The University of Newcastle


Kim Cheng Boey


The Place of Writing

 

Abstract

The workshop is a place where poems and stories are tested for artistic originality and technical coherence, and their problems fixed in a collaborative effort. But it is not just that. In its intense sessions of scrutiny and questioning, and with nervous sidelong glances at exemplars and masters, it is also a place where the students are posed the question which Rilke would have his young poet confront: 'Must I write?' The students either embrace their writing as a mission or keep it separate in an outer compartment of their lives, as a hobby.
I see the role of the teacher-writer as a sort of priest-confessor, one who will direct the students to the inner place of writing, where they ask themselves the deepest questions of life and art. For this to happen, there must be what Martin Buber calls an I-Thou relationship to evolve between the teacher and the students, a connection of mutual respect and listening. Only then can the teacher point the students to the place where the poems and stories are waiting to be found.
The paper proposes some writing exercises to enable this creative process to take place and turn the workshop into a place of sacramental encounter, where students discover the life of writing in the writing of their lives.

 

We take our place at the place of writing. Ranged around the vacant centre of the room, pen and paper, hands unclenched, listening, hovering over the silent keys, waiting for the first chords, the ghost-notes. Conductor without a score, I listen hard for a clue as to where we will go today. Writing is an act of listening, learning to tune in to what Seamus Heaney calls 'the music of what happens' (Heaney 1990: 127), and the role of the creative writing teacher is to engage the student writer in the practice of solitary listening. I feel for the pulse, the temperature, read the faces, trying to hear the breath of the stories, the poems. They are there, locked in the tundra, veins of it embedded in hard rock, waiting to be mined.

How can the writing teacher help his or her students unearth the stories? How to free these beginning writers into their own voices? The danger of any writing class is that the tenets by which the teacher operates become the faith of the students, and it is the fear of many writing teachers that the students end up sounding like them. I am guilty of promoting the existential view of writing - writing as a way of making real our lives, confirming that we are here, alive and making creative decisions. I incline towards poems and stories with a strong autobiographical thread. I have to remind myself not to bring Raymond Carver too often to class, remind myself not to dictate the kind of work that will emerge. I try to create the space in which the students can discover clues to where to take the writing. I want to nudge them into the solitude in which they listen and learn to ask the crucial questions about their art.

I begin by suggesting that we are beginning a journey here. I tell them what I see in the middle of the room, the middle ground of our lives, where our solitudes are ranged round, bordering each other, bordering on that empty quarter where the words will emerge. I see silence, a whole desertful and mountainload of it, and this silence echoes the solitude in which we wait. Attend. We are each alone, yet bound by the quest: this is the paradox of the writing place - that the writing has to inhabit both a solitary and communal space, that the poem or story emerges from a private source and becomes more itself in the shared space of the workshop. I tell them that in the centre of the room is our Mount Kailash, Mount Meru, a black stone around which we will perambulate for the rest of the year, for the rest of our lives maybe. Somewhere in the centre is 'the still point of the turning world', to use Eliot's imageless image (Eliot 1963: 191). I tell them about Cézanne, who surveyed his mountain for years, chronicling its moods, its faces, prospecting, picking at it, his palette, till the mountain moves his brushes, till the mountain rests in the heart of his work. I tell them we will plan our route of advance, plot the climb and let our words print out each escarpment, each crevasse, each cliff face till the mountain reveals itself, in the middle of the room.

I tell them we will try to find the centre of the mountain, write from its heart, the centre of our lives. I tell them about Hanshan who roams up and down his mountain, printing poems on trees and rocks. I tell them we have to find each our personal mountain, the place of solitude, the place of writing. And a good place to start is from the centre of our lives.

 

How do we start? Raymond Carver reveals that 'everything we write, is in some way, autobiographical' (quoted in Edwards 2001: 47). I like the idea of writing as wiring, making neural connections, as we print out the words on the blank page, from the fingers up along the arm and synaptic conduits to the place where everything we have lived and imagined is stored. Writing is an act of coherence-making, 'a momentary stay against confusion', to use Robert Frost's famous words (Frost 1959: 18). I urge them to go back, to re-search the beginnings. As an incantation to prepare us, we recall Robert Frost's 'Directive', the poem about rediscovering the hiding places of childhood, and the release resulting from that reclamation: 'Here are your waters and your watering place. / Drink and be whole again beyond confusion' (Frost 1973: 212).

