I’m supposed to announce that “Pitcher of Moon” has just become a KINDLE e-book. thanks, Nick!
Crabapple/Peach Tree in back yard, Spring
( I posted this a year ago, but since the issue still exists for many of us on line, I am posting it again. I add a few thoughts on this issue of creativity, but these aren’t complete thoughts. I am preparing a paper on this, based on some reading I have done over the past year. When it is finished (hah)…I’ll post it on this blog.)
A while ago I received news a poem of mine had been ‘stolen’. Actually, a poet on an unknown poetry website had taken my poem, changed the title and a few lines in two stanzas, and published my poem on this website under her name. What was especially galling was she was no poet, and her revisions were horrible, awkward…an attempt to make something ‘more’ erotic by adding cheap and tawdry phrasing. Confronted, she said that ‘she was inspired’ by other poet’s work. The webmistress contacted me and asked if this was my poem. I was surprised, because I didn’t know without the proper title how one would go about tracking the original poet. Apparently, she had her suspicions, and googled the first couple of lines and my name and website came up. She was deleted from this website. No apologies at all, and she is still a thief.
I was rather dismayed. Poetry generally comes from some of the deepest places in our beings: it’s an outward form of some very personal experience, or something like that. This poem was written in 2009, at a difficult time in my life. I was going through some physical and emotional changes and a year later, it received an award, (up until now, the only one….) as “Poem of the Year” on a particular website. I had left that website, but was grateful for the award. Still am.
This had happened a few years before, when I first started writing in earnest. A major poem and a short story was lifted from a website and published without permission on a website in England. At that time I was rather flattered. The lawyers and advisors at this home website where the pieces were lifted were rolling their eyes: don’t be flattered, this isn’t good. Well, the owner of the English website pleaded that he just so admired the writing (he lifted a number of us poets and writers work from the original website) that he just couldn’t help himself. hah! The lawyers got everything back but I did feel sorry then for the guy. I’ve learned better.
This ‘news’ about the plagiarized poetry came at a point when I was reading a chapter about creativity. In Fox’s “Original Blessing”, this third path, Via Creativa, speaks of the hard labor necessary to produce artistic works, regardless of the medium. It is not an activity of ‘letting it all hang out’ as we have been told by certain cultural ‘standards’ but one of a deep discipline. To attempt to bypass this hard labor is not only stupid, but robs the person of a deep meditation with oneself and an internal growth from this activity. It is also hard to trust those images that come to us at the beginning of our creativity. We are very judgmental towards our attitudes of our own self-expression. We have to develop an attitude of trust, a trust that that out of our silence, our waiting, our openness, our emptiness…that these images can come. I do know that after 30 years of painting, each blank canvas, each clean piece of watercolor paper sends me into anxiety. I don’t ‘trust’ that I can again, produce something that comes from that relay from the brain, through the eyes to the hand. I forget that I have 30 years of technique behind my painting, and feel like I have nothing to build upon for the next piece of work. But I do, I just don’t trust myself. It takes my ‘letting go’ of my judgmental attitude towards myself, towards my expectations, and settling down into the work and knowing that ‘something’ will come of it. But it still is always a struggle to trust myself to be able to do something in this creative vein.
And as a counter thought, I know a couple of good poets who have been writing for decades. They never publish or post their poems online because they are ‘afraid’ that they will be stolen. Good God! Like misers, they clutch their poems (volumes actually) to their chests and few ever see them. Well, Hell’s bells. I would rather them stolen (and this is actually pretty rare) than nobody ever having the joy of reading them. What are they amassing their poems for? You can’t take them with you. A central joy in my life is that everyday, across the world, somebody is reading the poetry on the blog. And sometimes strangers contact me (besides the friends who graciously read the poems…) and we are able to engage in discussion about poems…both sides.
