Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Warning: Navel Gazing Initial Post

Initial post? I know I've not been one for celebrating birthdays/post numbers that end in a run of zeros on this blog, but initial post? I suppose I never went for the birthday because my first "blog" was a journal kept at DeviantArt (yes, I'm sure I could still log in to that account...) and this one was basically started up because I found the DeviantArt setup to be less than optimal. That was how long ago? How many goddamn accounts does one man need in one lifetime, anyway? However, the fact is, there's been a lot afoot, even if much of it has been time rather dragging on in that particular way time can when one is struggling with self-pity/self-deception/self-loathing of a far reaching kind. But here's the trick: why would I subject someone else to that crap? The blog format first appealed to me as a potential literary medium, and I understood it to be a public document (no matter how little the audience), and chose my words accordingly. Instead, I've chosen some (I hope) well spent silence. After all, if you're down on yourself, you're not likely to be much more charitable with anyone else, and you've very probably got a thing or two to learn, so maybe it's a good strategy to shut up and find out what you can.

But...while the monsters may not be entirely put to rest--and why would one want them to be?--there have simply been stirrings of the old familiar feelings that first drove me toward writing in the first place. That's due, no doubt, to the patient words--and the occasional swift kick in the ass-- administered by both old friends and new, but it's also just the hard-earned lessons that come with a severe self-appraisal. I mean digging shit up by the roots appraisal. I mean looking at it all and wondering what the hell I was ever thinking. I'm not at all convinced I know even now, but if past experience is any guide, sometimes, the only answer you can give to an unanswerable question is to adapt a strategy of deferral. And in the meantime, I feel like the old writing muscles...whatever they were worth to begin with...have atrophied somewhat. Perhaps the monsters just need their own little corner, but I suspect just writing will help them express themselves well...which is important to me.

So here's to a little naval gazing, to that process--always longer than it seems like it should need to be--of calculating the distance between the basics you started out with and the life-clutter that invariably seems to occlude them. Because when you're part of a species that is fundamentally social, sometimes it just necessary to sit down and explain why you couldn't bring yourself to say hi when you saw that old friend out at the pub. Which is maybe what I'm trying to do, without getting stupid and dark about it all.

I have this drum...it's a good drum, I like it. I got it for my birthday. Before that, I started playing around with a mouth harp, a couple of spoons, a soju bottle with a handful of garbanzo beans in it, a couple of sticks, and finally, a friend's djembe. I enjoyed all the handmade stuff, and still play around with it from time to time, but the djembe felt right. Maybe it's just lack of skill, but so far, I haven't really taken to sticks. I like to slap the top of that drum, and a good session is when I walk away from it with both my hands stinging from the blood that's been drawn right up to the surface. Anyway, my friend's drum was all right, but it was a small djembe--really had to whack that thing to get the kind of sound out of it that I was looking for--and one night, I was out at one of the local pubs, and there was this girl band in from Seoul, some old friends of a couple of the pub proprietors here in town. They had a full sized djembe, and after they'd played a few songs, and we'd all got acquainted, and a little drunk, they let me sit in on their rendition of the old Bob Marley classic "Get Up, Stand Up." It'd been a few years since I'd enjoyed that song on anything even approaching the level of my enjoyment that night...that full-sized djembe made all the difference. It seemed like all I had to do was brush that drum to get the noises I wanted out of it. Well...the next morning, I was hungover, and the band had moved on, and I still didn't have a djembe. I went out a few weeks later and bought a big old bass thing--Korean traditional--from a local music shop, but this thing is huge--hard to hold, but more to the point, hard to contain--it just straight up dominates unless everyone you're playing with is playing just as loud. Plus I wasn't thrilled with the range...and, although it was possible to play with the hands, sticks were much the better strategy. I still hope one day I can find a way to love that drum, but so far, we haven't connected the way we need to if we're going to make some serious music. Anyway, I puttered around with that one for a while, but never really got into it, and then, on my birthday--this past November, and one of those milestone birthdays that has the capacity to put one into a deep funk if they're not careful to check all that "youth is the end-all be-all" conditioning we're all subjected to in just about every even marginally popular lyric ever written in the past half century--my wife presented me with a djembe that wasn't full-sized, but was bigger than my friends. It suffices, and I can wait until I'm a little more sedentary before I pop for the full sized sucker.

