Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wallace Stevens, Neko Case, and Jean-Luc Godard Walk Into a Bar...

As I've mentioned before, I'm currently working on a novel, trying to get a cohesive outline done, and tentatively drafting the opening two chapters. Once I get the first two chapters done, it's back to the drawing board, so to speak, since I have a few plot points that need to be carefully laid out. In addition to this, I have a few other fiction projects in the works, so I'm bracing myself for the next couple of months, when I'm sure to alternate between feeling productive/happy, and stalled/disgusted. I'm not at all saying that I'm going to have the novel done in a couple of months; far from it. I'll be happy if I have those first two chapters completely finished, let alone the entire project.

As I get to work (in addition to keeping this blog running at a consistent schedule), I know that I need to take a few moments to breathe and not get too caught up (I'm a master of beating myself up, especially when it comes to writing). In a wonderful case of coincidence, I've experienced three outside creative moments this week, little slices of wonder that have put me at ease and helped me savor the idea of creativity in all its forms. These have no bearing or relation to my fiction projects, yet they've been strangely peaceful, and I feel like there's some connection.

First, last week I bought a used copy of The Palm at the End Of the Mind, a poetry collection by Wallace Stevens. His name has come up a few times in my readings and research in the past couple of weeks, added to the fact that I'm way behind on poetry studies. As I read through parts of the book, I stumbled across a stanza in "Thirteen Ways Of Looking at a Blackbird," a sampling of lines that I read several times at once, astonished by the emotions and imagery packed in such a small space:

"Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause."
(Stevens 20-21)
I didn't know why it caught me so suddenly at the time, but now that I read it yet again, I'm stunned at the simple construction of eerie foreshadowing.
Then, a few days later, I was listening to one of my favorite albums, Neko Case's Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. Everytime I listen to the song "Star Witness," I get chills when I hear the lines:

"The look on your face yanks my neck on the chain..."

The atmosphere does not diminish no matter how many times I listen to it. I can think of dozens of awesome (in the literal sense) song metaphors by many different bands/musicians, but that one line hits me in the stomach everytime, always carrying the same impact.
Finally, yesterday I watched a movie I've been meaning to see for a long time, Jean-Luc Godard's Band Of Outsiders (1964). Overall, I enjoyed it (mildly disappointing, but that's besides the point). The cafe dance sequence is one that has been cited and referenced many times, but seeing it for myself made me smile. It's so spontaneous and fun, and viewers can easily tell that the actors are enjoying it.

I'm always analyzing works as a whole (including my own), so I like being able to take these little moments at face value. Perhaps I was reading too much into my above statement of trying to make a connection. As I go about my projects, it's reassuring to know that great sequences can easily come in small samplings, in addition to complete works. The poem, the song, and the film were like therapy to me this week. Plus, don't most things come in threes?
Work Cited:
Stevens, Wallace. The Palm at the End Of the Mind. Copyright 1971 by Holly Stevens.

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