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1000 Black Lines

:: digital coffee stains on the paper of the blogosphere ::

Blog concerns

Listless took the weekend off to determine whether or not to shut down that blog and EM asks what's your excuses for weak blogging.

I haven't posted in a week because I'm too busy.

Is there anybody out there
Does anybody care
Are the people really there...
Is there anybody seeking
Does anybody see

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Book reviews coming soon...

During the last month or so I've been reading and writing reviews of poetry chapbooks, novels and non-fiction titles. For those who have sent me material to read, here's where to find the published review.
Artificial Lure


Chapbook review to be published in the February 1-15 issue of The Indie.

transfer


Chapbook review to be published in the February 16-28 issue of The Indie.

Cine...


Chapbook review to be published in one of the March issues of The Indie.

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Weekend wrap-up

Last Friday I learned that AC-T is working on a story for this week's Take 5 about The Courtyard Gallery's True Home Open Mic Podcast (18,000 podcast subscribers). Even Ashvegas covered the hoopla last Thursday night at the weekly True Home open mic. I didn't attend. The godfather of the open mic said, "It was packed man. Why weren't you there? You're always there."
"I know," I said. "I was home writing."
He smiled and took a swallow of Yuengling. I sipped ice water and glanced around the bar. Scully's is pretty empty on a Friday afternoon. "I'm telling you, man," he said. "You should have been there."

Saturday evening I visited the home of The Indie and The Traveling Bonfires for a casual editorial meeting. The Indie has stubbornly survived in the Asheville publishing market by presenting an authentic "open mic" monthly magazine. The editor is now making a very bold move and offering The Indie as a bimonthly publication. The meeting spilled over to a Malaprop's poetry reading which I had been invited to, but hadn't checked my e-mail in a day or two and missed the fact that I was scheduled to read. So I was a bit unprepared (I wore a really old pair of jeans and an even older red flannel shirt that pre-dated the gunge invasion and I hadn't shaved in a week making me look--as my wife said--like Grizzly Adams). Fortunately, I was the final reader which gave me time to flip through my notebooks in search of appropriate reading material. The poets included:

MICHAEL HEFNER

BRIAN SNEEDEN

PASCKIE PASCUA

WALTER DINTEMAN

MEGAN HISLOP


For a Saturday night, the café was well attended. I closed the event by reading a couple poems recently published at the Southern Cross Review (an "e-review of literature, education, science, current events and Anthroposophy") and four new poems written in the last two months (but have yet to be published--this is a shameless BIG HINT to poetry publishers who may be reading this post). After the reading I hung out with a few people and discussed poetry, reality, time and space, art and other such topics of interest until the staff of Malaprop's asked us to leave.

Later that night I wandered into the Joli Rogers for a brief appearance at the Asheville blogger gathering.

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How to get over a cold in a day

Dosing up on Good Earth® Teas and DayQuil® helps relieve multiple symptoms of the common cold as I try to keep up with a hectic schedule. Sunday I didn't leave my bed and my oldest child wondered if I would ever walk again. I assured the child that it was my head and sinuses that were the problem not my legs.


The Widow of the South
The positive side to being bedridden for a day was that I was able to read the entire The Widow of the South in one sitting. It is a gripping novel that fictionalizes the Battle of Franklin, Nov. 30, 1864, during the American War Between the States (Southern readers refer to it as the War of Northern Aggression, Mr. Lincoln's War, or War of Secession. Northern readers refer to it as the War of the Insurrection or Great Rebellion. But let's not call war civil.).

According to some sources, the Battle of Franklin is knows as the "Pickett's Charge of the West". The Federalist troops secured the high ground--a fortified semicircle around the city--that put the Confederates at a major disadvantage. From the East, Confederate soldiers crossed a mile of open ground in an assault lasting less than an hour. Some 20,000 Confederate troops marched into enemy guns across a two-mile stretch of field and conducted multiple assaults lasting over five hours. By 11:00 PM, the Union army withdrew to Nashville leaving carnage so gruesome eyewitnesses relate that one could walk across the battlefield on bodies of the dead and never once touch the ground. More Confederate soldiers died in five hours of fighting in Franklin than in two days of fighting at the Battle of Shiloh--over 6200 casualties. Federalist troops suffered over 2300 casualties. Think of this in comparison to US troop casualties in Iraq--five hours versus four years. War is messy.

