Category Archives: From the journals

Does any of my writing make sense today?

Well, I thought I was closer to the end of this journal. Thought yesterday was page 179, but it’s 171, I now see. OK, so I’ve got at least two days left, want to leave a couple pages at end for notes, Post-Its, etc.

What’s up? Not sure I can keep up the Creative Writing routine. I don’t have any big plans. That’s OK, though. I’ll make it one way or another, a day at a time. Maybe even include a grammar lesson, although I told kids no tests in here. Doesn’t mean we can’t do lessons on it. I shouldn’t need tests just to enforce stuff, as motivation or whatever. Motivation should be itself, the learning or whatever.

Does any of my writing make sense today? I’m not sure it does. It seems it would be a little awkward—as even the use of “would” in this last sentence. …

This pen’s almost out of ink. I’m having to press harder. Funny kids—on 2nd day of Morning Pages, Micky said, “another two pages?” Yes, that’s why I said several times that it was 2 pages/day, all semester, so 180 pages/semester. That’s why I said that. Just shows they don’t listen when I talk, I guess. … Yes, I would rather get them more involved in everything—more active, less me talking—and yet, this is partly what it is, this reading and talking and writing—this is English class! Writing like this should be a live-event. I guess it would be if you give public performance. I guess we could do that, give public poetry reading and stuff.

[From journal of Wed., 25 Aug. 2004, Journal 37, page 173-5]

It’s beautiful to not be ‘aware of being alive’

After thinking for a couple days in the last couple weeks that I needed to be aware of being alive, etc., I realized that it’s actually kind of a beautiful thing to not take that so seriously. It’s beautiful to not be “aware of being alive,” to not feel you have to be self-conscious, but that you can just go through life being engaged in your writing, and your other engaging activities. You don’t have to think so much about being alive, and you don’t have to try to figure out what it’s like to be alive, though that’s still an interesting question for me.

And what else? … M said she was having a little pity-party for herself, feeling jealous of the others’ money and of their energy. I just listened and told the cat he should be supportive, too.

Don’t sign into Google Chrome here at home. It’ll sync all your viewing history with other Google accounts—yikes, I don’t need that. I updated Chrome though so’s I could access my Google accounts—though not last night, too tired.

[From journal of Thurs., 22 Aug. 2013, Journal 183, page 76]

Writings I do as myself, where I am trying to mean

When I say “journal” now, I’m generally using that to describe writings I do as myself, where I am trying to mean, trying to say what I mean, and also, to mean what I say (or I correct myself … ).

But there’s something very different about the poetry I’m writing from McKuen’s poems. I don’t mean what they say, in a literal or corresponding-to-truth sense. But I do think my new texts there can function as poems in which there is an idea—it’s not a random pile or list of words. There was a human mind shaping, choosing, choosing and shaping into phrases or sentences. I’ll be damned but there is some coherence or unity-value, some value in the coherence or unity of the sentence as a basic thought—a “complete thought,” as the English teachers say. Even if the sentence is/gets interrupted, there’s a familiarity there, to the mind, of the sentence structure, and I can write literally absurd contents within the form of the sentence. Of course, any form can be challenged—even a non-sentence list can seem meaningful, or seem sensible, when a mind goes to work on it and detects combinations, etc. This is what I try to teach students through the Poetry Bingo activity.

But, damn, I feel kinda far out here. I feel I’m at some kind of avant-garde edge. I’m not saying I’m the first here, but it’s a seldom-visited place.

[From journal of Sat., 21 Feb. 2015, Journal 204, page 129-30]

The Life of Brian, “Think for yourselves!” “Think for ourselves!” problem

Met Henry dog, Great Dane, up close last night. I felt out-of-scale small. He has short hair like a hound dog, looks like a hound , but two sizes too big. He’s six years old, or six and a half, Mrs. B__ said, and he’s 200 lbs. I thought of Sedaris on Great Danes—”bubbling seepage,” “there are cheeses that last longer.”