I know...anyone who's reading this is probably wondering what the hell all this has to do with navel-gazing. Believe me, it's all connected, so bear with the stream of conch delivery (right now, I'm thinking it's the only way this blog ever gets regularly updated, because that blank page has been screwing me over for a good two years now...).

So, maybe it wouldn't be completely unreasonable to ask, err, well, on a blog that at one point served basically to a) supplement an online poetry zine that, while still online, is working on 3 years of silence, b) hopefully track down some relevant literary links in (what I would consider) a time of significant political distress, and c) occasionally serve as a promotion point for whatever open mic project I was involved with at the time, what's up with the drums? I mean, the connection between rhythm and poetry seems clear enough, but why all this nonsense about learning to love a drum? Pretty simple, really, though it'll take a little explaining. Basically, through the good efforts of one Dylan--a long-time denizen of Gangneung whose mug, I believe, could be found on this blog's pages if one were predisposed to searching the archives for it--a band, originally conceived as a punk band, but one that has gone, perhaps, in other, quite different directions, was formed. In fact, this is what started the whole exploration for me. I've always loved music, always had my favorites, and have been known to act like a wild man on a dance floor--some nights with more grace than others. But I could count the notes I'd played on my twenty digits, and I really didn't see what I could offer this enterprise of Dylan's. It's entirely possible that my contribution, to this day, is quite negligible. But, Dylan insisted, mostly, I think, because he thought me capable of writing lyrics. That has, to date, not panned out. And for a very simple reason. I had nothing I wanted to say. My mind, my whole outlook, was a nasty tangle of dark emotion, resentment, self-pity, perhaps--I don't know, but I think very probably toward some--hatred, all mixed up into a foul, ropy stew. I struggle with periods like this, because I genuinely feel that hatred, resentment, and self-pity are all absolutely wasteful emotions, and that time spent on them is basically time spent dying. And I suppose, for some, that would be perfectly fertile soil from which to harvest some seriously good lyrics, but it doesn't work for me. I don't feel like what I want from words has to be unrelentingly sunny, but there is that part of me that would like to believe there's at least the possibility of redemption somewhere in there. Perhaps that's delusionary, too. But if it isn't there, I really can't understand the point of writing words at all. In any case, what I started out with, last summer, was a mouth harp--loaned me by the same friend who loaned me the small djembe--and a couple of kitchen spoons. And what I loved about them was that what they said didn't insist on meaning anything. Unlike lyrics. And that was what I needed, right then, right there. So, for the band, I pretty much gravitated toward finding a basic, workable beat, and trying, to whatever level my ability would allow, to work outwards from that point. I can't claim to have learned much, but I feel that bit more confident than when I started...and you know what? The beat still does not demand to mean anything. And I love it for precisely that reason.

But maybe it's time to mean something again. Maybe I've worked far enough around those demons to be able to persuade, conspire, and narrate again. Because what I'm finding, in that drum, is the same sense for foundational things that drew me first to words...because my choice--to pursue words--was initially driven by precisely the same impulse that drew me to the drum: they're fundamental. And it doesn't matter how long I stay away from words on the creative front--I teach them, and I study them, and there's really no better way to get me to talk your ear off than to start probing underneath the surface of words. If I've learned nothing else from this silence, I've learned that I do seek out precisely these fundamentals--that they're crucial to who I understand myself to be. So, maybe, with that understanding in place, I can handle them a little better this time around.

In any case, as my good friend Chris H. once said: "Here goes nothing."

good grief
that musta
been cathartic

a good friend of ours sent
me an email today that was about five
lines long
asking for

then a space

like the one above

and said er typed and sent

if it's too much work then, thanks for making it to the end of this message. Anything can help.


nice start on an overdue self rant
hope to see you appreciating more
in the future

i will
exclamation question mark exclamation smiley face
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