DISCOURSE as quilting

Welcome to the intersection of P. L. Thomas writing about his writing and other writers' writing to explore discourse as quilting.

Archive for February 2014

remnant 56: “thus I, for example, in the midst of my unhappiness”

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Writing about Franz Kafka, Bob Blaisdell explores Kafka’s relationship with writing:

As he told Felice, one of his fiancees (he would remain a bachelor): “My mode of life is devised solely for writing, and if there are any changes, then only for the sake of perhaps fitting in better with my writing; for time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible, then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers. The satisfaction gained by maneuvering one’s timetable successfully cannot be compared to the permanent misery of knowing that fatigue of any kind shows itself better and more clearly in writing than anything one is really trying to say.” This last sentence is part of Kafka’s thinking about the unavoidable self-revelation of writing. How often we read work whose loudest message is “I wish I were doing anything but writing.” Kafka had poor health; he needed to conserve all his energy and attention for writing. Writing did not give him vitality; it certainly did not give him money or fame in his lifetime. It was a compulsion, a habit, a refuge. It made life possible and purposeful; it sometimes, not always, gave him peace of mind. Sometimes it brought him to despair over its difficulty, or it exposed his weaknesses to the light, but he also noticed how sometimes, in the midst of that despair, writing gave him distance from (and thus rescued him from) that despair:

I have never understood how it is possible for almost everyone who writes to objectify his sufferings in the very midst of undergoing them; thus I, for example, in the midst of my unhappiness, in all likelihood with my head still smarting from unhappiness, sit down and write to someone: I am unhappy. Yes, I can even go beyond that and with as many flourishes as I have the talent for, all of which seem to have nothing to do with my unhappiness, ring simple, or contrapuntal, or a whole orchestration of changes on my theme. And it is not a lie, and it does not still my pain; it is simply a merciful surplus of strength at a moment when suffering has raked me to the bottom of my being and plainly exhausted all my strength.

As a young man firmly in the grasp of the compulsion to write, struggling with what that meant, floundering with the evil twin of wanting to be published, I read, re-read, marked in, and carried around (also compulsively) a copy of The Basic Kafka.

The Basic Kafka

The mid-term assignment I now use in my first year seminar that is writing intensive invites students to interview professors, academics, or writers about their lives as writers; one of the questions I recommend they ask is about what compels them to write. Many students are surprised to find that so many who write have extremely conflicted relationships with needing to write, wanting to write, or being compelled to write (and that many academics dislike writing, dread it).

I have many writer-Selves, and I share that with students.

The writer-Self for me most like what Kafka details in his journal is my poet-Self.

In all writing contexts—poetry, blogging, scholarly work—I am compelled; these are not things I choose to do. But the poetry is the most beyond my conscious control.

For lack of a better way to explain it (odd, yes, for someone who calls himself a writer: as Kafka also warned, words tend to fail us), poems simply come to me.

And therein is the problem.

With blogs and scholarly work, there is certainly inspired writing. And with all my writing, the moment I finish a piece I am immediately petrified I’ll never again have anything to write. This is what being a writer is.

But the great bulk of prose writing allows me to make some decisions, step back, reject ideas, experience fits and starts, and sometimes abandoning all together.

To ignore a poem is like turning your back on a child.

So recently I felt moved—in other words, these poems called out to me to write them—to write poems about the shooting of Jordan Davis, poems that feel akin to poems written about Trayvon Martin: Four Poems: For Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin.

criminal acts (black&white)” came first and then “misfire (trigger warning).”

The latter represents the most difficult part of being a poet—being compelled to write poetry—for me.

I was (I am) petrified by the piece. The topic is hard, the language walks a thin line of confrontation and offense, and the act of writing poetry about other people’s tragedies feels invasive.

Writing is necessarily and simultaneously two contradictory things: intensely solitary and private as well as nakedly public, communal.

One aspect of the communal element of writing is that many writers thrive on collaboration—the most important of which is an editor or readers who see drafts before a wider public reads the work.

Scholarly work often goes through several drafts and editors before publication.

My blogs and poetry, however, tend to reach readers after having passed only my eyes and mind, and there is a terror to that, a terror that suggests that only those compelled to write would continue to go through the process.

Many writes have confronted all this, possibly few better than Kafka.

So key moments sustain the writer (and I would argue all artists)—and the writer above all else needs sustenance; and therefore, it is no surprise Kafka wrote again and again about hunger and starving (see A Hunger Artist).

One moment is the kind reader. The “I like this piece” or the truly wonderful “I love this piece.”

The other moment is selfish and comes also in that solitary state.

You revisit a piece, possibly one you barely recall. And you think “I’m glad I wrote that.”

And then being a writer creeps across your skin as you are immediately petrified that you’ll never again write anything that good.

Sometimes we get a second or two, but rarely more…

And so we steel ourselves against the insecurities of being a writer, the fears that threaten to paralyze. We recall and imagine the kind reader, and then we move on, feeding the beast within us. It is ravenous and self-consuming, yes.

