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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lost in a dream logic

By: Francis Scudellari

I was humbled to receive Jasmin's request to write a guest post for his site. Not only am I keeping good company with the writers profiled so far, but I'm also very honored to have my words included among his own well-crafted prose.

I've dabbled in writing since I was small, and entertained the notion of becoming a "serious" writer from the time I graduated college with quixotic visions of literary conquest. It's only been in the last two years, however, that I let go of the ego-flattering pursuit of personal acclaim and began to appreciate the transformative nature of the creative act in itself.

In July of 2006, I decided to cast my lot in with a new and increasingly popular breed of writer known as the blogger. When Caught in the Stream first launched, my focus was on political, social and cultural commentary. I still remember the first anonymous commenter who urged me to give up blogging as I had nothing original to contribute. His criticism was politically motivated, but there was a kernel of truth in what he said. My early posts were typical of a genre too-often driven by the need to cry out: Look how clever I can be!

Those first written exercises did help me in one very specific way: I began to write regularly again. Meeting self-imposed deadlines allowed me to overcome an inclination toward procrastination and the easy excuse of writer's block. This new daily habit also imparted a fuller appreciation of the craft of writing. As the words flowed from the tips of my fingers, the stories took on a life of their own and carried me places my conscious mind hadn't anticipated.

I also benefited from my exposure to and interaction with other writers, who generously encouraged me to put aside my insecurities and showcase more original, creative writing. I hadn't written a new poem for over a decade when my good friend Deborah asked me to contribute a new piece to her environmental site.

To fulfill that request I seized on a particular image that had been haunting my imagination for several years. Up until that moment, I hadn't felt capable of properly expressing it. My early poetry always smacked of self-indulgence, and I wanted to write a piece that used a more narrative voice. Finishing that verse, as imperfect as it now seems in retrospect, was a great liberating step for me.

(s)mothered earth

He, his appetites always indulging

Hording each crumb, grasping, clinging

Corpulent, expanding

Never quite full


She, her beauty spread thin, her bounty laid

Bare, unable to provide for

Children ever growing

Never feeding


He, unable, unwilling to act, sits

Listless aimless, averting his eyes

Denying, refusing

Never quite sure


She, her temper flaring, her mood changing

Violent, unstable, punishing

Children ever quiv'ring

Never moth'ring



Childless, she turns

Her back on, him, them, us

Receding, cold, distant, weathered

No longer owning, knowing, her late self


Alone, gazing

Out a glass, frosted o'er

Mirrored, reflecting, a face now

Withered, not his own. He knows: It's too late.

Another happy accident on my journey toward artistic self-discovery was the friendship I formed with Chicago artist George Kokines. We have since engaged in a regular and ongoing conversation about the creative process. George often speaks of an artist's "plastic elements." For example, a painter moves oils and acrylics on a canvas. As we talked, I began to see a correlation between the act of painting and the manipulation of words on a blank page.

Strengthening that perceptual connection, George prodded me to begin drawing. As I arranged lines and shapes on a sketch pad, I learned to engage in a type of free association that transformed the very literal image of my initial conception into something much less recognizable and much more subtly shaded. New curves and surfaces emerged from within the objects, and they evolved into more complex, other-worldly shapes.

I saw more power and beauty in ambiguity than clarity. Rather than trying to control the impulse to create, I had to give in to it. The unconscious mind did a much better job of directing my hand, and my eyes.

Applying this lesson to my poetry, I used line-breaks and punctuation to put words into ever shifting contexts. The same lines read in different ways derived new meanings. Transitions between stanzas followed a logic, but it was the logic of a dream. The malleability of the feelings and ideas expressed, if I could execute it properly, would allow the readers more possibility of interjecting their own personal experiences.

Mangled blossom
By Francis Scudellari

Lying. Down,
My eyes I raze
As up-words
Fall, thud, echo

Dying. Time's
Overt rubble
Strewn, I grip,
Pull, twist myself

Clear. Wringing
Hallowed secret's
Dark stain from
Scrawled-on skin, shed

Tears. Dew-streaked
Faces, long lost
Snapped shut, move me

Still. Captured
In vessels too
Thin, shattered,
Lapsed emotions

Spill. Un-cupped,
My hand grasps at,
For other's
Always, waiting

Broken. I
Reach, flesh transformed
Over years,
A petrified

Token. My
Mangled blossom
Offered too,
All passing by

I'm certainly no expert on art or writing, and I have much yet to learn, but I've discovered there's a peculiar magic to be experienced in the mystery of our own incomprehension.


Lynda Lehmannsaid...

Bravo, Francis! Not only do I like your poems but also, your clear and edifying self-disclosure. I feel I have grown just a little, from reading about your creative journey. I'm so glad you had this opportunity to express yourself on Jasmin's blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Lynda Lehmannsaid...

And Jasmin, thank you so much for inviting him! :)

Dave Kingsaid...

A totally fascinating post. I am giving much thought to the influences that painting and poetry can have upon each other - instance my surrent post - and these thoughts exactly paralleled some that I had been playing around with. The first poem I thought excellent. Thanks.


Give up your regular job and start writing!

Michelle Gartnersaid...

Well- I am impressed... I love poetry but I have never been very good at writing poems.

The longer I write the less I write to impress other people. I am not referring to my blogging either- blogging about vintage is just marketing and fun for my home business.

When I started writing as a teenager I wanted everything to be clever and impress people... now in my mid thirties I am writing a children's novel and I want it to be picturesque and describe what I see in my mind as best as I possibly can.

Impressing people fell away along time ago for me- almost all writing I do because I enjoy it. That's when it gets good for me.


Hi Francis and Jasmin,

Such an inspiring post. Not anyone can be a poet, and Francis is a poet AND a writer, could the two be separated? Perhaps not, but not all writers could write such beautiful poetry.


Oh I forgot, a brilliant artist too. I love his "abstoons"


Hi J.C. and Francis! Great article and I strongly relate to these ideas of creativity. I've found that ego depletes creativity and imagination and at the heart of all creation is a purity of simply wanting to express. Art means to express oneself honestly. Francis definitely has that.

Here's to a world of beautiful imagination:)


Thanks for telling your fascinating story, Franscud. I know you are going onwards and upwards. And thanks for hosting this, Jasmin. I will visit you again.

J. C.said...

I would like to thank to Francis and to everybody who commented on this wonderful post. Sincerely.

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