To know where we are, who we have become, we have to go back to the beginnings. I suggest we retrace our steps, dig back to the first moments when we became conscious of our finitude, the moment of our being-turned-towards-death. I try Elizabeth Bishop's 'In the Waiting Room' as bait, that terrifying moment when Bishop experiences the void, the cosmic terror, her aloneness in the face of death. We abandon ourselves to the dark currents travelling into the past, to when we first became christened by the knowledge of death.

Cassandra, a retired administrator, is already on her way. She is always early, never misses a session. Her posture is erect, but she has a stooped look, the diffident air of a late-starter. Her thin lips are pursed, pinched in thought, the lines around her mouth etched in determination, but an uncertainty hovers over it. She is writing or rewriting herself into being after what she calls 'a living death of thirty years'. She is discovering, in quiet ecstasy, that she can save herself, salvage the moments, redeem the time, even at this late stage. She digs into the inscrutable terrain, armed with tools she never had before, words. Though a late starter, she is well ahead of us already. This is what she has retrieved:

A Spot in Time

I was on my grandmother's lawn
in a mining town.
A still, moonless night in summer,
street lights winking, far off.

Arms spread, I twirled
round and round on the spot,
repeating, I'm seven today, I'm seven today.
I spun with the stars.
My fingers dug into the grass
like garden forks when I fell.
From within the earth a great force
pulled part of me away.
Wonder opened my mouth.
I stood on the verge
of a spot in time
that collapsed too soon.
My body floating, a stray star
drifting into folds and folds
of dark space.

I knew I was in essence me,
Cassandra,
unknown and unknowable.
Separate.

The air was hot, and heavy
with the smell of coal gas
and dew damp grass.
A labyrinth of tunnels
miles below, in that secret place
at the centre of things
where only men would go.
My mother standing over me
with her head in the stars.
My sister tumbling beside me,
drunken, giggly, somehow changed.

I was back
on grandmother's lawn.
It was still my seventh birthday.
I wanted to tell my mother
that something strange came to me
in the dark,
and something else had gone.
But I waited for age to help me
shape the language.
It never did. (O'Loughlin 2005: 10)

We are stunned by how the whole poem has arrived, the dark mineral ore of it loaded on the freight of the words. Cassandra, in her retrospective augury, has brought us back to a dark night of soul in which she is seized by sudden realization of her future death. We are silenced by what Martin Buber calls 'the encounter', the turning of the self towards the other. For a fleeting moment, there is meeting, our entire being coming face to face with the being that is Cassandra. All living is in the meeting, Buber says (Buber 1970: 100). What we have just experienced is our encountering Cassandra encountering the place between her writing and being. Bishop is there, in the cadence, the movement of the lines towards the vertiginous discovery; but the poem is firmly planted in Cassandra's childhood and her own voice is there, tentative but audible.

We are beginners all, Rilke reminds us (Rilke 1993: 54). I talk about Eliot's Four Quartets, about how the four movements recapitulate the beginning. Eliot says: 'In my beginning is my end' (Eliot 1963: 196). We have to go back to the first smells, the first colours, first images, the first wounds, the first deaths. Amy, she has travelled well the last two months. She has abandoned the science fiction realm where she had been writing herself into unreality. Now the theme is beginnings and what better place to start from than with fathers. The past few private sessions have started her on a different journey, in which she begins to seek an authentic relationship with her writing, in which rather than create virtual worlds which deny her reality, she is beginning to map what she knows, what she has known. The father poems I have been priming them with are now triggering a flood of father memories. Raymond Carver's 'Photograph of My Father in His Twenty-Second Year' seems to stay with them, its snapshot simplicity striking deep chords. We contemplate the photographic image, how it is a site of loss and remembrance, the life preserved in it an ironic reminder of death. For one who has not read or written much poetry, these two father poems possess what Lorca calls duende: they have got soul:

Lingering

I think of him
when I watch cricket,
or listen to Neil Diamond,
his foot tapping
to someone else's beat.

I dreamed once
he was standing by me
in the kitchen.
I spoke to him,
he spoke back.

I talk about him,
too much.
No one needs to hear it,
I need to speak it
sometimes.

My school magazine.
Who do you want to meet
and why?
My father I write,
because I can't.

He is inside me,
half of my self is him.
He is in a fading photograph,
leaning on an FJ Holden,
smiling at a stranger.

