Posted in composition, COVID-19, creativity, Fathers, holidays, writing

Moving On….

Painting by Philip Froman

The painting above has no title. My father completed this when he was in his eighties, after taking up a brush for the first time in his seventies. If you look closely, and listen, you can almost hear the water crash against the cliffs, feel its force. Standing in direct contrast to this painting, is a lake scene he painted around the same time which conveys only silence and peace. Both represent the man he was, his reflections about his life, and acceptance of the choices he’d made.

***

For over a year I’ve been trying to sustain the appearance of writing, while not having any interest in writing. Other than the words on this blog, and the occasional letters to family and friends, I’ve produced nothing.

I can’t blame the virus, as tempting as it is. The ideas, and desire to shape them, started drying up long before COVID-19. It just took a year of solitude to accept it.

***

A composer friend suggested I should start composing again—tentatively, gently, as though he understood he was asking me to revisit a space I’d shuttered. I stopped composing after graduate school, for many of the same reasons I don’t write now.

I considered it briefly, grateful for the compliment, but then abandoned the idea. Sometimes we shutter spaces because they’ve become voids; and sometimes those voids become vacuums.

***

For the present, I will keep this site going. Information about books will remain, as will old posts, interviews, and guest posts. From time to time I might even recycle old material I think would be of interest, or entertain.

***

Wherever you are, please stay safe, be well, and care deeply for those you love. And thank you for reading and following.

©2021 All Rights Reserved

Posted in creativity, poetry, writing

When Words Fail

Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

WHEN WORDS FAIL

They are slippery, evasive, coy,
dangling on our tongues,
sometimes, yes, at the tip,
and sometimes on an edge,
not big enough to bite,
or near enough to taste,
resting on molars, or canines,
before vanishing
and reappearing in a flicker,
chuckling.

Once in a while, they are gremlins,
gumming up the works,
wreaking havoc.

But it always seems the ones we deeply crave,
those that will plait our thoughts
into a seamless chain,
dodge into remote, cranial crevices
when we call them.

And then it takes four or five or six words
to say, all too poorly, what one would have said—
the one which won’t be found in a thesaurus
because even its synonyms have hidden in solidarity.

Those are the words that keep us
imagining they’ve been sucked
from their shallow holes
into some bottomless eddy.

Those are the words that really bedevil.

Until, by some miracle—
spring, mostly,
their noses reemerge,
unguarded, quivering, curious,
and ready to multiply….

©2017 All Rights Reserved

Posted in books, creativity, fiction, music, Shadows and Ghosts, writing

An Imperfect Stitch

Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 3.33.50 PM

There is an error in Shadows and Ghosts.

During occasional battles with an ongoing obsession over symmetry and accuracy, I’ve considered correcting it…but only momentarily.

~~~

In 1975, Leon Redbone released his album, On the Track, which contains a rendition Of “Ain’t Misbehavin” (lyrics by Andy Razaf and music by Thomas “Fats” Waller and Harry Brooks).

Redbone’s interpretation is slightly off-kilter: the intonation struggles in places, and there are extra beats sprinkled throughout. But I love it. Its off-balance rhythmic irregularities, the nasal grit in Redbone’s voice, the imperfect instrumental tones and pitches feel fresh and authentic.  They transform a great song into a greater one.

~~~

My mother was a perfectionist. Today we would likely say her attention to detail was compulsive. But that compulsiveness got her far, made her successful at everything she did. Although I’ve spent most of life as an unapologetic underachiever, I have no doubt that some of her “perfectionism” rubbed off on me. You can’t spend hours practicing scales and arpeggios, isolated musical passages over and over without being at least a little compulsive. It’s the only way to train the brain, develop fine motor skills, make the muscles remember.

But it’s not always enough.

Along with compulsive tendencies, creation demands an oblique and often fractured perspective, a willingness to look at subject matter, construction, sideways and through a prism.

~~~

When I think of the thousands of books I’ve read, pieces of music I’ve played, I realize most of them contained errors and/or irregularities, some degree of strangeness in small or large ways that established the works as fresh and unique, that transformed and elevated them.

So I keep my error in place, because in important ways, it acts as a type of cipher.  And to reinforce its importance, I put a prism in plain view.

©2018 All Rights Reserved