Category Archives: From the journals

Our beliefs are generally comfortable to us — new ones less so.

Kerouac’s description of San Francisco (“October in the Railroad Earth”) — M liked the “clarity of California breaks your heart” (I think that’s the 2nd part) line — playful with words, not a mere dull description, yet could almost be nonfic (Esquire writer criticizes Jon Stewart the comedian, as if he’s being edgy by being anti, this writer. Whatever — to be “anti” is to also be predictable.)

[My in-laws] and nonfiction — their beliefs — but who has time to correct them all? I mean, maybe this is why people don’t try to disabuse others of their beliefs in ghosts, angels, Heaven — it’s just sorta rude. It’s condescending, and bullying, to say “I grasp reality — my ideas of reality are better than yours” — because no one can legitimately claim truth. I feel I’m less delusional than those who believe as described above, but there’s certainly no sense in which I can grasp or even start to conceptualize all the diverse perspectives, the unknowns about the world, the multiplicities of, multitudes of experiences (other peoples’ experiences).

So, there’s that part — but there’s also the reason not to do it that you don’t know that it matters if [my mother-in-law] believes in these unseen worlds, or that she would really agree with me even if it seemed like she couldn’t argue against me — we like to come to our beliefs on our own. We choose what feels right, I guess, or what we were given by tradition or parents. Our beliefs are generally comfortable to us — new ones less so.

It seems I want to talk about Kerouac again. What am I leaving out? His descriptions, word play.

He certainly never got caught up in bourgeois things like having a house and a job.

But his sensibility is only one way — doesn’t have to be the only way to write, or to describe. I like the idea of the nonfic descriptions being poetically loose — it’s the voice that can make those things interesting. George Will and other commenters must not feel the need to write creatively, to write in any but a straightforward, meaning-centric prose. Even Primary Colors novel is plain in style.

3 p.m.-ish: After I got frisbee down, then another frisbee up on roof and [I] got bobber, treble hook, and lead weight stuck on roof in a wife-entertaining, -amusing, attempt to get down the 2nd one. M: “One of the frickin’ funniest things you’ve ever done (not belly-laugh-funny but) ‘what the hell are you thinking’ funny. … For someone intent on forethought and planning, there was some bad forethought and planning on that one” (M said as I was writing). M said she could tell from my voice that I’d thrown it up there and fallen to my hands and knees.

I was thinking yesterday about how nonfic is what you (anybody) honestly think(s) — but politicians say things that may not even be their belief — but they may honestly think it’s the best thing to say at that point. But how do we resolve differences between peoples’ reality beliefs? (Gail Collins recently said Michelle Bachman has a “free-floating relationship with reality” — approximate quote).

[My in-laws’] reality beliefs are different from my own — any nonfic is not necessarily truth — like my recent “consider the source.”

4:30 p.m.: This pinching feeling in my left pinkie toe continues to come and go.

[From journal of Sat., 17 Sept. 2011, Journal 146, page 180-2]

But there’s something about being someone who records, who writes

But there’s something about being someone who records, who writes — there’s an awareness of self and of present place and moment that I value having (maybe other writers do, too) and that seems to be the action that really matters, more than, say, actions like building buildings or leading troops or starting a biz matter (those examples seem bureaucratic — let’s add actions that are thrilling: sports, rock climbing, etc., etc.)

[From school journal of Thurs., 26 Jan. 2023]


‘Where is MY 15 MINUTES OF FAME, Andy Warhol?’

And then a human person came up behind me and then she showed me a pass and it was an interruption but that’s OK, since school’s about interruptions – which is also not sarcastic: I mean, school has people, and people’s needs, individual’s needs – real needs, anyway – take precedence over lesson plans. And now I’m thinking of Taylor Mali and how he wrote poem saying he wouldn’t let a student go to bathroom just because [the student was] bored and now I wonder how long it was that he actually did teach. …

I WANT to feel more special than I sometimes intellectually know that I am, I guess. That’s the struggle with humility, of course – to be humble is to, well, is to resist something that is easy to want: fame, glory, adoration, etc. At least, I THINK I might want to experience those things – “Where is MY 15 MINUTES OF FAME, Andy Warhol?” – but I don’t really know how I’d feel. I heard somewhere – on TV this morning, maybe, that Lou Diamond Phillips and Reba McEntire would be guests on GMA or Kelly Ripa show or something – and I thought, I haven’t thought about either of those people much in the last 2 decades, but they’re still around, apparently still making commercial art – and they haven’t said anything bad online to get themselves mobbed and criticized. It’s a weird thing we have, this pop cultural world, where some people do get attention thru marketing or thru the media – the “editorial” work body-models seek as being more important than having their pictures taken for ads. And I’m not sure how I got to talking about models, or how I know this – except that I’m sure I read it somewhere, sometime.

