I had an endoscopy yesterday. It was a bit scary. I knew no Korean for this type of exchange. Luckily, So Gee came along with me to translate.
"She is going to inject you now?" So Gee translates.
"With what?" I ask.
"I can't swallow. Is that supposed to happen."
"Yes, the nurse says that is supposed to happen."
I don't know what happened after this. According to So Gee, I showed all the nurses my tattoos, talked about my psychological trauma of having been stabbed with a knife when I was four years old, and then discussed how one could possibly get gastritis.
"Is it from smoking?"
"Yes, that can be a cause."
"What about spicy foods?"
"Yes, that is also a possibility."
"How about alcohol?"
"There are many possibilities as to why someone would have gastritis."
On the cab ride home, I got into a lengthy debate with So Gee about what makes a good relationship. According to her, I spoke non-stop about how a marriage is a partnership, and how each person has to help make it work.
"You sounded very rational," So Gee told me. "I thought you were awake."
Ah, the magic of anesthetics! I only remember the gagging, and the pain of the hose being removed from my throat.
Now I have a horrible sore throat. Man, it hurts. Of course, I have the perfect remedy - 100 limited press CD's from The Slipshod Swingers. That's right folks!! The fine people at Sire Press have shipped 100 limited press CD's of The Slipshod Swingers new album, Transistor Radio.
The outside packaging has this cool raised ink you can feel - ooooh!. The inside has CD's made into strawberries and collector's cards!!
Anyway, I will be shipping these out to people in the next couple days. If you want a copy, just send me an e-mail and I'll get you one. If you have received a free copy, please review it on LULU, iTUNES, or CDBaby. It would be nice to get your kudos or non-kudos if you have any.
I think the digital record will be out on iTunes by the end of January. I am not sure about LULU. I'll let you know if I put it for sale there in the next couple days.
I got word that the fourth wife is getting re-married. I was ecstatic for her, until I asked for the money I had left with her. Apparently, she used the funds to champion her local congregation. I was speechless. Especially when she told me she thought the work she had done with her volunteer service was better than my last term in office. At first, I couldn't tell if she was being facetious or malevolent, but it turns out she actually believed this statement. Dear constituents, I have no words for this affront. Money is a valuable commodity, and should be used to dispose of volunteer services in favor of the truly deserving. That is right. I am talking about you, my constituents. You fine folks who slave over bonds, taxes, and revolutions, to see your children wealthy and powerful, are the truly deserving - not some do-gooder after vengeance!
A flock of seagulls caw behind the President's podium.
Yes, I am just as surprised as you are. Why someone would do such a thing, and not be aware of the hurt something like that would cause, is beyond my faculties. What could I say though? Some people are just blind to others and not very considerate, and there is not much one can do to change that scenario.
"Well," I said to her, "I'm glad you got to make it your own, my dear. I hope your congregation continues to flourish."
"Thank you, Mortimer. I will pass on your gracious blessings to all involved."
"That would be lovely."
"Will you be keeping my good name, Margaret?"
"John asked if I would change it, but I do so much like the sound of it. Margaret Needlebaum. It has a nice ring to it don't you think?"
"Well, we Needlebaum's have always been proud of the sonics of our good name."
My dear constituents, if it were up to me. I would make all who remarry go back to their original names, as it will shine poorly on my good name. Can you just imagine? Margaret is off doing volunteer work, and I will have to suffer the shame of this embarrassment. Oh, dear. When bad fortune befalls us, we must surely take a step back to allow for the entire barrel to be dumped upon the dregs. I am simply waiting for some more bad news to couple this sour day.
My only salvaging consolation is that I don't have to have that kind of inconsiderate and malicious behavior around me ever again. It has even struck me that Margaret may have been this type of voluntarist and adventurer all along. Our nights spent counting gold bullion, and petting each other's wigs was simply a facade for her to get her talons upon my good name and family fortune. How frightful and seemingly devastating it all is. It seems she has been this do-gooder person all along and I simply didn't see it. It's hard to accept, but it could be the truth.