What happened?
Do you miss him?
Was it sudden?
Of course I miss him.
Shouldn't I?

I write these words
but they are too small.
Once again I fail
to save him
in words. (Vautin 2004a: 129)

 

Longing

In the dim light of an Amsterdam coffee shop,
I stare at a photograph.
In it, my father is not yet dead.
He has a handful of choices,
and a thousand dreams.

He is dressed in his uniform.
Collar starched,
badges glistening.
He is smiling for the camera,
mischief shining in his eyes.

Thirty minutes of staring,
his eyes flash,
his smile breaks into a grin.
He bites his upper lip,
the same way I do.

He flexes his shoulders,
stretching out,
shaking off the stiffness
of forty years
trapped in a photograph.

I expect him to utter
some wise words.
To tell me the things
he couldn't say before.
He just winks.

The light flickers,
An old man brushes past me.
He thinks I am mad.
I sit here every day,
staring at the same picture. (Vautin 2004b: 128)

I feel the father in those poems has reached out and touched us. Out of the broken ground of the past, she has released this ghost, found the snapshot to contain that moment between life and death, or beyond them. We are moved by the elegies, silenced by that which is beyond speech.

Witnessing the emergence of these poems, I know nothing is impossible in this place of writing: the revelations, the conversions, the blindness and seeing. From robots and humanoids, Amy has stumbled into the embrace of her father and home. I can feel the jouissance as she reads what has come to her, the deep ecstasy that writing has occasioned, even though the subject is grief, death.

I let the fathers rule the workshop, ply them with more father poems like Mark Strand's 'Elegy for My Father'. The fathers, dead, alive or absent, start to appear in a few more poems. I like to believe that Amy's father-spirit has called to the buried father in Maria's poems. Maria is from Sweden and at this distance, she is able to summon her long-lost father:

My father wrote; he was a journalist.
It took me a long time
To accept that I too am a writer.

I draw self-portraits that look like him.
Before they are finished I throw them away,
As I do with pictures of Christmases past.

My father smoked, so I quit.
I like the taste, but not the smell.
I'm not sure it is forever.

I talk too much, but I don't interrupt.
Red is not my favourite colour.
I don't like people for whom it is.

Trying so hard to be different
Is in itself a failure of sorts
But sure beats the other option.

So I surrender to the fact:
My father was not a poet,
He made me one. (Freij 2003)

She wants to move on to the short story, but I see her father's ghost is still unappeased. I urge her to stay with him, let the images unveil themselves, let the sunken memories float to the surface. A few days later, she brings us more portraits of the past.

She says that writing the poems in English has given her an enabling distance, freed her into a relationship with the past that does not deny the pain but affords forgiveness and love. Her Scandinavian English is sharp, heavily accented, the grammar and syntax strange in some places, but the emotions are palpable, resonant, honest. We are drawn by the poem's unflinching gaze, its lyric voice, the snapshot clarity of the key images. We humbly point out the unEnglish constructions which in a strange way add to the poignancy of the poems, and wonder if poetry is what is lost in translation, how Maria's poems would emerge if written in her native tongue.

Today Amanda comes and says she is leaving the program. She has tried to squeeze out the words, but nothing will come. Her voice has a fragile edge, she has been through a separation, and her health is faltering. She is trying to write about the pain of the divorce, the betrayal. I stumble, fumble around about art not being therapy; yet, yet… I give her John Updike's 'Separating'. In the workshop we deal with the confessionals, how Lowell detested the term. He was the first to admit art did nothing to heal. He asks: 'Is getting well ever an art / or art a way of getting well?' (Lowell 1992: 124).

Amanda is still unable to find the language adequate to the pain. I think she has to go further back and ask about her childhood. If the present paralyses, perhaps you have to go further back to the hiding places, to the dark places of childhood. We agree to wait for the images to surface. Then she emails me this scene:

In the room facing the street the child is leaning over a book, catching the last light as it floods the window with a flaring gold. In the next room there is a storm of voices, her mother's wailing and her father's violent bursts. (Brooke 2003)

The scene tracks the family rupture, the child's withdrawing into the inner room of her self. I urge her to hold the focus in the third person and to keep the reel moving. Frame by frame the scenes are emerging, and we do not talk about whether it is fiction or fact.

