The Boss Discovers a Gem of a Poem: Late Fragment, by Raymond Carver

“Curiouser and curiouser.”

The Boss Discovers a Gem of a Poem: Late Fragment, by Raymond Carver

Nope. Not about Springsteen. But imagine if it was? Bruce, if you’re out there and if you dislodge a poetical masterpiece (somewhat east of Glory Days) from the dregs of time, please share it with the world. Cuz that would be solid.

No but today, my boss sent me this gem* as she stumbled upon it whilst (or while, if you must not be cockney) conducting an unrelated poem search. Too much back story. Here it is:

LATE FRAGMENT
By Raymond Carver

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Rumor has it (Rumor has it!) that this was Carver’s last writing. If you were to write just one last poem, what would it be? If you were to go out tomorrow but not know today but still somehow have the wherewithal to know, this is your last. What would you write? Would it be dark or joyful? Reminiscent or life-affirming or mad? Would you take it with you?

Why does Carver call his last words a fragment? Did he mean to go on? Is this only an excerpt of what Carver meant to be his unabridged last poem? Did he take that part with him? I like to think that.

Here is today’s literature know-how: Raymond Carver and John Cheever are not the same person. Though apparently, they were drinking buddies on several occasions. I say prove it! Show me the picture where the two men are linked arm in arm at the bar. Show me where their FB Timelines intersect.

From NYT, by Stephen King, Nov. 19, 2009

And until mid-1977, Raymond Carver was out of control. While teaching at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he and John Cheever became drinking buddies. “He and I did nothing but drink,” Carver said of the fall semester of 1973. “I don’t think either of us ever took the covers off our typewriters.” Because Cheever had no car, Carver provided transportation on their twice-weekly booze runs. They liked to arrive at the liquor store just as the clerk was unlocking for the day. Cheever noted in his journal that Carver was “a very kind man.” He was also an irresponsible boozehound who habitually ran out on the check in restaurants, even though he must have known it was the waitress who had to pay the bill for such dine-and-dash customers. His wife, after all, often waited tables to support him.

If King can testify to it, I’m in.

It’s good to have writing buddies, and drinking buddies, and buddies who do both separately but never the twain shall meet. Writing can be a tainted virtue. Have faith and, if you don’t have your own Cheever to procrastinate with… well maybe you’re already one great step past them in your creativity! Right on.

Cheever, Carver, Tomato, Cathedral, let’s call the whole thing off.

LW

*Thanks to DN for the fragment.

The Ides — Write About A Day (Writing Tip No. 6)

I’ll have an orange Julius, please. What is that, something orange-y?

Every year this happens, a date comes along and you are reminded of what you are supposed to be reminded of. We had one such case just last month on February 2nd. There were no surprises, Puxsatawney (holy geez, did I spell that correctly without checking?) Phil came out and did his little Caddyshack dance or whatever he does and that was that. Since 2/2, there were probably a few other dates that made you sit up and remember, “Hey, this is how I’m supposed to feel today!” but for the sanity of getting to my point let’s ignore those.

Valentine’s! You forgot Valentine’s Day!

Did I? Check yourself.

Now here we are today, ready to embark upon the Ides of March. What are we supposed to do? Ah yes, BEWARE! Beware of what?

What’s going on in my life that I should be wary of? Is it wary or weary and which is worse? Oh crap I’ve got that big meeting today with So-And-So McCluster & Co. What if the whole bunch of them are just lying in wait for me, ready to pounce and stab and betray. And you, Popeye? You too?

We should not fret over the Ides too march (much), lest we tear our own eyes out going crazy just putzing around, anticipating the punchline yet all the while unable to stop it. Oedipus did that, too. He was the worst at it. Does he have a day?

If he does, no doubt it’s in the dead-heat of August.

Ha!

So then what is the moral of the story? Enjoy every day as if it were your last, I suppose.

It can be. If you choose to view today in that cheerful manner. It is true that one day… the Ides will come, either cloaked or unmasked, for you too. Surely for all of us. But don’t let that bring you down. Have yourself an alrighty time with everything that you do today. Don’t even think about it.

<With his back turned>
Think about what?

———————–

Today’s prompt: Write about a day.

Why blog?

Why blog? It’s late and I’m tired from driving all day and I’m full from a less than delectable dinner at a sub-par chain steakhouse. So why blog?

Why blog when you owe yourself and your new novel 6,000 words (tomorrow it will be 8) according to your own set deadlines. Why blog when your laptop’s battery is nearing the dreaded red zone and its plug is so far away you could never reach it without moving. Why blog when you don’t know where your blog is going and you don’t know who is reading it or why. Why blog when you have nothing new to say or, what’s worse, no new way to say it? Here’s why: because anything that gets your fingers moving is a start. Any way to nudge open the doors of your creativity is a good one. Any blog, regardless if it seems promising only to fall short mid-sentence will… be… um… good?