In any case, I am not one to ponder over losses endlessly. She spent funds and is out to sully my good name, and that's reality. All I can do is make more funds, and help you, my constituents, do the same. What else is there? Fight, you say? Get her to change her name? No, no, no. None of that matters. It's just my bowels that are getting upset. I have no idea what that dear woman went though during our separation. God knows I am quite a difficult loss to any woman, and If she needed to start a volunteer service and sully the family name, then so be it. The Needlebaum's have gone through far worse disasters, and they will persevere through this minor incident as well.
That is why I am here among you folks today to announce that the rumor that I will be changing my name George Cleveland Jefferson Washington Lincoln King is a falsity. There is nothing that would keep me from bearing the name, Needlebaum, proudly into the night. And for any of you who would say otherwise, please show yourselves now, so that I may drop you a shilling in hopes that you use the spare change from my children's pockets to offer you a fresh perspective and better life - because any man who who would dare say such a thing is not worthy of being my constituent, and may as well join that woman's needlework group.
Are there any takers?
Nay. No. Nada. Niet.
Well, now that we have that cleared up. I would like to move to the next order of business. Franklin, please call in Bishop Planture. We are going to have to do something about this uprising in Albuquerque. We can't have Experimentalists, or whatever they call themselves, running amok, and ruining Christmas for surveyors of the East Territory. There must be an opportunity for us all to pray to one God, serve only him, and burn any of these so-called Experimentalists who stand in our way.
I just took some laxatives. Apparently, I got hit with Gastritis. It is a common occurrence for foreigners in Korea. What does this mean? Well, when you have produce fertilized with human feces, there are bound to be issues. I am just glad I was in tune enough with my body to catch it. Initially, I thought it was a heart problem, then a possible stomach ulcer, but it is now confirmed as Gastritis. Who would have ever guessed?
Now I am just nervous about the laxatives. I thought about only taking one pill, but what if I did, and all the bacteria wasn't flushed out? That is why I took both pills, and I am now praying this won't be a horrendous experience. Only time will tell if I lift off. If I do, I am going to shoot for Saturn. I know I usually say Mars, but I am going with the rings today. It could even be a game of hoops. I do belong to a new intramural basketball team. We are known as Team Freedom.
For some reason, Jim Goar gave me the number "27". I am very flattered. I don't know if I fit the Jordan component of the team though. I would say I am more of an organizer, motivator, and basic cheerleader - but that's the number I got, so I guess I'll have to hang my tongue out, as I orbit Saturn's rings. Who knows? I may even dunk. That would be great. I remember when Tom Welling used to lower his hoops, so we could practice dunking. That was probably my favorite time playing basketball. I could even reverse it right in there.
I can't promise a reverse at the moment though. I am just praying I get through this laxative in one piece. If I was the laxative, I would go easy on me. If I was the bacteria in my stomach, I would abstain courteously and exit stage right. If I was a basketball, I would want to be dunked. If I was a donut, I would want to swim. If I was me, I would head to the bathroom.
I like projects like this. It's that search that drives things for me. I love the heartburn. Of course, it was Stacy who first clued me in on it. That is no surprise, considering her work is filled with searching - not so much for a significant other outside of herself - but the truth in her own skin and bones. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if looking at one of her paintings, suddenly crippled someone into an acceptance of something they were looking for all along.
If Stacy's paintings don't cripple you into happiness, then maybe Will Ferrell or Brad Warner will give you a belly full. Who knows? They might be just what the doctor ordered. Of course, a trip to Calcutta with a suitcase of pinatas and pipe cleaners may be the real chopped spinach. That's where I am now. I really like Calcutta. It's the best city I have been too yet. It is a lot better than Ann Arbor or Tegucigalpa. I think it's the food that does it. I got these worms that have become my friends. I only named one so far. I call him Mortimer. He looks like my third dog, Buddy. It's his eyes. They are deep and penetrating. Sometimes when I look inside them, I can see myself at 105. I am standing on a ship. A whistle is blowing. I've got Zuzu's petals in my pocket, and I'm finally going where I've always wanted. That makes me glad. Like I'm already there.
I got my body checked out. I am healthy. My mother was worried I might have diabetes, since my grandmother has it, but I don't have diabetes. I even got an X-Ray of my heart. I am healthy. My blood sugar is normal, and I even got an IV for extra nutrients. The only issue that the doctor said was me having a high count of muscle enzymes. He says I've been exercising too hard too quickly. I guess the running and hiking the mountain three days in a row was a bad idea. I have a tendency to do that. I am very overkill sometimes. I remember when Jonathan Richman gave me the same warning. That's another story. Anyway, I am healthy, and that makes me happy. I want to live for a long time.