[From school journal of Thurs., 22 Sept. 2022]

A Smearing Mix

I should specify: All I can see beyond my screens and the tower of paper trays and beyond the wooden CD rack I scavenged from the old school before it got torn down and beyond the metal window frame is the green leaves – reddish leaves – of the maple and the pale blue (babybook-blue) sky and the soft yellow of the arbor vitae – and some reddish maples covered partly by the arbor vitae and I’m reminded of the leaves I walked under today on second dog walk – they were maples and they were a smearing mix of several colors – reddish-purple, ranges of these, and greenish – and I’m not even describing these well – words fail me! – but it was a cool palette.

[From school journal of Thurs., 13 Oct. 2022, which journal started at 10:39 a.m.]

Had a dream I was throwing these rubber balls

So while phone is restarting, let me finally finish these journals. Had a plan to go to Rockford today — don’t think I will. I will need to go to bank soon, tho, and maybe get treats in Byron. But, so, yesterday morn, 8:30 to 10:45 or 11, met with KF and J, then just KF, as we first went over the English 2 final and then planned a new skills-based plan for next year …

So, then luncheon — I didn’t sit with [certain colleagues]. I sat between J.R. and D.O. and then after, J. and I talked ’til about 2:20. Then back to school and I left, all packed up, a little before 4. Didn’t go thru any of the binders I had thought to — no time, wanted to be done yesterday. And so, today, I napped 11 – 12:20 or so (Had a dream I was throwing these rubber balls as if they’d go into orbit but then I realized I was fooling myself, these rubber balls (maybe with rubber pegs, like a dog toy, and with some kind of transponder inside to reveal location) weren’t going to orbit — and soon after, I woke up.

[From journal of Thurs., 28 May 2015, Journal 208, page 191]

The water comes from the west, the field there

It was still snowing …, but warm, mid-30s [°F], and slushy when we got back up to the houses. [My uncle] Luck and I played in the meltwater running thru his yard. Luck acknowledged it was play, but he also wanted to break up any slush dams holding water in his dogs’ pen, so we tried to clean snow and slush out of the culverts in Luck’s driveway. I made a channel thru his front yard. The water comes from the west, the field there, and runs by his dog pens and under the culvert just south of his house and then east thru his yard — there’s a waterway there — and down the pasture ’til it joins the water flowing north at the foot of the sled hill.

[From journal of Mon., 26 Feb. 2007, Journal 82, pages 16-17]

At some point, my consciousness moments will end and I won’t be in the world anymore

I like being engaged in my work, and in my writing (as I have been for the last hour-plus) and I also like doing dog walks and just being calm and looking and thinking and I like sitting places too and just looking or even just breathing and thinking — or breathing and letting go of thoughts (meditation, basically). Yet I also know that my consciousness — while wonderful and cool and powerful — is also the product of (is made possible by, as the PBS-ers say) my body, and as many thoughts as I’ve had and as I’ve written (a subset, of course, of all that I’ve thought), these too will end at some point — I’ll die, of course — and that feels sad to consider. And on other hand, I just … keep on thinking, you know? I have a thought at (in) a moment, and then the moment passes and I have another thought, and, at some point, my consciousness moments will end and I won’t be in the world anymore — and I won’t be a driver-threat to squirrels [as I was the day before]. …

Yes, I don’t think a life needs to be famous to be well-lived — the famous die, too — and once you’re dead, you’re dead — it doesn’t matter what your public reputation was (or will be — you can’t libel the dead).

[From journal of Sat., 17 Sept. 2022, Journal 366, page 200]

I can’t just sit down and make something I’ll appreciate right away

My writings don’t usually seem all that good to me soon after I’ve made them. I didn’t like reading my McKuen erasures that much until the last year or so, and I can’t just sit down and make something I’ll appreciate right away — or at least that’s not likely (and the few times I’ve done that — as with the “Split My Thumb” poem, maybe — the poem turns out to be not all that interesting in the long term — it’s too straightforward).

I hear dog or dogs barking, maybe the condo dogs on their balconies barking at a passer-buy. A dude (an older dude) with a golden retrievo was walking past [a neighbor’s] house last night (well, what was that, maybe 6:45 p.m.?) and Sam and I were across the street because we almost never walk the sidewalk past [this neighbor’s], because of [their dog B.], his electric fence comes up to sidewalk, and he crossed over that invisible boundary, onto the sidewalk, to get to golden. No fight that I saw, though [neighbor-adults] were outside and yelled and B. seemed to leave the golden alone for the remainder of its pass-by.

