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The Almighty and The Elephant Share Poems on World Poetry Day

The elephant was contemplating his muse.

He was lying beside the river, trailing one of his big feet in the water.

He watched as the current rippled and sparkled past, and noted the occasional
leaping fish with bemusement.He looked across to the other shore with a sigh,
and then closed his eyes to more fully experience the race of the river against his toes.
After indulging himself in this manner for awhile, he flopped onto his back, so he could
look at the trees.

He traced their outline against the blue sky with his trunk, and followed

the curve of some branches overhanging the river with interest. He even smiled benignly as a family of monkeys clambered up one tree, leapt through the canopy of leaves, and

raced down another.

He suddenly slapped his forehead with his trunk, rolled over with such force that

he jostled a boulder with his flank, and began to emote.

The monkeys, in the trees,

“Cause a breeze, when they sneeze.”

“Pardon me?” said the boulder.

I nudged the boulder with my shoulder.

“It was older, and much colder.”

“Oh boy,” said God.

“I am a POET,” said the elephant.

“Oh boy, again,” said God.

It is a stone, which has grown,

“In a zone, all alone.”

“Would that I were – alone, and away from the voices.”

“I’m expressing myself,” said the elephant.

“That is a statement of truth,” said God, “which does not contain the whole truth.”

“It is a thrill, to have free will,

“That is until, others say `nil’.”

“To be fair,” God stifled a chuckle. “You seem to have grasped the concept of

rhyme – although your reach sometimes exceeds it.”

“But that’s what heaven’s for,” pointed out the elephant.

“You’ll get,” said God, “no Browning points from me.”

“That’s not my last, don’t be so fast,

“My muse to cast, into the past.”

“You’ve heard about too much of a good thing?” asked the boulder, giving a nudge of its own.

“Yes,” said the elephant.

“Well – this isn’t it.”

“You don’t like the way I make the words dance?”

“I’d rather sit this one out.”

In the misty morn, he sat forlorn;

“He wouldn’t adorn, the dance floor well-worn.”

“Oh boy,”said God.

“As you can see,” said the elephant. “I provide a lot of bon mot for each and

every occasion.”

“Such a threat is enough to make a boulder crumble,” said the boulder.

“The rock of ages, dissolved in stages,

“And proved the sages’, `noblesse obliges’.”

“Oy veh,” said God. “I’ve become a straight man for a stand-up elephant.”

“I could pack a hall,” said the elephant.

“You could pachyderm,” pointed out God.

It’s just a guess, I do confess,

“That more is less, in the wilderness.”

“This could go on forever,” said God.

“You’re the expert there,” pointed out the elephant.

“Then I think I’ll repair to the forest,” said the boulder.

“He stood, in the wood,

“Where he could, do most good.”

The boulder rumbled with a voice which filled the jungle.

Poems are made by fools like thee,

“But only I can make a tree.”

The Marvel And Surprise Of A Severe Edit On A Novel Manuscript

I am about two thirds through editing my ‘five-years-to-write’ novel. It is called “There Was A Time, Oh Pilgrim, When The Stones Were Not So Smooth. I doubt I will get to keep my title.

I follow my characters, so I had no detailed plot. Thus, I can forget some of the details of something written two years ago.


Though editing brings most of it back.


And I might have known it at the time, but I am surprised that this particular chapter is a juncture to three major threads in the novel.

,
First, there are a number of different levels of the supernatural in the novel. They are distinct, and do not blend. In this chapter, three of these levels make an appearance.


Second, a major event from my main character’s childhood is revealed, explaining much of how she got to be the person she is.


And third, a decidedly unpleasant and mean character actually performs a positive deed.


That’s a lot of work for one chapter. I realized I had to make each of these threads stand out on their own. I remembered that I had worked and worked on it at the time, but not as successfully as I desired.


But this time.


My solution is to use number of three line paragraphs. Everything stands out. Nothing is cluttered

No confusion at all.

Circles Continue To Be The Answer . . . To So Many Questions

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Perhaps it is circular, but this observation (from an – admittedly – unreliable observer in one of my short stories) has been a constantly popular post over the last few years. Yes – it has even surpassed interest in Franz Kafka. .So I’ll give it another turn

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Circles are the answer.

“Just look at any circle and you’ll see what I mean. Of course, no one else is to know about the circles. They must be very stupid if they can’t see something so obvious.

“Yet, you get hints, don’t you – all the time out there. And in your own life – the way things happen so you never get anywhere. Never change.

“The earth, of course, and the sun – well, that’s something you can see. Either way you look at it, the one goes around the other in a big circle that takes in the whole sky. And the earth and the sun and the moon are round  – all circles in their own right. So you have circles which are going around in circles, if you get my meaning.

