The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Archive for September 2010

Re-Verse pt. 2

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I’ve shelved the poem I was talking about last time.  Maybe “shelved’ isn’t the right word…  I’ve put it on the back burner.  It’s simmering.  I have good cause for this action, too.  I said there are actually two poems I’m working on, and the second one has come to the front of my mind.

“…has come to the front of my mind” isn’t even an accurate expression.  “Erupted” is what really happened; a volcano of thought.  It’s a good thing I’ve been hanging around with a bucket and was able to catch most of what spewed forth.  Hell, sometimes I think that’s half of what writing is all about:  Making sure you have your bucket ready.

I was in the computer lab Friday morning last week with my creative writing class when it happened.  I think it happened because of all the artistic vibes zig-zagging through the room and pinging off the walls.  Near the end of the period, the opening of the poem shot through my mind.  I grabbed my journal and spent about ten minutes scrawling as much of it as possible.  And I used Lux’s suggested approach from last time–I wrote and wrote and didn’t worry about anything but writing it down.  I didn’t worry about line breaks, I sure as hell didn’t worry about rhyme (it won’t be rhymed), and I didn’t even pay mind to symbols or metaphors.  I let things fall where they may.  I can arrange later.

I spent some more time on the poem Saturday, and then again today.  I’m mostly concerned with making it into the best prose I can right now.  I’ll worry about things like line breaks and stanzas later.  They’ll come, though line breaks to me are the most challenging part of free verse (stupid enjambment!).

I’m trying to keep this one “light” and not take it too seriously as far as content goes.  It’s a personal reflection about my state of existence right now; it’s not a confessional, I’m not brooding, and I’m not emotional.  It’s more of an ironic observation, and I’m working especially hard on a solid punchline at the end.  But it is primarily about me, and all too many poets have gone wrong by taking themselves too seriously.  Who wants to read something crammed with angst and insecurity, something that is little more than a clumsy hack lamenting how sad and dark life is?  Not me.  I don’t even want to write something like that.  So I might as well have fun with it now before I try to fully shape it.  That’s when the work becomes a real bitch.

Also, who knows–maybe the wake of this poem will be strong enough to pull along the other poem that’s simmering right now; the one about looking at the sun.

Written by seeker70

September 29, 2010 at 9:33 pm

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I’ve spoken before about the “impulse” to write creative non-fiction.  It’s still as strong as ever; virtually omni-present in my cognitive processes.  This year in particular, too, I have experienced the fiction impulse and been satisfying it as I develop my fiction skills.  There is still the poetry impulse, though, and I haven’t felt it for quite some time.

That changed about 3 weeks ago when my poetry schemas pulsed anew after a long dormancy, like an Atari 2600 that you’re surprised still works when you plug it in after all these years.  That was last month; poetry pulsed again a few afternoons ago.  Both times, I was in my car heading to or from work.  Odd now that I think about it:  Many of the poems I have worked on over the last few years came to me in the car under the same circumstances.

So now I have two poems clunking around in my head.  I’m trying to polish off the sharp corners of the first one, but can’t seem to find the time.  I’ve hardly done much about it except work through a rough draft.  I took a far different approach to it than I ever have before, though.  The approach came out of The Practice of Poetry, a book I snagged for a dollar a few summers ago at an art festival in Lake Geneva, thinking it might be good to have around if I need to whip out something for my creative writing students.  I dig through it every now and then, and am consistently surprised at what I find and how it builds my poetry schemas.

The approach I used comes from Thomas Lux, who suggests to write for 10 minutes without stopping; concretely, sensorily, in images.  Don’t read it.  Don’t you dare.  Then put it away and forget about it for a spell.  So I tried that, focusing more on the subject of my poem, which happens to be the way you can look directly at the sun on a cloudy day if you’re wearing sunglasses.  So I wrote about that in my journal on August 27.  I rewrote and wrote some more 10 days later, that time on a computer.  Last week, I started to excavate the writings.  I’m not worrying about line breaks or rhyme or enjambment or anything.  I’m writing and looking.  Not finding too much right now, but even if I’m not digging up gold, little chunks of silver and bronze still have some worth.