Besides my health, it looks like I will be staying in Seoul for another year. I got an offer to teach at a prestigious university. I was worried about the new visa laws, because it would have required me to go home for a criminal background check, but I found that they are not taking effect until March 15th. That is a load off my back. Now I am just trying to make the contracts from these two universities overlap, so I don't have to leave the country. That would be an expensive ticket. I am hoping it will all work out. I think it will.
Today Loren, Akiko, and I went to a museum to see the works of Po Kim. He is a very talented artist. I could see remnants of Rauschenberg in his work from the 50's. His later work was a cross between Debuffet and Pollock's early mural work. I was impressed with his color work. It was very refined. I took note of his use of purple and orange, and multiple layering technique. Apparently, this is common in Korean painters. I thought about this as I looked at how he caked on the acrylic so thick in some places that it had cracked. I don't think I would be able to paint like that. It would cost me too much money.
I would like to paint a few pieces though. It is that time for me. I often paint during the winters. It gives me a focus and clarity for how the rest of my year will take shape. I can also predict things by how I paint. It's not the future so much as what will end up being used in my other work. So far, I have had fun spending this year, trying to make the pop elements inherent in much of Korean advertising and the general attitude of its people, take shape in the painting and music I have created. I wonder what these next paintings will hold for me. I have already started a new piece with my usual tendency to repeat a motif. The only difference has been my symbolic choices. For some reason, I am drawn to depicting fruit, which is interesting, since Po Kim also had a period, where he was drawing a lot of vegetables and fruit. Maybe, it's because I miss the wide selection of fruit and vegetables available in the states, but I am sure it's probably more than that as well. We will see what turns up in the next couple days. I will post the new experiments shortly.
As far as writing, I have been having fun learning from Loren. He has been giving me some wonderful exercises. The other day we worked on this opposite scheme. It was quite hard for me. I wasn't used to working in that fashion, and I could tell that it was a good practice for me to do. That's a testament to how great of a teacher he is. Loren has an incredible knack to offer that which is necessary. It is quite uncanny, but what else can you expect from a genius.
My fiction is still rising from all of this. I think I am at the point now, where I am ready to embark on a new novel, but am simply waiting for the topic that will hold my interest. I have thrown around a lot of possibilities. Nothing seems to carry me past an entry point though. It looks like I am more interested in poetry at the moment. That might be an interesting thing. Who knows? We will see what happens after these paintings. For some reason, I can find a language in color and images, faster than I can in a pen. The only question is what I will find this time.
If I were Shogun, I would kill ninjas. If I were Batman, I would let the Joker win. If I were President, I wouldn't go to war. If I were Britney, I would buy Spain. If I were a ghost, I would haunt a movie theater. If I were YouTube, I would watch myself. If I were a diaper, I would get changed. If I were saluting, you would be a general. If I were a soap opera, I would be on before Oprah. If I were holy, I would be water. If I were So Gee, I would marry Pirooz. If I were grumpy, I would take a nap. If I were Pringles, I would get eaten. If I were a rainbow, I would cross the Atlantic. If I were a myth, I would not be real. If I were a watch, I would not stop. If I were clay, I would look for Michelangelo. If I were a peach, I would eat myself. If I were a weapon, I would self-destruct. If I were crippled, I would ride a horse. If I were safe, I would listen to Kenny Loggins. If I were light, I would grow things. If I were a scientist, I would study atomic energy. If I were a molecule, I would multiply. If I were fast, I would race Carl Lewis. If I were gold, I would be buried. If I were water, I would be the Pacific. If I were oil, I would be pumped on the New Jersey Turnpike. If I were shelter, I would be a cave. If I were hopeless, I would call my dad. If I were educated, I would run for Senator. If I were money, I would be spent. If I were racing, I would write faster. If I were a phone call, I would get answered. If I were falling, I wouldn't stop. If I were held, I would cry. If I were a moment, I would be gone.
It is finally completed after weeks of hard work. I'd like to thank MIna Lee for putting so much time into helping me accomplish this. It was a great experience to learn Flash. I look forward to making more films with her.
