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All about words



Conflation of Asides

Posted by nancyfreund11 on November 19, 2016 at 7:00 PM

Conflation of Asides.

I’ve been insane with abundance. I’ve got 20 minutes before my great friend, great writer friend, I might say, but great friend Michelle and her husband are due to pick me up to go out for Thai food at the place that once gave me all the purple orchids from their tables because it was my birthday, and I love that place, and it’s right next door to the King Size pub where Michelle’s college roommate and fellow study-abroad pal from Paris will be performing in her annual “duelling pianos” gig with her fabulous husband Jeff. We like to go and make requests and sing along with our American accents when they’re here. Michelle’s recently become Swiss and she’s really quite at home here, but first and foremost we are both still foreign, and a night like tonight we kinda feel like we fit in. Orchids or not. I have a favorite FAVORITE Thai place in California, which if you’re ever in Santa Barbara you must visit, Hollis and Jan run Muen Fan, and they’re the only people I know who make Thai tea pudding, and it is awesome. Someone in their family invented it. You really ought to have it, next time you’re in Santa Barbara. You really ought to go to Santa Barbara. That is all an aside. And believe it or not, this free-ranging paragraph I’ve just spewed out is in fact following a rather formal structure. Here’s my topic sentence: Everything Is An Aside.

This is life. Note my punctuation up there, because it’s not just a topic sentence, it’s also a headline, and computers these days even let you use “headline casing” I think, so the first letter of every word is capitalized. Anyway, I think it works like that. If I really wanted to be dramatic and youthful, I would add full stops between the words, and really, the phrase is probably deserving. Everything. Is. An. Aside.

Anyway (there’s that silly “anyway," again, inserted as an apology, really, like I’d lost my train of thought and wanted to tell you I’d realized it, when in fact I had not lost my train of thought at all.  My train's just on several tracks at once, which is not at all unusual). Anyway, “an” should not be capitalized in a headline, I'm aware. But this business of headline caps and so on really is an aside. And I figure it’s ok to insert an aside in a little piece I’m writing on the value of -- indeed the foundational necessity of -- the ASIDE. Plus, I mentioned there’s an urgency here, right? Michelle and Claude are coming now in ten.

Today the Geneva Writers Group had a poetry course with American writer Laura Kasischke, who was completely refreshing, deep, and accessible, smart and self-deprecating, all in equal measure. I kinda hate a workshop, normally. The minute I’m told we’ll have exercises, I start wondering if I can get out, but today’s variety of parlour games and practical stuff was truly generative and genuinely interesting. I won’t go into detail. (I will say – queue the parens, another form of linguistic apology, good Lord, I’m a bad feminist, in my way, apologizing all over the place like this) but I will say for goodness sakes, READ Laura Kasischke. Her poetry and her fiction, and if you can get your hands on her essays, I’d think, that too. I certainly plan to). That was an aside as well, but a very important one. And in case that wasn’t yet clear – ASIDES ARE IMPORTANT. Everything happens in the margins, you know. The show the magician puts on has all the doves and flying red silk scarves at center stage so the magic can happen in the peripheries. Yeah, we all know this, but I grew up knowing it. My dad was a magician. Not too many people know that about him, and even fewer about me, I think. An aside. So. Read Laura K. Her website will tell you how to pronounce her name, which would be awesome of you to know as well. Ka-siss-kee, I think.

But in the meantime, I want to just share the one huge, center-stage gem she started with today that I’ve really fallen in love with. The whole thing was on the “image.” But she quoted a writer named Revery on blending of images, maybe more “conflating” of images. I’ll give you the quote she gave us below. But then she quoted an American short story writer she oddly met in Paris, Dan Chaon, who talked about grabbing an idea and writing a little thing about it and putting it away, and then finding another idea flit through, and writing a thing about it till it’s kinda exhausted for the moment, and it too gets set aside, and another, and another, and you put all these things in a drawer and forget them, and go figure, they mate. She said her poems are conceived this way as well. I loved the idea of this, and I hope the knowledge of it may make me a poet. It probably won’t though, because if you’ve read this, thus far, you already know, my drawer full of writing probably has a lot of flirting and rolling around going on, a few tequila shots and a beer bong, and maybe there’s a hook-up in the corner that probably shouldn’t happen, but no one’s getting down to mating, and god forbid there’s a conception -- it probably will not become a thing of beauty. I’m kinda all over the place. Especially when there's abundance. 

But guess what? That was ALL a big fat aside. I’m still leading up to the thing I started with, which is to say I’m full-to-bursting with stuff I want to say. I’m recording my voice in audio and scribbling notes by flashlight and writing on the bus and planes and trains and automobiles, quite literally, because of some stuff I’m going through that is very freaking difficult (tempered the language there, but it really does deserve a stronger f-word), and my dear friend Maria told me, you have to do this now, this is your thing you have to do, and I’m so sorry, and I’ve been through it, and you have to write about it because you can write. And a lot of people can’t, but a lot of people will also go through this. They are going through it now, so this is what you have to do.

So I am seeing my mom through her improvements or declines (primarily declines) into dementia and my father as he keeps a lid on, in his way. I will write about it as and when I can. I think Maria’s right. But that will be center stage when I can do it. And the magic that is happening is still here in the margins. I admit this isn’t edited, and it’s fast-fast-fast. But sometimes I think that’s a useful way to tell a thing.  Or get to it in its incipient and necessary starting stages.  And it didn’t get put in a drawer to find its mate, it just came out all on its own. It’ll be a blog, I guess, and I am grateful to that lovely poet Laura for the inspiration.  "Conflation" in my mind is the mashing together of two things, but perhaps a melange, or big blend, or total orgy of ideas is more my style when I need to tell the truth. The truth is never singular and not usually direct.

So. Apologies if you couldn’t follow it, or couldn’t be bothered, which of course are two different things, although they seem to have the same result. I guess I’m trying to tell you how to write a poem, from what I learned from Laura K, and how to live a life, from what I’ve learned from my amazing parents, both writers, business people, humourists, and magicians -- either really, up on stage or generally, in life. My dad could levitate a man, my mom could design a dress and sew. She made my bridal gown. He did my 5th birthday for all my little birthday pals. There are many stories in our lives that seem to take priority and center stage, but the stuff we remember most, that has the deepest impact, may be in the margins, and these things may stand alone or they may blend. But my thought for the day is this: Do not discount the marginalia. The real life lessons may rest in the asides.

"The image is a pure creation of the mind.  It cannot be born from a comparison but from a juxtaposition of two more or less distant realities.  The more the distance between the two jutaposed realities is both distant and true, the stronger the image will be."  ~Pierre Reverdy


Categories: writing & publishing, education & literacy, mental health

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