravine, or write a draft of a story I want to publish, I’m faced with exposing my truth.

Who might it harm? How will they take it? What if my truth isn’t their truth? Will the photograph or drawing I post be offensive? Will I alienate my friends, my family, my writing or art communities?

All good questions. And some need to be quietly and ethically considered in an immediate and public venue like the Internet. And in regard to the space where we work to uphold red Ravine’s mission and vision to foster community.

But in my personal and creative writing, the work I plan to pitch to the publisher, what is okay? And what’s not? If I go for the jugular, what do I have to lose? And what part of my dignity will I sacrifice if I don’t?

The teachers I have studied with, in both writing and art, have told me that it’s okay to go for the jugular, to ask the hard questions. But don’t worry about the answers. Not until I’m ready to publish. It will squash my creativity.

Rainer Maria Rilke addressed the same questions in 1934, in Letters to a Young Poet:

…be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.

Live the questions now. Part of the living is asking. While at the same time, being willing to get your hands dirty: pulling up waterlogged, granite rocks, exposing wriggling bits of ant egg, smelling ancient, earthworm underbellies.

I try to listen for the answers, ragged, tenacious blades of grass that poke through cracked cement to reclaim the ground around them. Skeletal fragments of dead frogs, dried up into compost.

I see by the conversations and comments on recent posts (this post, and this post) that writers are at different stages of coming to terms with telling their truth. It’s a process I, too, must go through if I want my work to be public and published.

After travelling and interviews and meeting with long lost family in the South, I have all this memoir material I didn’t have a month ago. I know more than I did before. How do I be authentic and credible, while maintaining personal integrity?

I have a responsibility to tell the truth as I understand it; and an equal responsibility to take time to reflect on the questions. To live the questions.

In the meantime, I keep writing. And practicing. And reading other writers. What do those who have walked before me have to say about truth?

I pulled out Anne Lamott. And I’ll end with this excerpt from Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Part Five: The Last Class:

Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of.

Try to write in a directly emotional way, instead of being too subtle or oblique. Don’t be afraid of your material or your past. Be afraid of wasting any more time obsessing about how you look and how people see you. Be afraid of not getting your writing done.

If something inside you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Don’t worry about appearing sentimental. Worry about being unavailable; worry about being absent or fraudulent. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act – truth is always subversive.

Friday, June 29th, 2007

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red Ravine as Blog of the Day on Fuel My BlogHey, for the past day-and-a-half, red Ravine has been featured as “Blog of the Day” on FuelMyBlog, a fairly new directory of blogs.

FuelMyBlog is one of our favorite blogging social sites, and not just because they gave us some free press. The blogs registered there are from all over the world, many newcomers to the blogosphere. So far, there are no so-called “A-list blogs” like there are on other blog directories, such as Technorati.

FuelMyBlog has a fresh feel to it; if blog directories had a zen-ness to them, FuelMyBlog would be “beginner’s mind.” (In a good way. A very good way.)

So, if you are so inclined, we’d much appreciate if you would go out to FuelMyBlog and fuel our blog. You’ll need an account, which is EASY to get. There’s a form to fill out, but you only need to input the account name, password, and your email address. Everything else is optional. You can vote once a day for our blog.

While you’re there, check out and vote for other blogs, too. There are A LOT of good ones, many in the Art/Design category, as well as Literature and Photography. Keep going back; new blogs are added daily. And by all means, if you have a blog, register it! And then let us know so we can fuel your blog, too.

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A black Lucent telephone
with three lines.
It sits mute on the desk.
No one ever calls anymore.
They send IMs instead.

A color photograph
14 by 10
of 20 or so people in China
the Chinese all wearing black rain coats and with black straight hair
the U.S. people are squinting in the sun
gray, blond, bald, brown heads
thinking, Look at me now.

There’s a mirror on the wall
across from where I sit.
It reminds me of my vanity
moreso because the engraving on it
tells me how good I am.

My desk has a life of its own
If it were a landscape
it would be the badlands
yellow stickies that I seem to not want to kill
survivors they are
persisting day to day.

Arch in my right foot
lifts from the leather sole of my sandal.
I see a shadow there.

Army green backpack
a large hole at the base
where the back of the backpack
rubs against my back.
A different kind of backrub
this backpack goes begging for.

A co-worker hunched down in his chair
the palms of his hands
resting on the keyboard
his fingers tapping lightly.
He learned to type the right way;
Mrs. O’Malley would scold his posture.

A quiet spot near the window
I hear the air conditioner
a person shuffling paper in the cube next door
and the sound of graphite on notepad.

A cloud that looks like the lion on Wizard of Oz.
Puffy cheeks, nose in the air,
curly mane on the day before he meets the wizard.
The cloud, too, is on
an important mission to somewhere.

Artificial Christmas tree
7 feet tall.
Red bead garland
laced along the branches.
Tree is stuck in the corner
next to the file cabinet
waiting for Christmas.

From Topic post, Gesture.