As far as the CD's, they will arrive any day. The music will be made available on CDBaby and iTunes in the coming weeks. If you want to pre-order one of the limited CD's, just send a paypal to piroozkalayeh [at] gmail.com for $15. I will be sure a CD is sent to you ASAP. If you want extra Swingers paraphernalia, just request some in the comments box.
I don't wish I was older. I don't wish I were Pinnochio. I don't wish I were you. I don't wish I was eating lobster. I don't wish in Japanese. I don't wish for AIDS. I don't wish during baseball games. I don't wish for a cape or secret identity. I don't wish to be Beck. I don't wish to be the color red. I don't wish to swallow things I dislike. I don't wish to run for President. I don't wish to be a shoe salesman. I don't wish to be in a heavy metal rock band. I don't wish around deep holes procured for liquid sustenance. I don't wish bats were flying through my window. I don't wish for a shotgun. I don't wish I could MOONWALK like Michael Jackson. I don't wish breakdancing was never invented. I don't wish I was Albert Einstein or Hitler. I don't wish I was made of butter. I don't wish I had the perfect rhyme. I don't wish The Beatles stayed together. I don't wish my friends hadn't died. I don't wish I had it all figured out. I don't wish I were Tom Cruise. I don't wish I was the Governor of California. I don't wish I did better in school. I don't wish I was Enlightened. I don't wish to spontaneously combust. I don't wish I was in the WWF. I don't wish for a heavyweight title. I don't wish to learn how to crochet. I don't wish to fly or shoot webs from my wrists. I don't wish my skeleton was made of titanium. I don't wish to be skinny. I don't wish to watch Grey's Anatomy. I don't wish for a good life. I don't wish it wasn't snowing. I don't wish for relationships. I don't wish for ice cream. I don't wish I was Mel Gibson. I don't wish I washed dishes. I don't wish to change vessels. I don't wish for a cleaner carpet. I don't wish I didn't grant wishes. I don't wish I could get out.
It is so good to be on vacation. I am thoroughly enjoying it. I have got Flannery O'Connor's short stories and all is good. I am also working on an animated music video. It has been an interesting process. Mina Lee and I have been hard at work trying to make cartoon rocket ships circle strawberries and carrots. I think it'll be a fun little ditty once it is completed.
Other than that, I don't have too much on the agenda. I am enjoying the writing exercises Loren has been giving me, and I'll post some of them as I feel inspired to do so. In the meantime, you can check out the latest developments happening on the website. It seems to continually grow, and get closer to what I have envisioned it being.
By the end of this month, the music video and new record from The Slipshod Swingers will be available for purchase. I am very proud of this collaboration between so many wonderful artists, and I'm very excited to have a physical copy in my hands. I will send e-mails to the friends of Shikow, when everything is set to launch.
What else? Not much. So Gee and I are still going strong. She makes me laugh and I enjoy being with her. There are times when both of us would rather be alone, but I suppose it will just take time for us to be able to say when those times are. As of now, I am excited at the idea of going out to dance and drink the night away with her. Who knows? Maybe, she would be down for that as well.
Now I am going to do one of Loren's writing exercises. I will post it in a bit.
