I came across quite a few lists this past week. I really like lists, especially those by writers I admire. They are like intellectual sushi: bite-sized, neatly presented, healthy (when not too touristy) and often colorful. For example, Henry Miller says in his eleven commandments of writing:
7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
9. Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go
back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends,
cinema, all these come afterwards.
The best thing about this list is that Miller’s expectations are as lunatic, contradictory, and well-meaning as my own; therefore, my insecurities diminish, and I’m able to write.
The best commandment on the list? Easy.
- When you can’t create you can work.
I love this point. It echoes what the painter Chuck Close says:
“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.”
I once took a writing workshop with the wonderful poet Thomas Lux ( you will find his poetry in the Combined Volume 10, No. 1 & 2of Five Points ) who said that the art of writing a poem is comparable to creating “high-level birdhouses”. Lux did not mean that writing good poems can be as simple as passing eighth grade woodshop. He meant that doing the work – writing, reading, revising – is both necessary and achievable. I think Lux, Close, and Miller would agree that the creative act is not the sole possession of geniuses. It is not something quaffed from the mysterious creative pool at the world navel. It is work. Joyous, depressing, life-affirming, self-defeating, happy toil!
If you want to check out some wonderful lists. Go to the website Lists Of Note where you’ll find lists from all walks of life. The creative life in particular is well represented.
Other important stuff from around the web:
First and foremost, it’s banned book week. If you don’t know why this is important, check out the link.
Previously unreleased recordings of Allen Ginsberg are out there for your edification and inspiration, and they’re free.
I came across this link at the Harvard Gazette on the fascinating subject of ecopoetics and the sounds of nature. Five Points Volume 12.1 features the photography of Britta Jaschinski, whose work centers on the intersection of animal lives and human lives, and Georgia State Professor Randy Malamud, whose most recent book is An Introduction to Animals and Visual Culture, explores some of the issues expressed in Jaschinski’s work.
And, in the spirit of healthy mental sushi, take care of your eyes.
Mike Saye is a Georgia native. This is his first year studying poetry at Georgia State University’s MFA program, and he is delighted to be there.