Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Neighbourhoods of Imagination

Once memory begins the resurrection of childhood experience, priority is determined by consequence; I remember first what I was caught doing. Imagination is arrested in these particular memories, replaced by a recollection of fear & reprisal. It was in these times that the enthusiasm of play & the longing for adventure drove permitted boundaries into the forbidden so authority interceded. These crimes of childhood define the key events of my youth.

Like the stars of a particular constellation, periods of time when I was friends with one particular gang are organized by the punishments we received for excess & trespasses. Life was drawn with hard lines which were regularly tested; freedom was the virtue easily altered to respect the displeasure of authority. Imagination began to understand practical limitation — street lights & their illumination terminated all outside play.

Imagination began to find quieter forms of inspiration. I can recall being drawn into a water stain on the wall or the front cover of a horror novel. The drooping power lines which sagged, hung between poles that lined the highway—rising & falling like a skipping rope or stormy waves in the sea serve as a focal point for long, anxiety-riddled flights of imagination on family car trips.

Porcelain figurines frozen in mid-dance fascinate & the bric-a-brac tastefully spread around our living room begins to develop secretive, magical properties.

Closed doors house forbidden knowledge.

{Artwork by Mo Tunkay}

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fictional Justice

When I finally set to work in assembling stored instances, long-marinaded in the pools of imagination, I must ask my writer’s mind to do what it does best: connect. This is the flourish; the magician’s cape swirling in anticipation of some great & promised trick; it is why I chose to write.

In regular life, imagination can only assist in assumption, in wishful thinking. On paper, it builds kingdoms & then fills them with calculated intrigue.

When I lose the self-control which makes me capable of patience, the connections made by the powers of imagination become reckless & self-gratifying. I demand a coherence from the contents of an addled mind that is denied by an unjust world. Time & again, I demand imagination level a playing field so that chances denied by actual circumstance are viable.

Conversely, I yearn to punish the wicked & invent villains just to dispose of them triumphantly. When my imagination is permitted to exercise its wits in this type of mental grandstanding, I know that I am caught in a trap which is the end of originality. Cliché smothers that spark of the unique & I am afraid to see where the story will go without this suspending authority.

I write only to redeem.

These connections the imagination creates in composing a story are tentative. Sometimes, I must be cautious, as a scientist who works in a laboratory will volatile chemicals is required to be. Move this here, & just see what happens; shunt this against that & hope for a bridge. The work is slow, tedious & a world away from the exhilaration I love to experience.

When guided by the instinct of chance, when things shore up so beautifully, I feel as though I could never do anything else.

{Artwork by Nikki Rosato}

Friday, December 07, 2012

“I’d Like To Thank. . . ”

What a thrill — this blog has been nominated for a Liebster Award.

The kind nominator was author John Dolan who maintains an engaging literary blog himself:

As per @JohnDolanAuthor, here are the rules:

1. When you receive the nomination, you post 11 random facts about yourself and answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you.

2. Pass the award onto 11 other blogs.

3. You write up 11 NEW questions directed towards YOUR nominees.

4. You paste the award picture into your blog.

So, here we go:

11 Random Facts about Me

1. When it is windy, I always try to take a walk.
2. Once upon a time, there grew a yearning to be a theatre director.
3. This body is shockingly inflexible.
4. One of my prized possessions is a beautiful deer antler, found in the glorious mountains of British Columbia.
5.  I have proudly read ‘The Secret Doctrine,’ slavishly written by Madame H.P Blavatsky, both Volumes I & II, cover to cover.
6. Nothing taught in high school was retained.
7. I bake a wicked lasagna.
8. In dreams, I am often precariously careening along on roller-skates.
9. These fingers have never keyed, then sent a text message.
10. It is somewhat disappointmenting that I have not yet travelled through India.
11. I almost always believe what I experience.

My 11 answers to John’s questions:

1. What is the worst present you have ever received?


2. If you were going to throw someone out of an aeroplane who would it be?

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper.

3. What is the most embarrassing thing you've ever worn?

Anything from my hot pink neon phase in high school.

4. If you could have been the writer of any song, which song would it be?

Raspberry Swirl by Tori Amos.

5. If you weren't doing what you are doing, what would you be doing?

Can you please repeat the question?

6. How long can you hold your breath for?

You ask this of a smoker?

7. If you had to have a tattoo what would it be and where would it be on your body?

 I have a morbid fear that tattooing does something rather nasty to the etheric body. I would not recommend.

8. Apple or Microsoft?

You mean we have a choice?

9. If you could remove one country from the planet which one would it be?


10. Which extinct animal would you like to see not-extinct?

The Xerces Blue butterfly.

