I am grateful that you have visited my blog. I hope your visit is a successful one. Please feel free to comment, contact or otherwise interact with the site and with me. I'm beginning to spread my wings photographically, so please take a look at Paul's Photos on Flickr (on the right). which will lead you to my presence on Flickr. Again, your comments, feedback or whatever are very welcome. Let us assist each other in our pursuit of our own truth, our own Dreaming. Peace!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kerouac's #10: No Time for Poetry but exactly what is

On the face of it, this Belief & Technique from Kerouac (for a visit to my commentaries on the list so far, feel free to head there now or later if you prefer, and read them all in sequence.) seems to say no fantasy, no imagining the future, no reflections on the past. He seems to say you can only use what is in your poetry. And of course, by Poetry he means all your writing, all your artistic and creative expressions. I hope you all dig that.
But, wait a minute. Any of us remotely acquainted with Buddhism know that now is the only time there is; that we are at any moment the sum of our lives so far. Right? So that's the loophole you see. In this moment, right now, I could be thinking about something that happened in my past, or I might be 'daydreaming' or having a cool fantasy that I know is never going to happen in the real world. Or I might just be musing over the possibilities for my supposedly 'real' or imagined future.
Now, this doesn't mean we are dwelling in any of those imaginary places; it only means we are sorting them out into some kind of order in our minds. And that's okay. It fits with 'exactly what is now'. So when we write it we are engaging with the thoughts and feelings that are happening right now, even if those thoughts and feelings are a response to some imagining of past or future.
Of course old Jack is also here talking about truth in poetry (or as I say, in any creative expression). That's where the exactly comes in. Now, notice I'm not saying he's talking about getting your facts right: as we've discovered in these posts on more than one occasion, truth and facts aren't always going to be the same thing. Remember the old adage, 'This story is true, only the facts have been changed'?
Mr Kerouac, may he rest in peace ('cos he got very little when he was alive, dig?), is talking about my favourite topic: personal dharma. He's saying "Look people, if you gonna write poetry, then you gotta make it your truth. Tell it like it is man. There 'ain't no other way".
And what about time in this one? Of course it means that to use time in any other way than to tell it like it is is a waste of time. Easy eh? Maybe 'no time' can also mean this time, the now, this moment, the current hour, whatever. In other words, if you are going to tell it like it is, tell the truth of your heart and your life, then you might as well make it right now. No time to lose, dig this moment and record all that exists in this moment. You know why you have to do this of course don't you? Sure you do. It's 'cos this moment is all there is. What's that other adage that is a very groovy, cool and true cliche? Oh yeah: The past is gone, the future is a fantasy. The only reality (I use the word with caution here) is the present moment.
Peace and stuff to you all

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It’s a ‘Nam Thing: The Story of a Poem and …

Yes. A poem. By me as well. In fact, you might have already seen it: on my poetry page at my Wordpress blog? No? No matter. I just felt a sudden urge to put it in a post here today. Let me tell you something, just a little something, about it. And me too I guess.

When you read the poem, you will realise that my father was a Vietnam veteran. An officer in the Australian Army, he went to Vietnam the first time in 1966. Originally he was a part of what they called the ‘Training Team’. A fairly innocuous name for a group of army regulars whose job it was to teach other people to kill. And all the arts associated with that wonderful skill.

My father was in Army Intelligence. He was into the anti- insurgency, psychological warfare, counter terrorism, side of things. Was he involved in ‘torture’ and other ‘interrogation’ activites? The simple answer would be, of course: he was an army officer at war, and in Intelligence. But to what extent, who knows? My guess has been that he saw and did what you might think he saw and did.

Anyway, before long he was running what they called the Civil Affairs Unit which had the job of ‘winning hearts and minds’. In other words, their role was to play nice guy to the local people: build schools, clinics, take kids of chopper rides to the zoo. All that kind of stuff. Looks good on the surface, but it wasn’t done with the best of motives. Unless you’re at war that is. The idea of course was to get the locals onside, get them talking, passing information, rejecting the ‘enemy’. The ‘enemy’ being the Vietnamese people fighting for their country against the invasion forces of the US, Australia, and heaps of other countries.

I was 12 when he went. My father. He was away that first time for just over a year. At the time I didn’t know any better, and being a loyal kind of kid (I’m now a loyal kind of adult; only difference is I’m now loyal to other things), I supported my Dad and what he was doing. Natural really.

It wasn’t really until he came back that I started to change my ideas. He was so screwed up, so angry, violent, sad and just weird, that how could he have been in a good place doing a good thing. Of course, over the next couple of years I really started to watch and listen more critically to the news, to other people, to what was going on. By 15, I was a committed pacifist and campaigner for peace. I’ve never wavered in either commitment. Mind you, I’m not perfect and I have been pretty screwed up by how I was treated within my family (and what happened to the other members of my family). I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is not as bad as it used to be. But, to cut a long story short, I have dealt out my own share of anger and violence. Not now though. I’m a lot better now, as I said.