“And if you look further – reach out into the universe as far as you can go – they tell us that everything is going around everything else. Smaller circles and elongated circles which take in such large distances that numbers become forgotten.

“Now, this means that everything, eventually, comes back upon itself. The beginning is really the end. That’s what most people would think – and that’s where they make their mistake.

“You see, things don’t start by beginning – they start by ending. It’s the end which comes first in a circle, so, instead of going back to where it started, it comes back to its end.

“That explains it.”

(image) https:////g2.img-dpreview.com/5E9006CB86C3456BA85963CCC03183D9.jpg

Kafka And The Flowers Of Hope – Suitable For The Summer

From my novel Kafka In The Kastle, where I fill in his missing diary entries.

08 April 1917

I seem to end in the most absurd situations. This afternoon, before Sunday dinner, Ottla took me away for some gardening. Rooting around in the earth, with the frost barely gone. Only Ottla could find such a plot of ground in Prague, or expect me to grub about in it like some hungry animal. I was tempted to ask why she was not at the tiny house, or ask her where David Joseph was – certainly not digging around in the soil. But, I’m not to know of him – and certainly not his name. His absence might explain her energy. She said she wanted to prepare for the work on the farm, and this was a sample of what awaited her. It turned out we were not alone.

It was obviously some sort of communal land – such places are popular during this war. There were even families at work. Children also. One small boy was caught between his interest in the garden, and his desire to be a small boy. And what a dilemma it was. He’d work in the ground for awhile, following the example of his mother, then suddenly race around, exploring like a small boy. He came over to Ottla and me, and hunkered down beside us. He shook his head with a sigh of exasperation, and reached over to put his hands on mine. “Mummy says that’s wrong,” and with great patience and determination, began to show me how to prepare the earth. I thought there could be no better proof to Ottla of how inept I was.

I followed the movements of his hands, and between us, we dug quite a hole. At last the little fellow stood, obviously satisfied. “I go now,” he said, and ran away to see some other entertaining oddity. Ottla hadn’t laughed for fear of offending the boy, but she didn’t show such restraint when we were finally alone. It fell to me to find the flowers. Such things prove God’s sense of humour, for I have no interest or understanding for flowers. There was a fellow at university who could talk about flowers for hours. Otherwise, he was quite pleasant to be with. So it seems a joke that I would find them, between a pile of rubble and the wall of a house.

I had been exploring, much as the little fellow had done. In fact, he was running past when I found them, so I showed him also. They were white, with frail leaves close to the ground. Quite nondescript. But the boy was fascinated. He put his face close, although he didn’t touch them. “Can I tell Mummy?” He obviously thought they were my flowers. “Yes,” I said, and he ran to get her. She followed him as he chattered all the way, and then she too hesitated, looking at me cautiously. “Perhaps your wife would like to see them,” she suggested. It took a moment to realize she was referring to Ottla. The flowers had become my possession. “Yes,” I said, “And tell anyone you like.” “The first flowers of Spring,” she said, and she went to tell the others, taking care to stop at Ottla first.

Tiny white flowers.

I can still not believe the looks upon their faces, as they crowded around. Even the children were silent.

The relief they showed.

When You Sink But You Don’t Have To Swim

Alison Alexandra Ponders Whilst Under The English Channel

The London platform is abustle, though, in reality, she is boarding a train to take her to a train waiting in Calais. Still, it is under the umbrella of the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express, and she is happy to board and take a very cushy seat.

Two hours and fifteen minutes to Paris. Nice scenery at either end. A glass of Bellini, in a champagne flute, before the actual undersea part. Nothing could be finer.

Alison Alexandra assumes that a quaff of peach infused Prosecco sparkling wine is to ease the anxiety of anyone going not only underground but also undersea. She appreciates the glass of – expectedly – high-toned champagne regardless, but she does not need a drink to assuage any fears, for she has none.

She has always enjoyed the thought of actually moving under streets and buildings and cars and people and parks and dogs and folk in restaurants spooning soup while other folk high up in business towers give power point presentations about the fluidity of market shares or the expert way to niggle a wire into an explicate brain to stop one form of behaviour or to restart another. Thousands of snips of humanity and civilisation wending their way over her head as she wends her way from one underground station to another.

And then – to add the volume of the sea – well, what now floats overhead? How many fish and how much plankton and seaweed and eels and lobsters and oysters and snails and perhaps even whales swimming and eating and probably eating each other in the liquid beauty which is the water which is the ocean which is the sea that slaps against the cliffs that she watches from her prow-of-a-ship windows when she is on the other side.

And the ocean that slaps the rocks at the base of her cliff is full of fish gurgle and whale song and lobster clatter and crab scuttle and perhaps even the mermaids singing. And then there is the screw screw screw of all the propellers of all the ships carrying crew and passengers and cargo of all sorts and conditions, from cases of the champagne she is drinking to the host of automobiles like the Black Ghost that Gabriella drove when she shared some champagne delivered by ship and not aged on the delivery truck two cities over.