The Widow of the South's main character is a New Orleans transplant to Tennessee and part of the Old South aristocracy who feels that God has cursed her because of the death of three (out of five) of her children. Often considered a bit crazy by locals, she transforms from a silent, weak woman to a strong, vocal woman during the Battle of Franklin. Her family's mansion becomes a field hospital for the army of the Confederacy and she leads in assisting the medical staff as they try to prevent the unimaginable loss of life. Amputated limbs pile up in one room, four dead generals are placed on the veranda, and more than 1000 dead soldiers need to be buried immediately. Her transformation is spectacular and somber as she interacts with wounded and dying soldiers.

Keep in mind I am reading this with a head cold that makes me feel like I've been shot or at least received a powerful blow to the old bean from a Yankee rifle butt.

Avoiding a presentation of the Robert Hick's plot outline, a general theme emerges: God is not just. Or another way of phrasing it--how could a good God allow this to happen? This is an ancient theme set in a tumultuous time in American history. But is it accurate in light of historical records? The author admits liberties in creating this novel which is entirely understandable. However, I wonder if Mr. Hick's injects his novel with modernist fatalism in the same manner Mel Gibson presents Apocalyptico in the framework of European colonialism. A key passage near the end of the book reads: "In death we are cleansed of our sins and our willfulness and the full complications of our life. Carrie knew this.... Simple heroes are already forgotten, barely recognizable as flesh and blood." The author makes several philosophical assumptions that remain unanswered in the narrative. For example, what is good? What is justice? Does justice exist? What is sin? If there is a God, is God just? I won't attempt to answer those questions. Further, should the author answer those questions in a novel?

Time for another dose of Good Earth® tea.

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Write Stuff contributor

Oh, yes, BTW--a weekly column is posted by me every Monday on Write Stuff. I haven't posted a link to my weekly post because... well, I have no good excuse. Here's a link to all 39 of my Write Stuff posts.

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First publication of the New Year!

Check out four new poems published over at the Southern Cross Review. I don't know what I like more--being published at SCR or being sandwiched between and W. H. Auden and a Rubens painting (visit the link to see what I mean).

One of my favorite paintings is Rubens's painting "The Allegory of Peace and War." In fact I wrote a lengthy paper about that painting during the university years. Though I am more familiar with W. H. Auden's poem "As I Walked Out One Evening," I enjoy the gravity of "The Unknown Citizen" and feel a bit comfortably out of place between two great artists.

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Sweet Potato Queen in Asheville

Sweet Potato Queen's big a** tour bus

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WiFi madness


Atlanta Bread Company
Why is it the Buncombe Free Wifi connections suck? Earlier today at Everyday Gourmet, I was trying to email a client and lost the connection. Almost a second later a woman at the window exclaimed, "Oh, s---!" I saw her relaunch her browser. Yesterday, I watched a guy open his laptop, log on, drum his fingers on the table and cuss. He closed his laptop and left.

So far, I've found that the Atlanta Bread Company has the best connection. Where else in Asheville is there reliable free WiFi?

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Snowfall from the front porch

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Snowfall in Asheville

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Asheville's coolest podcast


from the Nov. 30, 2006 open mic


The True Home Open Mic podcast now reaches 15,000 subscribers.


how to listen or join the True Home Open Mic Podcast:

Subscribe to Asheville's coolest podcast, True Home Open Mic Podcast. It is easy to subscribe using Apple iTunes:
1) open Apple iTunes,
2) Click on Podcast Directory,
3) type "True Home Courtyard" in the Search iTunes Store window, and
4) click "subscribe."

[For non Apple iTunes users; copy this address into your podcast application: http://www.webpasties.com/podcast-8670-930.xml]

For those in the Asheville area, join crowd every Thursday at the Courtyard Galley hosted by Jarrett Leone. Signup starts at 8:30 PM and performances from 9pm-12.