But there are days, quite by chance, that we read ourselves and find peace in our own words, a peace we feel thousands of times in the words of others. And we smile:

layers (stranger in my own dreams)



Written by plthomasedd

February 23, 2014 at 3:50 pm

remnant 55: “your eyes are burning holes through me”

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10 of the best: REM

“Gardening at Night”

“Perfect Circle”

“Driver 8”

“Orange Crush”

“Untitled” [11] Green

“Country Feedback”





Written by plthomasedd

February 20, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Posted in R.E.M., remnant 55

remnant 54: “it starts with an earthquake”

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“Its the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine),” R.E.M. – Document

“Its the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine),” R.E.M. – Document

That’s great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane –
Lenny Bruce is not afraid. Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn –
world serves its own needs, regardless of your own needs. Feed it up a knock,
speed, grunt no, strength no. Ladder structure clatter with fear of height,
down height. Wire in a fire, represent the seven games in a government for
hire and a combat site. Left her, wasn’t coming in a hurry with the furies
breathing down your neck. Team by team reporters baffled, trump, tethered
crop. Look at that low plane! Fine then. Uh oh, overflow, population,
common group, but it’ll do. Save yourself, serve yourself. World serves its
own needs, listen to your heart bleed. Tell me with the rapture and the
reverent in the right – right. You vitriolic, patriotic, slam, fight, bright
light, feeling pretty psyched.

It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

Six o’clock – TV hour. Don’t get caught in foreign tower. Slash and burn,
return, listen to yourself churn. Lock him in uniform and book burning,
blood letting. Every motive escalate. Automotive incinerate. Light a candle,
light a motive. Step down, step down. Watch a heel crush, crush. Uh oh,
this means no fear – cavalier. Renegade and steer clear! A tournament,
a tournament, a tournament of lies. Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives
and I decline.

It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

The other night I tripped a nice continental drift divide. Mount St. Edelite.
Leonard Bernstein. Leonid Breshnev, Lenny Bruce and Lester Bangs.
Birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, boom! You symbiotic, patriotic,
slam, but neck, right? Right.

It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine…fine…

(It’s time I had some time alone)

Fire and Ice

Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Written by plthomasedd

February 15, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Posted in R.E.M., remnant 54

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remnant 53: “’God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’”

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Eliot Rosewater in Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater implores:

Go over to her shack, I guess. Sprinkles some water on the babies, say, “Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—:

“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” (p. 129)

the kindness school (beyond the archeology of white people, pt. 2)

it simply happened one day
when the teachers decided
enough was enough

all the boys with OCD
spent the day playing drums
or riding their bicycles

and the introverts sat quietly
smiling periodically in the corners
while the extroverts laughed and laughed

and soon the pleasures became many
as varied as the children themselves
until one day a child stood to proclaim

after reading Hamlet all on her own
“I say, we will have no more tests”
to which there was thunderous cheering

yes it seemed simple and obvious enough
the founding of the kindness school
with open doors and children singing

Written by plthomasedd

February 14, 2014 at 2:21 pm

remnant 52: “I’ll be the cup if you should bleed”

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“Be Mine,” R.E.M.New Adventures in Hi-Fi

“Be Mine”

(“A speed zone up here too”)

I never thought of this as funny
It speaks another world to me
I want to be your Easter bunny
I want to be your Christmas tree.

I’ll strip the world that you must live in
of all its godforsaken greed.
I’ll ply the tar out of your feathers.
I’ll pluck the thorns out of your feet.
you and me.
you and me.

and if I choose your sanctuary
I want to wash you with my hair.
I want to drink of sacred fountains
and find the riches hidden there.

I’ll eat the lotus and peyote.
I want to hear the caged bird sing.
I want the secrets of the Temple.
I want the finger with the ring.
you and me.
you and me.
you will see.

that if you make me your religion
I’ll give you all the room you need.
I’ll be the drawing of your breath.
I’ll be the cup if you should bleed.

I’ll be the sky above the Ganges
I’ll be the vast and stormy sea.
I’ll be the lights that guide you inward.
I’ll be the visions you will see.

the visions you will see.

you will see.
you will see.
you and me.
you and me.
you and me.

“Oh My Heart,” R.E.M. – Collapse into Now

“Oh My Heart”

The kids have a new take, a new take on faith
Pick up the pieces, get carried away
I came home to city half erased
I came home to face what we faced

This place needs me here to start
This place is the beat of my heart

Oh my heart, oh my heart
Oh my heart
Oh my heart, oh my heart
Oh my heart

Storm didn’t kill me, the government changed
Hear the answer call, hear the song rearranged
Hear the tress, the ghosts and the buildings sing
With the wisdom to reconcile this thing

It’s sweet and it’s sad and it’s true
How it doesn’t look bitter on you

Oh my heart, oh my heart
Oh my heart
Oh my heart, oh my heart
Oh my heart

Mother and father
I stand beside you
The good of this world
Might help see me through

This place needs me here to start
This place is the beat of my heart

Oh my heart, oh my heart
Oh my heart
Oh my heart, oh my heart
Oh my heart

Oh my heart, oh my heart
Oh my heart
Oh my heart, oh my heart
Oh my heart

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

by e. e. cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

[somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond]

by e.e.cummings

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

Written by plthomasedd

February 14, 2014 at 12:56 pm