 

John Keats says that 'if poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to trees it had better not come at all' (Keats 1967: 23). Writing is about waiting, being attentive, about listening to the intimations, like the patient listener in Keats' 'To Autumn'. Not forcing the words. Nicolas Malebranche remarks: 'Attentiveness is the natural prayer of the soul' (quoted in Benjamin 1999: 812). I pray for this prayerful state in the room; I urge us to attend so that we may hear the music of the spheres, the shifting chords of light, the wavebands of smell, and the passing of angels on way from here to here. I want them to feel through the medium of their writing the possibility of the other realm. The presence of the ineffable, the intimations of the angel or Orpheus, the flutter, the breath, the movement in and out of time, or the intersection of time with the timeless. I wish for them the state of being possessed, entranced, induced into a dark cloud of knowing or unknowing.

We are mediums, awaiting the visitation of the duende, waiting to be consumed by the fire of language. We talk about possession, about inspiration being like the visitation of angels. I show them Wim Wender's Wings of Desire, the scene in the library, where the angels eavesdrop on the conversations the readers have with books. How writing opens up a way into the other realm, where we become something other. Joanna seems to have found her angel; she is laying out the words in a trance almost. She does not read the words in class but a few days later we look at it together:

Oscar is only aware of the passage of time because eternity now frightens him more than mortality. He has never believed for a moment in golden gates and beckoning angels, but as he travels through rooms he thinks he may have seen before and passes faces that draw a glimpse of recognition but no more, a sense of desperation wells inside him.

The memory of Nivea remains the only constant for him. He savours it, terrified that there will come a time when he will forget her. Today he does a quick sketch in his mind of her face, and sees the green clasp that holds her black hair slickly against her neck. He meticulously lines her lips in a deep shade of crimson, then wipes the colour away and replaces it with an outline of soft pink. He pulls a few wisps of hair over her ears, knowing that she cannot interfere and push them back again. 'Better,' he says to himself, before feeling a sense of betrayal in adjusting her like this in his imagination. Still, he has to do something to pass the time, and the image is perfect. He wishes now that he had tried harder to capture her face on film in those moments when she thought no one was watching; her self-conscious smile always ruined a photo. (Atherfold 2004: 187-8)

She says she is writing to someone she has loved and lost long ago, but as she writes it turns into someone whom she may have never met but whom she mourns.

Some days I fear that the fire could not light, that the synapses would not connect, that the words would not bait, that we would miss Gerard Manley Hopkins' 'the roll, the rise, the carol, the creation' (Hopkins 1985: 68). Then I abandon the lesson plan, the hoard of thoughts and quotes from the masters, and let the spirit of the place take over. I quieten myself and listen. I note the blue hour outside, the winter evening. Just before class I listened to Joni Mitchell's 'Blue'. That was the chord for the class, blue. All things blue came to the room, Miles Davis' 'Kind of Blue', lapis, Kiezlovksy, Picasso, Chagall, the blues. The blueness of the hour seep into their minds, carry them into their own kind of blue! Cassandra picks up her brushes and immediately paints:

Moods wash through Blue like colour. She is an artist - I am a dabbler. I read her. Her body whispers the palette, it reflects on the walls and furniture, or is a swirl of light in my coffee. White light follows her - laden and fickle. Her voice echoes in shades and smells of earth after a downpour - sultry - atmospheric. Sometimes, not even in sadness, she is the colour of rain, transparent, evaporative as drops on hot tin. When she leaves (and she often does) I see the weathervane change habit and landscape in her path shuns the sun. (O'Loughlin 2003)

There are days when the workshop turns savage, bent on tearing apart, unwriting a poem, and then there are days when we are too timid, courteous, too easy to please, too ready to approve. I try to adjust the frequency and make us listen harder. The workshop critiquing prefers the I-It relationship, which turns the work into an object, an artefact we scrutinise for flaws or genius. We shut our minds to the person behind it. We apply the clinical touches, dissect and reassemble. When the writing is contrived and the false note overwhelming, and nothing will salvage it, the critic comes to the fore, brandishing the surgical tools. The writing place becomes a veritable workshop.

But always the writing practice disarms us, brings us back to the meeting ground, the place where we all begin again, the place of writing where we turn to each other and yet are fully engaged with ourselves.

Sometimes nothing comes; we draw a blank, like a bad poem. I take these bad days, these bad poems, as preparation, drafts for the good days. I take it as a sign that we have to go back to our beginnings, to the waiting, to the reading to discover the voice that sponsors and defines our voice.

