Quoting Pat Conroy

I’ve been reading more Pat Conroy. I continue to be impressed with his ability to tell the story and to talk about his life and the lives of others entwined with his. Mostly, I treasure and envy his awesome craft of writing, his vocabulary, and how smooth it flows as I read. I have no right to judge the writing of anyone, much less a man with such a gift.

What I feel as I read his words is not so much judging (as in “love it”). It is about me and my experiences, feelings, and thoughts about a man who was born less than one year before I was; who grew up when I did, but under very different circumstances, and who seems to have lived a life that I oddly, but resonantly, relate to in many twisted and indirect ways. Autobiographical fiction; strangely, I get it.

Except for graphics, the following quotes taken from his writings are my notes. Any error is mine. This was me stopping the flow of my reading to write down Pat’s words. Cuz, picture it, me saying “wow” while reading and then grabbing my notebook.

I have been using Public Library e-books lately, so I cannot highlight as with paper books or on my Kindle app. Yet, writing them down in my notebook may be better for increased mental indelibility and the likelihood of my sharing.

I grouped these by category and added my comments. I realize that context is lost by such grab-and-go’s, but I like them. The photos and memes are not my work, except to click “copy as.”

About writing, reading, and writers

“Fear is the major cargo that American writers must stow away when the writing life calls them into its carefully chosen ranks.” (Agree. I do. I must.)

“…nothing is more natural in his (Tolstoy) world than the mysterious and necessary attraction of men and women…their attraction for each other and impending marriage seems part of the design of the Universe, as right as the stars that make up the belt of Orion.” (Pat read War and Peace three times.)

“Teach me how to die.” (This is one of those phrases when I think, “I wonder what he meant?” Context!)

“I want to always be writing the book I was born to write.” (Exactly.)

“But I’m speaking of all the yesterdays that will not come again.” (Old guys say cool shit like that.)

“…that I get to live in the Old New York Book Shop on the night of a book party.” (This was Pat’s idea of heaven after he died. That book store is no longer there, but it was a big deal to him. Do you have a place like that? A memory so profound and pleasurable that it would do for a permanent state in an afterlife?)

“Nothing is more difficult to overcome than a childhood of privilege….” (Or abusive parents.)

“My childhood taught me everything I needed to know about the dangers of love….” (I intend to use this when I write more on the paradox of love.)

“We got some things right.” (About writing, the publishing writing world, and himself.)

Regarding Norman Berg, Pat’s friend and book rep., “He was a hard man who dismissed fools without conscience or regret…. He was an easy man to dismiss, and a hard one to love.”

“Know everything. Feel everything. That’s your job as a writer.” (Said Norman Berg to Pat, quoted by Pat.)

“The tribe is contentious, the breed dangerous.” (Regards writers and why he claimed to have few friends among them. Pat Conroy had many friends, and many of them were writers. I don’t really know enough writers to have an opinion, but the ones I know, while seemingly neither contentious or dangerous; most are unapologetically opinionated. Norm Berg’s job description?)

“The world of writers was a snake hole, a circle of hell – a rat’s nest and a whirlpool and a dilemma – not just a world.” (Pat was opinionated. I wonder how he felt about French writers? See is time in Paris, below.)

Pat’s youth and college days

“Two pillars of authority, patriarchal influences shaped my childhood. Dad and the Catholic Church. Punishment of anarchy. Contempt for anyone different.” (Mine, too.)

“There was an amazingly limitless capacity for ruthlessness at the heart of the family of man.” (Regards all of life, but learned from the plebe system. This is from The Lords of Discipline.)

“What will this make of me? A man, or a monster?” (Regards surviving his freshman year in college)

“A prize that exacted an awesome tithe of spirit from those who loved it.” (The Lords of Discipline)

“It was sublimation and surrender to the efficacy of denial.” (Pat had something specific in mind, but I can apply this to so many times in my life.)

“The history we are born into always seems natural when we are young, but it seems misshapen and grotesque as the winter years come upon us.” (I have had similar thoughts, but my experiences were a little less profound.)

New words for me

Three of many words I learned and liked reading Conroy: décolletage, oleaginous, and unctuous. (I am smiling and could go on and on and…)

His time in Paris

“Parisians and polar icecaps have a lot in common except that polar icecaps are warmer to strangers.”

“France is the only country in the world where friendliness is one of the seven deadly sins.”

(To be fair, Pat loved his time in France and cherished the memories. But why deny the French acting so “frenchly”?)

 

In our reading life, we must look both ways.
In writing, mind the damn gaps.

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Am I Too Old?

I see my reality very differently

Am I too old?

How old is old enough?
am I too old to feel young?
am I too old to run and hide?
am I too old to care?

