Today we talk about reluctance vs. expansiveness. About presence. About marking our space. Marking, without pissing on the wall.

This week’s reading included poetry by Robert Desnos, the latest book by Twyla Tharp, and a romance chapter from a new author. Yes, I said romance!

And, ala Hemingway, I offer you one true sentence.

What I’m Reading

I came on a tweet from Irish singer Imelda May the other day. She was commenting on poetry from French surrealist/resistance fighter/poet Robert Desnos. The quote is from Desnos’s poem “Lines on a Summer Pavement.” He writes of the moment between late afternoon and early evening.

Imelda May

“We shall see in the gutter
The mirror of clouds from afar
Spilling their blood on distant horizons
And, above the roofs, the birth of a star”

The poet is looking down, water pooled in the gutter, seeing the sunset sky, the first evening star, reflected. I wonder, maybe that is how we see most beauty, reflected in a diluted source at our feet.

There are moments, days, even months, when we are reluctant, or we do not have the strength, the courage, the capability, to lift our gaze, to look directly at the light. We see only reflections, mirrored images of what is before us.

And in those moments another artist, dancer/choreographer Twyla Tharp, can help us lift our gaze from the street. Expand, she says. Look up. Occupy more space.

I’ve commented in the past on Tharp’s latest book, Keep It Moving. I’m reading it again this week.

“Like the dancer, you have dozens of ways to mark your day – creative, substantial ways of integrating physical activity with whatever else occupies your time. Take the stairs instead of the elevator…” In other words, “stagnation is the enemy.”

Tharp wants us to take up more space. She talks of expansiveness, of marking your space. In physical terms, dancers use subtle movements to mark their space no matter where they are. “It is not enough to state an arabesque; it must be opened in every direction to its full expanse.”

Beyond the physical, she says: “Speak out. Take up mental space as well.”

May I take her advice beyond dance and movement? Apply it to writing as well. Use writing to lift your gaze, to expand yourself, to mark your presence. To shout out your why. Fiction, non-fiction, memoir, journaling…writing it down tells your story.

We can also apply Tharp’s counsel to reading. Perhaps this week we can expand our reading. Stretch our limbs by reaching for something more challenging. Look up beyond the reflections we usually see. Read a couple of poems, or try someone’s biography.

This past week I had the chance to read the first chapter of a romance novel that an author posted in a Facebook writing group I belong to. The author said she was reluctant to share the material, but asked for advice. I am not a romance reader. But this chapter was readable! Not my usual genre, I will repeat. I gave the chapter a high rank for readability. Lately I find it too commonplace to read a story only to be pulled out of the story by poor writing. It could be grammar mistakes, typos…something that pulls me right off the page. Often a book is simply not readable. The words don’t flow, don’t mesh, don’t hook me. The story and characters can be good, yet the writing is awkward. I won’t criticize a writer’s first attempt or developing skills. I will close a book if I find it unreadable.

My point, I guess, is I gave something new a shot and was pleasantly surprised. A good feeling!

What I’m Writing

I watched Ken Burns’s Hemingway doc this past week. I may offer comments next week. For now, I came away with one nugget. Write one true sentence. Then write another. I offer you my own attempt at writing one true sentence. My personal style would be to write multiple short sentences. Here I embodied it in one long sentence.

Write one true sentence.

Her dying split his soul open, a chasm filled with darkness, almost bottomless, a pinpoint of light in the depths, the pinpoint a spark offering freedom; not freedom from; freedom to; freedom to give himself; give himself to a purpose as yet undetermined.


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