Well, a few years ago, a poem emerged: It’s a ‘Nam Thing. It’s an angry piece, as you will see should you choose to read it. But someone once told me it was the most powerful anti-war poem they had ever read. I’m not sure I would agree with that, but I hope it does serve as some kind of contribution to the efforts for peace.

That’s all I will say (it’s quite enough I think!). Here is the poem. Comment if you like. I would appreciate that.


My father, many times he hit me.

But, hey, it’s a ‘Nam thing

My father hurt my sisters.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing

My father, he beat my mother.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing

My father had a shrink at 150 an hour.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.

My father tried to get sane.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.

My father, he kept his demons.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.

My father used to run for trains.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.

My father, one day thought he was late.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.

My father ran hard for his train.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing

My father caught that train, of course.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.

My father, his heart attacked him.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.

My father, on that train he died.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing

Hobart Tasmania

19 February 2003

I offer this with love and in hopes of peace

Post originally appeared on my Wordpress blog, which is now kind of inactive. If you want to look, here it is.

Kerouac's #9: Dig those unspeakable visions man

It's been a while since I did a commentary on one of Kerouac's really groovy Belief & Technique for Modern Prose List of Essentials. If you're interested you can see the start of my commentaries here. But if you would like to look at #8, which was the last one I did here it is. As I say, I haven't done one for a while, and the whole process is taking longer than I'd like. But, hey, that's the writer's life isn't it? Kerouac has thirty items on his list: I guess you'll be reading them for a while pardners!

So, to #9:

The unspeakable visions of the individual

Now, you'd think that if something (in this case a vision) is unspeakable it pretty much means that it isn't writable either. After all, writing is simply another form of communication is it not? For my taste it's about the best form as well, but that's another story eh? Anyway, what does it mean, this unspeakable?

Well, it is about secrets. About things we keep quiet, things that come from the darkness of our subconscious, our fantasy life, or our dreams. It's also about the nature of the secret, or vision (more on vision in a minute okay?): we all have odd ideas, thoughts, fantasies, desires, etc, that are about stuff we'd rather not share with others. Could be a sexual fantasy, or a horror movie that runs in our heads or through our dreams. Or maybe it's about memories we'd rather not revisit. We've all got them haven't we?

Of course it has to be said here that those unspeakable things aren't necessarily of the negative or 'bad' variety: there are many many delightful and 'good' things we're not able or unwilling to speak aloud. Yes?

There's another aspect to 'unspeakable'. A thing may not necessarily fit the aforementioned secret type categories, but nevertheless be unspeakable. It might simply be that we don't have the words, or the means to speak it, whatever it is. We may really want to speak (or write) about these things, but just can't find the way with words that we need. Or think we need

Now, the vision thing. Here I think Kerouac simply means the things we see, think, feel, dream, fantasise and so on. Not actual visions as in angels appearing for example. Mind you, I mustn't discount the possibility, nor should you, that such visions may occur. I suppose if I were to be honest here (and of course this being a blog devoted to truth and all that, I am obliged to do so), I would have to admit that there have been times when I have seen visions. Just a little tangent: when I was in my late teens I drank a lot of wine. I never touched dope etc, and friends and assorted party companions would say, how come you don't do dope man? And I would say, 'I prefer wine because it gives me visions'. Cool eh? Now, I won't say just now if it really did or not. Maybe it was more about a fear of drugs and stuff ... another time okay?

Let's get back on track. I think that's enough about the vision thing. Except to say, we all have visions of one sort or another, literal or metaphoric.

And, have you noticed that our friend Mr Kerouac is not actually saying we have to speak these unspeakable visions. Oops, forgot the individual bit. That's you, okay? Not plural you, just you, yourself. He speaks of the visions you have that are yours, nobody else's. Dig?

I think he just means we have to acknowledge that we have them, these unspeakable visions. I think he is suggesting that it is essential for writers to have these visions. Or, and I like this idea, to be visionaries. Hey, that's me! You too! Visionaries. (the topic of visionaries is too big for this post. I'll make a note to think about it for another time, okay?)

So, what do we do if we don't have unspeakable visions. Ummm. You don't think you have them? Sorry, you do. We all do, as I said, in one form or another. Maybe old Jack is trying to say acknowledge those visions man. And as I say, you don't have to force yourself to speak what is unspeakable: it's about the idea that having such visions can inform your writing, sort of sitting in the background leading you, giving you ideas (and inspiration).

In a way, this idea is about spending time reflecting. Get in touch with your visions, whether they are from your dreams (the day ones or the sleep time ones), your memories (the good and the bad), your fantasies (the dark and the light ones), or from wherever they come from.

I'm not sure Kerouac was a supreme example of this, but here is one last idea to think about: the time spent in reflection on those unspeakable visions may have one more benefit. You may find that by getting in touch with your own visions (of both the unspeakable and speakable varieties: never forget there are lots of speakable visions we all have too), by acknowledging the existence of these 'visions' and then pending time on reflecting on them, may actually enable you to find a way to speak them. It will also be a powerful exercise in its own right. And for any writer, or any human really, this can only lead to growth and development.

Thanks for reading!