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Saturday lecture review

Saturday morning's beauty provided a wonderful backdrop to listen to Eleanor Wilner's lecture about the conception of poems: "Like a piece of ice on a hot stove,
a poem must ride on its own melting…." (Frost)

Poems referenced included Robert Frost's "The Woodpile" and Louise Glück's "The Wild Iris." I recall Denise Levertov mentioned, but I don't recall the title of the work. I didn't have access to the handouts that everyone seemed to be reading from.

I sat next to an open door of the Fellowship Hall and wrote a page full of notes, but as I reread them I realize my mind must have drifted a bit off topic. Maybe I was a bit distracted by the two young hipster students who brought their ceramic bowls full of crunchy cereal to the lecture and sat on the floor behind me and proceeded to consume it during the first portion of the lecture. Come on already! If you are to attend a morning lecture on poetry don't bring crunchy granola feed and eat like cows, suck down some espresso and drag on cigarettes like true bohemians. What is wrong with the young people nowadays?

One point I noted with clarity is how the modernist poets, according to Wilner, fought the institution of formal meter of their predecessors and how the following generations of poets take for granted free verse and blank verse; poets of the 70s and 80s are blurry photocopied reproductions of the original modernist movement.

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Review of Friday night's reading

The latest volume of The American Poetry Review arrived in my mailbox Friday afternoon. So I tucked under my arm and drove off into the rain to the Fellowship Hall feeling very smart and silly at the same time. I don't consider myself academic. So the act of trying to look smart in a room full of academics is a foolish charade on my part. Nevertheless, I did read the first few selections while waiting for the reading to begin. I'm still not sure what I think of Mary Kinzie's poem.

Anyway, Jennifer Grotz, a poet, began the evening by reading two translations by a French poet. She reads slowly, deliberately pronouncing each word as if reading role call for a high school home room or like the Economics Teacher in the movie Ferris Bueller: "Bueller?... Bueller?... Bueller?" She bridged each poem with a bubbly, conversational introduction which the audience seemed to appreciate. Maybe her poems are better read on paper. Her work just didn't resonate with me at all.

Danzy Senna, a novelist, read from her novel Autobody and read with drama; shifting narrator voice to character voices. She has a subtle lisp when pronouncing "innocence" and "success" and "stare." Her narrative is captivating and populated with warm approachable characters and full of tense lines like: "the conversation went from ironic to earnest." I really enjoyed her reading.

Brooks Haxton, poet, began with a humoristic, absurd, controversial (you had to be there to enjoy it) poem about the planning of a large mall in Syracuse. That poem pleased the audience greatly and they responded to all the right lines with loud laughter. Haxton presents his work as recitations, more or less, with the expert use of eye contact; makes one feel like each poem is a conversation or gift to listeners. I like this approach. He delivers the poems to the listener, not the pages on the lecturn.

Kevin McIlvoy read a delightful short fiction monologue from the point of view of a kid playing little league baseball. His animated presentation, complete with humming, singing, raising his left hand to catch a ball, revealed his master storytelling ability.

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Review of last night's public reading


Fellowship Hall at Warren Wilson College
A quick review of last night's Warren Wilson College public reading at the Fellowship Hall behind the Chapel. I arrived early and chatted with a local poet who is enrolled in the MFA program. He let me read some of his poems as we discussed future Flood Fine Art Center poetry readings--more on that later.

I don't remember the first reader. She is a novelist and, with all due respect, I couldn't really get into her prose. It didn't interest me in the least. I'm sure she is a good writer, but her story just didn't engage me at all.

The highlight of the evening for me was Mark Jarman's reading. He read from a forth coming book titled "Epistles" that evoked such lines as: "to some, bliss is when the body becomes words..." and "God has committed you to memory..." Jarman read each line as if delivering a homily; consistent, calculating the gravity of each word, line, poem. This is my first exposure to Mark Jarman so I don't know if he always reads in that manner or not. But he reminded me of the way a clergyman reads a creed or prayer or scriptures. He doesn't look up from his text until he is done. And in that case it is a quick glance to where his chair is located. I'm drawn to his new material and look forward to reading his book when it is made available.

