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.
He, his appetites always indulging
Hording each crumb, grasping, clinging
Never quite full
She, her beauty spread thin, her bounty laid
Bare, unable to provide for
Children ever growing
He, unable, unwilling to act, sits
Listless aimless, averting his eyes
Never quite sure
She, her temper flaring, her mood changing
Violent, unstable, punishing
Children ever quiv'ring
Childless, she turns
Her back on, him, them, us
Receding, cold, distant, weathered
No longer owning, knowing, her late self
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.
By Francis Scudellari
My eyes I raze
Fall, thud, echo
Strewn, I grip,
Pull, twist myself
Dark stain from
Scrawled-on skin, shed
Faces, long lost
Snapped shut, move me
In vessels too
My hand grasps at,
Reach, flesh transformed
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.