Back at noon-something after writing—no, reading—online an New York Times article about some teachers promoting certain educational technology. I’m sure, as article points out, there are ethical problems and questionable pedagogy, etc., but I guess I’d see these teachers as too ambitious for teaching. Teaching’s selfless, but these “teacher influencers” want to go to conferences and get famous and so they work hard, blah, blah.

I don’t care to keep criticizing. It’s—and I thought earlier today about mediation —acting as a go-between—ideas mediate between our minds and the physical world.

I feel I have more to say. Let’s see what comes. Another couple pages of writing before a nap.

I could start a program to educate people that they didn’t need to be educated—the Life of Brian, “Think for yourselves!” “Think for ourselves!” problem. Maybe—probably—it’s stupid to think my idea is better than what happens now. I mean, some people seem influenced by flawed societal values (beauty, fame, wealth as goals, etc.). One thing I might oppose would be, say, spending attention on sports. On other hand, sports-watching is something people can do together, and no doubt, togetherness is important, too.

See, so (I hear whirring-pulses of washing machine. I did a load of underwear and work pants last night—shirts and pants now), so, yeah, I come back to this as a reason to publish: I think of those whose published ideas influenced me since my—well, since I started to read, really. Just to name a few: Carse, Kerouac, Thoreau, Annie Dillard, R. Hugo’s essays, Kay Ryan’s poems, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., the Bible, Wendell Berry, Emily Dickinson, (Simone Weil (that essay I read in college rhet class) and others—my point is that these ideas did shape mine own. So many ideas from these (and informal mentions, too, in news or mag articles, say) influenced me.

That I do have cool ideas—and maybe these are worth sharing—worth simplifying and sharing. I write so much more than anyone needs to read, including myself.

[From journal of Sat., 2 Sept. 2017, Journal 259, page 35-6]

I could draw boundaries around some things

6:54 a.m. So, yes, there were things that happened yesterday, and even by writing, defining, thinking of them as things, as discretely describable entities, I’m pulling them out of context, at least. (I’m reminded of times an adult would tell a story briefly, maybe in one line, as in “that reminds me of the time __X__ (person) did __Y__ (thing)” and I’d want to know more of the context, the set-up.)

Anyway, yeah, so things always happen in a context, a sequence, though sometimes things seem a non sequitur, seem not to follow. Now I’m just overgeneralizing—blah. Blerg. So, I could draw boundaries around some things: walking the dog last night.

Back at 7:45 after adding Elmer’s craft glue to that front reinforcing strip (see pages 2-3) and then I let the book, this book, lie under weight and I annotated pocket pages. And so now I’m back and I have several things to write about. Watching 5 episodes of season one of The Detour last night (on demand)—Jason Jones and Natalie Zea. It’s a pretty funny show.

[From journal of Sun., 29 Jan. 2017, Journal 245, page 164-5]

I’ve taken it into my own work, my own written world, world of my writings

OK, back at 9:02 after … reading review (by Jennifer Senior(?)) of new Megan Kelly book. Well, I’m back. I didn’t feel great last night—overtired, a little anxious—so I went to sleep at 8. No SNL—though Dave Chapelle hosted and I read review this morn and M showed me last night as we were going to bed about 2 a clip of Kate McKinnon as Hillary playing some of Len Cohen’s “Hallelujah”—poignant.

And I noticed in my Nov. 2010 journal yesterday, in which I spent just a short time reading, some comments about some National Geographic show about people who claim to be Jesus. And I’ve long thought that my references to, descriptions of pop culture, especially TV shows, were kinda merely for the record. But last night I had a thought that maybe my writing about these things transmutes them—it’s no long just a piece of culture out there in the world. I’ve taken it into my own work, my own written world, world of my writings.

[From journal of Sun., 13 Nov. 2016, Journal 239, page 189]

I used the word “clear” instead of “black” for coffee, as that Toronto hairstylist told me in NYC

$62—the cost of our stay tonight. We passed by numerous small motor-inns, a la the Rip Van Winkle Motel and the Blue Sunset (or something thereabouts) Motel to get past Buffalo.

Zen talk tonight at the Niagara Falls Terrapin Lookout Point over the Canadian falls.