11. Which movie is most likely to make you blub?

The ending of Sense & Sensibility

Here are my 11 Nominees:

Cathriona Lafferty ~ @poetrycreator ~

Aimee L. Salter ~ @AimeeLSalter ~

Jason Alan Wilkinson ~ @JasonAWilkinson ~

Vanessa Ryan ~ @vryan333 ~

Rick Barnett ~ @Wraithsword ~

Claire E. Smith ~ @SmithEClaire ~

Lydia Aswolf ~ @LydiaAswolf ~

Cynthia Woolf ~ @CynthiaWoolf ~

Tina Graves ~ @iTinaGraves ~

Ulrike Miesen-Sherman ~ @UMS_Arts ~

Gary Henry ~ @LiteraryGary ~

 And now 11 nominees, here are your questions:

1. Does what does not kill us always make us stronger?
2. Commune or monastery?
3. Which God would you light a candle for?
4. Do you consider yourself to be psychic?
5. If you could preserve one physical feature into old age, which would it be?
6. Are you more akin to your mother or father?
7. Which novel do you re-read over & over?
8. Who was the last person you kissed?
9. Are men and women really all that different?
10. Are you a happy drunk?

And finally. . .

11. Why?

Best of luck to everyone nominated and thank you so much for making the Twitter experience so diverse and rich. I hope this is a positive experience for you all.

Psst: Be sure to let me know when you’ve posted your responses and nominations.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Elusiveness of Inspiration

Because I do not know, I imagine & this often serves as fact.

There are times when the world imagination feels engorged. I have over-stimulated—watched too many films, listened to one particular album too often, run the same memory-scenes too obsessively. It is during these times when I feel exasperated by the mind’s antics, Then something will come along, quietly but definitively & shift the scene.

A new aspect will emerge from a stretched landscape & this fresh perspective will serve to expand what had earlier been a fixation, a jam. The mind is once again free to explore.

For writers, is it possible to train the mind’s eye the way a painter does when they re-create an image from imagination? Can the luxurious flow of words be frozen in a space of reason so we are permitted a closer look at something revealed mentally? Is it possible to rewind the free-style scenes in order to review a previous sequence for another opportunity to record something missed or obscured in the first viewing?

How do we suspend scenes in the mind?

Like breakwater heading towards a shore, I spy something; a general note is recorded. If focus sustains, the image will draw closer, the path undulating like a wave. Each time it approaches, I notice something new; this is recorded & I look again. Sometimes the original image will have dissolved completely, other times it clarifies further. I beckon the instance forward, where it enters the currents of imagination. If successful in capturing this action, it's mine & those recorded details are preserved as connective threads into a story. In the same fashion that we are flattered by attention & tend to reserve those excitements for later appreciation, I will save these images, content that they chose me.

I have been known to hoard inspiration.

{Images by Salomon Trismosin}

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Grace From Perceived Deficiency

So many ways to harvest imagination. Some hear chords of brilliant music, others build towering structures. I have always been fascinated by those who can draw from something they see only in the mind. I have no aptitude for this art & have tried to master the technique of accurately representing an image on paper but to no avail. It has long fascinated me—how do painters recognize the details & hold them long enough in focus to reproduce intricacies? My fascination with this skill borders on envy.

Like learning to draw, mastering the ability to write lucidly requires a heightened perception. How does the line of a pencil twist & bend to create the likeness of an actual object? How can a string of words describe an event? Both skills work from imagination, informed by something found in a present reality.

It is recognition which engages the response of an audience; it is the familiar re-interpreted which connects artist & audience. All authentic art comes from that kernel of actuality & the skill to translate this onto a page is what defines aptitude, or if further advanced, competence. Both distinctions require patience & discipline.

But what to do about this not being able to draw? Books became an exile & I have passed many hours of this life lost in worlds created by those who believed they had a story to tell. As a child, I read only fiction but after I left school & realized there were large gaps in my knowledge of the world, I began to read non-fiction. Hungry for a more comprehensive understanding of life, I started a sequence of reading. One book lead to the next, though they did not have to be connected by subject. I read carefully, often with a dictionary. I discovered the power of language —words possessed a far greater accuracy than I had previously realized.

Vocabulary grew.

{Artwork by Ronnie Jiang}

Saturday, November 17, 2012


As a writer's imagination begins to respond to repeated requests for it to function on command, can I begin to expect this mysterious mechanism to perform without being subjected to the vulnerabilities of superstition?

The memories I am most often drawn to are the ones where imagination has altered the terms of reality in which they have been preserved. I chose to remember as I prefer but knowing this, cannot count on embellished remembrance for historical accuracy. When were these recollections revised? Is it simply a function of time jumping in to make history more agreeable or bearable? Is it a function of maturity? I wish my diligence in keeping journals had been more vigilant.

