“An act of will that changed my life from that of a frustrated artist, waiting to have a room of my own and an independent income before getting down to business, to that of a working writer: I decided to get up two hours before my usual time, to set my alarm for 5:00 A.M. … Since that first morning in 1978 when I rose in the dark to find myself in a room of my own – with two hours belonging only to me ahead of me, two prime hours when my mind was still filtering my dreams – I have not made or accepted too many excuses for not writing. This apparently ordinary choice, to get up early and to work every day, forced me to come to terms with the discipline of art.”
– Judith Ortiz Cofer, ‘5.00 A.M.: Writing as Ritual’
“Now and then there are readings which make the hairs on the neck, the non-existent pelt, stand on end and tremble, when every word burns and shines hard and clear and infinite and exact, like stones of fire, like points of stars in the dark …”
– A S Byatt, Possession
It began with the usual insults
about her nose and hips,
and the belief that her true-true mother
lived on a coral island protected
by sunken galleys and man-o-wars.
her therapists said, were drawing her
toward a different future
than her parents had wished for
when they punished her
for not reading the books they’d studied,
and sent her away on Easter egg hunts
dressed in starched, pink dresses, white bonnets,
and blue bows in each braid of her stubborn hair.
And when she began cutting her wrists,
arms, legs, and belly, her parents
agreed with the psychiatrists
to the prescriptions of pills, potions,
and poisons to keep her grounded in this life.
But then, the scabs became scars became scales,
her hair grew wild and untamed,
and a garden of yellows, blues, and reds sprouted
on her arms, legs, and back –
her ears and lips studded with gold –
and almost overnight she changed into something
she had always resembled in her own dreams,
in the mirror of her mother –
something beautiful and fearsome.
Geoffrey Philp is the author of a children’s book, Grandpa Sydney’s Anancy Stories; a novel, Benjamin, My Son; a collection of short stories, Uncle Obadiah and the Alien, and five poetry collections, including Exodus and Other Poems, Florida Bound, hurricane center, xango music, and Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas. Who’s Your Daddy?: And Other Stories was published by Peepal Tree Press in 2009. Geoffrey lives in Miami, Florida.
Read Rethabile Masilo’s interview with Geoffrey at Poéfrika.
Visit Geoffrey’s blog.
“J G Ballard, the author who has died aged 78, was best known for his two fictionalised autobiographies, Empire of the Sun and The Kindness of Women; the former, which told of his childhood in a Japanese internment camp outside Shanghai, became an international best-seller and was later made into a film by Steven Spielberg.”
Read J G Ballard’s obituary in The Telegraph.
“Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.”
– Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
I believe that a writer’s duty as a writer is first to him- or herself. That point in inarguable. A writer has to make a hard-nosed commitment to writing, or the writing won’t happen at all. A writer has to seek out time to write and then guard that time like a pit bull. I got married a few years ago, and committing to writing feels like getting married. Saying yes to the whole enterprise day after day takes a willing and stubborn soul.
But a writer’s first duty as a writer and as a human being, I have also come to believe, is to nurture other writers. A writer must be midwife at the births of other writers’ voices. A writer must share the wisdom she or he has learned in her writer’s solitude and give that wisdom away, with kindness and generosity and gentleness.
It is, I am certain, the giving of an heirloom, an absolutely necessary behest.”
– Julie Checkoway
“It takes a fierce devotion to defend your artistic space, and eternal vigilance over it, because the needs of others will grow like vines in your little plot and claim it back for the jungle.”
– Judith Ortiz Cofer
“A serious writer is not to be confounded with a solemn writer. A serious writer may be a hawk or a buzzard or even a popinjay, but a solemn writer is always a bloody owl.”
– Ernest Hemingway
“I am a gypsy in spirit … I travel in gardens and bedrooms, basements and attics, around corners, through doorways and windows, along sidewalks, up stairs, over carpets, down drainpipes, in the sky, with friends, lovers, children and heroes: perceived, remembered, imagined, distorted and clarified.”
– Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction