An invitation to write

An invitation to write
Today at 6.44 am it was the Spring Equinox in the Southern hemisphere. Today night and day are about as even as they can get. And from now each day will continue to get a little longer until the Summer Solstice. I had forgotten that our seasons are made by ‘the tilt of the earth’s axis’, that they all depend on how close we are to The Sun in our journey around her.

I’ve facilitated creative writing in the community and at uni for many years now and I even got a guernsey from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council in 2011 just for doing what I love, so I feel pretty lucky. To honour the support I received from them I planned to try and facilitate creative writing in another way, that is through my blog. And today’s the day, a day of evenness and equalities but also of angles. The perfect day to begin this project.

I’m relatively new to the blogosphere so this is a bit of an experiment. Let’s just see how it develops.

So, I am inviting you to write. What I propose is that every Equinox and Solstice I’ll suggest a prompt or an exercise or a game for you to write with. Think of my suggestions as you will, I develop them intuitively but purposefully. If they lead elsewhere that is fine. The point is to get words on the page. To me that is gold. You’ve started something. So …

EQUAL. Hold this word in your mind for a moment and then play with it in words. Extemporise. Improvise. Don’t stop writing. If nothing comes just write about that eg I don’t know what to write even even even not even unfair etc until more words come. Write for five minutes.

Then do the same thing with ANGLES.

Write for five minutes. Read it over. You might not like all of what what you’ve written, but there will be something, some small thing of interest, something a little special you could develop and work with.

Just write without thinking too much and let one thing lead to another. You can use a keyboard and bash away or be ‘old school’ and use a pen or pencil and paper (I like pencil myself). Don’t worry about spelling or punctuation or even making that much sense. If you’ve written it by hand then type it up. Don’t be tempted to fix it up too much. Then post it in the comments.

I’ll update this post in a couple of days with my response to EQUAL and ANGLES. But don’t be influenced by what I write. Just put down what comes into your mind. I’ll approve the responses which you’ve posted in the comments and they will go public in about three weeks. And I’ll check in with you about it so don’t worry. And we can discuss our raw little pieces of writing and their potential. I’m hoping to get a story out of this exercise, and I’ll write it on-line in later posts so those interested can see its development. (I’m intending to experiment with Carmel Bird’s Dear Writer Revisited in relation to this as well). I’ll leave the post up so anyone can join in at anytime. I’ll sometimes comment and even make suggestions about where the pieces and fragments might go, and you can too. I’m hoping it will be lots of fun.

Old City, New City

Anemone Stone, detail from a building in The Rocks, Sydney, taken at about shin height

Anemone Stone, detail from a building in The Rocks, Sydney, taken at about shin height

Cities are such stimulating places to be. I have lived in old cities like Mumbai (then called Bombay) and Ahmedabad. I’ve toured Old Delhi and New Delhi a number of times (old and new co-existing) and visited the magnificent ‘City of Victory’ Fatepur Sikri, which has only an ‘ephemeral existence.’ And I’m very fond of the old parts of Sydney, as you can see from my photo that begins this post. I grew up in Sydney.

I live in Canberra now. I came here in 1987, and experienced the initial shock of living in a relatively new and designed city, and I’m still here and I love it. I’m smiling as I remember (back around 1983) standing in Connaught Place in New Delhi and feeling transported back to Australia for a moment as I looked around the arches and pilllars and dark corners which so reminded me of Canberra’s Melbourne and Sydney buildings. The only difference in the frame of my view were the red paan stains splattered on the white walls.

I’m looking forward to the coming exhibition Shaping Canberra: the lived experience of a changing landscape, at the School of Art Gallery, 17 September – 19 October 2013, and especially Jenni Kemarre Martiniello and Lea Collins and Mary Hutchinson’s works. Cities are always stimulating, being in them, thinking about them and interpreting them. I’m looking forward to the associated conference too and especially Cathy Hope,       Bethaney Turner and Sandra Burr’s papers on The Interface Between the Urban and the Rural.  I’ll be tweeting about the exhibition and conference @SSTVW.