We go back to Carver for example, in so many respects the writers' writer, to relearn the fundamentals. We take heart from 'Fires', where Carver revisits his early years as a writer, saddled with early fatherhood and the need to write. And then his posthumously published piece 'Kindling', about a man called Myers who is 'between lives' (Carver 2000: 7), a recovering alcoholic who finds release in chopping wood and in words. At the close of the story, Myers starts writing in his notebook, recording the day that has just passed, and feeling the appeasing power of the words:

Then he put the pen down and held his head in his hands for a moment. Pretty soon he got up and undressed and turned off the light. He left the window open when he got into bed. It was ok like that. (Carver 2000: 20)

Patrick, who has been juggling parenthood and writing, and is building a house with his own hands, finds a precedent, an exemplar in Carver to reconcile the conflicting demands of life and art. The story emerges of a man also 'between lives', and who also finds assuagement in the writing:

Ray sat on the front verandah with the paint tin between his feet. Pam drove by. He watched her go past then he got up and went inside. He got the pen and notebook from the desk in the spare room and went back out to the verandah.
It feels like I have been waiting all my life for this moment. She is coming home, he wrote and he was going to keep writing until he got it right - the look on her face, the way her smile made him think that she was about to go back on her word and come home before he'd finished painting.
And he was going to keep writing until he knew what it felt like to have the screwdriver under the lid of the paint tin, until he could already hear the sound of the lid peeling back from the lip of the tin, until he could see, really see, and smell the paint as he rolled it onto the bedroom walls. Ray was going to keep writing until he knew how it felt like to have the rest of his life ahead of him. (Cullen 2005)

It is a moment of clarity, albeit fleeting. When life and writing meet in an affirmative balance, the writer achieves a moment of epiphany in which the hearts of the reader and writer are 'moved off the peg just a little from where they were before' (Carver 2000: 201-2).

 

Creative writing teachers are fishers of images. I try all kinds of bait. I cast lures with lines from songs, poems, lone words and postcards. We encourage the close encounter between reader and writer, the illusion that the stories and poems that speak to us seem to be written for us, intended as messages and clues for us to find our own way. Pastiche is creative imitation, or imitative creation. It is a liberating act, travelling on the voice of a writer till you find your own velocity, your own trajectory. Today April writes from somewhere in Illinois. We miss her lively insights, her quick grasp of the nuances and tones. She is facing a block, and despairs of completing her portfolio. I say there is no such thing as a writer's block. That this is just a halt, a time for stocktaking, for things to grow and reveal themselves. I send her Elizabeth Bishop's poem 'The End of March' and recommend she takes the first lines for a launch pad. A few days later I receive this:

November (after Elizabeth Bishop)

It is cold and windy
scarcely the day to be out
the alternative though
is in, so I find my coat
my gloves, and run

the freezing air pounds
my ears - beyond that
everything is quiet
the trees say nothing
except 'It's cold'
the sun, the diplomat
holds her tongue

I pass a giant yellow insect
clawing a pole from the ground
the air rich with freshly dug dirt
and cutting diesel fumes
three caged dogs
thick fur ruffed by the biting wind
watch me pass, bark only
when I leave
their bit of street

I hear that bark
from across the gully
as headlights flare
through my venetians
and the frat-boys next door
return home
speakers pounding

I run on - across
a wide bare strip of land
the wind speeds up the hill
grabs my coat and tips
tips off my hat, then
strong at my back
helps me chase it

home again, I pause
at the door, keys
cold in my hand (Kelson 2004a: 83)

Close to the end of the semester, she writes to say that her grandfather has died and her being away and not being able to say goodbye has halted her work. She fears not being able to complete her portfolio. I ask her what it is like there now, in Kirksville in Illinois. She says it is snowing, the first flakes. I suggest she takes a walk out there, breathe, take deep breaths, forget writing, reading, do nothing, just walk, breathe, walk, breathe, count one two, one two, life, death, death, life.

A day later, she says she has found her grandfather in the snow:

Requiem

separated as I am
by distance
an ocean
I must write you a funeral

my friend, why now?
you were tired
but I have a place for you still

yesterday I walked
without you - would you remember
the walks with me
an overactive child?
find me something pink
find me something patterned

on my windowsill
the souvenirs, red leaves
pinecones, bits of bark
each thing I found
to show you

the first snow
dusts the frost-tipped lawn
and I would tell you of it
and I would tell you of it
(Kelson 2004b: 84)

The elegy, as real poems do, brings us to a place where words give way to the music of silence, where we approach the unsayable and bow before it.

