Thoughts . . . by Mark Rich

. . . scribbled . . . scrawled . . . trimmed . . . typewritten . . . grubbed up . . . squeezed from circumstance . . .

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

By the Fly in the Web

At Timmi Duchamp's request last summer I wrote the essay that has reappeared, published, in my mailbox.

The good folks at Aqueduct have sent me the October issue of The Cascadia Subduction Zone. In its pages, Kiini Ibura Salaam rises to Timmi's request to write about being involved in various arts, with "Painting and Writing: My Yin and Yang," while I do likewise with "Line Improvisation: Notes by the Fly in the Web."

When I wrote my first short essay for Timmi last winter, I was responding to a last-minute, near-deadline request. I worked at the typewriter for the better part of a day, put the results through several revisions, and sent in my manuscript promptly. When much later I re-read that essay in published form, I reached the ending paragraphs thinking that the essay left off its narrative prematurely. It dropped its discussion too soon. I had hurried into the writing and then hurried out, though: so what else could I have expected? What was going missing, there at essay's end, however, I had no idea. The essay wanted to go somewhere farther -- somewhere it might have gone had I struggled at the task for a longer time.

With this second essay "Line Improvisation" I took the longer time, drafting the piece in pencil and allowing thoughts to arise at a more natural pace. While writing it I grew quickly aware of the fairly large scope my narrative was acquiring, however: so even while feeling more relaxed and expansive in my writing, I was pulling back, skipping over ideas and memories, and hurrying over parts of the story. While I had ample time, that ample time did end with a deadline; and in any case I feared I was making the piece too lengthy for CSZ, a slender magazine. Timmi fortunately expressed no worries about its 5,000-word length.

I sat with the Aqueduct magazine last night and read it cover to cover, absorbed in the present moment and not thinking back to those days of steady, slow writing back in July. So after the smooth flow of Salaam's essay my own essay surprised me -- with its hop-and-skip movements, and its occasional leaps between subjects ... between distant parts of a life. The lacunae between thoughts and sentences threatened to pull me, as reader, down into wordless emptinesses.

This morning I recall that when I sent the essay to Timmi I thought that my manuscript was akin to an outline of a larger narrative.

My two CSZ essays have strong memoir components -- as does the new, even longer essay I worked at in September-October.

I should say have labored at this new work, at least, when not scurrying around engaged in antiquing and Baraboo Sunday Market tasks. For CSZ? Probably not ...

Cheers ...

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