Sunday, May 20, 2012

Why Las Vegas? Why Write?

Each July for the past five years, we have been pleased to do a writing workshop for writers of all kinds, dispositions and backgrounds. Not to mention ages.

Part of the experience is generated by the place itself. Old Town Las Vegas has been in more movies than most towns of its size, starting with Easy Rider and, most recently, Paul.

The first jail in Las Vegas was in back of the Plaza Hotel where we have our workshop. How strange: to think that Billy the Kid slipped out back, through the bars, off into the hills where he met a woman, who had a child, whose grandson attended classes with Loretta and me at Highlands University in 1966. That was Jim Bonney.

Place is one thing, writing is another. We come to write not necessarily about place but spirit of place. That could be what is in our heart. And it could be what is stored away, out of reach, in the lower brain stem where primal memory is stored. We talk a lot about memory. Some of us are writing memoirs. Reaching back somewhere. For something.

I guess the whole thing could be summed up by Norman Mailer's question to Jean Malaquais, "Why do you write?"

The answer: ". . . the only time I know the truth is at the point of my pen."

At one of our workshops we asked people to write thank you letters. One was directed to "the person who saved my life." One was a message written to "the one who ruined my life."

Once we asked our writers to write an outline for a book called "The Spiritual Lives of Inanimate Things."

Our basic premise has always been that everyone has a story to tell. And everyone has the means to tell it. Sometimes all we need is Dumbo's feather to fly up, up and away.

Lorry, Gerry, Alice

Green River Workshop July, 2011
Las Vegas, New Mexico

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Logical Poet

It was the poet John Ciardi who once said of children's writing -- "Just as I am ready to conclude that everything in their minds is a non sequitor, it turns out to be its own logic of perception."

Sun, sun, do you know
You are beams in the flames . . .

So said the 7 year-old whose "logic of perception" was simply that you could talk to the sun.

An 11 year-old said,

The clouds are stuck and scared to move
For fear the trees might pinch them.

The logic of perception is that everything is alive and conscious of everything else.

It's a party, said the 4 year-old child of my friend Catya,

The fingers of the sun
Touch the trees
The fingers of the sun touch the leaves
Together they go dancing
Through the breeze.

Does it really matter what age the poet is? This logic of perception is from a Japanese journalist, screenwriter friend of mine (age 40?) who said in this morning's email,

It is a warm hearted
good sad book of honesty
that smells dead rotten mouse of heart a bit.

And from poet Bob Arnold who writes of his son's . . .

5 Year Old Logic On A Winter Night

Under quilts he
says he is too hot

folding down the bed to
a sheet & one blanket

he looks up & says
he is too cold

Yes, you can talk to the sun and read a good rotten mouse heart of a book, and you can be any age, at any time and you can love your life so much that you even love the logic of not being born, and yet be there too.

End Of Story

Looking out at the hillside
Across the river and over the
Trees from our home Carson asks --
Did we climb that mountain?

I say, No, but mommy and I did.

Nodding, he decides, Oh, yeah,
We climbed that before I was born.

The proof is in the pudding and the logic. And the logic states that all things are possible when you believe in them. Go ahead, talk to the moon. She's listening.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Unlikely Poet

The Unlikely Poet -- Every One of Us

Who is the unlikely poet?

The one least likely to write a poem.

In this case a fifth grade girl who, according to her reading teacher

doesn't like reading or writing.

It happens. The poem just bursts forth, and when you see it, it's joyous.

"Poets like to tell you how they write because they themselves do not know how it is done." That's from poet David Kherdian.

I don't know what DD, the unlikely fifth grade poet, would say about this. But here's her lovely poem --

Blue, blue like the

sky sweet like

the ocean blues

just like crying

eyes of tears

sweet just like

the blue night skies

so just sweet of


Another fifth grader, as unlikely as can be, because she said this poem while doing hop scotch on a sidewalk. I wrote it down while she hopped and scotched, and then I asked her: "Did you write that?"  

Her answer: "Did I write what?" 

"That poem." 

"What poem?" 

Anyway, it came in three and four-line jumps, as her feet tapped the beat on the cement street--

be cool

be rule

be bright

be light

be calm

be cool

be fool

be bop

be hip

be scat

be cat


I once had a conversation with Mr. Rogers about how "Anyone is a poet." 

He preferred: "Everyone is a poet!" 

Sometime after this, I was walking with my wife in the sunny streets of Manhattan when I heard a very small man say loudly into his tiny cell phone --

Sure I saw it

but what

do you want

me to do

about it?

I laughed and he looked at me, and walked by. I said to Lorry, "That guy looked like Danny DeVito, and she said, "That was Danny DeVito." 

So -- for Fred Rogers and DD and Danny -- and for the nameless hop-scotcher of New Port Richie, this is for you -- "Everyone IS a poet!"