the .410 bore was perfect
full choked for partridge
either perched or flying
he’d dropped another one onto the small pond
getting his feet wet
when he’d stepped through the ice
he dressed it - wings tucked then yanked quickly -
and placed the breast in waxed cardboard
the carcass tossed aside for any hungry vixen
walking the path that ribboned through pines
he picked up boughs and cones
to decorate the hunting shack
smoke from the rusted chimney
carried wintergreen and blueberries
mixed with breadcrusts ready for stuffing
his uncle looked up from the woodstove
woodspoon in hand
white beard streaked from sampling
“Looks like you got yourself soaked…
take your socks off and hang ‘em
in front of the fire.”
They sat together sharing a bottle of port
telling stories and retelling memories
eager for another perfect holiday meal
Whenever an artist, a craftsperson, a chef creates something identifiable as his or her own, the underlying differentiator is the story. Forget the words, brush strokes, hammer marks, tool grinds, ingredients; the only thing — the only quality — that matters is the story. What remains from the creation is not only ‘object,’ but ‘narrative’ of why that object has come to be. The creative thing does not exist without the story lest it become a mere commodity, a castaway one-use bobble, ephemera.
The very reason your Mother’s Spaghetti is unmatched by spaghetti in a can or from a restaurant is because the concept of “Mom’s spaghetti” is inseparably linked to the background tales, memories, made-up family tidbits that surround the spaghetti itself. These will survive the death of the Mother. These will transcend the small changes made to the original recipes by daughters and sons. These will be the insoluble essence of Mother’s Spaghetti. The old jokes and reminiscences will be as important as the metered amounts of flour and egg, tomato and spices.
The same holds true for Grandfather’s razor, Dad’s walking stick, Aunt Elanors’s watercolour, whatever heirloom making the rounds in a family. Without the built-up mystique of oral / written / photographic history, the heirlooms are just things: junk or trappings for garage sales.
The same should hold true for good writing. Without background, without an anchor in the writer’s actuality, without a link to the time and space around it, a story or poem or novel is nothing but a bunch of words. A writer should be cognizant of his or her place in the oeuvre of the age, whether he or she fights against or plays into it. Without acknowledgement — positive or negative — of its place in the whole, a work can only fall flat, existing outside any traceable ancestry, words on a page for the sake of themselves.
When writing, build differentiation, flavour, the story behind the story, placing it in the here and now, making it relevant, making it memorable.
What lens do you look through?
What filters do you consciously or unconsciously apply to what you see or experience?
What are you missing?
Perched on the barstool
on crossed feet to look taller
he downed another pint
smacked down the mug
When he wanted to
if push came to shove
if the shit hit the fan
he could really mix it up
A low centre of gravity
fists as fat as hams
and an acumen buoyed
on barley and hops
He’d left the crown
on the bookshelf…
tonight was about drinking
and whatever else came his way
From Sonofabitch Poems, 2011
Creative writing for the likeminded — and ONLY the likeminded
I sometimes take the opportunity to rant. This is a rant.
It appears that the entire intent of ‘literature’ and ‘poetry’ is to create and define niches. Because the world — read: virtual world — is so vast, everyone is trying to cut a little piece of the landscape and call it ‘home.’ But, there are only certain guests that can and will be invited into these ‘homes.’
Open call for writers from ___ with experience in ___ and a ___ background.
The creative writing world is laser-focusing on the micro-niche. Only certain writers and certain readers will interact in shared, manufactured spaces. People will read what they write and write what they read, creating a tight, closed, exclusive little circle.
- Poetry contest.
- Submit to our ___ theme.
- Only $25 and every entry gets a “free” one-year subscription.
The likeminded buy their way into likeminded publications that create a reader-base on a specific call. I understand the need for reading fees and the likes in a world where funding is dwindling; this said, the original need becomes a foundation for niche-building. Each publication becomes a silo that contains only the “type” of writing seeded in calls, inflating circulation numbers to readers who bought a subscription. That year wasn’t free.
Exclusive content only $___ per month.
$3 here, $5 there, $15 hither, $25 yon… all to buy into a place that feels like ‘home.’ But all the people there, the likeminded, they also bought in, for the same reasons, sparked by the same call, the same ‘experience,’ the same ‘background.’ The home is peopled with writers that sound the same, think the same, read the same…
…creating a tight, closed, exclusive little circle.
I miss the days of pulp mags, of mags that published a variety of conflicted, conflicting, interesting stuff. Now many — and I should note that it’s not ALL — journals or mags or publications just put out pages of I’ve-seen-this-before-and I-can-pretty-much-guess-what’s-coming-next.
Break the circle – Write outside the silo – Make the world your niche
behind the trees
beyond the fluttering
somewhere in the nondescript
in the sound
in the landscape undulating...
to miss and misinterpret
R L Raymond
From Half Myths & Quarter Legends
Photo shot from a hotel room years ago on this day. So many possible stories linked to this one. Maybe it could be a writing prompt.
droplets of condensation
down the cheap tin
of the cheap can
residual handprint bleeding water
the vacant chair
threadbare from years of lounging
a scratchy radio in the background
She still nags, chicken-pecking in the kitchen, about this, that, the other thing, almost drowning out the broken music. What she doesn’t realize is that
after all these years
up and left
beer still cold
chair still warm
no longer there to listen
no longer there to care
he walks down the driveway
smoking a Camel
his other hand twitching
the straw that broke the camel’s back
From Weakdays, Corrupt Press
After eighteen months of antisocial isolation, masked interactions, and all-round negativity, I found myself always looking for the dark, eschewing the light. This vicious circle isn’t good in any possible way. Personal relationships become strained, micro and macro outlooks tainted, and not of least import, writing suffers. Yes I contributed to a COVID Anthology (poem was successful); yes I was lucky enough to have a few darker pieces published (not that I am overly ‘light’ at the best of times); but I started feeling some dark repetitions creeping in everywhere. This darkness veiled how I looked at everything. So, this morning, I decided to try some positivity exercise. Immediately I noticed that this activity played directly into my writing.
A pickup truck was tailgating me (tailgating should be a cardinal sin), eventually passed on the wrong side, drifted back into my lane without a signal. Easy to get upset, but I tried to look at the scene from the ‘light’ side instead of the dark. Here’s how that went:
He is in a hurry.
Maybe he is a doctor, called for an emergency.
He can’t use his signal.
Maybe he is left-handed and resting his hand after a close call.
I wonder what kind of close call. Maybe it was…
And a story started blooming right then and there. So instead of brooding in the usual anger, I turned the situation on its head, shook it, and — lo and behold — little bits of story fell out. Not bad…
Will I be able to do this all the time? Highly doubtful. But, once in a while, I can a) keep the blood pressure down, and b) get a few ideas or images I can eventually use. Win / Win.
No matter where you look, always be thinking of things (ideas) you can be squirrelling away for future use. Bring a bag and a notebook and a camera.