How old is old enough?
am I too old to want to know?
am I too old to love someone?
am I too old to care?

How old is old enough?
am I too old to feel you near?
am I too old to call you babe?
am I too old to care?

How old is old enough?
am I too old to dance with you?
am I too old to share your passion?
am I too old to care?

I am not yet old enough,
so dance me to end of time.
Still I see the fairies dance,
for your love is always mine.

by bill reynolds 7/5/2017

To live long and prosper, look both ways and mind the gaps.

Forever Young!

a prayer

***

O Sweet Zepher

O sweet pacific Zepher of pleasure,
overcome and make everything better.
Thru my heart send cleansing measures;
touch my face, unsettle my hair, water my eyes;
refresh all things as you pass.

Bring rain to silence my mournful cries.
Wash my body, brush my thighs,
blow clear my eyes that my mind might see,
this imprisoned heart now set free.

Take away dirt and dinge from the air.
Sweep foul poisons drifting there
left by souls seeming not to care.
Send your sweeping wind of rebirth
into the vile sky polluted by human greed,
now cleaned by your blessing of me in need.

With your breath of god, remove this stillness
that saps life from creatures on earth we crave.
Replace placid with salty moist freshness.

Revive all of me with your ocean scent,
sooth my yearning for pleasures spent,
revive my fondness for life on earth.
Raise my desire for nature’s worth.
Bring to me your refreshing pleasure
into my dead soul, sweet pacific Zephyr.

by Bill Reynolds 6/21/2017

***

Let the sweet breeze of a zephyr touch you. Face the wind, then turn and enjoy life.
Feel the air as you look both ways and mind the gaps.

Thirst for Alone

 

I want out to be alone.
Away from all people,
I’m called into the night.

I want to be alone.
To ponder, I don’t know what,
To think about my thoughts.

I need time alone.
To gather something in me,
To stand and sit, and to rest.

I need to be alone.
To feel my loneliness,
To look inside me, still and alone.

I want to feel so alone.
To feel something in me,
To feel something leave me.

Into the dark night – alone.
Pointless, aimless, tranquil,
To find nothing important.

I feel the tug. To hear the call
The insignificant calm of night.
Give me my true loneliness.

—La soif by Bill Reynolds 6/3/2017

***

Can’t you see at night?
Don’t look both ways into SoC poems.
Just see stars. Feel. Release. No gaps.

prisoner

I have not sinned
against a god nor man
nor woman
harmed no beast
—cared for Mother

why do I suffer
these sins of others
the revenge of Man
sins against me
—why am I prisoner here

admit they say and
confess – to what
I did no wrong
I harmed no one
—and yet I’m here

yet I am punished
forced – I sit alone, told to
feel some shame and
remorse and
—guilt for my breath

my dignity
my humanity
they took all from me and
I suffer – I do – I am alone in
—my pain without sympathy

why am I punished
made less than
human – no son of god
son of man
—fuck it all – fuck them all

try harder they say
love this god they pray
why must I see their way
It’s their way I’ll suffer
—the goodness of Death

prisoner by bill reynolds. 5/31/17

Look around. Mind what you see.

Mother’s Happiness

I know little of what my parents thought about any deep subject such as a philosophy of life or their world view. I managed no more than hints or rare tidbits. Regarding my father, I remember too much of the bad and little of the good. The opposite is true of my mother.

I remember more in Mom’s case, and most of it good. The few bad memories were usually not her doing. Mom may have had her share of bad days, but I can’t remember one that was her fault.

My clearest memories are the pleasant ones about our overall relationship. We were close. Not in the best of friends sense you may hear some parents brag about. Mom was my parent – not my friend.

As a teenager or young adult, I would have railed against being called a “momma’s boy.” I now look back on our relationship with pride.

My mother protected me, mostly from Dad, but also from a few other things. Oddly, not from bullies. If I developed an early skill in dealing with them, it was avoidance. Later in life, my approach was more direct. Conversely, she liked telling people how she often broke blood vessels in her hands spanking me. I don’t recall any of that.

She and I argued our share. I was a momma’s boy – not a good or obedient boy. There were times when I was disappointed in her for not coming to my aid. Looking back, I now realize how right she was.

When she did help me, she did it her way. She helped me in a manner that permitted me the dignity of learning difficult lessons the hard way – which was apparently my preference. When she felt like I needed to learn a painful lesson, she gave me the space I needed. I now realize how difficult that must have been for her. My mother’s love for me, and mine for her were never in question.

When Dad’s health was declining and she felt like she needed to help him, she postponed action on the lump in her breast. After his death, she moved on to her own health care. Everything she did during the period of that treatment, she did with the occasional assistance of her sister. My sister and I lived too far away to be of much help.

