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Category Archives: Musings & Other Things

Why I Write

I’m currently working on a “Coffee with the Poets” interview with a dear friend, Frances McColl Stewart. She asks wonderful questions in return, but with the interview being about her, not the interviewer, I cannot really answer – but they are wonderful questions that get me thinking.

What synchronicity it was when she asked, “Is that why we write?” and “Is what we call ‘conscience’ a Truth-ometer?” (To put it into context, I’ll quote from our forthcoming interview):

“’Sea of humanity’ seemed to be in all that I read at one point. Suddenly, I saw it – we are each an iceberg. We see the 1/10th of each other that is above water and we all are so different, but beneath the water, we are melting and freezing and exchanging the ‘oneness’. Is that why we write? To remember Truth? Do we actually forget truth? Is it absorbed into us? When we hear or read Truth, isn’t it more a recognition than a new thought? Is what we call ‘conscience’ a Truth-ometer?”

I’ve been asking myself in earnest “why I write” for some time now, and have only of recent concluded that I write for myself, except in the case of love poems and other dedications. I write about my world, I write to bury my head in something beautiful about a given moment.

I had to ask myself why I publish my words in books that so few will read. Well, that head-burying: I put it in books because my conscience isn’t happy about my spending valuable time with my head facing a screen and my hands on the keyboard (or a tad more acceptable, sitting with a notebook and pen), so pressing my words in a book says to me, See? Something came of it! But there is little difference between this and going shopping with $50 in hand and insisting on coming home with $50 worth of merchandise to justify the day out. So I’m at a point where I question whether future books are sensible, or hollow justification for time spent (wasted?), or ego (convincing myself that I am worthy of keeping company with my extraordinary and creative peers – “earning my place”).

I’m also guilty of having written at times for an imaginary audience, because I know that I’ll put my words into a book. I see it in my mind and catch myself writing to nobody in particular, like right now, like how so many people mindlessly post “status updates” on Facebook. (They don’t necessarily know who they are talking to; they are simply talking.) Is this just another mechanical habit, compulsive finger-activity that feels good because it validates thoughts? Why don’t I simply journal if I need to, and why does my conscience activate itself when I write? Well, if the conscience is a “Truth-ometer” as Fran suggests (it makes sense to me), then I am supposed to be doing something else with my time. I am supposed to give my time to others. Yet here I am this very minute, writing. It’s not poetry, but I’m pouring mental clutter out of myself. Words are a form of release.

So, writing as escapism and self-therapy, and books as justification…a sad truth to admit, except that I focus on beauty when I write poems, so some of my happiest moments land in books. See? Life isn’t so ugly after all, I say to myself, holding my own books which showcase some of the beautiful moments of my life, the life that slips away while I spend time immortalizing what butterflies I catch.



Christina Finlayson Taylor is the author of three books of poems (available at Amazon).

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Posted by on August 12, 2018 in Musings & Other Things

 

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The Importance of Separating the Writer from the Writing

It’s very difficult to judge what we love, and our own writing is no exception. It’s why we who write need to pull away from our words for weeks, maybe months, minimally, to detach from them. We need to give ourselves time to forget what we wrote.

How often do we notice that our new favorite poems are consistently our most recent poems? But as we look back, a few “perennials” stand out from the rest. Those are the true keepers. We need to pull away long enough to recognize the perennials as those that spring back to life with every read. As for the rest, we need to be able to laugh at ourselves once in a while, and keep them (if we must take clingy hoarding to an ephemeral level) in documents with titles such as “Analects 1,” “Analects 2” and “Analects 3” – and do your best, then, to not look back unless you’re feeling nostalgic or all dried up.

In earlier 2018, I published a small collection of poems written within the previous autumn and winter. Originally it was to be a year’s worth of poems, but I thought, what if I were to die soon, before I would complete spring and summer? My husband and I have a practice of living for today, not looking ahead much, considering that this day might be all we have. So I decided to break the year into two books, to publish the first half now, if not sooner.

