June 18th, 2008

The New Astro Inquiry: The Not a Blog Journal

In early June I decided to dismantle the old Astro Inquiry website and switch the structure to a ‘blog’ format, though I’m going to call it a ‘journal’. The word blog isn’t very pleasant. As terms from the electronic zeitgeist go, blog is one of the ugliest sounding, a kind of anamanapia (a word describing the sound something makes when in action) that describes more the noise of the writer’s mentation than the clack of her keyboard.

After thirty years I continue to find writing and publishing a worthwhile expression, though it’s usually arduous and involves too much solitude. Always there’s the challenge to mirror and convey accurately. This seems obvious but it’s not always easy. And most writers seem to cheat, not consciously I think.

George Orwell offered writers this advice: “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” Which of course describes 90% of most ‘blog’ writing — figures of speech we see circulated endlessly on the Net. And if you really try to put that advice into effect, you’ll find it’s very difficult to write anything at all. It’s always easier to cull from the bargain basement of cliché, than generate something rich and dynamic.

For most writers, the byproduct of syntax doesn’t leap full blown, perfectly formed, glinting its magic. Writing is a kind of transmission. And truthful transmission involves an alignment with what is accurate and true within the author. From millions of words there are only a few, arranged just so, that will transmit ideas, sensations and images truthfully. Ultimately all writing is a form of poetry, or prose should follow the dictates of what makes poetry vital.

So this journal is a form of ‘aim taking.’ To write with some regularity — even when my mood is lax, disinterested, or lazy. Or, worse, when my inner critic is dictating perfection (or worse, profundity) making me too passive.

Lately I’ve been reading the poetry of Mary Oliver and I’ve marvelled in how the simplicity of her syntax, the stripped descriptions of her images, can be as keen as the writing of Emerson or Blake. So I’m using her as a source of inspiration when my writer’s superego becomes too limiting.

In fact here is a poem of Oliver’s that I read today, from her new book Red Bird. I’ll close this opening entry with it:

Visiting the Graveyard

When I think of death
it is a bright enough city,
and every year more faces there
are familiar

but not a single one
notices me,
though I long for it,
and when they talk together,

which they do
very quietly,
it’s in an unknowable language —
I can catch the tone

but understand not a single word —
and when I open my eyes
there’s the mysterious field, the beautiful trees.
There are the stones.

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