And I’m digging.  The sweat feels good.

Written by seeker70

September 23, 2010 at 7:44 pm

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The 5Ks of Summer: GLASA 5K Twilight Run-Walk-Roll

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Saturday, September 11, 2010  ~  6:00pm  ~  Lake Forest, IL

Results:  25:45; 6th out of 20 male 40-44 age division; 74th of 281 overall

Bounty to date:  22 bottles of water, 20 protein shakes, 23 bananas, 6 apples, 3 nutrition bars, 4 bottles of Gatorade, 4 containers of yogurt, 4 Nutri-grain bars.

This one was a great end to a summer of racing.  I was 30 seconds slower than my time in Wisconsin last month, but that was by design.  I knew I was going to run slower, and had already set it in my mind that it was okay.  The school year is in full swing, so I’m naturally more tired.  Besides, I was still fighting my Back to School Cold and I had been out waaaaay late the night before to see a band.

The late start time helped.  Had this been a morning race, I wouldn’t have done nearly as well if I had run it at all.  But it was cool by the time I showed up in Lake Forest.  I ran a warmup and felt real good despite the congestion and dry throat.  I thought for a minute about tyring to blast through the race as hard as I could, but still fear the black cloud of an injury that might put a temporary or permanent stop to my joy.  Mortality sucks.  Besides, what do I have to prove?

This race was inspiring in a lot of ways, too.  GLASA stands for Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association, whose purpose it is to support athletes who compete under modified physical conditions.  As such, there were separate divisions for blind runners, wheelchair athletes, and handbike racers.  I enjoyed seeing so many people competing despite their limitations–  it made me more thankful for what I have and what I can still do.  In that context, it doesn’t much matter how fast I can run or who I can beat at the finish line.

That isn’t to say that I didn’t just fade away at the end.  I can’t.  It’s not in my hard wiring.  I felt strong throughout the run, and passed people consistently.  When I turned into the final quarter mile, I caught up to a guy my size but 15 years younger.  He was huffing and wheezing.  I passed him without much thought, but he came back and was ahead for a few seconds.  I knew he wasn’t going to last at a faster pace (I could tell by his breathing, plus he looked to be plodding along more than running).  I stepped up a notch, got my back to him, and he stayed there.  Once I crossed the finish line, it came to my mind that I had passed myself. He was the runner I used to be, looking for some type of glorious salvation at the end rather than running strong throughout.

So goodbye, summer of 2010.  I ran on a cloud for 4 months, stocked my pantry with plenty of race goodies, built quite a cache of race t-shirts, and came to understand that 40 isn’t much more than a number.  I feel further away from my actual age now than I have for years.

Thus ends this serial.  I’ll keep running, but it’s time to move in a different direction with my blog posts.

Written by seeker70

September 21, 2010 at 6:59 pm

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Earl and Me Lives!

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My story about baseball manager Earl Weaver was published last week by the Society for American Baseball Research.  If you want to reach pretty far back in The Seeker archives, you can read a few episodes from when I was writing the story (the serial continues with episode 2episode 3episode 4, and episode 5).  If you’re feeling even more daring, you can hear a live reading of story excerpts from August, 2009 at Northwestern University.

The publication of what has come to be known as Earl Weaver:  Strategy, Innovation, and Ninety-four Meltdowns has been the most enlightening experience of my limited publishing career.  It started around March of 2009 when I watched some YouTube videos of Earl Weaver , and thought there might be a story behind what I saw.  I started to do some casual research, took some notes along the way, and before I knew it, I was putting together what I found and mixing in some of my own thoughts and scattered bits of baseball knowledge.  It wasn’t until the third draft that I started to think it was really going somewhere, and it might be publishable.  As I review my serial from writing the story, I remember now the pressure I was putting on myself to write something that could be published.  It was significant to me in that it was my first story post-Northwestern; it was the first piece I worked on after my thesis.  I wasn’t going to have the benefit of professorial eyes editing it, nor was it going to be heavily workshopped by classmates.  It was going to be my first time standing on my own two feet.  If I failed, I would have to keep plugging away at getting published.  If I succeeded…  well, I didn’t know what.