I am learning that when I want to take a closer look at the contents of imagination, I need to be cautious in approach. Like an eager birdwatcher stalking some rare fowl in the wilderness, I can easily frighten away the prey. I discover that if I am driven to reflection by a sense of anxiety, my access is limited to memories where this sense of anxiety might have originally been composed. This is often not suitable for an emerging narrative. It is important to remain patient & accept what I am being shown in the mind’s eye.

Recollection begins with the simple: a line of dialogue overheard in the background of a restaurant or the colour of someone’s belt. If I slowly, tentatively begin to explore what I have been shown, the frame of reference eventually widens & a context will emerge. This placement is an exciting development. It means seemingly random details might connect.

Something I experienced combines with something learned & then pulls into something overheard.

It is a braid of loose notions.

{Artwork by Montserrat Guidol}

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Next Comes the P.O.V.

Where am I in the enduring memories? Am I always included in the action or has imagination co-opted this re-collection of life experienced second hand? When I reflect, superficially making certain something was actually present in real sequence, the intention is to savour the details later—in refraction, these scenes of memory appear as they do in cinema.

With an erudite imagination serving as film editor, I experience history first-hand: a backyard filled with enormous snow banks, our living room at Christmas, the upstairs hallway, the auditorium with the towering red velvet curtains filled to capacity in grade school—the recognition of place is instant. Then I see myself & immediately a feeling is re-captured. Typically, my senses are spread like a late afternoon sky, hanging in some limbo yet caught in the gentle tumble of stored emotion.

Memories are stored differently if I am ashamed to recall them. These scenes arrive suddenly, with a zap & there is no predicting their occurrence. They have a trigger, though it is often haphazard. When I suddenly recall something shaming, the same flush accompanies the memory as when it first occurred but time has diluted the intensity. I suspect imagination, operating in its most sinister mode, works in cahoots with memory in these instances. My sense of reason always comes to the rescue: it could not have been that bad.

Where is my ego in all of this painful remembering?

{Artwork by David Hochbaum}

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Chaos of Memory

'Soon, the remembered scenes would grow in vividness and depth.'
 Annie Dillard
In surveying a stream of passing, dislocated memories, the challenge arises to next pull them through the matrix of time in order to place them into some rational, chronological order. I desire to glean their most general essence; to learn the message my Unconscious mind is trying to communicate. Of all the myriad of events stored away, why do these persist?

I am not considered a visual person. In fact, I frequently struggle to describe something to a friend or family member when recapitulating a noteworthy event or someone new & memorable. I would make an appalling eye witness for I lack the ability to draw pictures with my spoken words. Yet my own personal memories are indexed with graphic details. If I am to permit my mind to run, like a slow purring engine, a picture book of flipping images flashes across the inner screen, each accompanied by its own powerful sensation. It leaves me feeling drained, as one often finds oneself after engaging a challenging person in conversation.

Dig & delve.

I remember being in my bedroom; it is small & messy. There is darkness outside but the room is still partially lit by the half-cast light which shines in through a rectangular window space. This opening has been built over the doorway, some years before when the house was used as a hotel. It was to permit ventilation in the days before artificial air but there is no longer any glass in the space, only light flowing in through the transom from the hallway which illuminates my task. I am supposed to be asleep in bed, on my way to Dreamland but instead, I am collecting books from the messy floor. Carefully, I take a pile of colourful books & having pulled back the covers of my single bed, I begin to lay them out, side by side in a tidy grid around me. It is the covers of these books which interest for I know the stories inside well. I place the books I favour closest. Once all the books have been laid out, side by side to cover the entire bed, I curl myself in the remaining space. I fall asleep surrounded.

When I analyze rationally what arises from the river of memories, rarely, almost never is it something which would elicit a laugh. It seems my process of reflection does not have a sense of humour. There is something more urgent to communicate.

{Photographs by Henri Cartier Bresson}

Saturday, November 03, 2012


Memories are not stored in alphabetical order. I discover this after an attempt to shift focus of the mind’s eye forward or backward from an enduring scene. I manage to recall a specific detail or perhaps an event & typically there is an expansion of emotion accompanying this recollection. When I ask: “What happens next?” the scene dissolves into the undulating folds of time.

Can I hypnotize myself into flowing through memories sequentially, so that I might roll along with the coherence of the story I am trying to recount? Should I even attempt this or should I just carefully explore what remains, as a jeweler might inspect what remains of a precious stone which has been randomly fragmented?

An Observation: Scenes illuminated by sparkling sunlight have a longer shelf life than the stored memories which happen under the cover of darkness.

As I grow away from childhood, the recollections from that time—the joy & surprise of youth & all that was so easily commemorated, those images wan into the background to permit the  emergence of memories which seem threaded together with what would best be described as nostalgia. The feelings evoked within this pattern fall outside of what might be considered everyday. My mind collects the instances where the senses were somehow enlarged; the past becomes a collection of mystical expansions.