Here’s how your blog should read:

Once upon a time a moo cow lulled soundly. The boy in the back of the classroom overheard it from the open window and sighed because he’d read that story once before in a book by a man who had a lot to say and an unprecedented way in painting his particular word pictures. The boy was very well-read for his age and he dreamed of one day traveling to all the far away places he’d always daydreamed. Was he daydreaming right now? Was he on his own trip? Was his flight overbooked? Not even he knew. But he was going to find out. As soon as he could remove his glumpy fist from under his chin. Just as quick as he could stop cloud gazing out the open window. The very moment the cow in the field stopped mooing! The boy would escape and flee and fly and run and swim and laugh and be gay throughout history and future forever to come until some unknown species of farm animal comes home.

If you have any energy left in you, you will realize that the shite before you is good for this: it is practice, it is good tempo, and it very well could be a start. Of course, it could also be pure rubbish. But if that is the case then at least it is pure.

Write a word.

Write another.

Write now. Think later. Re-write. Go.

<You are now running on battery reserve power. Edit tomorrow? nah.>

 

Get It Down, No Matter What (Writing Tip No. 3)

I tweeted last night: “What to do when you want to blog but are too far from your computer and too tired to move. Tomorrow at www.literarywonderland.wordpress.com.” At the time, it seemed like a perfectly good idea. I could go to sleep and dream of peaceful things, wake up, have a day, and then write something brilliant that would rock the blogosphere! Guess how that worked out?

Man, I must have been half asleep when I sent that! What was I going for?? See this is a perfect example of why I should just curl up every night with my laptop. It doesn’t make a very comfortable pillow but I suppose I could rest it on my nightstand and bust it out when inspiration strikes.

So what should you do when you have a creative notion but are too exhausted to do something about it? If your answer is “I do anything I possibly can to preserve it” then you’re on the right track! Some writers keep a notepad by their bed, others whip out their smart phone or iPad and jot it down before it slips away. However you can do it—talk into a tape recorder, wake up your very understanding wife and ask her to remember it, write it on the inside of your eyelids with mascara—I don’t care, just save it somehow! Our brains aren’t equipped to handle brilliance during slumber! Or at least I know mine isn’t.

There have been too many times in my life that I have jolted awake in the wee small hours of the morning, fallen crazy in love for some damn good writing idea, and, confident that it was simply too good to forget, I would fall right back to sleep, safe with the knowledge that, of course I’ll remember it tomorrow. Of course I will. This is the big one! But then, lo and behold, when the crow crows, all that remains on the tip of my tongue is one great and sour DAMNIT!

Write it down, folks. Our subconscious is too precious to ignore, too slippery to contain, and too merciless to give us a break. Let’s start losing some sleep for our good ideas before we lose more of our good ideas to sleep.

Good night.

Ready to Query? How to know for certain. (Writing Tip No. 2)

I finished writing my novel over this past weekend. No parade was held in my honor. The mayor of literature did not give me the key to Imagination City. Not one congratulatory blimp flew over my town and no fireworks were shot into the sky in my honor. What did happen was more restrained. I went out to dinner with my girlfriend and together, we drank a nice Caymus cabernet sauvignon and ate steak. The funny thing is that we had previously made a bet where, if I did not finish writing my novel by a date in late December, I would take her out to this nice steakhouse in our area. The irony is that I lost the bet and did not finish in time. I booked the dinner three weeks ago and, during the course of those weeks, I did finish my manuscript to a point where I am 92% satisfied with it overall. In fact, I finished editing the final chapter (the epilogue) the morning of our big steakhouse date. So take that, Fate.

I have been working on this novel for a little over two years now. And when I say “working,” I mean that I have been sporadically writing it, playing with different chapters and ideas, re-writing, and taking long, guilt-ridden breaks from the work. Writing is hard, folks. But it is an art form that should not be rushed. Nor should it be ignored. I’m just so happy today to report that, after being more or less obsessed with my protagonist for so long, I have finally come to the other end of it and I can see him clearly, I understand his arc and his journey, and again, I am at a 92% satisfaction rate. I gotta figure that’s pretty good.

And so, I am now in the process of looking at different agents, studying up on who might be best to send a query email to. My 2012 Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition arrived last week and I have had several moments to both peruse and read certain articles in the mammoth book as well as begin to start looking at the various listings. It’s a godsend of a resource. I can tell you that right now. I will most likely be doing more thorough reviews in the future but to start, I will just say that I am loving what little I’ve taken in already. But more on that later.

