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Les Semaines

99.08.08

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout

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Shadows and Light

Well, this is appropriate, as this is the album I'm listening to right now as I work on an Ectophiles' Guide to Good Music entry for Joni Mitchell.

I'm in one of those moods that just won't settle down, perhaps because I've been listening to '60s and '70s Joni Mitchell all day, and her music evokes moods so strongly--a whole range of emotions. I've been going through them all with her. Of course there are lots of songs about the aches of love, but there are so many other moods she evokes powerfully as well--for example the exuberance of "Night in the City"--so I've been running the gamut as I listen and type and let my mind wander.

It has been fascinating watching her music grow and mature through these albums. But after these it stales for my tastes. When she ended her jazz phase and started doing more purely pop albums I lost interest. This worries me. Did Joni lose her edge? Did my ears? She probably sold more albums, but that's not what I'm concerned with.

Is this inevitable? I mean the process of aging and becoming less interesting as an artist, less edgy. I've watched it happen in so many musical artists. They start building, reach a peak (for my experience of Joni Mitchell, the peak is with Hejira) then slowly taper off and gradually lose it. I've watched this happen with Kate Bush--her most recent album was 1993(!) and it was a seriously mixed listening experience for me, while at one point I could never have guessed that I wouldn't be thrilled with any music she created.

Lots of women artists particularly just fade away, as they start to have children and begin to have other concerns.

Hey, I'm forty and I feel as though I'm still beginning, at least as a fiction writer. As a poet, I may have reached a peak with this current manuscript--it certainly feels like a mature work and definitely is more ambitious that my previous two books. Or maybe it's that maturity is not as fiery and dramatic as youth, and my listening ears still like passion not pop, even though my life is certainly less fraught with crises as when I was younger, but I understand more of it.

Farther on, deeper in.

At least that's what I'd like to think is happening and will happen. Emily Carr did her best paintings in late middle age. And I'm still learning and growing in my art--at least it feels that way to me. I don't feel as though I'm standing still. I feel far better able to create than I did when I was younger--the fortuitous accidents still fuel the fire, but they happen to a wiser woman with a stronger sense of her craft.

And I haven't lost a drop of passion or angst--but it is channelled in a different way, and I'm outwardly far more calm. I still war with myself but it's not quite the same war. I'm still at sea but it's not the same sea, quite. I'm still lost but firmly rooted. I still believe in inspiration but I've learned much about the perspiration involved in being ready for it.

No regrets, coyote.

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing

Listening

This week I've been listening to a lot of old favourites--the emotional powerhouse of Kerri Simpson, and of course Jim has been playing the new Kristin Hersh album a lot. Kristin Hersh is a favourite of his--I like her a lot, too. The new album is pretty good but it hasn't settled in my head yet. Hips and Makers is still my favourite of hers--what an incredible album that one is!

And today while I've been working on the long-delayed entry on Joni Mitchell for The Ectophiles' Guide to Good Music I've been working my way through what we have of her catalogue (we stopped buying them when they got more pop in the '80s) and loving it, both her early folkie stuff, the jazzy stuff (right now I'm listening to Hejira which is surely one of the best albums ever. If you haven't listened to her music for a while, check it out again. She's amazing, and has a well-deserved reputation as one of the leading lights of 20th century pop music.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Forgot to mention a book I just finished before we left for Turkey, Nicholas Christopher's Veronica, which might be because I didn't really like it that much. The characters felt entirely wooden too me, and I think the book was supposed to be a haunting surreal romp, but while I liked the idea of the novel it just didn't catch me. Some of the descriptions of places caught me far more than the plot did. For me it just showed how mainstream writers can flub magic realism by making things so mysterious that the reader finds it only vague. At least, this reader did.

Also read the new Harry Potter, one that just came out in England, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkahan. Like the rest of them, this was a fun read.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

So this week I've been dealing with trying to figure out if I can stand not to get back to the novel. What will it mean to me if I never finish it? I haven't had any other serious ideas for other novels since I started this one (of course, I've played with a few ideas that haven't gone much farther than ideas--there certainly are a few notes somewhere) and since it began to shape itself in my head, this is the novel I've wanted to write. I've packed all my ambitions into it. But what if it isn't the one? Especially since I've been having so much trouble getting back into it, maybe I should just drop it and try something else instead.