And other cargo, floating and steaming over her head, food and drink and oil and bourbon and stiletto-heeled shoes and prayer books and cotton and smart phones and insulin and jet engines and books and railway ties and sheep dip and textiles and spices from the Far east and tongue dispensers and sugar and steel beams for steel bridges and fishhooks and guided missiles and holy missals and buttons and bows and those tiny umbrellas for fruit punch cocktails and things that Alison Alexandra doesn’t even know exists but she has her suspicions.

All over her head and moving the waves and making whales sing their cautionary songs to warn other whales to get the hell out of the way or they will get bumped on their noggin. And they do. Get out of the way.

Alison Alexandra finishes her underwater pilgrimage and pops above ground in France. And although Alison Alexandra has been somewhat offended by having to take an actual bus shuttle under the actual English Channel, she still shouts “Alors!”

QWERTY of the World – Unite (do not Untie)

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WHEN IN ROME!

There was:

an Abyssinian (I made her),

an Albanian,

a Bolshevik,

a Brataslzvian (he was worst),

a Brazilian,

a Canadian,

a Cannibal (uh-oh),

a Colombian (smoking hot),

a Cynic (she didn’t believe the Canadian),

a Dominican,

a Druid (he prayed for the Dominican),

a Druze,

an Eatonian,

an Estonian,

a Fool (ha ha),

a Freizen,

a Gazian,

a Graduate,

a Haligonian,

a Helgolandian (he was and gone),

an Israeli,

an Iranian,

an Iraqi (they three went into a bar),

a Jamaican,

a Japanese,

a Kazistanian,

a Kurd,

a Lithuanian,

a Lush (one in every crowd),

a Mongolian,

a Monster (them is the odds),

a Nederlander,

a Norwegian,

an Olympian (he was game),

an Opportunist (coulda been me),

a Pole (he vaulted over the rest – *joke*),

a Quebecois (I’ll never forget her / Je me souviens),

a Russian (great dancer – he had the steps),

a Scandinavian,

a Southerner (I melt when she says ‘Y’all) ,

a Stevedore,

a Transvalanian (out for blood),

an Ukrainian,

an Unitarian,

a Vulcan (he was eerie),

a Waalloon,

a Wisenheimer,

an Xanaduian (and on her dulcimer she played),

an Xaverian (he shot daggers at the Dominican),

a Yugoslavian

and

a Zarahthustain (thus he spoke a lot)

The Canadian won the first game.

 

(image) cdn.makeuseof.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/qwerty-keyboard-840×420.jpg?7497b8

Death Mask And The Creative Spirit

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My two gals, Alison Alexandra and her friend, Amanda, went on a sea voyage. A voyage via a freighter, and not a cruise ship. They stop in the ports where the freighter stops, and they take visits of the town if they so desire.

 

On one of their times on shore, they decide to visit a Police Museum. One of the exhibits is a Death Mask of a hanged murderer. They take great interest in this, noting the repose of the face.

 

This incident is based on an event in my own life. I melded parts of my experience into my characters afternoon visit during their day ashore. This had not been on my mind when I started this particular chapter..
 

I once taught a workshop on Supernatural writing. For my workshop I took advantage to take my students on a field trip to see the death mask of a historically known poet. The death mask was conveniently on view in a display case in a near-by building.

None of them had even heard of ‘death masks’, let alone seen one. I invited them to incorporate the idea into their writing exercises. Some did, some did not.

However, it’s possible this visit to Death elicited the following story from one of my students.

My student and her husband had purchased a new house. Cleaning and renovations eventually took them to the back loft area, which was piled high with decades of accumulated detritus from a long life.

 

They cleared out beds and boxes and newspaper piles and magazines and bundles of clothes and on and on. Near the end of this process, my student noticed a “clump of something”on one of the wooden beams of the loft.

Getting ladder and flashlight her husband climbed to see what it was.

It was the end of a number of knotted bed sheets.

Kafka’s Secure Burrow For World Book Day

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{Books by Franz Kafka]

 

A burrow offers security and comfort, and Kafka found both in his sister’s tiny house on the Golden Lane.

Ottla – his sister – had rented it so she could spend time with her lover and not be bothered by parents and comments. Her lover was a Christian and ready to go to war. Time was precious.

However, she rarely had opportunities other than the weekends, so she offered Franz the use of the tiny house for most of that time. And use it he did, though he never stayed the night.

Through fall, winter and spring Kafka wrote a whole book of short stories. For one single block of time, it was one of his most creative periods.

When I visited, even under Communist rule, it had been converted to a book store. Of course (which he would have appreciated) there were no books by Kafka for sale. Today he is displayed in the windows.