I anticipated hearing Stephen Dobyns but there was a change in schedule. I notice Mr. Dobyns isn't reading at all. I hope he is still doing his lecture on "The Nature of Metaphor."

Anyway, it was a pleasure to listen to Percival Everett read from a new manuscript--a non sequential novel. Mr. Everett displays a keen wit with ideas and words and reads through his work rather quickly--almost in a manner that suggests he is reading it more for himself that the audience--that sometimes I felt like I missed essential parts of his story. So it was profound when he stumbled over a word, paused for an long silence, and announced "sorry, I just found a typo and I don't have a pencil to correct it." He laughed and continued reading at the same pace as before the discovery of a typo. I've only recently been introduced to his work and am interested in reading more of it.

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UPDATE: MFA Program Public Schedule

Updated schedule
As stated, the schedule is subject to change. However, Amy Grimm, of Warren Wilson College, just e-mailed me an updated schedule for the next two weeks.

I'll post something about last night's reading later today.

The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College
Public Schedule – Winter 2007

The public is welcome to attend the morning lectures and evening readings in fiction and poetry offered during the Warren Wilson College Master of Fine Arts Program for Writers’ winter residency. Events last approximately one hour. Admission is free. For more information, call the MFA Office:
(828) 771-3715.

Readings will begin at 8:15 pm in the Fellowship Hall behind the Chapel unless indicated otherwise.

The schedule is subject to change.

READINGS – 8:15pm
by MFA faculty and graduating students

Friday, January 5
Jennifer Grotz, Kevin McIlvoy, Brooks Haxton, Danzy Senna

Saturday, January 6
Victor LaValle, Betty Adcock, Megan Staffel, Steve Orlen

Sunday, January 7—in Gladfelter, Canon Lounge
Rick Barot, Adria Bernardi, Marianne Boruch, Robert Boswell

Monday, January 8, 5:30-7:00pm
Reception and faculty reading at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood Street, Asheville

Tuesday, January 9
Charles D’Ambrosio, Tony Hoagland, David Haynes, Ellen Bryant Voigt

Wednesday, January 10
Maurice Manning, Debra Spark, Martha Rhodes, Peter Turchi

Thursday, January 11
Graduating student readings: Leslie Blanco, Thad Logan, Anna Clark, Kathy Alma Peterson,
Jason Githens

Friday, January 12 (4:30pm, followed by Graduation Ceremony)
Graduating student readings: Jeneva Stone, Catherine Brown, Catherine Williamson, Bora Reed

Faculty Lectures – Winter 2007
The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College
In the Fellowship Hall behind the College Chapel unless indicated otherwise.

Friday, January 5, 10:30am
DEBRA SPARK: Size Matters

Feel like you’re writing little stories—domestic dramas or workingman’s woes—when you should be attempting something…ahem…bigger? Something more in keeping with your political outrage and general horror when you read the daily newspaper? After all, isn’t the great fiction of our day about the great crises of our day? Or shouldn’t it be? Well, holy Mrs. Dalloway, maybe the problem isn’t your lack of ambition, but how you’re thinking about size. This will be a lecture on magnitude in fiction, on three, maybe four, novels in which the principal characters intersect with something significantly larger than their selves, and not in the way that all fiction does this—the individual as a representative of the whole, the world globbing itself in a drop of dew—but through a true intersection. How do the novels incorporate the big world and its big concerns, while avoiding the obvious pitfalls of a historical or overtly political novel?

Saturday, January 6, 10:30 am
ELEANOR WILNER: "Like a piece of ice on a hot stove,
a poem must ride on its own melting…." (Frost)

A talk about the crucible of the imagination, its transforming powers, how a poem finds its own way as it goes, and the different ways that poets may conceive of that “melting.”

Sunday, January 7, 10:30am
KEVIN McILVOY: Making, Masking, and
Gladfelter Hall, Canon Lounge Unmasking “God” in Fiction

In this lecture we’ll take up the uniquely challenging methods of portraying “God” as a figure in fiction. Leo Tolstoy’s “Master and Man” will be our primary focus, but we will also refer to “The Death of Ivan Ilyich.”