I want to share a piece of writing on the subject of cities that has been published on-line before, but is now archived. Old City was first published on the ABC’s Pool under one of my pseudonyms – Hebe. It was part of a project called City Nights. I remember my need to be part of this project and the sense of accomplishment I felt as I uploaded my story.  I took the image for this post in The Rocks, which is part of the old city of Sydney, and the story was inspired by that beautiful old suburb, Glebe.

Old City

You stand at the stop light on the corner of St John’s Rd. It’s here you caught twenty dollars with your foot, stamping it down as the bitumen bit your bare sole. You can see it. You ate your luck; calamari and bread, pistachio and lemon gelato, and then drank it with verdicchio from a fish shaped bottle. The lights change and you cross the road. A man opens his coat, his grey cock pokes out. A baby pukes on its mother’s shoulder.

The old city is just the same. Thieves scatter their syringes in the night soil lanes. Keys enter locks on screen doors, on windows, and cars. Deadlocks shoot home. A woman does not let a lover enter her. He only touches her skin, she holds him outside. Barred windows. But some houses are open with parties that flow for years from weekend to weekend, friends and strangers in the front yard, and on the street. A man asks every woman at a party for a screw, figures he’s got a chance. Jesus opens his robe, his heart encased by thorns, in the picture in the hall.

You see yourself catching the bus at night, and walking home in the middle of the road in the street light. A young guy recognised you and offered you a “charge,” bottle outstretched, shifting his cardboard blanket. Bags heavy with old books, you wore second hand clothes, and slept in the front room. At night trucks sped down Bridge Road. You woke to the sweeping feet of the street sleepers, moving on, only a wall between you and them. Tree roots cracked footpaths. Tired gardens were heavy with blooms. You had gravestone sex, brushed away broken glass, the inscription pressed into your back. Pissing burnt as you squatted in the gutter. A poetry reading continued in the background, its best rhythm the clean click of billiards from a back room. You followed storytellers from cafe to cafe, and drank cheap bottomless cups.

Today you stand at the window of a shop that sells the mysticisms of the world, a woman with more than twenty dollars to spend by chance. As you lean against the cool glass of your reflection, the eyes of the girl who wandered the old city, watch you.

 

Through the barrier of time

The Travelator, beneath Sydney

The Travelator, beneath Sydney

Originally this blog was about time and was called ‘this five minutes’. I wanted to capture peak moments, moments of acute emotion and observation, and I wanted to enjoy and share them through words. I tethered them in time and place, tying them to numbers on a clock and names on a map, and to markers of realities.

But even five minutes can be too unruly (it really can) and the Blog shuddered and quaked and quickly slipped into a chrono-synclastic infundibulum.

I blame WordPress. They should have built stronger sites.

The Blog tells me she saw The Sky Whale in there. (The Sky Whale had advice, but Blog won’t tell me what it was.) I pulled Blog out of the chrono-synclastic infundibulum and calmed her down. So I settled for a less flighty Blog about reading, writing, place AND time. That’s okay. Time has stopped winging away in all directions and has a few more friends to talk to, I hope. We’ll see how they get on.

I’ve been rereading quite a bit lately. (Don’t you love words that begin with ‘re’)? It’s like travelling into the past. (Calm down Blog, calm down.) I hope to be sharing some reading experiences here very soon, and some writing experiences. Looking forward to it. In the meantime I hope you enjoy this credit sequence from It’s About Time. (I pinched a phrase from the song for the title of this post.)

Wretched. 11.24pm, 16 February, 2012.

Canberra Hospital

The slouching sack drips, drips and drips, quenching her shaken body.  Skilful livid puncture. Needle knife. Metal and vein. My eyes crave the sight of the wound again, but it is taped fast. Drip and drip. Re-hy-dr-ation. Stillness stiller here behind the curtain, after after after the heaving waiting room – Emergency  (too full too slow) – the weary night clinic (she’s not responding, we’ll write a letter) – Emergency at last reading us, running us down the hall. Drip and drip this sack of saline and us, waiting – the healing sleep, dry lips dark scooped eyes and time so urgent slowing on the clock face as the story of this night becomes a story (less terrifying)  in this moment.  I think of the glow of the lights on the edge of another town and her mother driving to us, still far away, but nearer – she and her sister will be here before morning.

