Righting the Write Way.
March 19, 2010
Yeah, that’s not a tongue twister… I don’t even think I can say “righting the write way” out loud. Thankfully, I don’t have to, and can write it all I want! This is why fingers are way better than tongues… This is why writing is way better than speaking. Recently I wrote a poem, which is unlike me. I don’t write poetry at all, because I think it’s a weird medium and I can never understand how to say what I want. I never know when to hit the return key or what kind of punctuation is appropriate. But here’s the poem I wrote last week that’s been giving me something to think about. If it doesn’t make sense to you, awesome, if it does, even better! Here it is. I’ll meet you again as soon as you finish it.
In Now and Is
by andrew munz
Sleep only to live without death,
the tired tirade only ongoing during the hours
when the chefs say lunch is ready
and the mothers say lunch is served.
He sways with arms outstretched to yell
profoundness in a time of idiots.
The declaration of meaning, his
air strike biding time outside of the
boundaries of where it’s allowed to be and
where the lines are laid to rest
and stay forever, for now.
Oh, Candace Baker, alive and well, two
down, away from the type of entryway
She doesn’t have the key, probably,
and he can’t afford to call for one.
Peddlers out of work;
morality gets first dibs in the world of
awoken flies who can’t get off the wings to use their ground.
He wakes artificial and languid
pulling limbs from mattress canopies
more or less convinced
dampness surrounds and didn’t exude.
Breakfast, dishes to clean, says the thought.
Contrary work falls short of the amount of
stolen nickels he collected as a child
or perhaps later than then. Years even.
Wrinkles smoothed and the first of the
last laughs ejected, calmly he clods
towards the stand’s paper his fingers learned
how to maneuver.
Nary a paper cut, six pages ignored.
Coolly do the no ones travel,
passed and through the unknown man.
Here in the world of Now and Is;
ten days since Yesterday Berlin.
I wrote this poem for myself and because I had a story in mind about a older man who comes home after a war, only to find that the world he knew hasn’t stayed the same. There’s a bit more symbolism in there, but I’ll be ejected out of the Magicians Alliance if I reveal my illusions (not tricks; “A trick is something a whore does for money.” –Gob Bluth).
The reason I share this is because I am struggling with my writing style at the moment. Of the people I’ve shared this poem with, two have told me it’s my sharpest writing yet (not bragging…), and I’m compelled to agree with them. It just feels right to me. So I began to think, Why? What makes this random, metaphoric piece linger so long in my head, when I’m not a fan of poetry in general? I realized it’s because I didn’t think about it. I just wrote it. I didn’t obsess over the plot; I didn’t graph out character descriptions or figure out my twist ending before writing the conclusion. I just effing wrote, and that’s why it feels good to me. It’s one of the few, few pieces of “fiction” (not a poetry writer, remember?) that I just wrote straight through without calculating it thoroughly. It just fell together. So it got me thinking.
When I was a kid, I didn’t really have an idol. There wasn’t one person whose posters I had hanging on my bedroom wall. When people asked me who my hero was, I said, “Batman,” but I didn’t understand what a personal hero was. So finally, in the summer of my 20th year I discovered a man who has slowly been pushing me to be a better writer. I’ve never met him, and I never will. Roberto Bolaño died on July 15, 2003 at the age of 50. What he left me was a novel sitting downstairs at Valley Bookstore, fresh from the publisher’s shipment, waiting to be sold. It was called “The Savage Detectives”, and, man, that book threw me into a world of fiction I never dreamed of. It was loose, it was gorgeous. Through pot smoke and poetry verses his globetrotting characters came alive in my head. After I finished the last page, I was hooked.
My next Bolaño was “2666”, tragically, his final novel. I finished its enormous text in a matter of days, and suddenly realized who my favorite author was. I’ve been a Dostoyevsky fan since high school, but even that classic, bearded comrade couldn’t ensnare me the way Bolaño did. The Chilean started writing poetry inspired by the political activism in his country, and then moved on to stories inspired by himself and the revolutionaries around him. He wrote manifestoes and protested the corrupt government and churned out fantastic short stories poisoned by the country he lived in. Poetry was his calling, and fiction came later.
So, this is long, I know. Online readers aren’t patient people, but still. Now that I look at this poem, I think “Wow. Why can’t I write fiction like that?”, and I realize it’s because I obsess over my stories. I plot them out so meticulously that I don’t have any room to just write. With “A Good View of the Mushroom Clouds” I’m clouded by this 2-page outline of bullet points that I can’t stray from. And now I have 1/2 of my final draft done, and to be honest, I hate it. I hate what I’m writing because it’s so damned wooden. I should just let go and write, and if it strays from my original plot idea for the better, so be it.
Because if I’m going to do this I have to do this right. If I fuck this up for myself now, I won’t be proud of my work once it’s finished. Time to kick myself in the ass and let go.
“The secret story is the one we’ll never know, although we’re living it from day to day, thinking we’re alive, thinking we’ve got it all under control and the stuff we overlook doesn’t matter.” –Roberto Bolaño