Tag Archives: lake crescent

Letters from Russia / development notes, sketches, drafts

Letters from Russia, mixed-media epistolary literature project, 2004

In 2004, I created a mixed-media creative writing project called “Letters from Russia” which was meant to be a series of well,… *obviously* letters written from Russia from the point of view of a cobbler in Napoleon’s army to his lover in France. All in all an unlikely and complicated conceit conceived as was a way to discuss various topics around love and war.

Appropriately, was written/crafted as part of a program at Evergreen State College called “Poets and Philosophers Discuss Love and War” which was my final “seminar” (at Evergreen, you don’t take courses and classes, rather programs and seminars and independent contracts and other non-traditional interdisciplinary learning contexts). This program involved going to Lake Crescent on Olympic Peninsula with three faculty members with different specialties – philosophy, history and poetry/creative writing – staying in cabins, doing the Evergreen-ubiquitous group projects and assignments of various kinds but also working on an individual big project amidst mediation.

Unsurprisingly, I was keen to do something “big” to finish off my hard won Bachelor of Arts degree which spanned 17 years and four or five colleges/universities depending on how you count them. A “capstone” of a sort. {digression: previously thought a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing was my path and with that would come a big project/thesis or whatever, since that wasn’t going to happen, wanted to do something that felt like similar for personal satisfaction}

So, at the idyllic lakefront surrounding, i diligently worked along on this complicated house of cards – in between long stretches of partying, drinking racks of beer, usual herbs, one guy brought a motorboat and a gun – I mean none of it made sense.

I did a few of the assigned assignments (writing something about explaining peace to a banana slug or other contrived drudgery) while putting this project together in my head. I could imagine the finished product: wanted an “artifact” with tactility and vague sense of authenticity despite it being completely fictional.

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sparks of inspiration and outline

The finished result was series of letters written on different pieces of paper stock from my suitcase stationery stash, compiled to create the feeling that the protagonist “Henri” (all the characters were named after French Canadian hockey players) was with the army, scavenging any kind of paper he could find, and using different sorts of writing materials. Then I added a series of illustrations, paintings, other visual expressions in various medium and styles (and worked in the character of an Italian conscript with his unit who is a painter as an excuse to include these paintings).

let’s write in cursive with inky fountain pens on handmade paper, such authentic-ness

I wrote some test letters (readers may notice original drafts used a different name for the recipient of the letters) to try out some different papers, handwriting styles, pens and to find my rhythm. Once I found my rhythm it all came together very quickly but finding that vibe and materials and to start was a real challenge.

Continue reading Letters from Russia / development notes, sketches, drafts

Night Lake Diving, 2004 (typed)

Night Lake Diving, 2004
Night Lake Diving, 2004, typed 2017

The original poem was written in 2004… I was in my last program for my long-fought bachelors degree attending Evergreen State College out of Olympia Washington (keep in mind, it took 17 years and four or five colleges)… my final course was a multi-day retreat called “poets and philosophers discuss love and war“ held at Lake Crescent on the Olympic Peninsula. Sounds idyllic, and for the most part it was… Was a group of mostly diligent students but a few goofballs as well including a fella who brought his speed boat, and several firearms to the workshop, inexplicably. Turns out this was the third time he’s taking this program, Sort of like the Matthew McConaughey character in Dazed and Confused I suppose.

Anyway, one night i boarded his boat with a few other drunken carousers, and in the middle of the glacier lake, stripped down and dove into the cool water, over and over again. I suppose while I was pleased to be graduating, I also realized it didn’t really mean *anything*, just that I had to do something else now. So, I tried to shake the blues by diving as deep into the endless lake as I could.

Back on the boat, the little gang headed for the far rocky shore, cold from the lake water in a bout of stupidity, decided to try to light a fire with some assembled sticks of driftwood. Alas, without proper technique/supplies, this is nigh impossible so the chief knucklehead was determined to take apart a bullet to remove the gunpowder to act as “tinder“ to start the fire. I realized this was a ridiculous proposition but it’s hard to work forward momentum of fools.

I did my best to explain this while I was shivering and my mind was elsewhere, but I realized it was a useless task.

They eventually realized this as well avoiding potential calamity. So piled back on the boat, back to “camp“ with significant reprimand the next day from the operators of the usually quiet and serene retreat.

As an aside, during this program, I wrote a work of epistolary literature called “Letters from Russia“… Each “letter“ was written by hand, most accompanied by some sort of sketch or drawing, all in the character of a cobbler with Napoleon’s army on the ill-fated march into Russia and 1812. (I’ll share this work with you forthwith to assuage your possible curiosity).

As it goes, this original poem “fermented” in a notebook until around 2008 but it was quickly transcribed and stuck up on a blog, which was eventually migrated to a new fancier blog, and then typed out in Sri Lanka last year (2017) on a battered machine picked up and abandoned.

Night Lake Diving

freshly skinny white
leaping from the storm
the 2AM moonlight
fractures with the impact

the rocks below
clarified by the
glacial melt
jagged but deep enough
for divers and explorers
escaping ennui and malaise

on the shore bobbing over rocks
shook freed from constraints
the absence reveals
no barriers for the lubricious and clumsy

emerging from the cold
to stumble on the wretched shore
where bullets won’t start a fire
only tinder and a spark
is all i can stammer