Memories float by with only the barest details to identify them; time & place are randomly co-mingled. When I catch hold of a particular memory to pull it in for closer focus, the scenes are shortened, truncated.

What is the theme of these seemingly incongruous remembrances?

{Artwork by Daniel Trindade Scheer}

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Childhood Bliss — In Deconstruct

Can we re-visit childhood memories & expect to discover something we might have missed when experiencing firsthand?  My memory banks are full of such details but in general, I chose to leave them where they lie, frozen & half-forgotten. I dislike people who reminisce too much & as a writer of fiction, I have sworn off my own life as material to write through.

Still. I cannot help but wonder if  I was to undertake an exercise to flesh-out details from any given memory, whether this amplification might trigger some powerful conversation. Writers of fiction require imagination to produce entirely new instance. Like petroleum being converted into jelly. the raw material is converted invisible.

She called it mousey creeping. It always occurred in the evening when she had drank a few glasses of scotch. I would lie on the sofa next to her armchair, the one with the pillow set up against the upholstery of the cushion to provide extra support for her bad back. My arm would rest on the edge of the sofa, reaching out towards her chair & she would extinguish her cigarette & take the hand that held it, slowly & gently & began to lightly run the tips of her moon-shaped fingernails just on the surface of my young skin. I remember goose bumps & waves of relief. It was the tenderest tickling, light & slow & with my eyes closed, time suspended. I never wanted it to stop.

What were my thought when my grandmother comforted me so? As the hand that carried her three rings—a wedding band, silver & plain, the diamond & sapphire ring which went to my mother when she died & will come to me eventually. . . an ornate S-shaped silver & onyx ring purchased on a holiday in Mexico—as this careful hand traveled up & down, gentle & slight, how did I view the world in those moments of bliss?

When I am fortunate to receive a pleasurable experience, after the initial wave of recognition & warmth settles down, my first thought is—how long will this last? Anxiety takes seed; it focuses on the endurance of the giver of this pleasure. I am concerned about fairness; I worry about how I will repay this kindness.

My memories of pleasure are tinged with obligation.

{Images by Caras Ionut}

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Anchor of Reason

Inside the phantasmagoria of a churning imagination. the foibles of ego transform into something larger. It is this factory of transformation which takes subjective musings & re-works random, incomplete sentiments into language & image.

Where do all of the forgotten instances go? When an image dissolves before being worked through the loom of imagination, does it drop somewhere into the pit of an Unconscious mind, never to be revisited? Or does it simply lurk just out of conscious awareness, waiting for it's moment to return? Occasionally, I try to summon those lost scenes but having no recollection of what was inside the original instance, I anticipate the general. It is like losing the family pet & standing on the front porch calling for just any dog to return.

When we swim, letting regular thought frolic inside an ocean of possibility; this world which exists only in all that can be imagined, it is a sense of reason which anchors this process of play & discovery.

Does knowing a thing by reason limit the possibility for transformation in the world of imagination?

{Artwork by Mimmo Paladino}

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Mystery of Creation

What makes writing work? What is that essential quality which defines an effective storyteller?

When I read from an engaged place, my thinking has been caught by some detail of description which rings familiar to what sensibility understands as truth. When I happen upon some phrase which connects in this deeper manner, I'm hooked—drawn-in closer to the author's viewpoint, hoping this connection takes my understanding in a new direction. Committed, I need for this writer to affirm what I already believe yet I will loose interest if my own understanding is not validated.

Pace is important. When a writer has snared my attention, I happily join them in the journey through their words, my activated imagination whirling in creation of the subjective landscape which unites us. Curiosity propels through their artful lines; I stay with them to expand. When I lag behind, I might pull-back trust; a twinge of disappointment surfaces. I hope we will meet again. this author & I because if we have been earlier engaged, the faith in their ability to again take me to that new place sustains.

Sometimes, the writer will lose me & that earlier point of fusion, where our imaginations converged will be lost altogether, not to happen again in their story. Still, I will read on because they have awakened my mind & for this I am grateful. Like a loyal ally, I feel I still owe my trust so I read what no longer interests.

Now it is my turn. A block of time is established; I write down a date. It is from here the story will begin. Past the date, we begin to establish place, the reader & I. I want them to join me in this parcel of captured time; I want them to see what I do, to remember the details I dredge from memory.

Deeper into the interior life of a busy imagination, I lose the presence of an audience. There is a flow of image & sense memories parade in full regalia. All I can do is keep up to this energizing stream. I cannot possibly record everything shown in this place of the mind but this limitation turns out to be an advantage. Occasionally, I resonate  for I have been successful in creating a multi-dimensional landscape.

What I leave off the page sometimes vanishes immediately; other times it re-emerges & I recognize a space for its inclusion. It makes me think of perfect timing; of a lyrical spirit in Universal sequence.

{Artwork by Joan Miro}