A True Story/Meditation on Author Fame, Or maybe Not
(In honor of a few editors turning down my work recently...are you nuts?)
I sorta don’t care any longer about NOT being more famous. Although earlier today a salesman at the Acura dealership looked me up online and yelled over to me, a few moments after a leggy, attractive mom and her leggy attractive daughter had sat just down only a few seats away from me. The car salesman said, “I’m looking you up” And I answered, “Am I famous?” “Yeah,” he yelled back. I said some more urbane witty shit and he answered rather fawningly. About then I got up and went to see if my car was ready, which it was. So I never got to see if the leggy attractive ones had noticed the famous man leave or were curious enough about me to query the car dealer about my fame. Which, of course, I don’t care about anyway Pretty much… sorta. So here’s the deal, I always wanted to be read more than to be either rich or famous. Who knows, maybe the great, great granddaughter of the leggy mom or her leggy daughter could be reading this fifty or a hundred years from now, laughing, unaware that one of their ancestors mighta almost kinda met a famous author once. Cool, huh?
Big Writing Planning with Standard-Sized Gentilia and High Hopes
NOT for small dreamers
Great art, or perhaps any kind of art Is not made by planning. Regardless of how Intense and mindful the artist tries to be In preparation.
Art comes out of the eye and gut and cock and ass and feet and thighs; your lower back your hunched shoulders, your broken fingers, your eyelids.
If you don’t understand what I’m saying, that’s okay. Just don’t try to be an artist because not even bad art comes absent grasping such obvious truths.
Success in Writing as an Art Form, May not be what you think it is.
Thoughts on “success” and perspectives on it.
Who Is there to tell? Since I was 17 years old or so, I’ve wanted to be Hemingway or Fitzgerald and later, Bukowski, Uncle Walt, Roethke, and Robert Sund. I’ve wanted to write things people would read and remember and remember me for having written.
After an odd dream last night about myriad weird failures centered on being lost, I woke up this morning realizing that all those people I once wanted to be are dead as are more, in fact many more people I once knew, who are also gone now.
No longer alive for me to tell them about my triumphs and failures.
No longer around to read or not read the things I have written and write.
Who is there to tell anything to any longer?
Who is there to tell?
Is this a blessing, or a curse, or neither, or both?
I dunno, who is there to ask?
John Keats wrote “When I have fears that I may cease to be…”
He died at age 24. So the next time you catch yourself thinking about immortality — knock it off.
Noisy Grace & Flashy Atonement (Lite)
How do I atone for my many sins? My penance? A single Glory Be...
We are living in profoundly dangerous times. As poets and writers, what can we do?
What must we do?
In my opinion, it is the curse and blessing of poets, prophets, idiots, and saints to have to look more deeply into the soul of the world and operate from that latitude.
It might help to think about our personal histories and how we arrived at what we know, what we feel, and who we are today…
I have this photograph of the poet Robert Sund* and me.
I’d gone to visit Robert in the “hip” town of LaConner, WA. where he spent his final years and days.
This picture above was shot the last time I ever saw him.
Sund was a genuinely Whitmanesque figure and presence in the Pacific Northwest from the 1960s through the 90’s. A pure poetic spirit, uncompromising in the best and worst sense of that word.
Robert Sund lived with (and off) my first wife Linda and me when we were 20-year-olds and he was in his late 30s or early 40s. He was just gaining recognition as a poet and performer in the Seattle area.
I admired him and listened to him and knowing him set me on a path I am still on today these fifty-plus years later.
I had learned in my youth how to be a poet from Robert: How to play the role and look the part and convince myself that it was all worthwhile or that at least, perhaps one day, it could be.
In the picture at the top of this story of just the two of us, as you can see, I’m standing, hand on hip and Robert appears about to speak.
We look like wary, aging hippies closing in on the end of our run. Which, come to think of it, is exactly what we were and I still am.
I own the picture, a gift from the photographer; the date in the corner of the photo is 2012. But the picture was taken many years before that; Sund died in 2001.
All of this seems so long ago now. but 1968 was the same as 2020. Then we had Nixon, now we have Trump. In 1860, were Whitman and Lincoln.
Poets and writers have always had a role to play and the only thing that stops you from stepping up now is the belief that what we write and feel and say won’t matter.
But it does, and it must.
It always has.
Everything changes and nothing ever does.
Robert and I are still standing together and my friend is still pointing his camera at us because we live in a world without end.
Life is always and will forever be as it was and is and, glory be, ever shall be.
In these dangerous times, we must remember where we came from, realize who we are, and use our voices to try and make a difference.
Everything changes and nothing ever does.
Just wait a little while. You’ll see.
Miracles & Your Writing & “Don’t Try”
Bukowski spoke about the possibilities
Since I am now the same age as Buk was when he died, this piece is a reminder for all of us that life and writing is fleeting. And we can do a lot worse than simply being honest, direct, and facing life as it is, not as we wish it were.
In the books we read, the movies we watch, and in the lives we are living, we want good things to happen to and for good people, and bad things to happen to and for bad people. For most of us in our writing, we want stories that reflect the same kind of hope.
I think this is mostly because in real life there is very little certainty that things will work out this way. Sometimes good people get shit on and bad people get great outcomes and this “sometimes” happens, if we are honest about it, way too much of the fuckin’ time.
“Happily ever after” might be the singular worst lie children and adults alike are told and tell themselves. And there is an endless list of lies that includes ridiculous bullshit and happy thoughts appropriate for every age and every occasion.
Only through the slow unfolding of life/reality do we see the lies exposed for what they are. For a writer, trying to speak honestly, it takes a superpower level of courage and will to NOT become a depressed, suicidal nihilist.
Looking at life without a feeling that at least the “possibility of the miracle is here with us every day” makes life feel impossible at times.
That “possibility of the miracle” is a Bukowski quote and one at serious odds with pretty much everything else he wrote including “Find what you love and let it kill you.”
Indeed, on Bukowski’s gravestone is the epitaph “Don’t try.”
Whenever I hear about a suicide, a piece of my heart is torn away. Life is hard, and then you die. Yeah, I know. But what’s the rush.
So as not to be accused, with plenty of support for the accusation, of being too negative, let me lay claim to the alternate truth; I like and often love my life: Even with social distancing and Trumpian/political madness and plague and global ruination on the not too distant horizon, I can feel my spirit rise and my smile return by something as small as noticing a sparrow’s shadow flitting across my path.
But the balancing act between the pain and the joy is getting tougher and tougher to make work.
Now, if you wanna think God and baby Jesus are sorting all of this out on some big whiteboard in the sky, keeping score with a master plan that’s gonna be sure to set it all right in the end, the good guys getting what they deserve and the same with the bad guys, knock yourself out.
We can be assured that in the end, we will all get an outcome and that it may or may not fit what we imagine it should be. So think about what you want, there’re worse things to do with your time.
Or, come to think of it, I’m not sure about that. But hey, it IS your time.
And your outcome, I can promise you, will be no better or worse than Bukowski’s, whether you try or not.
“Two Northwest writers,” image used by permission Terry John Pratt, Flickr