What we want to know right now is this: Is a 92% overall satisfaction rate with your book an acceptable time to start querying literary agents. To each his own, but I say yes! Every agent is different of course, and you really should do your research on what they want to receive and how they want to receive it before just blindly sending your work out there with one general query for all. No no no no no. That just won’t do. When shopping out your work, you want to do so with finesse. You’ve taken the time and probably lived through a lot of heartache and joys as you exercised your creativity and passion to get to where you are right now. It would be ludicrous to take any less of a steadfast, directed approach to seeking representation for your efforts, for your story. Your words deserve the best, do they not?

I knew a guy once—and by the way, this is totally made-up—who finished writing his magnum opus after 45 years and said to me, he said, “Literary,” cuz that’s my name, see, “Literary, I’m gonna write one query letter and I’m not going to put too much effort into it because I’m too danged exhausted from actually writing my masterpiece over all those decades. I’m just going to slap together some nice How Do You Do and email it off to about 100 different agents and see if any bite. I’m not even going to find out what their names are. My work will stand for itself. They can be happy with a Dear Sirs salutation. That ought to be fine. There are no women working in publishing—it’s still 1955, right? Besides… the work stands for itself! They’ll appreciate it for the genius that it is. They will!”

Well I’ll tell you what, my good (fictional) friend did just that. And do you know how many literary agents wrote him back expressing an interest in his work? That’s right, only 7. And then he went on to sign with one of them and he made a million bigillion dollars and lived happily ever after in a palace somewhere in Egypt. But I like to think he was the exception to the rule.

Do the leg-work, kids! I’m definitely going to, anyway.

Write on.

-LW

Breaking the Inundation of Inertia

Some things in life are unnecessary distractions. Come to think of it… most are. Do you really need to check Facebook every ten minutes? Ok, sure, your friends’ kids are pretty damn adorable but those pics will still be there tomorrow. And then on Twitter, there’s no less than ninety-two new articles being retweeted in your feed about Jay Z and Beyonce taking over the hospital (interspersed with endless dull jokes concerning Tebow’s 316 yards for Jesus). Steer clear of the nonsense. Close all tabs and get going! Stop reading blogs (as soon as you have finished reading this one) and go warm up your fingers by writing your own words, whatever they may be. Any writing (blog or otherwise) is therapeutic for the lazy writer. In a sense, there is a bit of the lazy writer in all of us. And I am by and large your sluggish king.

A writer writes. How many times have we heard this? But doesn’t a writer also procrastinate, stew in his own uncreative juices, moan, mourn the writing that’s not being done, work a day job, eat, sleep, exercise, make love, shovel snow, love a family, drink, watch television, take vacation, clean the gutters, pay the taxman, be a conscientious consumer and a faithful, dutiful patriot while still questioning your government’s decisions (as is your right) and on and on and on. Yes, this is just an infinitesimal sprinkling of what people do. Everybody has their own stuff, be it normal or weird. I have mine as you have yours as she has hers and we are all together. See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly. I’m crying. Wait. Don’t listen to The Beatles. Not now. As great as they are, they will distract you. You’ll listen to the lyrics and you’ll think, “How brilliant, how simple, how true. Why can’t I write like that?” Why indeed? But listen to the band on your own time. No outside influences here tonight. Just you and your pen. Now is not your time. Now is your Muse’s time. Give in to her and her alone.

I watch too much TV. There, I said it. It’s awful. It’s something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. My grandfather used to call television “the boob tube.” I always found that amusing as a child. Even though I was too young to fully understand women’s bodies (still am and probably always will be), I did know that the word “boob” was pretty funny. Didn’t know why. Still don’t. But in this sense, the boob, as it were, is the fool watching the tube—the fool who is distracted from his work. I won’t bore you with the sob story of my particular distraction any more than I would with the channel guide or what’s saved in the DVR. We all have some reason or other why we aren’t producing. The question is: are we content? Are we sufficiently and ultimately satisfied with the amount, and more importantly the quality of the work we put out there? If the answer is no, we should turn off our numerous distractions—or at the very least postpone them indefinitely—and get down to the nitty-gritty of the business… as I am sure many of our grandfathers have once quipped.

Get down with it now and get down with it. Be something more important than the non-writer you have been pretending to be. Write what you have always wanted to write. And if it doesn’t come out of you immediately, let it grow. Keep it going for as long as it takes. Til you find something special. And then, you will most definitely be hooked on the high of that feeling. So hang on to it.