Sunday, June 8

For my frigid mistress, Wellington


From the east the sun peels your shadows,
revealing your white geometry,
as you sprawl your way up the broadest of dales.
So still. So silent. For once.
Carved into the hills,
you glow,
so frigid,
and thus I go,
from my stable bursting,
rushing,
galloping,
along beaches now submerged,
as they sat before discovery,
before the world lost its mystery.
My steed, she slows,
stopping at your water’s edge,
where the harbour exists,
before harbours existed,
pippies upon the sand,
framed by hills that stretch on and on,
so mighty,
green folds amongst the calm.
No living eyes.
So still. So silent. For once.
Soft water laps and I lapse,
the stillness breaking,
gently,
the breeze rushing,
pushing,
growing in strength,
as if vexed.
What little warmth there is fades,
and all erodes,
swept away by the wind.
You, my unkempt minx,
windswept and on the brink,
bring me back,
to what lies ahead,
the past in ashes.
With tussled hair, weathered eyes,
weathered soul above all,
I shamble into the headwind,
atop elevated concrete I once forsook,
my mare crumbling to dust below me,
pippies vanquished.
Into the southern wind I tromp,
my cheeks wind blasted ruddy.
And in my marrow, I feel you.
Your grey-green skies, murderous,
I feel you.
And perhaps I love you.
So chill. So violent. At once.








Monday, May 19

Literary Heroes Pt 3

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie


What a bloody book! Salman Rushdie is like the Piet Mondrian of writing in the way he manages to create such abstraction yet retain such overarching structure. It’s like the literary version of Broadway Boogie Woogie. How I marveled.


The premise? Ha ha, well, the premise is tricky to explain. I mean, it starts logically enough with two men, Gibreal Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, falling to earth after their plane explodes due to a terrorist attack over the English Channel.


“To be born again,' sang Gibreal Farishta tumbling from the heavens, 'first you have to die. Ho ji! Ho ji! To land upon the bosomy earth, first one needs to fly Tat-taa! Takatun! How to ever smile again, if first you won't cry? How to win the darling's love mister, without a sigh?”


Ho ji aside. Naturally, they survive, and are washed up upon a beach and taken in by a woman. The woman, Rosa, cares for them but they start to develop odd features; One develops hooves and the appearance of the devil; the other seems to bloom a halo. Interesting.


The story kicks on from there, but running parallel, and perhaps the crux of the tale, are the dreams of one of the protagonists, Gibreel, who has visions of the journeys and interactions of the Prophet Muhammad.


In this city, the businessman-turned-prophet, Mahound, is founding one of the world's great religions; and has arrived, on this day, his birthday, at the crisis of his life. There is a voice whispering in his ear: What kind of idea are you? Man-or-mouse? We know that voice. We've heard it once before.


The first time I read this piece I was taken more by the abstracted, surreal style of writing than the Muslim-linked content or by the controversy of a fatwā on the author. Call me uneducated, in fact call me whatever you will as I was eight when The Satanic Verses was first released and the most I knew of the Salman Rushdie and the fatwā had been gleaned from Seinfeld.

It's like a sauna in here, huh? I feel like I'm...back at the desert.

Truth be told, after the first read, without knowing in depth the Muslim faith I could barely fathom what the controversy was about other than the experiences of the Prophet Muhammad had been dissected and written about by an absolute artist. I had to dig about on the internet to find out what all the fuss was about and it is interesting hodgepodge of dogma and artistic intentions.


Drama aside the writing is wonderfully sprawling, verging on incoherent and just as you feel you’ve lost the thread of understanding in the quagmire of imagery, you fathom the overarching meaning and he holds his form and the story together.


“Everest silences you...when you come down, nothing seems worth saying, nothing at all. You find the nothingness wrapping you up, like a sound. Non-being. You can't keep it up, of course. the world rushes in soon enough. What shuts you up is, I think, the sight you've had of perfection: why speak if you can't manage perfect thoughts, perfect sentences? It feels like a betrayal of what you've been through. But it fades; you accept that certain compromises, closures, are required if you're to continue.”