What happened, then, was that the second book became an assignment, and I grew disappointed in myself for not slowing down, for not giving it time to sit – not in my hands, re-reading and re-reading without giving the word-attachments time to detach.

I write these words today simply to remind people of the importance of slowing down: patience and trust. When we are enthusiastic, we get impatient, and when our words are brand new, we are enthusiastic about them. We only need to trust in the future, to trust that we will most likely still be here tomorrow and the next day, and to trust someone else with our babies, our documents of fading annuals and resilient perennials, just in case.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2018 in Musings & Other Things

 

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Verse Versus Poetry

I’m pausing—am in the middle of composing a 9-7-5 Terza Rima—to say a few words on verse versus poetry. Verse is very different from poetry. Verse allows me to pause and give my brain a break without ruining the structure or losing anything vital to a poem’s completion, whereas poetry, when it comes, is more desperate and immediate, requiring a notebook NOW. Poetry enters in through the right lobe of the brain, whereas verse is composed in the left lobe. So much verse reads like prose but with a fun “Mother Goose” sort of sound. So much “free verse” reads like prose as well, and most free-versers would cringe to consider that artful line breaks don’t create poetry of thoughts. Even qualities that make words fun to read and listen to (such as alliteration and assonance) don’t necessarily make poetry of words, but they can act magically on the mind and/or heart. Poetry (my own personal definition) is made of more sophisticated qualities that require actual inspiration (metaphor is expected; hyperbole is above and beyond, literally and figuratively, and personification can raise the dead to life through the mag-ic of i-mag-ination). One can decide to write verse, to increase one’s quantity of poems for books or whatever purpose, whereas poetry forces itself in.

One of my favorite poems is Hugh MacDiarmid’s “Birth of a Genius Among Men.” It’s actually somewhat poorly structured, but the poetry within the structure compensates. The first three stanzas:

The night folded itself about me, like a woman’s hair.
Thousands of dispersed forces, drawn as by a magnet,
Streamed through the open windows. Millions of stars poured through.
What destiny were they seeking in us? What outlet?

The universe awoke in my body.
My breast expanded and overflowed into the night.
I was one with Scotland out there, and with all the world,
And thoughts of your beauty shone in me like starlight.

You were all female, ripe as a rose for the plucking.
I was all male and no longer resisted my need.
The earth obeyed the rhythm of our panting.
The mountains sighed with us—infinity was emptied.

POETRY!

But this is verse, this rhythmic sound,
With nothing much to say,
And here the iambs loop around,
Say nothing anyway.

I’m convinced that the difference between poetry and verse is this: poetry is delivered through inspiration, and verse is the product of mental compulsion–plain and simple–and because it’s compulsive, it’ll be manufactured to endure as lastingly as poetry, for better and for worse.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2018 in Musings & Other Things

 

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Near-Life Experience (the Excluded Preface)

I was scrolling through a document of notes and found this Preface that I had written in advance and forgotten about. Instead, my little collection of poems has a practical Introduction; but I thought I’d share this Preface since it doesn’t appear in the book (yet it explained the title better than anything actually within the book, imo).

PREFACE

The more I read and understand, the more I realize that I am the awareness that fashions this body that types these words; I usher in from “the other side” as though I am “dead” and occupying a body through which to “do and shape” according to what my senses gather and what my mind or heart realize as a need for my presence in the moment.

I float through life. I feel, I see, I touch, and I wonder if everyone else feels this sense of being not a resident, per se, but a guest acquainted to the environment through learning and experience. Our senses ground us, but it’s always fleeting, which makes each moment truly precious: it’s here and then it’s gone, having given way to change of the ever-fluctuating Now.

I’ve often pondered the significance and the insignificance of my own words. I consider that “In the beginning was the Word” and, to me, that translates to sound, vibration, color, texture, shape. Why am I “here” right now? What gifts have I remembered through genetic memory that give value or direction to my being?

The awareness that I am is a spark of the divine passed through my ancestors. They live through me and give me an impulse to be a true and simple voice through which others can connect with the divine within themselves, because in that awareness is comfort and realization that we are never truly alone, whether this near-life experience is real, unreal, surreal, hyper-real. (“We’re all in this together,” or maybe All Is One and “we” forget.)

