Sunday, August 9, 2015

Grant Rant, Cat Re-Christianing, A Stray Poem

Yesterday, I started in working in earnest on putting together everything I need for the grant application I mentioned in last week’s post. I’ve barely started, and already it’s a horrific, hair-pulling process. I spent a good chunk of yesterday muddling my way through an essay about “how my work exhibits excellence in storytelling”. I completely lack the chutzpah to write a 350-word essay about what an excellent storyteller I am, so the resulting piece is a mushy-mouthed mess that refuses to admit to any personal talent or technical skill on my part. The problem is that I don’t know how analyze my own process because in all honesty I don’t know how to write—I just write. For some reason, a lot of people think I was an English major, but I wasn’t. I’ve never taken any  classes in writing other than a brief poetry workshop here and there, and my writing process lacks any sort of formal technique or deliberateness. So it’s hard for me to write with any authority about narrative form, genre or “craft”. But all the same, I’m starting to feel weirdly competitive about the whole thing, and I’m determined to push through and get the application in, even though objectively, my chances of winning are nil.

In other news, Sammy has been re-christianed “Buddy”, and continues to be a maniac. I don’t know how a creature so tiny and skinny can manage to be such a terror. He’s just a relentless, shrieking, destructive blur of fur and claws. It’s like having a armed toddler on cocaine. What else....I’m experimenting with a short story written entirely in dialogue. Other than that, I have nothing to report, since my days lately are entirely consumed with work and subsequently recovering from work. I’m plotting a get-away to a magical healer who can take all of my stress away and make everything better. I need a good old-fashioned shamanic, new-age, mystical, woo-woo healy-type person to peel the layers of crud and grime from my energy field and make me all shiny and optimistic again. I’m Googling.

Since I’m out of stuff to say, here’s a stray poem I wrote a while back that I never did anything with, and an amusing video from the “Written by a Kid” series. Enjoy!

Notes on Surrender
When we think
of surrender we think
of salmon, of their thoughtless yielding
to biology, and of those
poor saps in archaic tales,
forced to slaughter their own
to learn the nature of loss.

So forgive me but today I shredded
with my own hands each
of your bouquet’s petals
just at the peak of their bloom. My fingers
stink of rose. I have wiped
their tribal stains onto my cheeks.
I did it, understand, because
I resented their timing,
unwilling as I was to bear
witness to their death--not this dozen,
not these.

How many has God lost
to our disregard for a mystery, to our
heroic, ham-handed
rescue of our ourselves?

Let us surrender this day to our cowardice, to our
one bad turn too many. Let fear
take hold of us completely, let us
offer it our necks.
It’s okay for a while to cower
frozen in our terror,
to clench and hide,
until starving,
we emerge to search for home.

--Kristen McHenry


Frank Moraes said...

I have an idea that is brilliant, insane, or both. You should get other writers you know to write these essays. I could definitely get 350 words out of how your work exhibits excellence in storytelling. Although I usually want a hell of a lot more words than that. And I don't think you want any judge googling my name! But I know you have respectable writing friends. I know the judges may find this literary outsourcing to be wrong, but all the best corporations are doing it, so I don't see the problem.

Oh, and all that stuff about not knowing how to write is just nonsense! I know what you mean. I often feel like an idiot savant -- I just know what works and what doesn't. But it is the manifestation of actual knowledge. You teach writing classes! And yes, I know, you will say, "But I don't do anything. Blah, blah, blah." You've also helped me with my writing. So there. I do, however, have a problem with where you put your quotation marks. What country do you think you're in, woman?!

Buddy is just acting out because he doesn't like his name. I suggest: Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda.

I like the poem -- a lot. I especially like the second stanza about the bouquet and the rouge as war paint images. But is the first word of the poem really supposed to be "we"?

Let me know if Buddy behaves better after being called Alonso!

PS: I don't know what that video was all about, but: Dave Foley as a milkman!

Kristen McHenry said...

Hi Frank. The extra "we" is fixed--thank you! I may be able to write, but proofread I cannot. I don't know which quote marks yer bitchin' about so I can't fix them.

I know what you mean about outsourcing, but I think it would be a good idea for me to just be a grown-up about it and learn how to talk properly about my work and my process. It's something you should be able to do as artist putting work out into the world, I think. It's good exercise if nothing else, rather than shrugging and saying "I dunno know how I do what I do, I just do it." I guess I'm just sensitive about not having a formal education or a writing degree, so overcompensate by feigning ignorance, if that makes any sense. However, I often don't know what my work is actually about. That part is true.

"Written by a Kid" is series of shorts where a kid makes a up a story and they literary shoot it exactly as it's told to them. They are hysterical, in my opinion. "SQUAT Team"! Or maybe I just have the sense of humor of a five-year-old.

Alonso...I like it better than Buddy but Buddy was one of those compromises. I wanted to name him T-Bone, but Mr. Typist promptly nixed that idea.

Frank Moraes said...

I think it is good for writers to talk seriously about what we do well. As for education, let me just say that I have several degrees in physics and feel completely lost in the subject. I got a C- in college writing, but I feel very comfortable with that. Just the same, grammar is getting more and more obscure to me. Not that writing is grammar. But I wonder what a writing degree would really do. The only reason I'm any good at writing is because I love it. I think of it in a Nietzschean way: writers define the language and academics try to explain it. Not that I do anything new with the language. But I don't much care what the bastards have to say. Good luck with the proposal!

Oh, you tell Mr Typist that he is being no fun. T-Bone would have been great!