I thoroughly enjoyed this piece and reading Salman gave birth to a good six month period in me where I explored the abstraction of narratives. I haven’t written a full piece with this narrative style but I have an idea bubbling away on the back burner that one day I may have the technical prowess to be able to execute.


Broadway Boogie Woogie by Monders

Saturday, May 17

Literary Heroes: Part Two

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

You can tell when I really like a book because I start telling every person I meet about it, which is exactly what I did whilst reading The Road. It was almost evangelical. But dear me it’s bleak. I can’t recall a grimmer book in all fairness. The reason I enjoyed it so much was because Cormac achieved something new with this piece, something I hadn’t felt before. I mean how often does a reader wish for the protagonists to die, simply so they be put out of their misery? It’s not common. And that’s why Literary Heroes: Part Two goes easily to The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

There are apocalypse books, then there’s post-apocalypse books, then there’s post-post-apocalypse books and then there is The Road. The story follows a father and son (although we only ever know them as the Man and the Boy) in a grey, hazy wasteland quite sometime after an undefined worldwide calamity. We never truly find out what this event was, which I understand for some was frustrating. Personally I had no issue accepting the lack of detail in the mythology. This recollection is the only real information we get about the cataclysm.

“The clocks stopped at 1:17. A long shear of light and then a series of low concussions. He got up and went to the window. What is it? she said. He didn't answer. He went to the bathroom and threw the light switch but the power was already gone. A dull rose glow in the window glass.”

Our protagonists only task is to head south, away from the winter into a warmer climate. The rubber meets the road, however — no pun intended — in that the simplicity of the task is made to be extremely difficult due to cannibal road agents and an extreme lack of food and resources available in such a dead landscape. Their slog through the endless grey is so merciless. And I think that is one of the things that drew me into this book, the description of the bleak and unforgiving landscape that they seem to roll through endlessly. McCarthy vividly describes a sick world, dying in a fog with nothing on the horizon, least of all hope.

“With the first grey light he rose and left the boy sleeping and walked out to the road and squatted and studied the country to the south. Barren, silent, godless.”

Beyond the description of the deathly landscape, the journey of our two characters delves the existential conundrum of living in such a world. In a typical modern society we ruminate on god and meaning and hope in the safety of civilization, however, they’re are starving, cold, and the moral exploration of their plight is wonderful. There is danger and death at every step they tread upon the road. They’re gaunt and brought to eating the most rudimentary of organic material for any kind of sustenance and to make things worse, the father is coughing blood and knows his days are numbered. He needs to get his son to safety, if such a thing exists. If it does, that’s where they’re going. The man’s hope is all within the son and in fact that if hope or light is representative of a god humanity has lost, then his son is like a god to him.

“He knew only that his child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God, God never spoke.”

So it’s an interesting concept and indicates a well thought out psychology beyond the world. The dynamic is interesting because the man is teaching the boy about kindness and goodness (‘carrying the light’) but perhaps it is only lip service in that the man no longer believes it or really knows what that means because all he seeks is safety from the terror. However, as they travel upon the road they are given opportunities to show kindness and the boy shows the man this in action, so it’s somewhat cyclic in that the man teaches the principle the boy puts it into practice. The son, to the father, is hope, something golden and precious and within the boy he tries to instill what is good. The idea of them ‘carrying the light’ is often discussed and even challenged when they need to kill a man in self-protection. “Are we still the good guys?” the boy asks.

One of my favourite quotes sums up the struggle of the characters perfectly:

“What's the bravest thing you ever did?
He spat in the road a bloody phlegm. Getting up this morning, he said.”

This book won’t have you in stitches and it is a hard read but so rewarding on many levels. The way Cormac describes his landscape to set the tone of the story is something that really resonated with me when writing Caught by the Storm and something I will always appreciate in writing.









Friday, May 16

Literary Heroes: Part One

The New Zealand Herald today ran a story in Canvas about books that “changed authors lives”. I thought it an interesting premise and it got me to thinking about literary pieces that had heavily influence me. I’ve chosen three texts by authors at the peak of their craft that had me in awe. I’ll post one a day for three days.


The Hanging, by my sweetheart — I mean hero, George Orwell. It’s a mere short story but by gum it’s wonderful. I studied it in high school and again at university and both times I was overwhelmed by George’s ability to write so concisely while never sacrificing content and that’s something that can be hard to attain as a writer. It’s not a huge story and it doesn’t need to be because it is so technically proficient.