Words are multi-dimensional which makes them a tool of magic. On that note, I give birth to Near-Life Experience by invoking the magic of words in sentiment and sound. My will is to transfer the Love and the Beauty that I experience as I sit on this plateau with youth behind me and wisdom ahead and blowing in my direction – not to override the experiences of others, but to move spirit through the wind of words, to share moments in which I am reminded that All Is One so readers might remember the same through my words.




(Near-Life Experience by Christina Finlayson Taylor is available at Amazon.
Contact me at literata72@gmail.com for a signed copy.)

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2018 in Musings & Other Things

 

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Winter

Layers of winter:
Maple, flaunting her features,
Dressed for the season.














































I had a remarkable experience of being one with the picture of winter rather than simply watching it through the panels of the back door, toasty-toed, from the wood stove. The latter cultivates gratitude for warmth, shelter, security; whereas going outdoors, if we fully open ourselves to the moment, winter can cleanse the soul just as it purifies the earth.

I was walking along the sidewalk the other morning and snow was newly falling, just beginning to powder the sidewalk and the hedgerow to my right. Thirty degrees; quite tolerable. I wasn’t wearing a hood and enjoyed the snow speckling my head, and a pleasant waft of chimney smoke from the house of neighbors a few doors down. I imagined the couple sitting at their wood stove with coffee in hand. I was glad for their comfort, yet I was glad to be outside in a quiet moment of gentle snowfall, and an incredible sense of peace washed over me, and in that moment I was immensely joy-full of the beauty of winter. The season that I’ve always retreated from spoke to me in a new way, and as spring seems to be arriving early this year and the happy birdsong is invigorating, something tells me that when leaves begin to fall this autumn, there will be no sense of dread for the coming cold. I’ve made peace with all seasons.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2018 in Musings & Other Things

 

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Poem: Tapestry

Each life, a thread within a weave,
The grandest tapestry.
The weaver weaves the present-tense
With seeming spontaneity
When threads surrender to the hands,
The implements of mind,
The eye of God with vision clear;
The fates as puppets, blind,

But ah! The rebel now and then:
The path of the magician,
Resolved to wield a wayward will
And see it to fruition,
And even God with vision clear
Is thusly entertained
When perfect order intertwines
With chaos unrestrained.

A living, breathing tapestry—
With knots of soul-collision,
With known and hidden warp and woof
In patternless precision—
Extends in all directions far
Beyond all comprehension:
The playground of eternity,
A dream beyond dimension.

–Christina Finlayson Taylor
January 2018

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2018 in Musings & Other Things

 

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The “Feely” Quality of Hand-Crafted Books

This morning I was reading a touching poem by Jorge Luis Borges. It’s important to note that he was blind through part of his life, and blind when he wrote “June 1968.” It begins:

On a golden evening,
or in a quietness whose symbol
might be a golden evening,
a man sets up his books
on the waiting shelves,
feeling the parchment and leather and cloth
and the satisfaction given by
the anticipation of a habit
and the establishment of order.

(Further down the poem…)

The man, who is blind,
knows that he can no longer read
the handsome volumes he handles
and that they will not help him write
the book which in the end might justify him,
but on this evening that perhaps is golden
he smiles at his strange fate
and feels that special happiness
which comes from things we know and love.

On that note, I went down to our poetry room, which we call the Red Salon, and picked up my husband’s magnum opus, Remnants of a Season. I imagined that I might one day be mostly blind, like my great grandma, and I felt the book with my hands—the dimension, the texture, the special binding—and I filled with gratitude for the aesthetic sensibility and the craftsmanship of others, and how these qualities enrich and stylize our culture in ways such as clothing words in the most elegant book binding.

Remnants of a Season is of such a “feely” quality that it’s as much a treasure to hold as it is to behold, and if ever I could not read it, I could hold it in my hands and recognize it, hold it to my heart and absorb it, even as Borges must have known his favorite books by touch.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2017 in Musings & Other Things

 

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