Friday, September 14, 2012
On Words And Crows
The brain is a wonderful forest and it stretches out pretty much forever across the landscape of being. Most people stick to the marked trails and wander off into the sidelines on rare occasion. When worldviews are set, generally all thoughts thereafter follow those cleared roads throughout the underbrush.
Listen to someone talk and you can discern from it how they think and what they believe and hear their surprise when you sometimes note the words spoken show either the fence around their truth or the antithesis of it. A good listener can often learn more from the words used than the meanings the talker intended to convey and one can survey those brain trails into a map of destination that can be used to traverse that person's beingness. Ask any psychic, psychiatrist or psychologist how this works.
Words profile the speaker or writer just as they intrigue the thinker, listener, or reader.
When I was younger, my brain raced with thousands of thoughts in layers tied in to all of the senses and catalogued by emotional or rational responses to whatever stimuli was around. Writing then was more about slowing down that race and noticing the inter-relation of concepts and inner symbology and choosing and building the correct literary expression from the forest of the mind. Creation and creativity was more about bouncing those relationships into new trails in the woods and exploring those locales.
A poem in those days was like being a tree. I would have an idea or a niggling, nagging snippet of round logic that was ticking off the mind's square holes that needed to walk around on paper before it made sense to me. Using the tree metaphor, the idea and urge would be the roots, and the form would be the tree itself and the structure was the branches and the words would be in the branches, or leaves, or birds and things flying into and out of the tree itself. The process was like recognizing or choosing what should and shouldn't be there in the building on the idea upwards into wood and bark and foliage. Eventually, the truth of the poem would form and grow and transform the tree into its species, height, visual and appearance.
Sometimes, the finished tree was surprising and its truth not exactly what was envisioned in the beginning, and if the itching idea that caused it all was successfully scratched, well, it was a new trail winding through the forest and back again that pinged once walked through.
All good poems ping when you walk them in the mind and great ones glow and sing during and after the trek, while mediocre ones tend to kind of seem like an old, frequently used path. Poor ones are just hard on the thinking feet and pong in rhythmic disarray. Poems-like trees-shouldn't need much of a reference guide for one to know if they succeed or not.
As a young man, my trees were either curiously young or strangely leaved, and I worked hard on my forests, sometimes having to clear-cut them into oblivion to have a nice stand. The process of writing in those days was more about finding and curing the voice that made the trees than honing the process of trail walking. A young poet is a naive and earnest mess of self-involvement who is in real danger of being self-indulgent or mundane-all depending on the forests and the trees and the listening and seeing of the wood.
I found poetry was a nice training ground for writing prose. If you can encapsulate worlds of meaning into a few words and lines, then prose becomes more of a recess for the brain and you can write with much more creativity and eventually be more entertaining if you can make the transition. I left poetry at one point, abandoned the trees for the forest and the tales within. I'd make a sapling here and there and prune some leaves, but songs and appreciation of music changes. The brain also changes.
My brain now is a different animal. Whether it is natural age, medications, structural damage from life or a combination of all three, it has left me a ranger in an ancient forest, navigating the familiar, clean paths and sometimes finding a tangle of overgrowth on the trails and noting there is an end to its expanse and density.
Writing poetry now is also different. It is like sitting inside of the tree in a vacuum while feeling for my surroundings and searching amongst the old thick roots for newer, more supple roots-ones that can still grow. Once found, I look above and see a lifetime of words circling like crows, cawing and calling to each other with crow instinct, in crow demesne, and I feel a bit like dying prey just sitting there in that vacuum...fighting for life of poem and avoiding the old crows while seeking sparrows.
There are no more thousands of thoughts that fly about the gigabytes of layers and transits and my trails all begin on well worn ground, my files all long since in order. I sit in the tree and gestate thoughts and imagine trails for sometimes days before I take one swing with a bush axe because I now know the forest has end. The idea or urge speaks as strong as before, maybe stronger, but the art of tree building and cutting with my present brain is an art in itself rather than an act because there is infinite and there is finite and the need for the distinction.
An idea rolls around, settles and grows in those small roots I find. I listen to crows and a word or turn of phrase sits up on the branches and I'll pull it down into that vacuum. After some time, the vacuum has eggs and nests suspended inside of it, swirling slow, then some words birth, find weight and land on the wood, forming a bit of bark or else, fly off. The beginning forms, the ending speaks, the middle clings to either and the outline hardens and I see branches, see sparrows and finches and the crows fly off and their prey lives and begins to breathe and the poem is there. I work on it and finish it in shade of itself while the sun streams in from the forest.
When it is done, if it lives, it still surprises me, still turns a truth far from the original idea, but yet, it is a more mature truth, borne of crow prey, crow caws into lines and rhythms and pings and sparrows. At my current age, if it trills, it works. My younger self would run it through a million filters, testing it in a hundred ways and painting its place exactly so in the forest of mind. Today, I just plant it down a new row and appreciate how it looks to me and hope someone else finds the tree appealing, see it warm or cool, and finds a nest not of crows deep inside, but something singing just right there.
I've been in that vacuum for a bit recently, words gelling and settling and finding their bark. There has been an itching urgency to finish since inception, but if age has taught me anything, it is that crow shit stains. So, I'm patient. I'm finding it has nice leaves and it rustles in the wind in my head and I'm just enjoying its sound before I move on.
There are times I wish I were younger and fresher and whipping a forest into shape, but I find mostly it is just a wish to feel better and younger and sharper but with the brain I currently have-all crow instinct and crow demesne needing a time and grace of sparrows.