Upstream of Consciousness wants to be a collection of interviews that only contain answers. I will provide 5 phrases, words, quotes, links, pictures, or videos (in italics) and your consciousness will provide the rest. Responses can be short or long, real or fictional, words, links, or anything in between. In return, each of my "subjects" will give me 1 item back which I will then respond to (under the heading Ripple, with a number next to it). Come, swim for a while.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
1) poetry or the What [Kovacs]
I think the two are definitely connected, so I’ll answer both. Kovacs is referring to the book What is the What by Dave Eggers, something we both read/are reading. First of all, everyone should read that book, but also balance it out with something light, because it is some heavy shit.
Without going into a big summary, my impression of what the What is, is the Dream or the Unknown… something you don’t have right in front of you that you covet or work towards. Like any dream, this means it can be both inspiring and motivational or it can be entirely destructive.
Sometimes, I have a dream of running away from my life, opening a bookstore, and writing poetry until I die. Is this type of dream productive? I mean, it motivates me to keep writing, but it also keeps me unsatisfied from what I am currently doing, which is a pretty good occupation in itself.
Poetry is in some ways my What. I live for the perfect poem, either written by myself, or more often by someone else – something that captures exactly what I am feeling and desiring in a few words.
I saw this quote in NYT today by Philip Seymour Hoffman which pretty much captured how I feel about poetry:
“But that deep kind of love comes at a price: for me, acting is torturous, and it’s torturous because you know it’s a beautiful thing. I was young once, and I said, That’s beautiful and I want that. Wanting it is easy, but trying to be great — well, that’s absolutely torturous.”
I went through a period of time, from middle school to my senior year of high school, where I hated any poetry I wrote and I wrote very little. I thought I was writing poetry out of laziness, and it’s true, some of my crappier poems are because I can’t be bothered or don’t have the control and patience to write in paragraph form. I then took a Creative Writing class senior year, and it was one particular poem I wrote that my teacher told me was better than anything he had ever written, that really sent me on my way.
I got to respect the poem as being this form where you try to say everything without saying too much. You get rid of all the extraneous crap and you try to figure out what is at the core of whatever image or feeling you are trying to get across. For someone like me, who tends to write and say way too much, that type of restraint – allowing some things to be left unsaid – is what makes poetry beautiful and incredibly difficult.
I’d say about 95% of what I write is crap, and I say that sort of objectively. I was on the editorial board of the oldest lit mag at my college and during selections (where authors were anonymous) I would regularly get to see my poems ripped apart or worse, basically ignored. It taught me that I have flashes of good writing, but most of it can’t stand up in the real world. It humbled me. And it frustrates me continuously to recognize what beautiful is and not be able to achieve it, just as Hoffman said. But that 5% or less where I’m almost there—that’s the reason I try to write a poem at least every few days.
But I guess my larger What, and why I’m in my current job is because I’m fascinated by the human mind. I mean, how could you not be? We love, yet we kill… we remember, yet we make the same mistakes… we create, yet we destroy… all of it is beautiful and boggles my own little mind, and the fact that I am allowed to play with a very small piece of that very, very large puzzle is something I am very thankful for. It pushes me to go to work everyday and it pushes me to examine my own thinking and to write.