One of the problems for most creative people is to pick the image that sings loudest to us. Perhaps because we fail to choose the strongest image, we give up creating anything. The (dead) Zen artist Kenji Miyazawa said this:
“You experience something deeply. Later, you picture it in your own mind; you idealize it; you coolly and sharply analyze it; you throw all your passion and power into it. Then you fuse all these things together into one. If you do this without self-consciousness, the depth and the power of creation will be much greater.”
In tanka, especially the classical medieval Japanese tanka of the 8th and 9th century I see this. I also see this in Basho, Issa and before them, Saigyo. This lack of self-consciousness, where the poem is infused with the power of creation and the poet is not presenting a focus of ego. This is something you will recognize with enough reading of this period.
In music, I have come across this ‘without self-consciousness’ terms as ‘getting out of the way’.
Somewhere Meister Eckhart talked about the ‘bridle of love’ that we need to steer our passions. Not to control or abuse them, but to make them work for us. This is discipline, done respectfully towards ourselves, for our developing and revealing creativity. We suffer enough abuse, by ourselves and society, so adopting an environment of hard work, of sweat, of exhaustion, of joy and of discipline will only push our creativity further along. This wannabe poet who didn’t trust herself enough to settle, look deeply within and create, is more to be pitied than scorned, but perhaps put in stocks??? She stole other poet’s poetry because she did not love or honor herself. Hopefully she will learn to love herself enough to become truly creative. Hopefully, she will not rob herself of this wonderful process.
The American psychotherapist, Rollo May wrote a book “The Courage to Create”. On page 41 he says something I find interesting in general.
“Escapist creativity is that which lacks encounter”. Dr. May had a patient that reminds me somewhat of this poet/thief above. He would come to an idea, an excellent creative idea, flesh it out in his mind, and then he would stop there: he would write nothing down. It was as if the experiences of seeing himself as one ho was able to write, as being just about to write, had within it what he was really seeking and it brought its own reward. Hence he never really created.
These distinctions between talent and creativity are especially important. I believe that talent is given to many people; what they do with it evokes whether it is a passive gift or an active ‘act’ of creating. One is passive, and one is active. I also believe our creativity is directly linked to our encounter with opposition. I know this to be true of myself, though I never saw the pattern until later in life. My mother said 25 years ago that ‘no one would ever publish me.” That was an opposition to get over. Yes, I was published by numerous literary magazines, ecological magazines, etc. I also decided to self-publish with Lulu.com and now with Createspace, from Amazon.com. I had so many things to publish that it made up more than 5 books…and I wanted them out of the way and into the world fast. Nothing wrong with this issue, though people do look down their long noses at those of us (and we are legion~!) who do. Now? I have 4 or so novels to rewrite and publish and probably will go the same route. I don’t care about the ‘status’ at all, whether I am published by the ‘big’ (and overblown) publishing houses or not.
To add to this above, Rollo May also said this: “Creativity,” to rephrase our definition, “is the encounter of the intensively conscious human being with his or her world.” In my experience, there are a lot of writers, poets out there who are not ‘conscious’ or encountering enough. Perhaps sleep walking.
To plagiarize or steal outright a poem or a piece of work robs the poet of the greatest gift they can give to themselves: the deep research, the formation, the joy that comes from an original thought that manifests into art. They rob themselves most. They are just….lazy.
The small poem below was inspired by these words of Daichi-zenji (1290-1366) “and bring back a pitcher containing the moon’. Just those words set my brain on fire. There is nothing wrong with ‘being inspired’ by the work and words of another poet: just be sure that inspiration is true to your own vision and abilities and you are not putting your chop on the work of another.
Pitcher of Moon
I dip into the pond
And gather a pitcher of moon.
Above, it glimmers
Smiles at my efforts,
This late- winter moon.
It is just a bowl of cool water
I am holding
But the magic of the cosmos settles
In this plain clay vessel.
This poem was published in “Pitcher of Moon”, February, 2014
By Createspace, Amazon.com