Nonsense to Empty the Brain / by Shawna Miller

Today, well today is one of those days that I dread. It is a day that all creatives despise – the day where the wall has fallen in front of any inspirational flow connecting various parts of ones being. What does that mean? A bunch of nonsense, sure, but it also means that today my being is tired and uninspired. I decided a few day ago, foolishly, that I would start documenting when these moments happen so that I am able to reference back later when the wall not only hits, but the fraud police knock on my studio door with glee to inform me of my right to remain silent. Think of it as an alibi of sorts – something to get me out of an artistic shit creek later on. Now the reasoning for this non-invitational artistic cock-block could be the result of me bleeding my inside lady-bits out through half a package of Stayfree maxi-pads today, or it could be that I have not seen the actual sun in 3 days, or it could be that I have been sculpting, painting, and gluing for those 3 days and my brain is a literal mush – no matter the reasoning, it’s here. So let us just get on with this, write a bit, and see what sort of nonsense we can muck up on this lovely day.

Seeing as no inspiration has laid its graces upon my being I figured I would share a poem that I feel changed my perspective on what poetry could be. Yeah – poetry – it’s totally random and ya know, it’s poetry. I know, you think poetry is scary: there are rules, narcissism is the primary rule of thumb for subject matters, the majority of the really good authors write in this language that is not American-speak, AND you have to actually read between the lines and become bit of a Dr. Holmes of the English language. Don’t worry, I thought all of these things once as well. (insert obligatory life-changing college moment here). Okay, I really did have a life-changing moment happen when I went to my first Romantic Lit. class. I had no clue how much their (scary poets) words were nothing but streams of incredibly descriptive moments – perfect for the creative with a heavy imagination. Tough for the kid who taught herself to read by turning the closed captioning on while watching her morning cartoons, however, when I made it through that class, successfully at that, I was pretty fuckin’ smitten with myself and a few things actually stuck. Although I do hope my instructor for that class does not read this as I am positive he would recoil in horror.

One of those “things” was a poem (posted below) written by William Wordsworth in 1802 – it is titled “Resolution and Independence”. Below I am going to tell you a quick and horrible summary of this amazing piece. You can read his actual piece below the nonsense summary I have already prepared for you – and I highly recommend you do. Why am I writing about this today? If you really want to know, it’s because it is not shaped like a vagina. If you don’t understand that reference then you can either look at my current work or just, I don’t know, whatever you were doing before. Let’s face it, if you are still reading this then you are either my husband who I gleefully force to read my nonsense, or you have just come upon it by chance, and in that case, may the lords of Abernethy be with you.

Onto the half-assed attempt to describe how my insides feel today by way of poorly describing an incredible piece written by William Wordsworth:

This is from a real encounter he (Wordsworth) had in 1800 with a leech gatherer – yeah, someone had to do it. Imagine this: Bill is walking through a land with lots of happy nature happening around him, we are talking picturesque almost orgasmic type descriptions of his surroundings, but even with all this incredible beauty he is like: fuck this, I am not feeling this shit right now. Don’t worry, he notices the irony in this. This is were we start to understand the meaning of the title. He references himself as a younger poet – romanticizing a bit the easy joy that came with being a young poet. I think: ha! No way would I go back to living with that trucker in the dog shit room. So, anyway, Bill is walking, thinking, and feeling shittier and shittier about his future, then he comes upon this old man just standing and staring into a nasty ass pond. As a narrator, Bill is kind of a dick, but the point of it is to tell you that this old guy must be beyond human, and him standing still while staring into a pond at his age is more than impressive. Yeah, it’s kind of ageist, but let’s not think about that. This guy is so still that Bill doesn’t even know if this guy is alive, but suddenly the dude moves, and then Bill takes the opportunity to jump in and start asking this dude questions and just generally getting up in his shit. So, Bill is like really interrogating this guy wanting to know all of his guru thoughts, like why and how did he get here (literally and spiritually, from what I read). However, Bill is a horrible listener. He kinda fades in and out, giving a real half-assed attempted into expanding his listening skills. Bill finally comes back from dreaming of how dreamy this situation is and hears a few lines that give him relief from his despondent feeling, almost as if he just heard his student loans were deferred until next year. Don't worry, he doesn't stay that way - he is a poet so he must constantly poke himself with an elongated and curved cattle prod until he feels beyond the Charlie Brown. I am sure you want to know what those magical words were, but oh, you KNOW I am going to make you read the piece to find out. Trust me, Bill considered himself to be one with the “common man” – this means that if I can read it, you can totally read it and probably have a better understanding of it than I do. I am just kind of here because Past Shawna made deals with Future Shawna and Past Shawna has been known to crack some knees. Anyway, there are a few interesting notes of introspectiveness in this piece that relates a bit to my innards right now while I am in this moment of mine.

For your enjoyment, I bring you William Wordsworth (who I so lovingly call ‘Bill’). Don’t be a jackass to yourself – read it. Mayhaps read it again, and even better, Google a few better worded summaries by people with degrees in such fields and excel in teaching where I can only grunt and point at my genitals with vigor. 

 Resolution and Independence - William Wordsworth, 1802

There was a roaring in the wind all night:
The rain came heavily and fell in floods;
But now the sun is rising calm and bright;
The birds are singing in the distant woods;
Over his own sweet voice the Stock-dove broods;
The Jay makes answer as the Magpie chatters;
And all the air is fill'd with pleasant noise of waters.

