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15 April 2008

Poets take us out on the bridge

Bio_thebridge21_3 With thanks to the poet, another poem you'll find in Life is a Verb:

Undressing the Muse

When Sonny Rollins walked onto that bridge
to play his saxophone to the wind
he was stepping off the stage
and into the woodshed.
It wasn’t a failure of nerve, of course,
nor was it only a deepening
of his craft. He was breaking
a voice apart
and refashioning it.
He was undressing his muse.

That’s what I want now:
less stage, more bridge
(the wind steady and relentless)
and room to go about
the private business of becoming—
nothing more, not a single iota less—
who I am meant to be.

-Sebastian Matthews

Maybe that's what we all need--less stage, more bridge, less audience and more wind, less show and more self. The room to go about becoming who we are meant to be. Sonny Rollins dropped out of the jazz scene for three years in 1959 and went out to play on the Williamsburg Bridge in New York. For three years he played on that bridge. Not playing for applause. Not playing for success. Not playing even to be heard, except from the inside out. Breaking apart his voice and refashioning it. Sometimes for 15 or 16 hours at a time.

Perhaps that's what we need to do. Go out on a bridge, alone, for three years. Not writing for page views or links, but writing to break our voices apart and put them back together as they were meant to be. Not writing for acclaim, but for purpose, intention, direction. Where "writing" is replaced with "knitting" or "sewing" or "painting" or "baking" or "parenting" or "loving"--your art form of choice.

With my wonderful friend Tony who was visiting from South Africa, I heard writer Junot Diaz curse speak this past Friday at a local college, just days after winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his new novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Having just read his widely-acclaimed book of short stories, Drown, in the Bridging Differences Book Group I host at a local bookshop, I was intrigued to hear him read.

It took him 11 years after Drown to write Oscar Wao--why? Because he was perfecting his craft? Getting an MFA in writing? Learning how to use adjectives to greater effect? Dissecting the etymologies of the profanities he likes so much? Figuring out once and for all what the subjunctive case is? No, and no again.

"It wasn't about craft," he said. "I had to work on my humanity before I could work on the book. I had to become a better person before I could become a better writer. That's what took so long. The shortages in our compassion show up in our work all over the place," he explained. "I had to be a better human first."

"We all have a blind spot," Diaz continued. "And the funny thing is that our blind spots are exactly the same size and shape as we are." He smiled. "We are not as cute or as human as we think we are."

Like Sonny Rollins, like Junot Diaz, like poet Sebastian Matthews, perhaps we have to work on ourselves before we can work on our craft. Let's go play on a bridge. Let's refashion our voice, a more human voice. Let's play to the wind.

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What a helluva way to kick off the next 500 posts. I've heard Sonny live and had no knowledge of this part of his life. THANK YOU for this. You realize, of course, that "less stage, more bridge" has to be the next bracelet you put in your shop. ;) Could you add a big colorful download with this slogan to your shop? This is what I love about you, Patti--you've got the right to be all stage...but you're always looking for the bridge. xoxo

Wow Thanks for the reminder I just found your site thru Donna.. I'm glad I did..
Have a great day,
Maggie

Marilyn, as usual, nails it.

Our best work blossoms from our highest passion, not from our desire to be popular/famous/rich. Yes...one or more of those outcomes are possible, but anyone undressing their souls is surprised when anyone notices. On the bridge? In the meadow? In the basement, when no one else is home?

Sure.

yay!!!

Talk about smacking me right between the eyes. Amazing things you've given me to think about today. Thank you for that gift.

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