Deciding to limit myself for rest of trip to one roll—24 exposures—of film so as to (1) increase the value of each image, and (2) so also as to not be concerned about “taking” these images and these experiences back with me, as much as experiencing/observing these things in a more observational, egoless way (my words as I’ve described it before: the opening up/flowering of the observations such that some observations give way because they aren’t necessary first steps or a progression—but are merely more, and in numerous perspectives and areas—to many more observations). When in this mindset, I can go from not noticing anything about a person to noticing 500 separate characteristics/attributes.

So I told D__ my dissatisfaction that every place I go, I feel like it’s just a change of an image, like I’m in an IMAX (realistic) theater but the scene is never real, only a different movie.

But then D__  reminded me of Zen thinking of living in the moment, no goal, no materialistic/Western-style thinking of “seeing it all” (which means, of course, never really seeing fully anything).

But I came to live in the moment, calmly, observationally, and not feel the loss of the moment, but the real moment itself (and cast off nostalgia). The rays of the sun through the clouds became for me not the loss but them in their glory—and I felt good.

And though our conversation had come to feel tired, our conversation had “plateau’d,” then it rose to new level and it felt energetic and refreshing.

And I want to maybe get pastels—art supplies (D__’s quoting of van Gogh—why paint if not actually looking at the subject itself?)

We were at Niagara for, like, two hours or so, until 9. It was good to stop for a while and relax, observe. It’s that demi-meditation time (for looking or writing, etc.) that I require.

Me thinking of how an intellectual, D.F. Wallace-sort of writer might connect in a story the mist rising from the foot of the waterfall to the water dripping from the raincoats in the Cave in the Wind tour office, to the wash water on my hands after washing them in the bathroom—thinking that there’s any real meaning there, unless it’s merely descriptive of my experiences/perspective, but it seems I’m reading crap like that in writers like D.F. Wallace (such as his “Adult World” haughty-joke story).

D__ on there being no meaning (he wonders if he’s using this search for meaning to ease sadness).

Writing the moment of men/women/eye contact/passing, the tension there.

We had another laughing fit in a Tim Horton’s, the first being last fall with R__ in Leamington (“The tomato capital of Canada“). (Also, as far as “of Canada” towns, we passed through Brandstad or something, the “telephone center of Canada,” and “St. Catherine, “the garden city.”)

But this one—I used the word “clear” instead of “black” for coffee, as that Toronto hairstylist told me at that Italian restaurant in New York City—and so we avoided that problem of “black coffee.” That tripped us up at the first Tim Horton’s. But this “scene” (as in, we “caused a scene”) grew out of our having a bill of $4.97 or something and D__ lobbing two-dollar coins on the counter. Also, a “I have this, too” and tossing a 10-dollar bill on table, and we started cracking up, strong stomach-clenching fits of laughing, and over-mascara’d clerk smiled but was true to D__’s theory of the abrupt, terse Canadian idea of politeness (which he had discussed earlier on the road).

Left R__’s today after helping him move until 4 a.m. and (for the list of adventures) riding in a tall moving truck yesterday. D__ decided we should leave before we were roped into more moving labor.

Got $10 U.S. changed into $14.20 Canadian, and I commented to one of the girls how the money looked fake. I agreed with her that it was more colorful than the tired old American greenback, but it still looked fake, not having a money-value.

But somehow I was glad to be back in the U.S. today (at Niagara). Canada kinda boring—the road too far away from cities to see them. We only saw signs proclaiming their existence, but no real cities. And walls blocked off the few houses we saw.

[From journal of Sun., 12 July 1998, Batavia, N.Y., Super 8, Room 181, Journal 22, page 1-5]

Awaiting wisdom to come to me as I write

Even if I keep the Ashbery book this weekend, I’m not sure I have time, inclination, or mental energy to read it. On other hand, I did feel last night that maybe there was something the book could teach me. And I so seldom feel that about most books these days. On third hand, maybe I just buy a copy of book. And yet, the book is here, now. But if I’m more prepared to clean up than read—oh, and we gotta go get me a tux, and maybe I go to Ogle Co. Historical Society.

