Talismans: Part I

Let’s get to the point: no one wants to read about when you’re having a rough time in the studio. Sure, you want to write about it, but no one wants to hear you speak about it in a public forum. Besides, I already did that a few weeks back and to hop back on the “ha ha, still having a tough go at it!” train so soon seems a bit tired. Rest assured: when I actually make something that I feel is worth sharing with the audience, I will post it up here. Maybe then I’ll be able to coach any people in similar circumstances how I got through it. After all, I’d definitely appreciate the help right around now beyond that of “go into your studio and make, even though it’s turds.” Sometimes, it’s a little bit more complicated than that.

Still, I’m not totally plugged up. I’m not saying that what I’m making is amazing, but there are things pulling through, and I have a few things to thank for that. This entry is a tribute to the few, the proud, the talismans that have helped me grit my teeth and pull me by my torso through whatever this wide vast desert of emotional detritus is. Finding these talismans would be, I imagine, my first tip for that hypothetical guide-to-be:

  • Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, Patricia Lockwood – what an exquisite little chapbook full of the most plush and verdant poems, weird poems, looping words that terrify and electrocute and fizz under your tongue, bright pops of lightning in your eyes and gilded moonshine in your paper-thin veins, the glory the glory the glory. She is, as predicted, probably going to be cited most for ‘Rape Joke’ in this chapbook (and it is brutal and wonderful and grotesquely funny), but ‘The Mother and Father of American Tit-Pics’ is so effusively gorgeous, so glib, so tart and bright that it would be a goddamn shame for it to not be so beloved. That goes for approximately any portion of this fine book.
  • A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment, Sherman Alexie and Jess Walter –  I love so many podcasts, it is perhaps perverse. I probably need to go on a podcast diet. But if I did submit to a pod-fast, A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment would invariably stay on the “must have” list. Alexie and Walter are two of my favorite writers out there right now, least of which due to the exquisite half-finished short stories that they share with each other on this slowly growing endeavor between two friends workshopping with the world. It’s a writing podcast, but really it’s a creativity podcast, because it’s about communication and sharing and vulnerability and slowly, ruthlessly, desperately, breathlessly attempting to accomplish the smallest things every day so that their practices might grow. (Sound familiar?)
  • Descent Into Heaven and Made at MCAD – cheating, perhaps, to include two MCAD events but when it’s the first solo show for one of your favorite colleagues and a great juried show for many others, seeing the accomplishments of your peers can cheer you into doing excellent things. Descent Into Heaven is a series of video and sculptural installations by Essma Imady, a sharp and wise woman whose filmmaking negotiates her experience as a Syrian-American refugee presently living in the States. Made at MCAD is our annual juried show, and more than a few pieces by our MFA department are punctuating the main gallery. Both are up through March, if you’re in the Minneapolis area. (Sadly, if you’re reading this and didn’t attend the opening: you missed Essma’s coffee. Truly, I pity you.)

Unless I decide to pull you down a typical pre-critique week with yours truly (the last of my first year in the program, if you don’t include my impending mid-program review), this may be the m.o. for the next few weeks until I get my sea legs: small, important fragments that push me through. It’s different from citing my influences, I think – this is less muse material, as it were, and more fuel for the fire. And trust me: the fire needs to be huge.