Human beings are pushing each other in Seoul. Human beings are pushing each other in San Francisco. Human beings are pushing each other in Ralph's. Human beings are pushing each other at the U.S. Embassy. Human beings are pushing each other in an elevator. Human beings are pushing each other out of windows. Human beings are pushing each other in Burger King. Human beings are pushing each other on Houston Street. Human beings are pushing each other at Ben Franklin Elementary. Human beings are pushing other in relationships. Human beings are pushing each other to make a choice. Human beings are pushing each other to be a doctor. Human beings are pushing each other to get married. Human beings are pushing each other to see Harry Potter. Human beings are pushing each other to meditate. Human beings are pushing each other to be smarter. Human beings are pushing each other to listen to poetry. Human beings are pushing each other to read their blogs. Human beings are pushing each other to stop sleeping. Human beings are pushing each other to be better partners. Human beings are pushing each other to be more committed. Human beings are pushing each other to go to war. Human beings are pushing each other to vote. Human beings are pushing each other to save trees. Human beings are pushing each other to stop smoking. Human beings are pushing each other to get richer. Human beings are pushing each other to be happy. Human beings are pushing each other to get thinner. Human beings are pushing each other to get bigger. Human beings are pushing each other to be on television. Human beings are pushing each other to be #1 on the Billboard Charts. Human beings are pushing each other to say something about O. J. Human beings are pushing each other to get to Robert Kennedy. Human beings are pushing each other to the Boston Harbor. Human beings are pushing each other to read the Farmer's Almanac. Human beings are pushing each other to bid at Sotheby's. Human beings are pushing each other to make a difference. Human beings are pushing each other to be gay. Human beings are pushing each other to be racist. Human beings are pushing each other to be straight. Human beings are pushing each other to be deaf. Human beings are pushing each other to be blind. Human beings are pushing each other to consume more processed foods. Human beings are pushing each other for progress. Human beings are pushing each other off a Ferris Wheel. Human beings are pushing each other off the Big Bad Wolf. Human beings are pushing each other off Red Riding Hood. Human beings are pushing each other to Jihad. Human beings are pushing each other to Christ. Human beings are pushing each other to eat kosher. Human beings are pushing each other to be more quiet. Human beings are pushing each other to turn down the music. Human beings are pushing each other to open the door. Human beings are pushing each other to turn off the music. Human beings are pushing each other to do it right now. Human beings are pushing each other to mind their own business. Human beings are pushing each other out the door. Human beings are pushing each other onto the sofa. Human beings are pushing each other to make passionate love. Human beings are pushing each other to watch Grey's Anatomy. Human beings are pushing each other to fall asleep. Human beings are pushing each other to dream. Human beings are pushing each other to wake up.
I seem to be older, but I am really just walking backwards. I seem to be political, but I am really only mumbling. I seem to be wholesome, but I am actually a pervert. I seem to be flatulent, but I don't have any prune juice. I seem to be a window, but my husband is still alive. I seem to be a bathroom, but I am just another shelf. I seem to be a bear, but I am often drunk with peanuts. I seem to be a futon, but I am softer than a robot. I seem to be a muscle, but I am served in hot broth. I seem to be a color, but I am actually in combat. I seem to be a curtain, but I am draped over Courtney. I seem to be a subway, but I am more like a trolley. I seem to be a figment, but I am actually Mr. Rogers. I seem to be an actor, but I am happier than Elvis. I seem to be Tang, but I am drinking through a straw.
Each of us has a dream. Sometimes this begins at a young age. Maybe, it's to be an actor or an astrophysicist. Maybe, it's to be an Olympic athlete. Maybe, you saw a space shuttle take off, and envisioned yourself gliding among the stars. Whatever the end trajectory, there are many who stop short of their path long before it can actually be realized. This is mainly because of the difficulty of the journey or the environmental and conditional factors an individual might face while on such a pursuit. Just imagine. It is very difficult to become a doctor if one comes from an impoverished family, and lives in a remote village in a third world country. The odds at such an event coming to fruition are very low. Yet, as great as the odds, we have countless stories of individuals who make it through just such an obstacle to reach their destination.
How is this possible? What makes one individual succeed while another does not? Is there a certain factor we can point to that everyone needs to include in their lives to realize their true potential? Is there such a thing?
There have been many people who I have met, that have realized their dreams. These have ranged from world class writers, doctors, producers, actors, crafters, and even painters. The key ingredient each of these individuals shared was a lack of second guessing themselves, coupled with an uncertainty of exactly how it would come about. Most would probably say they had a loose idea of what they hoped to accomplish and a continual drive to move forward.
My father is just such an example. He was raised in a small village in Iran without the comforts of financial stability, a loving environment, or even a role model for whom he could map his trajectory. Yet he was able to traverse prejudice, poverty, and lack of faith, to attain his lofty dreams of moving to America and becoming a doctor. Just how this came to fruition is a question many might ask. How was it possible? How can I do the same?
According to my father, there is a key ingredient to any task, and that is to focus like a laser. In anything that he has done, he has shown a 100% dedication to the task. All other things have fallen away to his goal of playing a round of tennis, solving a mathematical dilemma, or running the Chicago Marathon.
"Pirooz," my father said in excited pauses. "You should have seen it. People were falling left and right. The heat was so much. I was on mile 23. It was six hours. I thought to myself, I am going to have a heart attack. Then I said, I have to do it. I am going to do this for my three sons. I kept going. I finished. Then they cancelled the marathon. The heat was too much. Too many people were dying or falling from exhaustion."