It took a year and a half, but the story has arrived.  I originally wrote it with Elysian Fields Quarterly in mind.  I tried three times previously to get published by them, but kept getting shot down.  I thought this story would finally be my breakthrough.  It wasn’t until after I finished writing it that I learned EFQ was no longer in print.  On the heels of that bad news came the July 13, 2009 edition of Sports Illustrated, which featured a story about Earl Weaver that was eerily similar to mine.  When I paged through it, my jaw dropped.  I wanted to shake my fists and scream to the higher powers, “Why????  WHY??!!”  What was the chance of that happening?  I don’t know.  I don’t think it’s calculable.  I was left thinking that here was one of the best stories I have ever written, and it’s dead in the water.

That thought sat uncomfortably in my head for a month, until I heard an interview with a SABR representative on National Public Radio.  I checked out the SABR website and discovered they publish two different annual journals.  I queried the director of publications, and eventually was able to get him to take a look at my story.  He read it and liked it, and then passed it on to a peer reviewer who loved it.  We worked through some edits, I signed a waiver form they sent me, and have been sitting tight for two months, waiting for the journal to arrive.  The 2010 edition of The Baseball Research Journal is here!

Written by seeker70

September 8, 2010 at 9:33 pm

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The 5Ks of Summer: Twilight Shuffle 5K

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Sunday, September 5, 2010  ~  6:00pm  ~  Libertyville, IL

Results:  25:28; 37th out of 142 male 40-49 age division; 131st of 955 overall

Bounty to date:  22 bottles of water, 20 protein shakes, 23 bananas, 6 apples, 3 nutrition bars, 4 bottles of Gatorade, 4 containers of yogurt, 4 Nutri-grain bars.

I cannot run any faster.  It is best at this point if I stop trying.  If I don’t, I could run myself into another injury.

But I could have run this race faster and possibly beat my time from the Iron Horse 5K two weeks ago, except this one had several long hills and 18 turns.  No lie.  Check out the course:  Twilight Shuffle 5K.  The hills will slow you down a bit (though I didn’t feel taxed by them throughout the race), but so many turns will definitely kill your time.  So though I felt like I ran stronger and faster that two weeks ago, I still lost 13 seconds.  I’m not worried about it.

This was a helluva race.  It went through some of Libertyville’s nicest neighborhoods, and there were loads of people out in their front yards cheering on runners– the most spectators I’ve seen at a race this summer.  Furthermore, the field was packed.  I was never much more than arms reach from other runners until the homestretch.  What’s more, this race had a hellaciously cool race t-shirt.  I’ll be wearing this beauty for years to come:

The weather conditions were great, too.  The race started as the sun was setting, so temperatures were cooler than at anything I’ve run since Mother’s Day.  There was a light rain at the start for about 10 minutes, too, which brought to mind lots of great memories from high school cross country about running in the foulest weather imaginable.  It rained harder afterwards at the post-race party, which more than anything reminded me that summer is quickly coming to a close.

So I’m going to hurt myself if I run faster.  It’s time to ease back into the zen, wherein I’m ultimately satisfied to run and finish a race, time be damned.  It’s still reasonable to expect times in the 27-minute range, which satisfies me for being 40 years old.  I’ve never been a fast runner, will never be one, so it’s foolish to try to get faster and faster.  Maybe if my weight gets down to 180 pounds, but that’s not going to happen any time soon, if it happens at all.

Up next:  Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association 5K Twilight Run-Walk-Roll, Saturday, September 11 @ 6PM in Lake Forest.

Written by seeker70

September 6, 2010 at 11:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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