[From journal of Mon., 5 Sept. 2022, J366, page 122]

Dip in, sample, leave

I like the idea that my texts [my journal bits, as this one here] aren’t things for anthologies, not typical to be anthologized (my writings would be more likely to be in one of those Best Non-Required Reading (or “non-essential”?) collections). But, yeah, yeah — my writings aren’t the kind of thing a reader would be likely to sit and absorb for pages and pages. But that’s OK! Dip in, sample, leave — come back later.

I hear loud, deep-pitched, distant roar — from the Dragway, I’d guess. I don’t know when there will next be rain — and rain would, I hope, quiet the Dragway a while. All the exhaust-pollution being spewed around this town — near the motocross zone and the nuclear plant, all three of those things within a couple miles of each other (literally, maybe just two miles separates them). …

[From journal of Sat., 10 Sept. 2022, journal volume 366, page 151]

The implication of expository and argumentative nonfiction is that the author is The Authority (the word’s right there!)

The implication of expository and argumentative nonfiction is that the author is The Authority (the word’s right there!) and those who would report or argue in different ways are, well, wrong. (This judgment is inherent in reporting (and not just arguments) at a deep level because what is a report (news, explication, interpretation, analysis, etc.) except a document making an implicit claim to be accurately prioritized and thorough) …

Maybe it’s arrogant to seek new forms — but it also seems arrogant to adopt the authorial tone/voice/attitude when writing within the forms. And I also thought this morning that it’s forms that I have to teach — I’ve thought about this in Rhet & Comp for years, since Mom said she taught college kids who didn’t seem to have knowledge of the forms. It’s useful to get along (to succeed) in school and in business (and other institutions, other groups) if you’re aware of the common forms (and if you’re aware that there are such things as forms). Forms are a convenient way to communicate (how a science-journal paper has a different form — a form shared among practitioners in a discipline — from, say, a police report or a commemorative poem). But I thought about how I’m not directly teaching sonnet or sestina forms — well, the sonnet a little, in that I teach the iambic rhythm form — rhythm, rhyme, these too seem types of form — forms, familiar patterns, of language. The heroic meter: it exists, it is declared, and then poets try to show their ability to write to it — they show off. OK, it’s not just showing off to write in a meter, as a meter can aid memory retention (as would benefit, say, a singer of lyrics). But, well, partly what a writer of a form wants is to be seen as good, capable and clever at filling the form. What can a songwriter do, how much can be accomplished in, say, a 3 ½ minute pop song? And some artists claim to like or value limitations (Twyla T says that — something in her book on creativity says something like, to those whom the gods wish to humble they give enormous resources).

But — but. Openness — it doesn’t take resources to let go of the forms. I don’t have anything that I want to advocate to others — and I don’t usually seek to entertain others through my writing, though I do wish to inspire them. Sure, at my job, I’ll teach some forms — I’ll talk to students about rhythm & rhyme and I’ll say that these are the levers of the language machine and it’s good for writers to know what levers, what tools, they have available. If I don’t point students to some forms, some tools, then I’ve got a vague-as-sh*t class (and I have done that sometimes in my career, pointed students toward an ill-defined ideal, and it tends not to be a helpful/useful approach within the classroom form).

And I think how I’ve realized just in recent years that journals were the process (the quasi-form, because it’s defined more as a process than as a product) that suited me, and I’ve realized only in recent days a second quasi-form that suits and pleases (satisfies) me, a second art-ideal that’s mine, that fits me, that satisfies me, something I don’t feel too limited in, and something that isn’t imposed from outside (my erasure & random-word poems). I had to find these on my own, and that I’ve done, and it’s deeply gratifying — and it’s just satisfying when something clicks in its proper place. Finally, I find something that meets my needs (which needs too needed discovery and refining) and so of course it was only me who could find what suited me. And so I probably can’t teach this to kids — I can’t teach them, each of them, what suits and fits them. They’re 17, 18, too young to fully understand themselves, though I actually did (I can see in retrospect) have some urges, impulses — feelings more than clearly defined ideas — that I, even as a teenager, liked certain types of poems (such as Brautigan’s as an example, but I even wrote that poem that poetry is for things that don’t fit in prose — not exactly what I believe now, but also not wrong — hinting that I liked openness) and that I liked Vonnegut’s less-traditional stories and that I liked to journal, to record my life experiences (sh*t, going back at least to my vacation journals of 1986, aged 12! And I started journaling regularly in my first year of college! I have journaled because I liked doing it and because it seemed valuable. I did things and liked things before I ununderstood well why I did them and liked them — and that’s not bad advice for young artists, too. Do things, try things — see which feel right (even if they don’t feel easy, exactly, but they feel valuable to do) and which don’t (I didn’t want to stay a reporter).

So, yeah, I think my experience in becoming myself is cool as hell — I can share that with students. Basically, try lots of things but trust your gut as to which are yours and which aren’t.

[From journal of Sun., 28 Aug. 2022, Journal 366, pages 60-63]