So in the meantime I've been trying to take my first short story apart and put it back together. Pat Cadigan encouraged me not to let this story go, but it has been hard getting my head back in it while I'm also still tangling with decisions about the novel. And I keep getting ideas about the novel, so maybe it's not over yet with the novel project.

The issue of Contemporary Verse 2 with my poem in it has already arrived. The acceptance just arrived in the batch of mail I opened on our return from Turkey--that's damn quick. It's a poem I wrote for my niece Catriona a long time ago--I'm been revising it ever since because it took me a long time to be happy with it. Anyway, here it is in print. Finalized. Unless I tweak it again in the book revisions.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

February 1976

271. Not how i feel

[Quote from Elton John's "Feed Me" deleted, the part about being "inches from Madness".] That's not how I feel, in fact it's more how i don't feel. But i know a lot of people like that--people to bring to The Seed. They all need help, care, love. But they usually don't want it. A drag, but there is One Way, and it belongs to the right road, let's get sad lonely lost people headed on the right road.1

272. His love2

I guess it's like pain, His love. Imagine loving so much--i can't. It's hard to believe, but i know it, i've felt it, and it's more real and more strong than anything i know. I want to shout to everyone i meet ("Hey--Jesus loves you more than i am able to, but i love you as much as i possibly can.") Strange, this love, that grows, His love for me. All i have to do is accept it, and share it with people who don't have any. I try. (I do! I do; if love leads, then He leads to love.)

273. King Lear

List'ning to King Lear. Oh sadness and tragedy! Oh tears! (Glove) ("How sharper than a serpent's tooth is an ungrateful child.") Oh dear. I hope i'm not; i want to show them (my parents) that i'm travelling on the right road. Obsessed with this guy? Wow, i'm obsessed with God and becoming a fanatic. (Better and better still.) Anyway, poor, sad man, old King Lear.

274. Hamlet

In seventeen minutes i go to watch a movie of Hamlet. There's a lot of Shakespeare in here--Macbeth, King Lear, and Hamlet. Good ole Willy Wigglesword (how too pretentious). Whatever. Anyway. Oh, by the way, i'm still obsessed. Let me out, let me in... let me! Sounds bad, sounds good. Anyway, whatever.

275. Hamlet--Reality and Unreality

Hamlet (as in play) is tangled in truths and lies (as is the character). Sift, find the real, and unreal. Arrange it and become Hamlet, asking. Become an asking Hamlet ("to be or not to be") ("My words fly up...") And they will and be lost. With Hamlet (and me?)

276. Might have been

Well, might have been a nice girl...[lyrical run on from there omitted]. That's pretty f'rout and the way it is and i don't know and if i did i wouldn't. True and faithful, anyway. Lost and found. Whatever. Look out; genius at work! Silence, please....

277. Goodbye Norma Jean

Long time ago it was sung, "Goodbye Norma Jean," a definition of lost. So lost; never found. Only once found by di Maggio, good ole Joe. F'rout so far and sorta gone. Wonder if ever she was found. Perhaps now, in othertime. If only...once sung long ago, [quote from song omitted].

278. Perhaps the truth

Perhaps the truth will out and everyone will know that underneath i have heard His song sung. I wish i could follow His way like St. Francis of Assisi did, but i have none of his will power ("the watery will of Peter was His rock")3. My will is much like water, and pours through my hands.

279. Francis of Assisi

I admire the young man of Assisi more than i myself can guess. Francis saw the truth (Truth?) and followed it, as i try to do today. But his was the way of strength. He felt more love than i have ever imagined; he allowed His love to flow through him; he shared his love with even the birds. Francis saw the beauty of all God's creations, and felt affinity with them, as a fellow creation (brother sun, sister wind). Oh, how i wish!!

280. Wish are horses

Wishes are horses and i am in dire need of a stable. My watery will flows to wishes, and will not harden (or solidify) enough to hold them and make them true.


NOTES

1. Why does everything seem so black and white when you're young?

2. Feel free to skip this one. It's hard for me not to just omit typing this and carry on. I find it hard to believe I ever was this pious, but it was part of who I was then. It feels very cloying to me now and I can't believe it didn't then. Maybe it did, but I certainly was in a place where I heard a lot of this stuff. I guess it stuck.

3. Not sure of the source of this one.

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