 

Now as the sessions draw to a close, I turn them towards the mountain, the empty quarter, the wilderness in the middle of the room. I pose them the question which Rilke would have his young poet confront: Can you not live without writing? (Rilke 1993: 19). I ask then if their writing has moved, if they have moved, whether the words have helped, made them aware. I tell them about Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard, how not finding the snow leopard is the meaning, for we live in what we seek. I utter the cliché that the journey may be more important than the goal, the pauses on the path, the stumbling, the detours, the long way.

Then I share with them a poem I have written, a poem which seems to have been ghostwritten, as if every one in the class has just piled on the mani or prayer stones with each orbit of the mountain, and it had grown into a cairn, an improvised stupa. In a way, it has been written by every pilgrim in the class, the spirit that has sustained and spoken to us for the past year:

The Final Mountain

The final mountain stands alone from the rest
In its severe weather, its own aura of cloud.
We lay out our stores, and set up camp,
We spread the maps and study the routes.
Already in a crevasse of the mountain's mind
Our lives slip and dangle, vanish in the mountain dream.

Each day we trail the approaches of our dream,
Fingering this gradient, testing the rest
With the compass and sextant of the mind.
We follow the career of the mountain cloud,
Its mood swings over the tenuous routes
While the weather does not break on our camp.

Nothing changes around our silent camp.
We lose the days and the way, dream by dream.
The maps lie open with the unmarked routes.
Our expedition whittles; some leave, the rest
Count the rounds they make in the cloud
Spreading the unknowing in the mind.

The mountain has become a kailash of the mind.
We are locked in orbit and forget the camp.
Rumours drift in and disperse through the cloud;
The flutter of prayer flags, pilgrims moving in a dream
Spinning the prayer wheel and drum to rest
In a soundless mantra beyond our chosen routes.

Unnoticed the poems pile up on the trodden routes
Into cairns marking the stations of the mind,
Where we bow, prostrate our being and rest,
Drifting each day further from our common camp.
Are we now the mountain's lonely dream,
Our packs, our gear, our selves lost in its cloud?

The lammergeir suspended in the cloud
Is perhaps our former self fathoming the routes
Below in the past, the figures stumbling in a dream.
We weigh the mountain in the scales of its mind.
What makes it mountain, what makes it rest
Weightless on the dream of our thinning camp?

Once we have whittled mountain's mind to a dream
We will leave the camp and let the routes unravel in the cloud.
Where the mountain has vanished we will find our rest.

I don't know why I chose the sestina. Maybe it has to do with the ritualistic pattern of the workshop: we take turns to read the stories, the poems, the life-writing, and a good session is like a sacramental act in which we are changed by the words we read and write. I tell them I do not know what the mountain is or why we circle around it, but the questions keep us moving, keep the writing coming. Sometimes it feels as if I am the one whose writing life needs validation, that these student writers are here to sustain me. In fact, after each workshop, I feel emptied, but at the same time nourished, full.

 

In Peter Brooks' film adaptation of Gurdjieff's Meetings with Remarkable Men, dervishes, magicians, shamans, singers, storytellers congregate somewhere in the Pamirs in Afghanistan for a kind of corroboree. It has been a long time since I saw the film; I did not like it very much and liked the book less. But the opening scene has strangely remained with me, not as it was in the film, but translated into a scene that hovers between memory and dream. In my version, the storytellers of different tribes and stripes descend from the highlands to a conference place, marked by a fire. This fire is maintained through the duration of the gathering. The bards and raconteurs take turns to take the stage, delivering their tales with flourish and some with talismanic aids. There is no prize to be won. The storytellers convene with the stories in reverence to tradition, to the spirit of the place, so that the land listens and is kept happy with the human stories. Meanwhile the fire burns. Does the fire burn because it is fed by the words, or does the fire feed the words? No one knows.

We seek the fire, the influences, the tutelary spirits. We keep the mountain in the middle. It may be a peak in the Pamirs or the Himalayas. Or it may be our Uluru. Each his or her personal mountain. The coordinates are in the stories and poems we read, and the ones waiting for us to write, and they are here in this place of writing.

