Stone Age HAA The Holy MAA

Stone Age HAA The Holy MAA

Writing - Noise - Magic

Thursday, March 29, 2012


I recently asked questions to several of my fellows who both write and play music. I asked them to relate how words, music and visual art interact in their creative processes, and I asked them what recent experiences have most recently stoked the desire inside them to flare out into art. Finally, I asked them to share some lines.

Here are the answers from TOM ORANGE - wild musician and poet.

"Music has been central to me for most of my life. Words came later, and visual art later still. And most often I've experienced the mutual reinforcement of these interests through friends and colleagues in my/our various creative endeavors. For example, when I started writing poetry seriously, not only were most of my poet friends big music fans like me, but it seemed they knew a lot more about visual art than I did, so I felt I had some catching up to do in this area.

Specific interactions within creative processes themselves are a little trickier to pin down. I've never been that interested in, say, writing a poem about or inspired by a painting. A lot of my poetry, though, uses other writing as a starting point. I've never been terribly good at 'inspiration' to fill a blank page with language 'inside' me. I can't quite explain it, but some poems and poets, when I encounter them, trigger in me an immediate need to pick up pen and paper and literally start using their words in my own way: I start with their words and rearrange them, modify them and add to them in a kind of improvisation. If the process sustains itself long enough, I can end up with a chapbook's worth of poems.

For a while in my writing I was trying to do the kinds of things I was hearing in the music I was discovering and obsessing about at the time. But since giving up writing and focusing most of my creative energies on music, I've found I can now do some of the things I was hearing in the music myself. So language now seems very oblique, indirect and mediated. And more than a little beside the point.

I should also add that I've never been that interested in realistic representations of the world through art: I want art that makes new worlds and new things that we've never experienced before. Clark Coolidge, the poet I wrote my dissertation about, says it best: 'I want everything to come together. / And then I want it to all go away, / leaving behind one thing that was never / in the pile to begin with. / The world is not enough. I want something / else to appear.'

I am continually inspired and quite frequently blown away by the creative talents of my friends in the local experimental music scene here. When I was more active in poetry, I'd go to readings occasionally that were so good I felt I could throw away my pens and paper, quit writing poetry and be completely fine with it knowing that someone else was doing work that good. Likewise with the music scene today. As I often tell folks, I know I've seen a good set when what I'm hearing and seeing makes me want to start, like, five new bands, or otherwise gives me ideas for stuff I can try myself. And then there are also those occasional shows that, again, make me think I should just sell my gear and live happily knowing that such music exists courtesy of someone else!

Here's an excerpt from a 21-part serial poem, written through the kind of process described above:
first source the seed then sunk, a safe built taste to trunk or heave, pressed against and folded in turns, a table widened out of flat draft sought first, joining traces in filament burst, troughed particular, engines a dust"
Thanks so much, Tom! Soon, more thoughts from Mitchell Ribis, Jose Luna, Roman J Leyva and more!


The Cleveland State University Poetry Center is hosting the reading this Tuesday April 4th at 7:30 in Student Center 313/315 on the CSU campus. Smith is the author of new CSUPC book I Live in a Hut and the founder of OH NO magazine. Harvey was the judge who selected Smith's book for the CSUPC 2011 First Book Prize. She is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Modern Life (Graywolf, 2007). As well as being a contributing editor to jubilat, Meatpaper and BOMB, she teaches poetry at Sarah Lawrence University.

Matthea Harvey is also the author of The Little General and the Giant Snowflake (Tin House Books, 2009), illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel. Just yesterday, this book caught my eye. I'm interning at the CSUPC, and we've been so busy processing manuscripts and mailing out books, but I was startled by this children's book that was ordered to have at the upcoming reading. It's very strange and very intelligent. The book playfully explores the conflict between realism and imagination employing lemmings and various kinds of snowflakes.

S.E. Smith's I Live in a Hut also uses play to cut to the core. The words prance and strike. The cover illustration is itself a poem - a mysterious round void overwhelms yellow woods, giving the impression that while you are looking into your life and smiling, something something something is standing just in front of you, waiting to gobble you up. She writes of "Vertical Lakes" and "Enormous Sleeping Women" who reappear in the book as mountains and move.  

This event is free and open to the public. For more information, email