Tuesday, January 9, 10:30am
RICK BAROT: The First Herbert

At the January 2006 residency, Jen Grotz presented a wonderful primer on Zbigniew Herbert and his poetry of “stratagems” and “crimes.” In this lecture, I’ll discuss the work of George Herbert—the ingenious formal stratagems which are signatory of his poems, and the passionate crimes of doubt that is the subject of those poems. Herbert lived from 1593 to 1633, deep in the metaphysical current of English Poetry. He has often been thought of as the minor poet among the metaphysicals. He is not minor. The poems are feats of engineering, as inventively modern as microchips. And they seem modern, too, in their unruly interiorities. The believer in the full flush of his belief feels a “strong regard and awe,” Herbert says. We’ll look at how that “strong regard” led to Herbert’s rigorous, beautiful poems.

Wednesday, January 10, 10:30am
BROOKS HAXTON: Else Lasker-Schüler

This lecture will locate the German Jewish poet, Else Lasker-Schüler in her time and place, present details of her biography, in its cultural and political context, discuss her vision, and offer new translations of a number of her poems.

Thursday, January 11, 10:30am
STEPHEN DOBYNS: The Nature of Metaphor

Friday, January 12, 9:30am
JENNIFER GROTZ: Flung Speech

Emily Dickinson wrote: Prayer is the little implement
Through which men reach
Where presence is denied them.
They fling their speech

By means of it in God’s ear;
If then He hear,
This sums the apparatus
Comprised in prayer.

“If then He doesn’t hear,” one could add, “This sums the apparatus /Comprised in poetry.”
My lecture will consider some similarities in the construction of poetry and prayer. There is no advanced reading required; a handout will be provided.


Friday, January 12, 10:45am
ADRIA BERNARDI: The China Night-Light and the Bottle-Tree: Visual Image and Noise in Eudora Welty

“. . . I know equally well that the bottle-tree appearing in the story is a projection from my imagination; it isn’t the real one except in that it is corrected by reality. The fictional eye sees in, through and around what is really there.”
“Finding a Voice,” in One Writer’s Beginnings

The movement between the inner and the outer, and the primacy of the visual image, are central to the poetics of Eudora Welty. The title of her collection of essays, The Eye of the Story, places the visual image and the act of seeing centrally to her creative process.

I’ve been considering Welty stories in terms of this progression from a Rilke poem, “And I would like to listen in and listen out into you, into the world, into the woods.” The progression, from “To Say Before Going to Sleep,” involves movement from the internal to the external on the behalf of the other. In the case of Welty’s stories, the progression involves a narrator looking into a character, looking out through that character, into the world, or into the metaphorical woods of that character. Rapidly, sometimes in the course a single paragraph, the reader will listen into the depths, only to then shift into or perceive an active world: maybe little gestures of kindness or bravery, more likely pettiness, half-truths, lies, mockery, cowardliness, cruelty—variations of behavior by, as Katherine Anne Porter called them, “Miss Welty’s ‘little human monsters.’” With another quick shift, the story may then enter that same character’s metaphorical woods. Welty’s narrators see and listen into in all of these four places on behalf of a wide spectrum of others.

I’ll be considering the visual images at the transition points where the point of view or level of consciousness shifts. I’m exploring whether the Rilke progression may be useful in considering one’s own work, and how it is that the visual image offers the opportunity to move into another way of seeing, thus finding another place within the story. I’ll be talking about the sensory images of sound in the Welty stories, specifically, those that relate to noise. As in the Rilke poem, visual and aural images sometimes occur together in the stories at key points. Primarily, I’ll be talking about “Death of a Traveling Salesman.” I’ll also refer to “No Place for You, My Love,” “A Memory,” “June Recital,” “Where is the Voice Coming From?” and her essay, “Place in Fiction.”

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Books News : part 18

Essay Collection: A-- Over 6000 copies sold in eight months! This is an incredible achievement not only for me personal (since I helped get this book to the market by doing everything but write the manuscript and illustrate the cover) but also for the author. I would really really like to share all the exciting details but corporate powers-that-be may not think it appropriate. So instead of telling you the book title and the author I'll let blog chatter do that for me. You can read it here, here, here and here.

