“Every place is different, but every place is the same, because you carry yourself with you wherever you go.” ~ Steve Yarbrough

“Even in the mud and scum of things, something always, always sings.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

After watching hours of programming on the incident in Colorado, I am actually too numb to write about this latest instance of inexplicable violence. It’s all just too much, so I’ve copped out and borrowed from someone else . . .

Reblogged from apoetreflects:


apoetreflects:“It’s a lot easier to say when something ended rather than when it began. Most of us can recognize the end from a mile away, but the beginning always slips up on us, lulling us into thinking what we’re living through is yet another moment, in yet another day.”—Steve Yarbrough, Safe from the Neighbors (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010)


“It’s a lot easier to say when something ended rather than when it began. Most of us can recognize the end from a mile away, but the beginning always slips up on us, lulling us into thinking what we’re living through is yet another moment, in yet another day.”

~ Steve YarbroughSafe from the Neighbors (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010)

“Writers ever since writing began have had problems, and the main problem narrows down to just one word—life.” ~ William Styron, from “The Art of Fiction No. 5”

From one of the first interviews in The Paris Review (1954), the young William Styron (click on link for full interview):

INTERVIEWER (Peter Matthiessen and George Plimpton)

What value has the creative writing course for young writers?


It gives them a start, I suppose. But it can be an awful waste of time. Look at those people who go back year after year to summer writers’ conferences, you get so you can pick them out a mile away. A writing course can only give you a start, and help a little. It can’t teach writing. The professor should weed out the good from the bad, cull them like a farmer, and not encourage the ones who haven’t got something. At one school I know in New York, which has a lot of writing courses, there are a couple of teachers who moon in the most disgusting way over the poorest, most talentless writers, giving false hope where there shouldn’t be any hope at all. Regularly they put out dreary little anthologies, the quality of which would chill your blood. It’s a ruinous business, a waste of paper and time, and such teachers should be abolished.


The average teacher can’t teach anything about technique or style?


Well, he can teach you something in matters of technique. You know—don’t tell a story from two points of view and that sort of thing. But I don’t think even the most conscientious and astute teachers can teach anything about style. Style comes only after long, hard practice and writing.


Do you enjoy writing?


I certainly don’t. I get a fine, warm feeling when I’m doing well, but that pleasure is pretty much negated by the pain of getting started each day. Let’s face it, writing is hell.


How many pages do you turn out each day?


When I’m writing steadily—that is, when I’m involved in a project that I’m really interested in, one of those rare pieces that has a foreseeable end—I average two-and-a-half or three pages a day, longhand on yellow sheets. I  spend about five hours at it, of which very little is spent actually writing. I try to get a feeling of what’s going on in the story before I put it down on paper, but actually most of this breaking-in period is one long, fantastic daydream, in which I think about anything but the work at hand. I can’t turn out slews of stuff each day. I wish I could. I seem to have some neurotic need to perfect each paragraph—each sentence, even—as I go along.


And what time of the day do you find best for working?


The afternoon. I like to stay up late at night and get drunk and sleep late. I wish I could break the habit but I can’t. The afternoon is the only time I have left and I try to use it to the best advantage, with a hangover.


Do you use a notebook?


No, I don’t feel the need for it. I’ve tried, but it does no good, since I’ve never used what I’ve written down. I think the use of a notebook depends upon the individual.


Do you find you need seclusion?


I find it’s difficult to write in complete isolation. I think it would be hard for me on a South Sea island or in the Maine woods. I like company and entertainment, people around. The actual process of writing, though, demands complete, noiseless privacy, without even music; a baby howling two blocks away will drive me nuts.


Does your emotional state have any bearing on your work?


I guess like everybody I’m emotionally fouled up most of the time, but I find I do better when I’m relatively placid. It’s hard to say, though. If writers had to wait until their precious psyches were completely serene there wouldn’t be much writing done. Actually—though I don’t take advantage of the fact as much as I should—I find that I’m simply the happiest, the placidest, when I’m writing, and so I suppose that that, for me, is the final answer. When I’m writing I find it’s the only time that I feel completely self-possessed, even when the writing itself is not going too well. It’s fine therapy for people who are perpetually scared of nameless threats as I am most of the time—for jittery people. Besides, I’ve discovered that when I’m not writing I’m prone to developing certain nervous tics, and hypochondria. Writing alleviates those quite a bit. I think I resist change more than most people. I dislike traveling, like to stay settled. When I first came to Paris all I could think about was going home, home to the old James River. One of these days I expect to inherit a peanut farm. Go back home and farm them old peanuts and be real old Southern whisky gentry.

