Tuesday, April 22, 2008


I feel so stupid. I haven’t been able to reconcile why Emily Dickinson wrote poetry and didn’t want to have it published. I’d gotten it was a spiritual discipline. It helped her focus and listen to her inner spiritual yearnings. But why the paradoxical structures: the starting of a poem in one direction and ending on it’s opposite or the absolute trailing off at the end of a poem. Or then there is the constant opaqueness. These devices capture people and bring them into a poem. Why do this if you aren’t going to publish? I know. I know. She could have done this just for herself. (She may have been conflicted about publishing/not publishing her entire life—I want to do a check on her later poems and see if this is still an issue). But what I realized today is so obvious it made me almost fall down.

I’d been memorizing and playing with some minimal choreography of Emily Dickinson’s poem #293. (Franklin edition). I’d only gotten up to the third verse and I was straining to hear what she was saying when I suddenly realized that she’s building these structures for her to catch god, for her to catch a piece of divinity. They are structures with roots and boots and sides, but always with something left out - almost like triangulation. The something left out is almost palpable and is often pointed to. She’d create the structures where she’d stand securely and then strain for the ephemeral nature of divinity. The straining for something unknown makes her drop what she knows, drop ordinary personal constructs. In this winnowing process the structures kept her rooted and not flying off into the ozone. If she stood there long enough and listened long enough, sometimes something would appear: Something magical something divine something which because of her structures and her emphatic presence in her poems connected with the magical parts of herself. Her poems were devices that helped her capture pieces of her own divinity: her transcendental mission.

And the poem:

A single Screw of Flesh
Is all that pins the Soul
That stand for Deity, to mine,
Opon my side of the Vail –

Once witnessed of the Gauze –
It’s name is put away
As far from mine, as if no plight
Had printed yesterday,

In tender – solemn Alphabet,
My eyes just turned to see –
When it was smuggled by my sight
Into Eternity –

More Hands – to hold –These are but Two –
One more new-mailed Nerve
Just granted for the Peril’s sake –
Some striding –Giant – Love –

So greater than the Gods can show,
They slink before the Clay,
That not for all their Heaven can boast
Will let it’s Keepsake – go


Yesterday as I looked at a meaning I had discovered in the poem, I thought this is obvious. Why had I had such a struggle? Once the cocoon falls off it seems silly the amount of strain I had to go through to get there. Then I realized that one reason I had such a hard time understanding the poems was they were written in a 6 -beat, 8- beat line rhythms scheme which echoed hymns of Emily Dickinson’s times, and the rhythms were contraindicated for the words she used. She was using her more modern and personal syntax and lexicon in an old fashioned structure which created enormous tension and fracturing. I settle into the rhythms, but unlike the hymns they don’t take me home. They throw me out on the sand in bewilderment and I have to dive back in for another take. Going back and back a layering happens which finally gets dense enough so that I can “understand” it. But, this understanding is not a simple linear understanding, intellectual understanding. My psyche has made these trips and each trip has added a more “fullness” to my feeling of the destination land. Emily Dickinson: How you build something out of nothing.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Play Reading #2

Play Reading # 2 on March 29 with Douglas Kenning. Patti Trimble and Tim O'Reilly present.

Reading the play with Douglas Kenning a fine Sicilian/San Franciscan actor was a hoot. There was so much interactive fun. I had been working the play entirely by myself and had gotten into some dead ponderous patterns. I had gotten caught in some of society's views of this "serious spiritual " poet and got caught in trying to hold onto what I'd discovered. Working with Douglas certainly blasted that out. Also I’ve played and sat with the play long enough that my nerves were secondary to the fun. When I’ve acted in the past I'd never gotten beyond the shear fear of being on the spot to experience the joy. I’ve had the adrenaline rushes (but unfortunately I’m not an adrenaline junky), the immersion into another character and achingly taking time to come back to myself, but was never able to shake that feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. That was my goal. I shook it. So I’m elated.

Besides spending time with the script, I finally got hard core with techniques I learned from my work with Lennie Dean (Eric Morris) and The Loading Zone: I guess it all boiled down to I love this work and character. I want to do it. I’ll do it as honestly as I can and stay in the moment and bring my feelings of the moment into the character and accept everything that happens. With a dash of Martha Graham’s exhortation to Agnes de Mille where she said it’s not her job to judge her work. Her job is to be open to her own unique creative spirit. Otherwise I realize I'm cutting my feet out underneath myself. It’s so much more fun this way.

I got some really good feed back and when I’ve absorbed it more I’ll post SOME of it. I’ve got to retain some for mystery. But if anyone thinks I’m off in this, let’s have a discussion. It will be a constant tension as I write this blog.

A big THANKS TO Douglas, Patti, and Tim