Also, this is a great example of the power of permission marketing (i.e. consumers who really love the product telling other consumers how great the product is). An enthusiastic blogger did just that with a book review which lead to an author interview and more blog chatter followed--here, here, here and here.

Essay Collection: B-- And, to end the year, almost 2000 copies shipped to readers across the country in less than two months to meet market demand for the author's follow up to Essay Collection: A. Over 8000 books by a single author sold during the last eight months of 2006.

I know, I know, this isn't near the volume of books sold by John Grisham (or James Frey for that matter), but still a notable success for an independent publisher.

PART: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17]

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J.R.R. Tolkien's birthday

It's the birthday of J.R.R. (John Ronald Reuel) Tolkien.... He was a professor of philology, the study of the derivation of languages, at Oxford... fluent in classical Greek and Latin, Old Norse, Old English, medieval Welsh and Anglo-Saxon, and an ancient form of German called Gothic, among other ancient European languages....

Many critics now consider Lord of the Rings to be one of the greatest fantasy novels ever written. But after the 12 years it took to write, Tolkien wasn't sure anyone would want to read The Lord of the Rings. He wrote, "My work has escaped from my control. I have produced a monster ... a complex, rather bitter and rather terrifying romance."

The book was moderately successful when the first volume came out in 1954, but it didn't become a huge best-seller until the 1960s when American college students fell in love with it.

J.R.R. Tolkien said, "Literature stops in 1100. After that it's only books."

--from today's The Writer's Almanac


Between the Lord of the Rings, Conan and Elric books, I was able to survive high school.

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Magazine News

I hope Ashvegas is referring to the editorial content and not the overall design of D'licious magazine: "No big loss. It wasn't that good." Because I couldn't agree more. The dirty little secret is that the second issue was better written with a new editor (who came in at the very last minute to wrap up issue one and basically assisted in... oh, never mind, that's a whole other story), but it never made it to press. So there is no second issue (unless you want me to email you a low res PDF file of issue two).

Ashvegas writes in response to 1000 Black Line's unofficial announcement of the expiration of D'licious magazine.

And, let it be known, a new Asheville magazine is under development. My first deadline is January 15th. Ironically, this other magazine is scheduled to release during the same time period. It looks like they have a good art director on board. I hope they do well.

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Quotes from Dillard's The Writing Life


At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then--and only then--it is handed to you. From the corner of your eye you see motion. Something moving through the air and headed your way. It is a parcel bound in ribbons and bows; it has two white wings. It flies directly at you; you can read your name on it. --Annie Dillard, The Writing Life



Here is a fairly sober version of what happens in the small room between the writer and the work itself.

***

First you shape the vision of what the projected work of art will be.

***

It is a vision of the work, not of the world. It is a glowing thing, a blurred thing of beauty.

***

You know that if you proceed you will change things and learn things, that the form will grow under your hands and develop new and rich lights. But that change will not alter the vision or its deep structures; it will only enrich it. You know that, and you are right.

But you re wrong if you think that in the actual writing,... you are filling in the vision. You cannot fill in the vision. you cannot even bring the vision to light. You are wrong if you think that you can in any way take the vision and tame it to the page. The page is jealous and tyrannical; the page is made of time and matter; the page always wins. The vision is not so much destroyed, exactly, as it is, by the time you have finished, forgotten. It has been replaced by this changeling, this bastard, this opaque lightless chunky ruinous work.

***

Words lead to other words and down the garden path... You can fly--you can fly higher than you thought possible--but you can never get off the page. After every passage another passage follows, more sentences, more everything on drearily down.

***

And so you continue the work, and finish it.

***

the work is not the vision itself, certainly. It is not the vision filled in, as if it had been a coloring book. It is not the vision reproduced... It is rather a simulacrum and a replacement. It is a golem. You try--you try every time--to reproduce the vision, to let your light so shine before men. But you can only come along with your bushel and hide it.

--Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Contributing to the Mtn Xpress

OK, so I am not really contributing to the Mountain Xpress but their blog has linked back to 1000 Black Lines regarding a "bittersweet reading held at the New French Bar" and the "word on when — if ever — a new issue would be coming out."

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The old Wal-Mart building

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