This story, like my father's rise to meet his other aspirations, carries with it the same desire and commitment to see his words become reality that I have seen throughout every exchange I have had with him. In fact, I have not seen anyone in my life who has had such a determination to see the impossible become a reality as my father. He has been able to complete marathons, get doctorates, and see many of his family members through the journey of immigration and success in America. It is quite a remarkable feat. But how was it possible? What were the common threads that others could possibly glean for their own lives? In other words, how does one focus like a laser?
For my father, there is a lack of any possibility of failuire. In his mind, the outcome is already realized. He must simply put into action what he feels are the steps to help him reach his desired outcome. In the case of the marathon, there was probably a more direct line to its success than becoming a doctor. He could pay attention to his diet, steadily build his stamina, and then make the appropriate reservations to fly to Chicago to meet his dream. It doesn't seem that difficult. But we are not taking into consideration what will often stop an individual from accomplishing the same task, and that is the possibility of quitting because something is difficult, or simply quitting because someone has listed the adversities one might face.
This last factor is what I believe keeps many of us from moving forward on our life paths. Some of us might have had town criers in the form of parents, friends, or strangers, who have told us that our dream is not a possibility. Maybe they have cited all the detractors. Maybe they have shown us examples of where others have failed. Maybe it is even our own lack of faith in hearing such news, or the experience of a past event where what we had hoped for did not become a reality, that keeps us from making our journey presently. Whatever the scenario, our dreams will not be realized by accepting the futures that others prophesies for us.
There have probably been thousands of possible Beethovens, who never touched a piano, because someone said there can only be one Beethoven. This type of adversity is the fundamental block that we all face in life. It is also the saddest and most idiotic step one can make as a human being. Regardless of the facts or statistics a naysayer may provide, there is an unknown that is part of any person's life. One person cannot know what will happen tomorrow, just as much as the next person. If we are to believe naysayers, or even a parent, who may have our best interests in mind, then we will be arguing with reality and suffer dearly for it. No one can know the future. This is a fact. Even if someone is a shaman or an incredible psychic intuitive, the future will move based on the smallest infraction just as easily as I can say a butterfly is flapping its wings in Kuala Lumpur.
In order to move beyond naysayers, we must first move beyond the thoughts in our minds. This is as simple as accepting reality as it is. If one accepts that one's dreams are not yet realized, then they can actually make goals to see them through. The astronaut can enroll in Space Camp, the actor can move to Hollywood, and the writer can work at his or her craft. It is this simple. The path forward is not important. We will each find your own way regardless of what advice may be given to us. The truth may even arise several times or only once in front of us, before we have the clarity of mind to see the open door. Then our ability to drop the futures others have prophesied - or the very thoughts in our own minds that cripple us from moving forward - will be as simple as taking one step forward and a giant leap for mankind. This is the path of dreams. It is what we are all on, whether we realize it or not.
Is writing good if it is complicated? What is complicated?
If I showed you how to break a line to create enjambment between two juxtaposed images have I created the proper amount of complexity to garner a nod in respect. Is this what makes a poem good?
"Wow," someone might say. "That was smart."
What if I had an element of counterpoint that balanced the sonic scale of a line? Is this another element of complexity befitting a mad dash to the checkbox of "buck wild awesome"?
"Yes," one poet might say. "Bring it!"
"Forget that," another says. "You got to have a concept as a starting point."
"Oh," I say. "You mean like if I was thinking about how when you say tree, I have a different tree in my mind."
"Oh, yes," the poet says. "Saussure!!"
"And then I could create simulacrum with quantum mechanics as my theme. "Words as Quarks" would be the concept from which the poem is derived. I could even allow each Quark to be representative of human thought, as they collide against the language of photosynthesis, thereby remarking how the global factors of thought in current financial paradigms are the wrongdoings that cripple the environment like an electric thunder storm fueled my research with hundred dollar bills laid upon one another, until a stack higher than the World Trade Towers fell down upon a Redwood with the canon of poetry beneath it to make a large resounding crunch like an atom split open."
"Oh yes," that poet says. "You should write more like that."
It fascinates me that writers have any sense of what is good before they would read it, but there are some who carry a set of cards that dictate what they believe are the elements of good poetry.