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roar, still, ebb, flow
herbicide, hamburger
swaying limbs, pine needles
swift, clouds
exhaust, chemical lawns
i wish i was a mountain

cracked leather, brass penny
gray stitches & socks
worn sole, aged & ancient
keds, flat-footed
rolling rubber, unfettered, grounded

spots like eyes, no eyelashes
knobby ears, no ears
sticky mouth, no mouth
nibbling on a daisy, no tongue
understanding me, the moment, the afterglow
in flight, landed, no feet

ram, dodge, uterus, flows into aries head
subjugated, relegated, to low status, low rider
rimmed by a rubber tire, spoked corroded metal
rubber meets road, i’d rather be home
standing to the side, sitting on the curb
i am at the same level, butt on the ground

rust in the pocket
pocked & dipped
i smell cement & car metal & rubber
cracks & the edge of a blade of grass
pokes its head out of hard manmade
crumbles, crumbs, chirps of a cricket
lunch is over, i rise

milliliter after milliliter
ounce after ounce, thirst, hunger
hungry for what? mark line, fault line
boundary between air and water
glass half empty, glass half full
refraction – florescent amber
blonde desktop water saves
me from cubed ice and pods
the size of a manhole
underground refreshment
heavy the weight of water

dots, dots, dots
green dots, yellow dots
bright avery triangulated red
lines like paper cups & beige
with the thumbprint over the logo
logo – type – typewriter
who uses a typewriter?
Dorothy Brett, i have 2
and these old dotted labels
begging to stick

rhododendrons, mt. hiijidake
scarlet pink, hovering clouds
6, the number 6, for months
Giant 6 –
Red sundays on 3, 10, 17, 24
japanese, i wish i spoke japanese
elegant characters
calligraphic boundaries
days of the week, months of the year
all start with sunday

container, containers, marion woodman
containers archetypes vessels
square, rectangle, cardboard
corrugated, no lid, missing lid
destroy date, obscured
contents – drawback
exp – holes for handles
oh wait, lid is not missing
it’s stuck to the bottom
snug – safe – tight

coffee stains, jitters, duluth
superior, travel in stainless steel
black plastic, dips and holes
thumb holder handle
skinny bottom, wide top, reflects
myself back to me
and in between, liquid gold

 Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

-from Topic post, Gesture

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Curve, 1993, woodblock print, from private art collection of student work, artist unknown, photo alteration © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Curve, 1993, woodcut, from private art collection of student work, artist unknown, photo alteration © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

While perusing the health and vigor of our categories last night, I had a realization: writers rarely write about sex. Our Sex category has a measly 5 posts, which leads me to wonder, why bother to have a sex category at all?

I thought about my favorite literature writers and tried to remember what they had written about sex. I did come up with a chapter in Stoner, a book assigned to us in a Natalie Goldberg Taos Intensive last year. It’s a favorite on my bookshelf now, and contains one of the most subtly erotic accounts I’ve ever read about making love.

(If you don’t know about Stoner or John Williams, read the dynamic interview, John Williams: Plain Writer by Dan Wakefield in the 10th Anniversary issue of Ploughshares.)

Some see making love and sex as two different things. And now that I think about it, so do I. But different how? I’m not sure I can answer that in an on-the-fly blog post.

I remembered last night, that about 4 years ago, I wrote a tasteful erotic piece called Lean Into The Curves, about the virtues of making love as compared to learning to ride my Honda Rebel. There is something sensual about motorcycle riding; and the instructor who wore scarlet Harley boots with flames shooting off the sides, only added fuel to the fire.

I stood up at a microphone (dressed in a crisp, white, open-collared blouse, dangling silver earrings, black Levi’s, cherry lipstick, and a black, short-cut blazer) and read the piece at a venue in Minneapolis (no longer in existence) called hotBed. The audience was full of 150 women who all laughed at the right places and cheered at the end, wildly clapping when Ella Fitzgerald’s At Last echoed through the room as I read the final lines.

The sound woman was right on cue.

It’s hard to imagine standing up and reading that same piece today. Have I lost my edge? Or are there too few places to submit that kind of work.

Most people have sex at least once in their lifetime. And it’s alive and well on family TV and in G-rated films. So why don’t writers write about sex? Or the erotic? Or making love?

I don’t have any answers. Only to say that, thank goodness, some do.

Here is a poem from Galway Kinnell called, simply – Sex. Exquisite. I heard him read it at the Fitzgerald Theater earlier this year. I’m heading to the writing table right now. Maybe I’ll get inspired.

by Galway Kinnell

On my hands are the odors
of the knockout ether
either of above the sky
where the bluebirds get blued
on their upper surfaces
or of down under the earth
where the immaculate nightcrawlers
take in tubes of red earth
and polish their insides.

-from Strong Is Your Hold, Poems, Houghton Mifflin, 2006

posted on red Ravine Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

-related to post, Forget Vonnegut – Jane Kenyon Lives On 

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Got Your Back, Taos, New Mexico, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Got Your Back, Taos, New Mexico, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 25th, 2007

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