Sunday, February 6, 2011

Paying Attention: Heroes, Al Green, Coconut & Kisses

I’m a strange bird.

I once watched WTBDWK (part documentary, part mind-bender on quantum physics, metaphysics, spirituality hosted by Marlee Matlin) four times in a row. I was riveted by the possibilities and capabilities of being human presented in the film.

When I was thirteen and on a school trip to Cincinnati, I walked on a twelve-inch balcony on the top floor of a hotel and climbed into the window of a room of friends down the hallway who waited for me. It was an attempt to curb my fear of heights. I still enjoy reading articles about jumps and falls and flying. Those things are forever connected.

I’ve been to truck pulls, to chicken fights, moldy cellars, redneck cafes, new wave religious ceremonies, and many places that I won’t name here.

I touch everything when a sign says DO NOT TOUCH. (Ron always smacks my hands at art exhibits) I’ve done lots and lots of things solely for the sake of satiating my curiosities. You wouldn’t believe me if I listed them all here.

I gather buttons, bottle tops, grocery lists, scribbles of paper, photographs, anything really—looking for any fragment that gives me a glimpse of the person who —minutes before, years before, lifetimes ago--shared this space.

Robert Olen Butler (Hell, Grove Press) speaks quite informatively and eloquently on human yearning in regard to fiction. (I teach from it often) His philosophy much of which borrows from Buddhist thinking can be found in From Where You Dream.

All artists pay attention.

We are the keepers of the stories both real and imagined.

It’s our overwhelming desire to KNOW, to DISCOVER.

Sometimes, my own efforts are overt.

Sometimes, I think I try too hard, finding a sign in everything I see or hear or touch.

Once in awhile, I go to bed thinking I wasted my opportunity to pay attention and that I’ve missed something important that I will never be able to touch, smell, hear, see, taste or imagine again.

Here some things that caught my attention this past week:

 (there is always too much television…major time suck! But I have been addicted to TV since I was a girl and would come home from school while my grandparents were still at work. This began when I was nine.):
  • Heroes (Season Three)
  • Dr. 90210
  • V
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Big Love
  • Housewives of ATL
  • Young and the Restless
  • Days of Our Lives.

I won’t admit to my other junk TV but there is lots of it. I don’t watch it straight through though. I tape it all and then watch it at my own convenience. In defense of TV, when the writing is good it always takes me somewhere with my writing.

  • Hey Love Compilation Volume I
  • Al Green Still In Love With You
  • Smokey Robinson Greatest Hits

Radio: Always NPR coming from and going to work.

Film of the Week:
Viva Cuba (childhood innocence and imagination fractured by adult notions--beautifully done)

  • Head Off & Split: PoemsHead Off & Split by Nikky Finney (I have been clapping and jumping up and down about Nikky’s new book for weeks now. It’s out. Read it!) She had a release reading at AWP and from I hear it was grand!

  • Serena: A Novel (P.S.) by Ron Rash (I have been carrying this book around for a month now. Ron is such a gifted writer. I love still seeing the poet in him come through the fiction. I’m a little obsessed right now.)

  • Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones (It’s not out yet but you should follow Tayari to see what’s going on with it. One of the most generous writers I know, not just what is on the page but she shares her publishing experience with her readers and other writer friends weekly.)

The Simple Things:
• Coconut flakes. (grainy, sweet texture, i had forgotten how much i love this taste and how i used to pretend i was chewing tobacco with it when i was a child)
• Pencils &; blackboards (courtesy of Nikky Finney--two Youtube videos from her this week. Click here to see them.)
photo by Larry Treadway
• Rain (love the rain and its smell)
• Nag Champa (candles, sticks..the smell of my altar)
• My daughter's dirty white dog, Honey, which reminded me of Harry the Dirty Dog (this was one of my favorite Weekly Reader books)
• The smell of wood burning in a fireplace (envious of neighbors time to call the chimney sweep. smoke reminds me of childhood and winters on the creek)
(L-R Dee Dee, Janel, Elainia Kisses best friends since 6th grade)
•Simple kisses (daughters on the lips, my son's grown kiss which is the same as his little boy kiss, kisses from and to babies, my mama's kisses and the loud 'muah' she makes like a girl, morning kisses from ron that makes the world feel safe)
• Walking sticks (i have a grand one sitting in my writing corner reminding me of the woods)
• Sweet ache of exercised muscles (i need more of this)

What have you paid attention to this week?


  1. Probably not nearly enough, but a few things I paid attention to this week include:

    The release of tension from my muscles as I moved through my yoga poses.
    The rhythm and timelessness of poetry as I read Henry Allen Laine's work online.
    The sweet, earthy, woody smell of the sawdust created as my husband saws wood in his woodworking shop.
    The way my oh-so-independent cat, Kit, suddenly turns to me for comfort, reassurance, and support when we're in the vet's office.

    That's all that comes to mind at the moment, but thank you for reminding me that I need to pay better attention.
    In a way, I've already started working on paying better attention by doing a gratitude meditation every morning to bring my focus to the good things in my life. It's a start...

  2. Hi Crystal, I picked up NK's collection of poetry, and I just learned that she's on the cover of Poets&Writers. Give her my congrations and tell her those poems are smoking.

  3. Oops, I missed typed NF not NK Nikky Finney. Loved, loved the poems. Great gems