Archive for January 18th, 2008

By Carolee (aka The Polka-Dot Witch)

Do you remember the Karate Kid (Ralph Macchio & Pat Morita) when Mr. Miyagi had Daniel wax the car? Wax on. Wax off. Inward circles. Outward circles. Discipline the mind. Train the mind by moving the body.

I’m unsure if any circles are in my life at all. Only because I’m trying to think of some. My son’s third grade teacher is trying to get the kids to avoid circular logic: explaining a thing by using only the thing itself. The same words.

The circles in this room: the hoop at the top and bottom of the lampshade. The terra cotta-colored plate on the table with crumbs from a hard roll. Each loop in the spiral binding of my journal. The 0-0 in the all-caps caption of a photo of Eleanor Roosevelt. The eyes looking at me from her name. How she saw the world. How we see the world. Two circular sensors working together to take in information independently and the brain sews it all together so it makes sense, so the world works. The tiny holes in the tops of the salt and pepper shakers. How does anything come out of holes that small? I don’t see any other circles. Circles. The sign for this café is a yellow circle. If I lean over, I see it through the window.

Circle. Circle. Circle the wagons. Rhinoceroses do that. Put the baby in the middle of a circle and turn to face the danger and snort and show their horns. What is it with me and rhinos lately? I’m seeing them all over the place but I live in the cold, snowy Northeast. Rhinos don’t live here. But they’re in my brain lately. Doesn’t make sense at all.

Sense at all. Sense at all. Sense at all. If you had any sense at all, you’d know/see _______. If you had any sense at all, you wouldn’t ________. That might make a fun list poem. If you had any sense at all, you’d leave him. Wear practical shoes. Dry your hair before going outside. Save your money instead of spending so much. Take better care of yourself. Change the oil in your car more often. Stop banging your head against the wall with whatever it is you’re doing over and over again even though it’s not working. Stop for a minute and figure out what you want. Take water with you on a hike. And a compass. Plan ahead for a change. Not put your head between the stair railings in the first place. Wear gloves when you pull weeds. Leave the wasps nest alone. STOP.

Note: When I packed up my stuff to leave, I saw on the wall behind me a poster for an old movie, Vertigo:

Photo of Vertigo movie poster, photo © 2007 by Carolee. All rights reserved.

Look at all those circles! I can’t even count them all. I wasn’t looking hard enough! I wasn’t being thorough! I wasn’t seeing everything. Isn’t it funny how a free write ends, sometimes, at its true beginning?

Carolee (a.k.a. The Polka-Dot Witch) is a painter, mixed media artist, and poet. She blogs about the creative process — sharing free writes, draft poems, exercises and ramblings — in a life crowded with children and cluttered by moods. Her poetry has been published online at qarrtsiluni and in local publications, and her poem “How to let wild birds out” is forthcoming in print in the winter issue of Ballard Street Poetry Journal.

She co-manages the blogs “poem” (a virtual poetry group) and “fertile ground” (a publishing and critique-focused blog), and she is a contributor to the poetry site read write poem.

About writing practice, Carolee says: I start everything with a free write. Everything. I know no other way. Even if I already have an idea, I free write. Even if I have a poem or an essay that’s 90% finished, I free write through the weak spots to give it more life. It really helps me explore its levels and discover images and concepts that I never could have found without free association.

It’s fun for me. So much that we do is choreographed or purpose-driven. It’s enjoyable to allow anything and everything to come out of me without censorship. I usually have to go longer than the 15 or 20 minutes to go as deep as I like to go, but shorter periods exercise the creative muscles that prevent writers block. With free write practice, I can (and do ) start writing whenever I want to. It’s training. I don’t have to wait for a muse. (Although when he shows up, it’s especially nice.)

Behind the scenes is messy. I like messy. I am absolutely OK about writing for an hour and ending up with ‘nothing’ or ending up with something that’s incomplete or something that doesn’t come close to representing me well. I do not consider it time wasted.

I am really good about keeping my free writes (they’re usually in my journals) and reviewing them months after I put them on the page. Sometimes when I go back, I see I’d overlooked an interesting phrase, I see an image in a different way or I see new meaning in a concept I’d previously considered ordinary.

-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – CIRCLES

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