Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Larkin Higgins : My (small press) writing day

What is stable about “my writing day (life)” is its movement.
A writing day becomes.

I’ve always imagined one day I’d have the perfect writing room. At home, in my small galley kitchen, I grab a Prismacolor pencil to quickly write thoughts down for a poem. Often the kitchen is where I create/make text-based artworks too. There was no “office” or “studio” or “den” in my childhood home. The kitchen table, a place for eating, was speedily cleared for creative work: typing, sewing, painting, carving linoleum blocks for printing, etc. The kitchen was the creative center. Everything handy.

My “writing day” is a matter of grabbing an opening of time/energy without knowing when this will exactly happen. I begin each day with intention of writing. Often it starts at 6:15 AM in prep for my teaching job, a 144.8 km/90 mile round-trip commute I drive (no convenient alternative transportation so far). Three different routes I take, dependent upon blockages discovered before departing Los Angeles. On this day most of the northbound freeways are entangled due to accidents, I must take the slowest non-direct route--drive west all the way to Pacific Coast Highway, meander north along the coast, then inland upward wiggling through curvy canyon roads. Driving seems analogous to writing. Sometimes one can choose a direct approach, other times a more circuitous passage--editing along the way. I just make it to my 9:15 AM class, yet the view accompanying the drive has a cleansing effect, it initiates an opening of observing and thinking as my daily writing practice base…

…for instance, at the beginning of my journey, an image while waiting in the left hand turning lane--local birds lift off boulevard power lines, soar undulating murmuration patterns, a contrast amid the city’s dingy concrete grid. This motion uplifts, I enter the freeway flying.

Currently, it is about the line in my morning drawing class--following contours of the hand, with one hand holding a pencil recording its partner held still in pose. An exercise in seeing--the language of the body in curvilinear run-on “sentences”, interior crevices and exterior outline. These daily teachings remind me of writing’s pliability, how a sentence, word or poetic line can wrap around, or break.

With the intent to actually write on “my writing day”, I take a brisk walk to the college cafeteria for lunch with a plan to longhand notes a bit before my next class at 1 PM. I carry my writing tools everywhere, just in case.

Preliminary notes and drafts are on paper, including source material. I prefer graph paper, its blueprint quality, ripe for mapping out; diagrammatic; a blank slate for structural possibilities with its non-photo pale blue lines running both horizontal and vertical. The tiny faint squares, visual cues, remind me I can line things up or float words anywhere, not following a particular recipe within the malleable schematic of language. Drawing out the words, literally. Movement and line.

As I am finishing my meal, a student (who has taken two classes from me) walks by and says hello. We both share double interests, writing and visual art. We’ve had extensive talks involving his philosophical/symbolist/surrealist/fable-esque imagery in both his writing and painting/drawing. He joins me with his lunch. Donaldo’s routes are in Oaxaca--his indigenous language, Mixtec; and learned excellent English in school. So instead of writing, I find myself nourished by our conversation. Acquainted with his use of particular creatures in dream symbolism, I mention Leonora Carrington’s short stories and paintings. I Google her artworks and most recent book, Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington, on my smart phone to show him. I describe one of her stories, his face beams. Within this discourse we are both energized by the possibilities of imagery--adding substance to “my writing day” progression. Conversation with kindred spirits fuels the reason to write.

I run, from the cafeteria to over the bridge to the art center and I teach two more 2-1/2 hour courses, exiting the studio-classroom at 6 PM. I head for dinner close by the university, to a place that automatically comes fitted with temporary “writing table”…

…as I land my car within the restaurant parking lot, my cell phone rings. It’s my dear 90-year old dad. He likes to converse in the evening because, he says, he sleeps better at night. He shares his day like a list, summarizing. To visit him is an 80.5 km/50 mile round-trip drive from home (opposite direction), to check-in regularly. He was a volunteer teacher for many years…an avid reader, painter and printmaker. Our chat delays my eating/writing evening time, yet I cherish our talk.

The restaurant waiter greets me familiarly. After I’ve wrapped my delectable “make-your-own” tacos topped with guacamole and salsa, gobbling them up, I gaze at the vivid interpretation of scenes in Mexico carefully painted on the walls/ceiling:  brilliant parrots, tropical greenery, waterfalls, vibrant flowers, fountains, beaches, agave, cobalt blue sea, wispy white clouds. Although an imitation, the scenes transport me. The day’s responsibilities fade. Now I write, here in this surrogate paradise, where the tacos are a bargain and the scenery is brushed on. And my temporary wooden writing table comes with my beverage of choice. Ideal.

Larkin Higgins is a poet/artist/professor who traverses genres in text-based explorations. Her poetic and hybrid pieces can be found in Diagram, Eleven Eleven, Visio-Textual Selectricity (Runaway Spoon Press), Yellow Field, The L.A. Telephone Book, Vol. 1, and Vol. 2 and elsewhere. Mindmade Books published Of Traverse and Template (poems and logographic drawings) and with Dusie Kollektiv she has two chapbooks, Of Materials, Implements and c o m b - i n g  m i n e - i n g s, plus the broadside “Soil Culture, Frankenstein--Grafted.” Higgins’ visual poetry is included in the Avant Writing Collection/The Ohio State University Libraries and has been exhibited at Skylab Gallery (Columbus, Ohio), New Puppy Gallery (Los Angeles), Otis College of Art & Design, and Counterpath Gallery (Denver, Colorado).

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