Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sparks: Inspiration

What is that feeling? Malaise? Depressing news? Hormones, again? Don't feel like doing anything? This happens to me often when I am between projects: a restlessness sets in. I have a studio full of unfinished other projects, but nothing there seems to interest me. Then I read a book, see a movie, see an exhibition, or read an article that sparks me to work. I never know what it will be or when it will hit me, and often, I forget that it will appear.

Current sparks:
The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara, edited by Donald Allen. I read an article in the NY Times that mentioned it was the 50th anniversary of O'Hara's book, Lunch Poems, which, although I am pulling fifty myself, I have never readExamples were included in the article that were so lively they made me want to read more. Lunch Poems wasn't available in the library, but the collection was. I skip over some, but some just tickle or electrify me, such as "Les Étiquettes Jaunes" (21) and "Lana Turner Has Collapsed" (449) and "To Larry Rivers" (128) and "Digression on Number 1, 1948" (260) and "Why I Am Not a Painter" (261). Very fine observations and injections of feeling in his poems. I find I'm drawn to the shorter, lively ones that are more about the day. I did not know he worked at the Museum of Modern Art (which is where he wrote Lunch Poems), or that he made 26 poem-paintings. You can see four poem-paintings here. (Format issue: I think I might like just the Lunch Poems, alone. This volume breaks the poems willy-nilly, as the page suits, in half, or even one last line gets pushed onto the next page!) Reading the poems, however, jump-started my poem writing again.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. A friend gave me this book of little mini-biographies of well-known writers, artists, musicians, composers, scientists, etc. Each describes his or her daily routines. Some forced themselves to sit at their desks, others delighted in writing and needed no discipline. Many took long walks, many were tea drinkers, others used amphetamines or alcohol or sex. Although I am disappointed that the list is mostly men (27 women out of 161), reading about these creators is still nicely energizing. This book got me to pay attention to every moment and think about what I'm doing.

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Another book that turned fifty that I had never read. There has been some recent controversy about her science and some of her examples, but so far, I'm finding the overall philosophy to be something I want to think about. One sentence to think about: "We have subjected enormous numbers of people to contact with these poisons [pesticides] without their knowledge" (12). She goes on to mention that the Bill of Rights does not specify our right to know because it never occurred to the founding fathers that people would do such a thing. It sparks me to think about responsible action and what that means. 

Reading Carson's book, along with a recent visit to the California History gallery of the Oakland Museum, where I always enjoy looking at the Indian baskets and objects (and this time fixated on a necklace made of tortoise shell segments and beads), renewed my interest in painting paper based on nature.

Gift: Trade: Commerce: Did Anyone Ask the Tortoise?
(threaded accordion book in progress)

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