Get this.

It was in Burma, a sodden morning of the rains. A sickly light, like yellow tinfoil, was slanting over the high walls into the jail yard. We were waiting outside the condemned cells, a row of sheds fronted with double bars, like small animal cages. Each cell measured about ten feet by ten and was quite bare within except for a plank bed and a pot of drinking water. In some of them brown silent men were squatting at the inner bars, with their blankets draped round them. These were the condemned men, due to be hanged within the next week or two.

A world is brought to life within a few sentences with cheerless words like sodden, sickly, condemned, used to paint a picture of a bleak and somber world. But more than that there is a sort of grim desperation to Orwell’s narrative that says something about his state of mind at that time. A scrawny prisoner is presented to be hanged but on the way to the gallows a stray dog happy for human company comes bounding in wanting to play with the condemned. Orwell and the other guards are confronted with the last thing they really want to see, the prisoner’s humanity. Just moments before mounting the gallows steps something else happens that transforms Orwell.

At each step his muscles slid neatly into place, the lock of hair on his scalp danced up and down, his feet printed themselves on the wet gravel. And once, in spite of the men who gripped him by each shoulder, he stepped slightly aside to avoid a puddle on the path.

Yes, the prisoner steps around a puddle and all Orwell can see is this prisoner’s, or this man’s, humanity and the senselessness of the act they’re about to undertake.

It is curious, but till that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive. All the organs of his body were working — bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming — all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with a tenth of a second to live. His eyes saw the yellow gravel and the grey walls, and his brain still remembered, foresaw, reasoned — reasoned even about puddles. He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone — one mind less, one world less.

Flip me over, I’m done. It’s so good. And the thing I love about this is it feels so real. His narrative is personal and relatable. Bearing in mind that Orwell never said this was an actual experience, it is however drawn from his time in the military police of Burma so this is not pure fantasy. It has the depth and feeling of a real epiphany that changed Orwell significantly. He has a few stories from his time in service in Burma. Check out Shooting an elephant for his indictment on imperialism. Back to The Hanging. Sadly, epiphany or not, our prisoner is killed and the guards continue on as if nothing happened, but our man Orwell is changed forever.

We all began laughing again. At that moment Francis's anecdote seemed extraordinarily funny. We all had a drink together, native and European alike, quite amicably. The dead man was a hundred yards away.

If the world were ending tomorrow and we were to create some kind of ark of art that would stand as a testament to who we were and what we did with our time here on earth, this story would be snugly stowed amongst the cargo for it’s insight into the absurd nature of humanity. I’ve read it countless times and it never fails to inspire me to write, not just for writings sake, but because there is a power within words to change the world one mind at a time.


Monday, May 12

how_i_write_

So, I've been overtly focusing on the craft of writing for over three years now and in that time I have finished my first novel, Caught by the Storm, seven short stories, masses of exploratory creative writings that served no other purpose than to delve into a concept. For example, my effort to write a personified first person narrative from the sun's perspective.


 "However, they know not of sentience, well not how it truly    manifests, like precipitation gathering before a storm, the    galaxy shifting, for them, for us, on all but one boundary."


Floral noncery aside, it's been a great pleasure learning the craft and I know I still have a way to go, but what have I learnt about the writing process so far? I could go into grammar, structure, all the beauty of the technical aspects of the creative process, but most of that has been said in a myriad of blogs. I tend to think the more important developments link to personal discoveries and so below are a few of the things I picked up along the way that fundamentally help me to write.

Stress-free

I find stress kills my creative output. Whether it is work or personal stress, too much of it simple hinders me. It hinders my want to write, it hinders my ability to write and it hinders the natural idea generation part of the creative process. I had a high-demand job last year that had me working 60-hour-weeks and I barely wrote a thing. Writing takes energy, as does stress and the competition for energy resource wasn't won by the urge to write. When I'm more relaxed, however, even when I'm not working on a piece, my subconscious is and I find my mind will throw me ideas or solutions to story issues in the most unlikely of situations. "Sorry, please excuse me for a moment, I just need to note something down. I just had an idea."