All things that love the sun are out of doors;
The sky rejoices in the morning's birth;
The grass is bright with rain-drops; on the moors
The Hare is running races in her mirth;
And with her feet she from the plashy earth
Raises a mist; which, glittering in the sun,
Runs with her all the way, wherever she doth run.

I was a Traveller then upon the moor;
I saw the Hare that rac'd about with joy;
I heard the woods, and distant waters, roar;
Or heard them not, as happy as a Boy:
The pleasant season did my heart employ:
My old remembrances went from me wholly;
And all the ways of men, so vain and melancholy.

But, as it sometimes chanceth, from the might
Of joy in minds that can no farther go,
As high as we have mounted in delight
In our dejection do we sink as low,
To me that morning did it happen so;
And fears, and fancies, thick upon me came;
Dim sadness, and blind thoughts I knew not nor could name.

I heard the Sky-lark singing in the sky;
And I bethought me of the playful Hare:
Even such a happy Child of earth am I;
Even as these blissful Creatures do I fare;
Far from the world I walk, and from all care;
But there may come another day to me,
Solitude, pain of heart, distress, and poverty.

My whole life I have liv'd in pleasant thought,
As if life's business were a summer mood;
As if all needful things would come unsought
To genial faith, still rich in genial good;
But how can He expect that others should
Build for him, sow for him, and at his call
Love him, who for himself will take no heed at all?

I thought of Chatterton, the marvellous Boy,
The sleepless Soul that perish'd in its pride;
Of Him who walk'd in glory and in joy
Behind his plough, upon the mountain-side:
By our own spirits are we deified;
We Poets in our youth begin in gladness;
But thereof comes in the end despondency and madness.

Now, whether it were by peculiar grace,
A leading from above, a something given,
Yet it befel, that, in this lonely place,
When up and down my fancy thus was driven,
And I with these untoward thoughts had striven,
I saw a Man before me unawares:
The oldest Man he seem'd that ever wore grey hairs.

My course I stopped as soon as I espied
The Old Man in that naked wilderness:
Close by a Pond, upon the further side,
He stood alone: a minute's space I guess
I watch'd him, he continuing motionless:
To the Pool's further margin then I drew;
EIe being all the while before me full in view.

As a huge Stone is sometimes seen to lie
Couch'd on the bald top of an eminence;
Wonder to all who do the same espy
By what means it could thither come, and whence;
So that it seems a thing endued with sense:
Like a Sea-beast crawl'd forth, which on a shelf
Of rock or sand reposeth, there to sun itself.

Such seem'd this Man, not all alive nor dead,
Nor all asleep; in his extreme old age:
His body was bent double, feet and head
Coming together in their pilgrimage;
As if some dire constraint of pain, or rage
Of sickness felt by him in times long past,
A more than human weight upon his frame had cast.

Himself he propp'd, his body, limbs, and face,
Upon a long grey Staff of shaven wood:
And, still as I drew near with gentle pace,
Beside the little pond or moorish flood
Motionless as a Cloud the Old Man stood;
That heareth not the loud winds when they call;
And moveth altogether, if it move at all.

At length, himself unsettling, he the Pond
Stirred with his Staff, and fixedly did look
Upon the muddy water, which he conn'd,
As if he had been reading in a book:
And now such freedom as I could I took;
And, drawing to his side, to him did say,
"This morning gives us promise of a glorious day."

A gentle answer did the Old Man make,
In courteous speech which forth he slowly drew:
And him with further words I thus bespake,
"What kind of work is that which you pursue?
This is a lonesome place for one like you."
He answer'd me with pleasure and surprize;
And there was, while he spake, a fire about his eyes.

His words came feebly, from a feeble chest,
Yet each in solemn order follow'd each,
With something of a lofty utterance drest;
Choice word, and measured phrase; above the reach
Of ordinary men; a stately speech!
Such as grave Livers do in Scotland use,
Religious men, who give to God and Man their dues.

He told me that he to this pond had come
To gather Leeches, being old and poor:
Employment hazardous and wearisome!
And he had many hardships to endure:
From Pond to Pond he roam'd, from moor to moor,
Housing, with God's good help, by choice or chance
And in this way he gain'd an honest maintenance.

The Old Man still stood talking by my side;
But now his voice to me was like a stream
Scarce heard; nor word from word could I divide;
And the whole Body of the man did seem
Like one whom I had met with in a dream;
Or like a Man from some far region sent;
To give me human strength, and strong admonishment.

My former thoughts return'd: the fear that kills;
The hope that is unwilling to be fed;
Cold, pain, and labour, and all fleshly ills;
And mighty Poets in their misery dead.
And now, not knowing what the Old Man had said,
My question eagerly did I renew,
"How is it that you live, and what is it you do?"

He with a smile did then his words repeat;
And said, that, gathering Leeches, far and wide
He travelled; stirring thus about his feet
The waters of the Ponds where they abide.
"Once I could meet with them on every side;
But they have dwindled long by slow decay;
Yet still I persevere, and find them where I may."

While he was talking thus, the lonely place,
The Old Man's shape, and speech, all troubled me:
In my mind's eye I seem'd to see him pace
About the weary moors continually,
Wandering about alone and silently.
While I these thoughts within myself pursued,
He, having made a pause, the same discourse renewed.

And soon with this he other matter blended,
Chearfully uttered, with demeanour kind,
But stately in the main, and, when he ended,
I could have laugh'd myself to scorn, to find
In that decrepit Man so firm a mind.
"God," said I, "be my help and stay secure;
I'll think of the Leech-gatherer on the lonely moor."