It was only when I went thorough the small rooms, and looked out the window into The Stag Moat, that I realized how important the house would become in my novel about Kafka. It was cozy – even with the space cramped by tourists. It had been little altered and I easily imagined Kafka looking through the same glass and walking through the same doorways. No doubt stooping because he was tall. Research met reality.

One of the last stories Kafka wrote, during his final year in Berlin, was called The Burrow. A version exists and is published, though a longer version is supposed to be among his ‘missing’ papers.

In it, a tiny animal keeps incessantly burrowing to keep away from an enemy. A vague noise convinces the animal to burrow deeper, and deeper, and deeper.

Something Kafka himself attempted to do.

(Image) https:/cdn.myfonts.net/s/ec/cc-201503/kafka-books.png

Author Interview w/ CBC

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1. What unique challenges do you face when writing about serious
non-fiction issues such as religion?

I WRITE about spiritual matters and leave religion to others. The spirit and its quests drive religion – religion just interprets. The biggest challenge I faced in THE ELEPHANT TALKS TO GOD is that the Elephant started asking questions I could not answer. Thus endeth the book.

2. You wrote The Elephant Talks to God in 1989. Why did you decide to
re-release it with the added stories rather than write a sequel?

THIS WAS the decision of the publisher, Goose Lane. When they approached me for a re-issue they were unaware of the additional stories. It was decided the marketplace would prefer one longer book over two shorter ones. Having just one book also reduced production costs, which in turn reduced consumer cost.

3. Why did you decide to become a writer?

“I WAS born like this, I had no choice, I was born with the gift of a golden voice.” This quote from Leonard Cohen sums it up. Not “born” this way exactly, but within one month in grade eleven I went from ‘no writing’ to ‘continually writing’. I have no explanation. I had no previous interest nor inclination toward the arts, or writing. I was not a reader, and only after university deliberately read such children’s classics as Black Beauty and Alice in Wonderland.

4. What books or authors have most influenced your life?

POSSIBLY P.G. WODEHOUSE was the most influential author in my formative period. I even sent him a fan letter and received a response. In university I experienced Franz Kafka, and I believe I have read everything of his in print. Much later I visited Prague to research a novel I have since written about him. There are reports of ‘missing’ stories and diaries of Kafka still in Berlin, which I would dearly love to find.

5. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good
writing?

SURPRISE, HUMOUR and reality. ‘In context’ (it doesn’t matter what the genre) I want to be surprised by what is happening, yet fully believe in the reality created in the book. And somewhere, at least once, every character in every novel should make me laugh at least once.

6. What are you reading right now?

“WICKED” BY Gregory Maguire. His abilities as a writer astound me. I am a slow reader, and seemingly getting slower. Soon (?) to be read will be Alice Munro’s “The View from Castle Rock ” and John LeCarre’s “The Mission Song”, both requested Christmas presents. I also do a lot of research for my novels, and will embark upon histories of China in the near future.

7. What advice would you give to writers starting out?

I HAVE two steadfast rules, one put into rhyme. “When in doubt/take it out.” Regardless of the wonder of the poetic line, or the awe of the slice of dialogue, if you have any questions about its effectiveness, that is reason enough to remove it.
The other concerns the physical writing itself. At the end of your writing day, and you know what the next line of dialogue is, or the description you are going to write, or the next line of the poem – DON”T write them down. Start with them the next day, and you will quickly get back into the writing. I find this works 90% of the time.

8. Describe your writing process.

I’M A morning writer, roughly from 9:00 until 15:00. There’s a meal in there, and research and email and such, but I will generally complete two pages a day. I generally write seven or eight days straight and then take one off. At the start of a novel I have a well developed outline and characters, though I rarely write such things down. I find that at the end of a novel I spend an additional third of the writing time editing what is done. I usually complete a novel in two years.

9. Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome
it?

THREE MONTHS of writer’s block during my second novel has (so far) been my experience with this curse (knock knock knock on wood). I sat at the desk literally for hours per day attempting to continue. I think I wrote five paragraphs in that time. I know of no way to overcome it other than attempting to write each day. My number two tip in question #7 will help in avoiding writer’s block.

10. Naturally, most writer want as many people as possible to read
their work. Who did you have in mind when you were writing this book,
the “believers” or the “non-believers”?

BRITISH PUBLISHER Joseph Dent introduced “Everyman’s Library” in the early 1900’s (which is now published by Random House UK). As my mother was from England and my father was a proud UEL, there were many of these books when I was growing up. Everyman’s Library had a motto at the beginning of each book: “Everyman, I will go with thee/and be thy guide,/ in thy most need/ to go by thy side.”
This is what came to mind when thinking of who I write for. I did not write for either believers or non-believers. I wrote for everyone, and my job is to make them both accept that the The Elephant believes. 

The Elephant Talks To God

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