Venus on Northbourne Avenue, 1.32 pm, 24 January, 2012.

A woman walking through the trees, her skin flashing naked, dappled. Was she in her swimming costume, I thought, and just walking to the pool the long way? I slowed in my car. No-one else on the road. No-one else walking. Her nudity was confirmed by the tucked line of her buttocks. She was either pregnant or big, filled with a child, or just full. She was a madwoman or Venus. Or maybe I am, seeing such things. She seemed happy, seemed to just be going for a walk, not wanting help, or distressed. I wished her a good journey and drove on.

A while ago now – the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012

Over the holidays I loved so many minutes, so many moments, things were just so much better on days when not so much was timed, when sleep was when I felt like it, and I could stay up until four and not care how tired I might be the next day. Deciding to just stay longer, or leave whenever was great.I tried to write two posts for thisfiveminutes, both in response to buskers. Listening to buskers came to mean holiday time for me. I just stopped and listened and listened to George in Bourke St Mall in Melbourne.Later in the holidays I stopped and listened to a young red-headed double bass player under the walkway of the Canberra Centre. Though the bass filled my body with its deep resonance, words were not there. Later a student described Bracque’s Violin and Pitcher in relation to feelings about the earth. I’ll think of this next time I listen to a double bass. It seems right.Writing in response to music is so difficult. I’ve done it once successfully (I think) and it took months of listening to a Chopin Nocturne again and again until it seemed to be embedded in my walls. Responding to music in writing remains an ambition for me, because I find the experience so elusive and evasive.

So sorry some of my December January posts, you slipped by with the holidays. Somewhat ironically this post has sat in my drafts for awhile, and I posted much later fragments earlier. This goes up with the full and hazy Easter moon, the time I always feel the year has really arrived.

2.34 pm, 12 December, 2011.

car door

National Portrait Gallery

Canberra

In the underground car park we walk to my car and I open the front door to put in my bag, and then the back door, where I have placed her book. I brought it to give it back after years, and in our memories the book is large and weighty and we are so glad it isn’t, as it will fly away with her.

We stand and look together as I turn the pages, we look at Alice Neel’s portraits – I’m no longer familiar with where they rest in these pages. I look for dark-eyed Nadia, but don’t see her (my favourite of Neel’s models) and we smile at the old men in their wrinkled suits, the naked pregnant woman lying on the bed with her clothed lover, (they both seem so undressed) and I love that one and that one, Neel’s daughter sitting in front of the rubber plant, leaning towards us, and there are those toddler twins on the bed like tanks, their jowled and bosomy forms pointed at the viewer along with their gaze, and we talk about what it is to view these pictures, that we can talk about them, and I say I feel I have seen these people. We stand together in the Portrait Gallery car park. She says she is using more colour, Neel is very good to look at for that, and we hug, we hug, say goodbye, and hug …

6.50 pm, 21 November, 2011.

Canberra Airport

I missed you being here. You were there, and then you were here again. How could you ever not be here with me? How to imagine another place with you there and not here? I couldn’t ring you. You couldn’t email. You are an ache. You are the pain of not having your presence. You are your own life, always. How can you be? This floating. You flying. Away. Back. Here. Where and here?

4.26 pm, 29 October, 2011.

Home

Australian Capital Territory

Electric simile zap! We’re just running around, na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-NA! I’ m just just JUST! See? What? Oh! We’re laughing. We are running from kitchen to living room and back. Where’s the camera? Look at this little corn chip in the shape of the bat signal!

Postscript. The Batchip disappeared and was found weeks later in the fruit bowl, no longer quite so representative of the bat signal that shone in the sky, calling for help, but still the one, for sure. Broken slightly.