Sunday, January 14, 2007

My List of 30 Inspirations -- 11-15

Now that I'm writing this list. I'm finding inspiration everywhere. I hope I can contain it to only thirty items...guess there's hope for forty yet.

11 -- Language

Andre Breton says, "We are poets because above all we attack language, the worst convention." I don't know if I agree with him anymore. When I was in college, just starting out as a poet, I subscribed to the belief that language is a weapon. I wanted to disarm that weapon. But it's not as easy as that now. I spend most of my time, between teaching and writing, molding language to my purposes (when I can) and marveling at the imprecision of it (when I cannot.) When I wrote my thesis, I labored over every word -- is this the perfect one? Is this? I think, while I understand languages conventions and faults, I am searching for the perfection in language when I write.

12 -- Crap

I don't mean this in a scatological sense, of course. I mean it in the cultural sense. Without crap in our lives, ludicrous, trivial, gaudy, demeaning crap, I would have no topics or themes in my writing. Some if it is media related, but some of it is just all the excess we have in our culture. We are so rich in this country, in resources and people, but we waste so much, because we can. I like to rail against this in my writing, but I also like to submerge myself in it. I think the detritus of our culture tells us more about it, than the things we save.

13 -- Memoirs & Biography

My favorite type of reading, hands down, is memoir and biography. It should be poetry, but I find the chronicles of other people's lives engrossing. Some of the most captivating biographies/memoirs I have read are Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde, Recollections of My Life as a Woman by Diane DiPrima, Memoirs of a Beatnik also by Diane DiPrima, Desolate Angel by Dennis McNally, and The Lives of the Muses by Francine Prose. As you can see, I am particularly obsessed with how artists and writers chronicle their own lives, or are chronicled by others.
14-- Beat Poets

From the above listings, it's clear that I am a little Beat obsessed. This is odd, because I am entrenched in a life that most Beats would find repressed and bourgeois. But, beneath my 9-to-5 day job and mortgage payments beats a heart of a true Ginsberg, DiPrima, Snyder, Baraka devotee. I love the romance of their lifestyle, of course, but I appreciate their political and artistic aesthetic more. They left us so many gifts in poetry, a critique of our consumerist culture just as it was beginning, a marriage of political ideals and artistic action, and the inclusion of pop culture and daily life in poetry. I couldn't write what I write, without their foundations.

One of my friends from high school gave me Writing Down the Bones for my birthday one year. I've read it dozens of times in the years since. When I began teaching writing at the college level, I immediately turned to Natalie Goldberg's principles for guidance and direction. When we had copyright clearance, I used to force my students to read several of her chapters in Writing Down the Bones. Her approach to writing is so accessible and honest that it resonates with my students, and with me.