Note it down

On top of that, when an idea does bubble up, I've learnt the hard way to always note it down as it can so easily be forgotten. So take notes. Note everything, in fact. Even the most insignificant idea or concept can one day become useful. Note them all down and peruse over them periodically, that way when you're writing the idea is there within your mind ready to be called upon and employed. Whether it's pen and paper, a smart phone note or a tatty napkin from the local pub, note it down and note it down again.

Looks like we have ourselves a reader

I learnt long ago, that if I ain't reading, I ain't writing. It's that simple. Your brain is like a muscle and the more you expose it to great works, or even poor works, the better and more easier it gets. I note new, intriguing words down and try to use them. I subscribe to twitter accounts and emails that will bring these words to me. I don't have the largest vocab in the world, but that doesn't mean I can't grow it with a bit of effort. Immerse yourself at every possible moment.

The Greats

And with that in mind, this helps greatly. I have a document called 'The Greats' that I crack on with every morning. It simply involves typing out the work of great authors. From Orwell, to Hemingway, to Rowling, and a whole lot more, I just type out verbatim their works. I don't even have to like some of the authors. This allows me to do two things; One, I get to see their structuring and how they tell a story. Two, I get to see in what ways I would of done something differently. Sometimes I note they could've said something better and sometimes when I'm typing I assume what they will say and they say it in a better way. Learn from the best.

Chums

One of life's unsung joys is having likeminded friends to discuss the world with. I am blessed with a coterie of chums in this regard and there is no shortage of friends I can throw an idea I'm dabbling with to explore my literary plans. I had a story that involved a moral conundrum last year called Work Makes You Free. I asked my friends what their take on that conundrum was and then discussed what would they do, how would they feel and any caveats I may have missed. Discussing these things helps one find a texture to add to your pieces and is of a genuine benefit. 

Writer's groups

Beyond great friends, I have the more overt 
benefit of a writer's group with my good friend, Dan Reardon. Okay, well, there are just two of us, but it still constitutes a group. We meet up fortnightly and discuss what we're working on and give honest feedback. Having a motivator like that is invaluable.


Those are a few of the personal intricacies of my process. It's all about immersing yourself as much as possible. I've found that being half-assed about writing isn't going to get you to your goals and that you need to commit to the craft. 

My current goals are to release an ebook of my short stories, continue searching for a publisher for Caught by the Storm, and to continue with my second novel, Hellhole which is currently pages and pages of research notes and possible story threads that I am whittling into one story.





Saturday, March 15

the_sentience_of_Youth_


Youth runs through a green forest, fresh-faced, barefooted and unenlightened. Birds trickle in the not-so-distant distance watching with eyes not indifferent.

What is it about youth? That something vital — something not yet lost; the glimmer of the unseen stretching in every direction.

~

Youth stops short, looking up and sun breaks through the leaves and branches dousing him in light.

What is it about youth? So possible, so unsure, so waiting to be broken, crack and shed that hefty husk of youth and watch it fall away.

~ 

Youth sets off again, the future ahead, the past behind, the undergrowth thrashing and whipping at him as he charges through the lush, crumbling wasteland.

What is it about youth? That something glowing, growing in the blackness of the future, just out of reach.





Monday, December 30

But_why_


Why? Because there is a reckoning, and my eyes widen, as does my smile, as I realize this is reality. Something real. We believe.

Why? Because I see the universe in her eyes, all that has gone before; all that will run on. It all sits there in her eyes. Our universe.

Why? Because I am the truest I have been in a long time. The fullest. At my zenith. Her too, I can see her. Our zenith.

Why? Because I feel the cool breeze on my face when we laugh, something new, a zephyr of our new land forged. Our frontier.

Why? Because we will walk onward into the new frontier, ever onward, together. Our journey.

Why? Because once I felt I might never dance again, or maybe I would dance alone. We shall dance on and on and on. Our dance.

Why? Because when we eat and drink, we dine like it is the food of gods. So rich and sweet, milk and honey be damned, for what we consume is ambrosia. Our divinity.

Why? Because when we are together we are gods, spirits entwined, eternal, biological, a culmination of man, woman and existence. Our love.