Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Under the influence 

I can't imagine wanting to be Bukowski, but I did go through a sustained phase - maybe 10 years ago (Frank, you probably remember this) - when I couldn't stop him from leaking into my own writing. The poems were just too seductive in their apparent ease. Prior to that, I'd been reading some of the Beats (esp Corso and McClure), & I'd been introduced to Creeley & the New American Poetry & In The American Tree anthologies. Yet Buk's narrative poems had a destructive appeal, & I couldn't stop myself from writing "punchline" poems for quite a while. (One of them showed up in dotdotdot, an age-old Philly mag that I think Conrad mentioned here awhile back. My poem was about getting drunk [of course] while watching the fish in the bar's fishtank. I believe the accompanying graphic had a Pac Man-like fish devouring my poem.)

His poems don't really do it for me these days - I've become too obsessed w/ poems being precise & concise, & he strikes me as often being too sloppy & in need of editing - but the novels still interest me once in a while. Strange as it seems, once in a blue moon, I pick up "Post Office" or "Ham On Rye," & it's like visiting an old friend. "Oh, there goes old Henry again! He should really put on some pants before he dukes it out w/ his neighbor!"

Fiction's on my mind more these days in general. After maybe five post-grad school years of not writing any, I've got some pieces coming together. I feel like Temple's grad program helped me as a poet quite a bit but damaged me as a fiction writer almost beyond repair. I look at the fiction I wrote going in, & it seems pretty fresh & inventive, if in need of work. By the end of two workshops, I was writing proficient short stories that lack just about any originality. My professors weren't so much to blame as some classmates, who'd had a class w/ David Bradley the semester before. He'd coached them on the art of writing short stories, which was apparently more of a science - if you strayed from his rigid formula at all, your story got shredded in class. So boring work was dutifully churned out - luckily that cycle didn't present itself in the poetry workshops, too. It's taken me ages to try to figure out exactly what the heck I want to do w/ fiction since then... I still don't know, exactly, but at least there's progress. I feel confident that what I've got now would've been shredded in one of those workshops, which tells me I'm probably on the right track.

Wow, it feels good to cast the blame for my own writerly mis-steps at the feet of others, even if one of them is dead. I'll have to try this more often.

Chris McC

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?