WRITING IN TONGUES

"Cockaigne" by Vincent Desiderio

“All these stories,” you ask, “Where do they come from?”

In the morning I look at the picture.  Really look at it. Think about the artist’s life and goals. About the era in which they worked. Who influenced them.  Whom they influenced. The limits of the medium.

If I’ve seen the art work I try to remember the wall it hung on or the texture of the lawn where it sat, how the light moved in the space around it. Then I put the card away.

Throughout the day I hold that image in the back of my mind until sooner or later we, the image and I, will begin to have a silent conversation.  Someone behind me will speak and I will recognize that this is actually the voice of the art shown on the card or the artist has become a ventriloquist and the card is now its dummy.  A song might take up a steady beat within me or words come back to me from lyrics I  heard at some other time. A plot from a old novel might suddenly light up in my memory or a story I’d heard or overheard.  It is these stirrings that I interrogate.

Why did this happen? What comes next? Who else is in the room?  What is the least I need to say to capture the feeling, describe the action, and reveal the inner chords?  Why this story and not another?

However, it is only when I write the words upon the page that the creative process takes me into unexpected spaces.  I’m invariably surprised by the words that take shape  and it is this, the thrill that strikes through me when the poltergeist plucks at my strings and brings forth an ephemeral surprise, that reminds me–again and again–why I am most alive within what I’m writing.

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Cockaigne” painted by Vincent Desiderio in 1993-2003
Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC USA

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