The Poems, the poets, the writers

When I was teaching at Old Dominion University, I had the good fortune to meet many different poets and writers over the years. Each year, ODU was host to the annual Literary Festival; in addition, the English Department hosted an annual visiting writing series, which has now evolved into a visiting writer in residence. There were writers and poets such as William Styron, Gerald Stern, Maxine Hong Kingston, Galway Kinnell, W. P. Kinsella, Carolyn Forche, Maxine Kumin, Tim O’Brien, Bruce Weigl, Toi Derricotte, Christopher Buckley, and many, many more.

The Literary Festival was always a predictably busy week in the department, and I could count on at least two things happening: I would get my fall cold, and I would spend lots of money on books by new authors whose readings I had attended. Christopher Buckley was not a Festival reader; he was a visiting writer who my friend and office mate Mari had invited to read, which made me exceedingly lucky. I had direct access to this wonderful writer. The two of us, Mari and I, took him to dinner before his reading, and then I had the privilege of introducing him before his reading. Introducing a poet is no small thing. You must be familiar with his background and his work if your are going to do him justice, so I did not do an off-the-cuff introduction. I prepared and made notes because I did not want to slight him and because I truly loved his poems. After his reading, I ended up buying every title that he had brought with him so that I could get all of them signed. In them, he urged me to keep writing. I am embarrassed to admit that I did not.

I have many reasons/excuses as to why I have not kept up on my writing. Some legitimate, most not. And now with Google, I can put in names of others who were in workshops with me, or who came after me, and see just how far they have come. Buckley has won a Guggenheim and deservedly so. He has written six or seven more books since I met him. I have sent nothing out to be published. Fear of failure? Fear of success?

I really don’t know. I just know that if I don’t get off my ass soon, I’ll have died without ever having reached any of my goals as far as my writing goes, and that’s only because I won’t have tried. I’ve published, but not the things I intended to publish. The purpose of this blog is to exercise my mind, to flex myself creatively. And I believe that it is working, because I’m starting to come back to the memories that matter in my creative cortex, if you will. The literary festivals, the talks with writers, Christopher Buckley, lines that I wished that I had written, working on one line over and over, creating something like “My Father’s Hands” and knowing that it was good. Knowing that feeling again.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember–poems, essays, journal entries, long diatribes about things that make me crazy, musings about life. Words are to me what drugs are to an addict. I roll them around my tongue, taste them, hear them. I cannot live without them. I test phrases in my head constantly. Opening lines pop into my consciousness at all hours of the day and night. I wonder if this happens to other people, and then I realize that of course it does, but other people do things with it. And that’s what separates me from the ones who succeed. They actually do something past this step. They take the next step, and I am paralyzed on this one step. It’s as if I am still on my childhood porch, waiting for permission to leave, to go exploring in the neighborhood. But I know, deep in my soul, permission was granted years ago.

That first step is a killer, or it’s salvation.

The poem makers project

Well, I have to say that the website hasn’t exactly been the burning bush that I had hoped that it would be so far, but then again, I knew from the beginning that I didn’t really know what I was doing when I put the site together. I still need to figure out how to put the Google Adsense on the pages, and I haven’t been able to make the Amazon Associates widget visible on my Social Networking page. However, the good news is that the class that I’m taking this session has more coding involved, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to fix some of the problems that I just applied band-aids to before in my attempts to get the site just up and running.

I do get very excited whenever I find a new line on the Work in Progress page. It’s like finding an unexpected present. I wish that I could find a better code for allowing users to add line-by-line text. If anyone out there knows of a better code than the one I’m using, please let me know. I think that mine might be confusing visitors because the line that is added doesn’t move into the poem. I don’t know how to do that yet, and I would love to have the magical mystery code that would enable such a thing to happen.

For now, I will be happy with the increasing number of visits to the blog site and the main site and just keep hoping that people will sign up to be contributors. Word of mouth is a great thing, and I hope that those of you who visit will pass along the web address. I’ll keep plugging along, writing about things, and tightening up the site. I welcome any suggestions on coding or other things.

Please consider adding a line or two to the poem or adding a blog post. Poets, writers, talkers, or thinkers one and all, come along for the ride.