A student may write with a beginner's conception of poetry, and actually collide into the preconceived parameters an instructor may uphold as the elements of a good poem to such a degree, that they are praised for their creation, and thereby given more of an impetus to proceed in a similar manner into the next writing exercise they participate. At the same time, this method of instruction does not allow for a discovery beyond the instructor's parameters. If this were the case, then every student who proceeded in this fashion would feel free from writing with the instructor as audience, and compose with a complete sense of autonomy.
Of course, that is if autonomy is the desired end-product. It may just be that the instruction of creative writing is crippled by the end-products that one would hope to gain from writing itself.
If a student enters a workshop, hoping for publication, awards, and a coveted position in academia, they will have already missed the opportunity to actually engage themselves in the writing that would hold weight beyond any classroom, periodical, or canon. This is not the writing of poetry or prose, as it has now become known in the money making enterprise of the majority of creative writing programs throughout the world. This is the writing of integrity. This is the writing of autonomy. This is the writing without any preconceived notions for what may or may not be considered good by the canon, publications, or colleagues.
To find this space, a student must be encouraged to explore the scope of what poetry has been, while the instructor drops their concepts of good and bad to provide an open reading for the journey the student has embarked.
That is why the language of approval must be dropped. Words such as "nice", "excellent", and "good" will only prolong a student's reliance on others. It would actually be more effective for an instructor to ask questions, and reflect upon the student as their instructor, for a true teaching to be exchanged. In this way, the student will form a self-reliance upon their work and collect tools from the writing presented and dissected within the classroom.
Isn't this interesting?
I wonder how many of you have tried to work with other creators only to find that there was no way in hell that you could cooperate on making the project come together.
"They are too obtuse," some might say. "They want it their way!"
The example we have seen at how instruction can hold integrity, is the same space by which an actual collaboration can be produced. If we believe that our co-teachers, partners, or significant others, are, in fact, less than ourselves in some way, then this will filter our actual integration and appreciation for what they may offer in the forms of creation.
Just imagine. I meet an artist who wants to create a joint poem for their upcoming journal. They ask me to do a round robin writing exercise to see what can be elicited. Each of us proceeds to write lines, and slowly, I notice that our language is opposing itself, because neither of us is actually reading the other's work. We are creating from and for our own parameters, and therefore have not actually entered a space of collaboration. We might as well be writing by ourselves.
This is the nature of most collaborations. Most who offer such an enterprise do not actually want to collaborate, but our in need of some sense of approval or goading to continue on the works they have already started. That is why I am cautious about entering a collaboration process, when there is an end result in mind.
If one enters a collaboration without a sense of one-upmanship, and can also maintain a sense of the unknown for what will be produced, then chances are that it will be a very fruitful experience.
In my artistic career, I have worked in collaboration with many individuals. The times when it has been the most effective is when I was able to drop my conception for right and wrong in the process, and allow for the individual whom I was working with to generate as much as I. In fact, I did not ever see myself as the creator in these situations. It was much more like a call and response.
I remember one songwriting workshop in Los Angeles. Although I could have penned an entire song by myself, I enjoyed the process of seeing what was brought to the table by my partner. I would simply listen, and try to respond without a sense of what would be right or wrong, but actually what I felt in my body as a response to what she was doing. Slowly, the song built itself without much effort at all.
Afterwards, I was quite surprised, and suddenly began to think of the countless situations where I had tried to collaborate with others, only to find some kind of obstruction in my path.
"Wow," I thought. "No thinking."
It was only listening and doing that were necessary. There was no "that sounds like this other riff" or "I need to make it more complicated" in my mind. I was simply allowing for what would be.
Recently, someone asked me how it was possible to reach a moment of equilibrium within their emotional world. I mentioned a series of practices one could embark on, but I could have responded with my experience in Los Angeles just as easily - listen and do. I don't believe it is anymore complicated than this.
Whether we are trying to learn how to be better instructors, collaborators, or grounded individuals, our only requirement is to listen to each moment, and then act upon it. This can become difficult if one gets wrapped into the concepts of others, or tries to resolve the issue within the mind alone; but if one is willing to just be in the moment, an ability to act without judgment or fear will be immediately present, because it is exactly what you are before you thought you were or had to be anything else.