Memories of the Baroque Period

creative writing, fiction, nature

Over at my substack newsletter, I have a new short story up called “Memories of the Baroque Period.” Here’s the first few paragraphs:

In pontoon boats, the tourists leave Page, Arizona and head up Lake Powell, past slot canyons, buttes and far off mesas. To the east rises Navajo Mountain, like a benevolent yet all powerful god. They dock the boat and walk across the planks to the shore, then snake through a narrow canyon, rounding bends deeper into what is feeling like a rock cathedral. Then they see it. Behold the rainbow rock bridge, gateway to the Navajo holy realms. Although no tongue is there to give voice to sacredness, they feel it. A hush descends on warm beams of sunshine. 

For reasons he can’t fathom, he suddenly thinks of Baroque architecture. Perhaps because it is so antithetical to this place, worn by time into smoothness and raw, energetic grandeur. This is nothing like Venice, he thinks, with its ornaments and opulence, the walls with slotted windows, the domes and spires arising from the mist. This is nothing like that. Then he sees there could be some fundamental connection between the places. Rainbow bridge and Navaho Mountain seem haunted by ghosts of a nation mostly missing in action, lost to time. And parts of Venice linger too, forgotten by all, like the ghosts who haunt the asylum on Poveglia island, where shadows linger over the plague pits, and dark, nameless fish lurk in forbidden canals. 

Can memory be written into a place? Until Lake Powell and the rainbow bridge, he wasn’t sure. Now he thinks maybe so. The atmosphere is at once thick with longing for history, yet utterly barren and forgetful, as if the clear sky and air have no need for paltry sediments of time past. Something tangible is here, persisting, but the language can’t be deciphered. 

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Angels of Discipline

creative writing, work, writing

On keeping a writing journal

Most any book on writing, any writing class or workshop you will attend, will advise you to keep a journal for observations, inspirations, memories, dreams, fantasies, ideas, and plans. A journal is the place where creativity spawns.

When I was 11, I must have made it known to my family that I wanted to be a writer, because Christmas day 1975 I got my first writing journal. It was called The Nothing Book. A paperback of blank pages to fill. Hundreds of thousands of copies were sold in hardcover and paperback. I envy the person who came up with this bestselling concept. Maybe they knew the guy who came up with The Pet Rock, which came out in 1975, too.

My entries were sporadic, embarrassing kid stuff and adolescent ramblings. Honestly, those blank pages were too blank. I didn’t know how to fill them. I wondered if I had anything to say. The act of putting something inside those pages felt too momentous and intimidating. The Nothing Book petered out by the time I got to college and lurked in a shoebox until I rediscovered it this summer. I’m writing in it again. It’s cool seeing one page end in 1983 and the next pick up in 2020.

After The Nothing Book, I moved to spiral bound notebooks, beginning with my high school senior year creative writing class notebook. They contain diary entries and reflections, draft poems, songs, stories, and essay fragments. This continued into college and beyond into adulthood. I didn’t have a method, though. The notebooks were scattershot and loosely dated. As I waddled into my middle years, the journaling spread even more chaotically across multiple paper notebooks—a disorganized amalgam of lecture notes, book notes, to-do lists, feverish rants, manifestos, ideas. Like rampant suburban development, notebook sprawl was becoming a real problem.

I thought technology would solve it. I explored the world of digital journaling, tried desktop applications and private posts on Internet blogs, which oozed into public blogs. I feel like I’ve tried and outlived most of them: blogger, Livejournal, Typepad, WordPress, Posterous, tumblr. Technology only made the sprawl worse.

If Marie Kondo were to assess my cluttered, half-assed attempts to keep journals, she would have a heart attack. What a total f*cking mess.

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the eschorama newsletter

art, books, creative writing, fiction, history, literature, music, philosophy, podcast, poetry, reviews, spoken word, writing

In May I started writing a newsletter about my creative life at substack.com. It contains essays, creative nonfiction pieces, short stories, poems, songs, reviews of books and music, podcast announcements, and talk about the craft of writing and creativity in general. I’ll use this blog to announce new issues, which come out every 7 to 10 days.

If you like what you see there, sign up to receive new issues by email. Go to eschorama.substack.com

Thanks for checking it out.

Anne Carson · Poem: ‘Lark’

books, creative writing, literature, poetry

Freezing daffodils nod against
April snow. Long queue at the
food store. Brilliant deaths cut
the day. Hal was only 64. He
had sung kaddish for someone
else not long ago and no one
expected – even the lark does
not see the Open, someone
said in another time.

Source: Anne Carson · Poem: ‘Lark’ · LRB 21 May 2020

Note: “even the lark does not see the Open” refers to a claim made in the work of Heidegger

 

podcast episode 2: “walking home from school”

creative writing, fiction, music, podcast, spoken word, Uncategorized

 

eschorama podcast episode 2
Monologue script “Walking Home from School” written by Jim Esch

“The Snow Queen: story 1” from Hans Christian Anderson’s Faerie Tales, published by Educator Classics

MUSIC CREDITS

“Haunting Thoughts – Sallapam” by Jyotsna Srikanth

Indigo Girls: “Dead Man’s Hill”

“Duet for Ghosts” by Ed Harcourt

“Des pas sure la neige” Claude Debussy, performed by Daniel Barenboim

Dead Man Winter: “I Remember This Place Being Bigger”

“Snowy Walk home from Worrall School” by Jim Esch

“I Forgive it All” by Mudcrutch

Music from the Free Music Archive (licensed under the Creative Commons attribution license)

“Walking Shoes” by Blue Dot Sessions: freemusicarchive.org/music/Blue_Dot…/Walking_Shoes

“Walking the Wall” by PC III freemusicarchive.org/music/P_C_III/…lking_The_Wall

“Walking Down the Street” by Borrtex freemusicarchive.org/music/Borrtex/…own_the_Street

Writing advice from Thoreau

creative writing, literature, writing

You go places. You have experiences. You write. What do you make of any experience on the page? Here is a passage from Thoreau worth thinking about:

Let me suggest a theme for you: to state to yourself precisely and completely what that walk over the mountains amounted to for you,—returning to this essay again and again, until you are satisfied that all that was important in your experience, is in it. Give this good reason to yourself for having gone over the mountains, for mankind is ever going over a mountain. Don’t suppose that you can tell it precisely the first dozen times you try, but at ’em again, especially when, after a sufficient pause, you suspect that you are touching the heart or summit of the matter, reiterate your blows there, and account for the mountain to yourself. Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short. It did not take very long to get over the mountain, you thought; but have you got over it indeed? If you have been to the top of Mount Washington, let me ask, what did you find there? That is the way they prove witnesses, you know. Going up there and being blown on is nothing. We never do much climbing while we are there, but we eat our luncheon, etc., very much as at home. It is after we get home that we really go over the mountain, if ever. What did the mountain say? What did the mountain do?

 

Burn It

creative writing, poetry

Burn the pages, burn them all
torch your etched and crazy faces.

Watch the tricky blue flame ebb,
watch it dissipate before you get on.

Gifts and turn offs: inscriptions, hot tears:
sweet wood chopped, stacked in a pile.

Splintered ink curls, black characters hiss,
spitting little whiffs of self.

Monumental ash assembles, bald embarrassments,
dumb cravings tilted, listed, fell.

Trails of smoke feed midnight blues.
Walk away from the burning man.

Walk, look back more, pull away until
a lonely road intersects,

and you turn down the long road
forgetting what you came for.