Dog tapped for in, after he was rolling on his back on the deck in the sun not more than couple minutes ago. (I’m back after letting him in (and then peeing)).  He tapped a 2nd time. I said, as if I were him, “I know my rights, I know the procedure.” He waits a certain number of seconds, then taps again to be let in if I haven’t moved fast enough to get him. He was all roasty from being outside.

I mean, my question about this Ashbery book is whether it really does have wisdom for me. So many books don’t seem to these days. I mean, most assertions seem banal to me now. I’m 45, and not that I know all languages or other esoteric systems (like modern physics), but I’m, well, am I looking for wisdom in other authors’ texts? Or maybe I’m just awaiting wisdom (good title, that phrase) to come to me as I write.

I heard a bit of music as I walked dog at about midnight last night. And that reminds me that I’m glad I’m not working at Byronfest this year.

[From journal of Sat., 13 July 2019, Journal 305, page 184-5]

All we experience are particular moments, of course

Weds., 24 June 2020, page 167

I’ve drawn for a while. It could be 9:30 or after by now. I should probably make lines darker here so I can read them more easily later. Ah, well.

So, walked dog west on Water and back on Breckenridge (I thought what I’d read last week, about the Colorado town changing its spelling to “en” instead of “in,” once its namesake became a Confederate traitor).

And so, D__ was here and we decided we’d replace whole deck.

I blogged six pieces yesterday—I’m up to 47 for the month, that 2/day average for the month so far. …

We walked past—well, she passed us on west E__, then met us on Water near Blaine.

I mowed and showered last evening and was in bed, ready for bed (except for last walk of dog and last scoop of cat-crap) but stayed up watching Youtube videos—comedy bits, mostly—’til late, about midnight.

It’s the pathetic fallacy to say that weather predicts or matches someone’s feelings, and it’s a cliché to have “a dark and stormy night” in a spooky story. But the particular day’s atmospheric conditions do affect our choices and actions at particular moments (and all we experience are particular moments, of course).

[From journal of Weds., 24 June 2020, Journal 326, page 167-8]

Finding and becoming, sorta simultaneously, who I was

Will Leitch praised three people he knew in their pre-success days. He quotes something as saying how your adult life is shaped by choices you made as a teenager—well, sure, but I don’t feel I was blindly holding on, in years after, to some dream I had as a teen. I feel more like I was becoming—well, finding and becoming, sorta simultaneously—who I was, and sure, I write, as I did in high school, but not the same thing, nor the same way. But somehow I wasn’t jealous of these people Will praised—even if he almost seemed like he was jealous, his praise too effusive.

Journal 310, page 3, 5 Okt. 2019

Anyway, yeah, this notebook’s paper definitely isn’t as thick (or ready for water color) as the 130-lb. paper of previous journal. But that’s OK, too. I went really light on the water today, too, and still it seeped into page below.

Will’s formulation that these three he praised kept going when others fall away from their early plans seems a little facile, I’d say.

I walked dog to park on this chill morning—we left here about 7:40, breeze from east, I had my C____ coat on and put hood up. And I got a little upset in my own mind about a dude—the owner of ___ …, letting his dog off leash (as I’ve seen him do before), and I saw his dog poop in northeast corner of park as dude walked ahead, not picking up the poop nor even seeming to see it.

And I’m venting here in journal rather than yelling at dude in real life. And I could let this whole thing go, but let me say this: I talked myself down from being upset. What worked best was to note that I felt upset and not try to say I was wrong. I was bothered by the thoughtlessness—others use this park, too, buddy—and the unfairness—I pick up my dog’s poop—everyone should do his and her part.

But I didn’t really wanna cause a scene. We all live together. I don’t want to dread seeing him in park in future. Also, my yelling at him—or even any gentle correction of him—wouldn’t likely improve his behavior. So, yeah, I debated this as I walked the last 2/3 of the trail. On the first third, I’d picked up (in a bag already containing some Sam poop) some small-dog-asshole-gauge poops. And I started thinking I was a good person for picking up after that neglectful dog walker. But I told myself to do the good deed (if you choose to do it, do it) without condemning (mentally to myself) the person who did the wrong thing.

[From journal of Sat., 5 Oktober 2019, Journal 310, pages 4-5]