Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Today marks the first day of bringing to you significant essays and other writings of writers I respect.

Explosions and Recapitulations
By Sheila Bender

Finishing any writing project is exhilarating but only for a short while, it seems. The itch to start something new is always back again soon. As much as I want to sit down and write, however, I suffer from feeling depleted and from not wanting to go back to being a beginner after the success of being a completer. That makes me grumble at the world and then I don't have any of
the magical connection to it that writing requires. So, I like to take a lesson from the poet Charles Baudelaire in his prose poem, "At One O'clock in the Morning," which you can read HERE

In the poem, the speaker exclaims, "Alone at last!" and then takes a moment to relish the double locking of his door, shutting out the necessity to be as gracious as he has had to be all day. He recounts events ("let us recapitulate the day") that have transpired to make him feel the "tyranny of the human face." In his comings and goings that day, an acquaintance had ignorantly asked if there were a land route from France to Russia, an editor dissatisfied with the speaker's work had claimed his publication represented the "cause of decent people", as if others were "edited by scoundrels." There was someone the speaker felt did not deserve the letter of
recommendation he had to write for him. "Horrible life! Horrible town!" the speaker exclaims.

Unloading as he does leads him by his poem's end to pray for strength to be better than those whom he despites, to request that poetry and those he admires redeem him by adding to his consciousness and raising him above the pressures of constant requests and rejections:

Discontented with everyone and discontented with myself, I would gladly redeem myself and elate myself a little in the silence and solitude of night. Souls of those I have loved, souls of those I have sung, strengthen me, support me, rid me of lies and the corrupting vapours of the world; and you, O Lord God, grant me the grace to produce a few good verses, which shall prove to myself that I am not the lowest of men, that I am not inferior to those whom I despise.

It seems to me that Baudelaire hit upon a successful strategy--heartfelt complaining that leads to introspection, possibly redemption.

So, I imagine myself arriving home to an empty house or office and using the privacy to lock the door and let loose with my complaints or to be honest about what I am feeling. I begin writing with a sentence that ends with "at last." "In love again at last!" or "Done with love at last!" "Away from the screams and sobbing at last!" Whatever is bottled up inside of me that I can
imagine escaping from by shutting the door will work to launch this piece of writing, as long as I then continue speaking freely about it.

Alternatively, I might think about achieving something that others might not think of as an achievement, something I'd be better off enjoying behind closed doors: "Drunk at last!" "Safe with stolen goods in my pocket!" "Fingers in the fudge sauce at last!"

I don't hold back with what I write next but, like Baudelaire, recapitulate my day from the point of view I have announced in that first line and go on and on and on, unabashedly until I have exhausted my complaints. Then, like Baudelaire, I shift to speaking to a you, whether it is a supreme being, spirit, particular person or my own best self.

After driving the complaints out as full throttle as possible, I don't usually have trouble formulating a request that could help me rise above the situation I described or find a way toward what I most want. And then I am writing fresh and am unabashedly reconnected to my writing self.

Using the "at last" line for a title and acknowledging Charles Baudelaire's model, I feel even more like I've started again and uncorked that flood of feeling and thought that leads to my writing. I might polish what I have written for publishing or put it in the mouth of a character, despite the dated language of the opening, or just leave it and go on writing something else now that I feel fired up. Here's an example:

Tantruming at Last!
(With thanks to Charles Baudelaire)

No sound but my own voice and pent up tears, all energy in my face and lungs. I will not throw dishes or books, break computer screens or tear the curtains down. Only my rage of words, calving glaciers, boulders down a mountain gaining speed, house thrown off its stone foundation, an elephant when feeding time is overdue, the sound of nuclear fusing. I have said yes
and yes and yes and yes and cannot stand myself and cannot sleep. I take one to the park to play and one to the library for a lecture and one to the doctor and the first for a meal and the second to a meeting and the other to a friend's for tea. I arrange another's doctor's appointments, financial assistance, and driving needs. I have said yes and yes and yes and envy who says no; this jealousy leaves welts along my tongue; my words projectile as pus pushed from subcutaneous sores.

You, the one I love outside my door! Don't go away. Stand in the swollen surf, the riptides you think will sink you. Pretend frequencies are higher than you can sense and come to hug me as if you couldn't hear my roaring. Hug me, hug me, hug me; I'm small and waiting and need a gentle wind to bring soft soil that will protect me.


Bio: Sheila Bender is a poet, essayist, book author and master teacher. After years of writing forWriters Digest Books and Magazine and publishing her poetry in North American literary journals, she is publishing her instructional articles for those who write from personal experience at Writing it Real. She has just released a writer's edition of version of LifeJournal from Chronicles Software at Her latest book is Writing and Publishing Personal Essaysfrom Silver Cat in San Diego.


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