Saturday, January 30, 2021

January 30: Top of this Wooded Mountain, Writing Prompts, "Stealing a Last Line from Keith Taylor"

Merton writes a bad book . . . 

The books we took back to the cottage were hardly opened all summer: but anyway, they were there, lying around, in case we needed something to read. But really they were not necessary: for we eventually found places that proved very suitable for our typewriters, and all started writing novels. Rice wrote a novel called The Blue Horse. It took him about ten days. It was about a hundred and fifty pages long, illustrated. Lax wrote several fragments of novels which presently coalesced into one called The Spangled Palace. But the thing I got started on grew longer and longer and longer and eventually it was about five hundred pages long, and was called first Straits of Dover and then The Night Before the Battle, and then The Labyrinth. In its final form, it was shorter, and had been half rewritten, and it went to several publishers but to my great sorrow never got printed—at least I was sorry about it in those days, but now I am full of self-congratulation at the fact that those pages escaped the press. 

It was partly autobiographical, and therefore it took in some of the ground that this present book had covered: but it took in much more of the ground that I have avoided covering this time. Besides, I found the writing of it easier and more amusing if I mixed up a lot of imaginary characters in my own story. It is a pleasant way to write. When the truth got dull, I could create a diversion with a silly man called Terence Metrotone. I later changed him to Terence Park, after I showed the first draft of the book to my uncle, who abashed me by concluding that Terence Metrotone was a kind of an acrostic for myself.  That was, as a matter of fact, very humiliating, because I had made such a fool of the character. 

The mere pleasure of sitting on top of this wooded mountain, with miles of country and cloudless sky to look at, and birds to listen to all day, and the healthy activity of writing page after page of novel, out under a tree facing the garage, made those weeks happy ones, in a natural sort of a way. 

Merton enjoys this time, living in a cabin with two writer friends at the top of a mountain, each one of them pounding away on their typewriters, trying to create art surrounded by "miles of country and cloudless sky."  Of course, Merton is trying to be self-important and intellectual.  He hasn't surrendered his worldly ambitions and ego yet.

Two nights ago, I got together with one of my best friends and writing buds.  We spent a couple hours responding to some writing prompts I'd come up with, based on poems from a beautiful new chapbook of poems by Keith Taylor--Let Them Be Left:  Isle Royale Poems.  (Yes, this is a shameless plug, but the book is astonishingly gorgeous.)  It was a wonderful evening after a long week of grant-writing for the library.  And I got about the drafts of four new poems out of our time spent together.  A miracle.

So, this Saturday evening, I give thanks for the miracle of writing and beautiful books by talented writers.  For inspiration and good friends.

Saint Marty is filled with gratitude.

A poem I wrote that night . . .

Stealing a Last Line from Keith Taylor

by:  Martin Achatz

(last line of "From the Bluff," Let Them Be Left:  Isle Royale Poems)

Morning darkness, I stand
ankle-deep in snow. My dog
noses through cold and white
while I stare up at a moon
veiled in winter cloud.

The world shrinks, expands
at once, as if we are
the only two living beings
left—my dog and me.
As if we stand at some
seismic moment, just before
the fatal comet crashes down
or after the universe contracts

into a tight fist that will blossom
into creation. I know
here, at the cusp of dawn,
everything will soon start
to stretch and yawn.

I see a flash of movement.
A rabbit sprints to a berm
of hibernating lilacs, disappears
into the earth, to its warren
of waiting, hungry kits.

I cannot believe our world is dying.

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