 

References

Atherfold, Joanna F. (2004) 'Indigo Song'. Initio: An Anthology of Creative Writing from the University of Newcastle. Kim C. Boey (ed). Newcastle: Uniwrite. Return to text

Benjamin, Walter (1999) Selected Writings. Vol 2. Walter Jennings (ed). Edmund Jephcott et al (trans). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Return to text

Bishop, Elizabeth (1990) The Complete Poems 1927-1979. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux. Return to text

Boey, Kim C, ed. (2004) Initio: An Anthology of Creative Writing from the University of Newcastle. Newcastle, Australia: Uniwrite.

Brooke, Amanda (2003) Unpublished MS. Return to text

Brook, Peter, dir. (1997) Meetings with Remarkable Men. Videocassette. Parabola. Return to text

Buber, Martin (1970) I and Thou. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. Edinburgh: Clark. Return to text

Carver, Raymond (2000) Call Me If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Prose. London: Harvill. Return to text

Carver, Raymond (1996) All of Us: The Collected Poems. London: Harvill. Return to text

Cullen, Patrick (2005) 'Mauve.' Excerpt reprinted with the permission of the author. Return to text

Edwards, Kim (2001) 'Icebergs, Glaciers, and Arctic Dreams: Developing Characters.' Ed. Julie Checkoway. Writing Fiction: Instructions and Insights from the Teachers of Associated Writing Programs. Story Press: Cincinnati, Ohio. Return to text

Eliot, T.S. (1963) Collected Poems 1909-1962. London: Faber. Return to text

Freij, Maria (2003) 'My Father Wrote.' Reprinted with permission of the author. Return to text

Frost, Robert (1959) Selected Prose. Hyde Cox and Edward Lathem (eds). New York: Holt, Reinhart and Winston. Return to text

Frost, Robert (1973) Selected Poems. London: Penguin. Return to text

Heaney, Seamus (1990) New Selected Poems 1966-1987. London: Faber. Return to text

Hopkins, Gerard Manley (1985) Poems and Prose. W.H. Gardener (ed). London: Penguin. Return to text

Keats, John (1967) Selected Letters and Poems. William Walsh (ed). London: Chatto and Windus. Return to text

Kelson, April (2004a) 'November.' Initio: An Anthology of Creative Writing from the University of Newcastle. Kim C. Boey (ed). Newcastle: Uniwrite. Return to text

Kelson, April (2004b) 'Requiem.' Initio: An Anthology of Creative Writing from the University of Newcastle. Kim C. Boey (ed). Newcastle: Uniwrite. Return to text

Lorca, Federico García (1979) 'The Duende: Theory and Divertissement.' The Poet's Work: 29 Masters of 20th Century Poetry on the Origins and Practice of Their Art. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Return to text

Lowell, Robert (1992) Day By Day. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Return to text

Matthiessen, Peter (1978) The Snow Leopard. London: Penguin. Return to text

O'Loughlin, Cassandra (2005) 'A Spot in Time.' Beneath the Valley: Mining Stories, Poems and Memoirs. Dangar, Australia: Catchfire. Return to text

O'Loughlin, Cassandra (2003) 'Blue.' Reprinted by permission of the author. Return to text

Rilke, Rainer Maria (1993) Letters to a Young Poet. Trans. M.D. Herter Norton. Norton: New York. Return to text

Strand, Mark (1980) Selected Poems. New York: Knopf. Return to text

Updike, John (2003) The Early Stories 1953-1975. London: Hamish Hamilton. Return to text

Vautin, Amy (2004a) 'Lingering.' Initio: An Anthology of Creative Writing from the University of Newcastle. Kim C. Boey (ed). Newcastle: Uniwrite. Return to text

Vautin, Amy (2004b) 'Longing.' Initio: An Anthology of Creative Writing from the University of Newcastle. Kim C. Boey (ed). Newcastle: Uniwrite. Return to text

Wenders, Wim (1993) Wings of Desire. Videocassette. Orion. Return to text

 

 

Kim Cheng Boey is lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle. This paper has developed out of a paper first presented at the 2003 AAWP conference at the University of New South Wales.

 

 

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TEXT
Vol 9 No 2 October 2005
http://www.griffith.edu.au/school/art/text/
Editors: Nigel Krauth & Jen Webb
Text@griffith.edu.au