While Mom was a long-term breast cancer survivor, the invasive disease brought on her death only after she decided to end most of the treatment.

But years before that, the spot on her lung had been removed and she was recuperating in the hospital the day my flight from Texas arrived in Pennsylvania. Walking down the hospital hallway, the sounds and smells were unique. I would know where I was had I been awakened blind.

As I walked down the hall following the directions I’d been given, I knew I would take the next right into another hall, then right again into her room. I anticipated walking in and finding her groggy and sore from the surgery. I envisioned her smiling up at me, weak and tired. I turned the corner.

The window at the end of that hall looked down on the hospital’s parking lot. Its sill of hard tile was about a foot deep. My recovering mother could easily sit there and gaze down to the parking lot, watching for me.

When she heard my voice, she turned her head and saw me walking toward her. The day after surgery, my 70-something mother jumped off the sill and started running toward me. Mom drove her five-foot-tall frame hard against me, wrapped her arms firmly around me, and then pulled my face down and kissed me.

After I suggested that she get back into bed, we walked to her room and she slid back onto the sheets and pillow. Mom was excited and chatty. She was always happy to see me. But on that day, her response was overwhelming. The doctors and nurses kept Mom alive. All I had to do was walk down the hall at the right time. I became the star of her show. I will always remember how happy she was to see me that day. I’m glad I could help.

Happy Mother’s Day to moms everywhere.
Look both ways and mind the gaps.

A to Z Blog Challenge and National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) Review and Recap

 

Click on the graphic to link to the National Poetry Writing Month page.

April was my second time doing the A to Z blog challenge. I combined it with my first attempt at the National Poetry Month (NaPoWriMo) challenge. For 2017, poetry was my theme for A to Z. With four exceptions, my poems were in alphabetical order according to topic or poetic form. I had 30 posts for NaPoWriMo, 26 of which I used for A to Z. The NaPo challenge was to write (post) a poem each day.

My theme developed over time. I wrote poetry every day, but I didn’t finish a poem on each day. Some poems took more than a week, while one or two others were ready in hours. I thought some of my poems were long, but that relates to form, content, and purpose.

NaPoWriMo provides optional daily prompts. I did not use the prompts because my rookie status as a poetry writer and dual use with A to Z were complicated enough. Next year I hope to: participate with the poetry month challenge, write one poem each day (start to finish), and use the prompts provided. I also used poems for my weekly writing class assignments, instead of prose essays. I don’t plan to participate with the A to Z challenge again.

However, I’ve always liked poetry, even though I know so little about it. During April, I discovered my greater love of poetry and an overwhelming fondness for writing poems. I grew increasingly curious about poetic forms, genres, and styles. I read several books about poetry and many poems. My quest to learn continues.

My A to Z reveal was the most popular of related posts. The best-liked of my poems were Specks: Coincidence meets Kismet and Sunday Lions. By far, the most commented on was the Collaboration Poem, Dewey and Dad, with my daughter. Other well-liked poems included my Haiku; Onomatopoeia, Never Again, and Regna, The Poetry of Art. Zumurgy Blessings finished off the month well liked.

Surprises that did not do well included my sonnet, the tercet, and the poem on coal miners. Dark poems did not do as well as others. Maybe I should not be surprised. I enjoy dark poems and don’t consider mine as bleak as many. However, since I struggled with those three poems (each for a different reason), it’s more likely they were simply not so good.

Another surprise lesson: I can’t predict what you will like. I can tell from your comments how a poem affected you. I received strong positive comments about twaddle I considered only so-so. Things I thought good, took a long time, or challenged me most, were not always popular. For example, the Sunday Lion verse and Xu (Bang the Gong) I wrote quickly and were liked; whereas, I worked for days on the coal miner poem and the sonnet and they sort of flopped. But, there were some positive comments.

Many readers never click like or comment (maybe can’t). So, I don’t get every reader’s feedback. The bane of a writers craft, “what will readers like?” In some cases, there were more likes on Facebook than on this blog. Another example: when I posted the poem about the deer on the Historical Society’s Facebook page there were more likes, but who knows why? This is no scientific evaluation, despite the best efforts of WordPress to collect data. And no one said anything derogatory.

Bottom line, I learned that, for me, poetry is fun – reading it, hearing it, writing it, or remembering it (we memorized O Captain! My Captain! in grade school). I enjoy relating to love poems, poems about nature or human nature, or the occasional taste of the dark side.

Thank you for reading this. If you will excuse me, I have poems to write, read, and to memorize.

Life is lived forward and understood backward,
but look both ways and mind the gaps.