I am half way through my travel writing packet. Some resonate more than others. Virginia Woolf's "Street Haunting" has been my favorite so far. (Why must all my favorite authors commit suicide? What does that even mean for writers?) I want to write like that. I want one of my characters, one of my avatars, to embody that voice. I think I can pull it off, but I need practice. I tried to imitate, but it was hard. It is hard to divorce her style and her content. It seems too perfect a couple. Anyways, that will be a work in progress.
For now, here is my first imitation practice from the travel literature. If imitation was good enough for the Renaissance I should be good enough for me. This exercise was based off of Walt Whitman's "When I Heard the Learned Astronomer."
When I heard the learned astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wandered off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Looked up in perfect silence at the stars.
Imitation Practice 1
When I listened to the Sunday school teacher,
When the verses, the explanations, were placed in order before me,
When I was told the law and way, to pray, read, and obey,
When I sitting listened to the Sunday school teacher where he preached with much conviction over the pulpit,
How soon unpredictable I turned irritated and restless,
Till rising and strolling out I wandered off by myself,
In the cloudless clear free-air, and from time to time,
Offered up in honest silence a prayer.
When I observed the chattering wives,
When the pregnancy tests, the laundry lists, were flashing in furry before me,
When I was interrupted by the house payments and ring debts, and listened, thought, and judged them,
When I sitting overheard the new brides where they gossiped with little substance about being ancient twenty two year olds,
How soon irritable I became disgusted and ill,
Till packing up and drifting out I wandered off by myself,
In the newly paved parking lot, and time to time,
Thought of us in perfect solace for peace of mind.
When I headed the ignored alarm clock,
When the screeches, the numbers, were organized in straight lines before me,
When I was woken by the wailing black box, to wake, wake, and like it,
When I lying headed the alarm clock where it taunted with much defiance in the early morning hours,
How soon unmovable I became indifferent and stiff,
Till slamming and closing out I drifted off to sleep,
In a vivid vertigo purple dream, and from time to time,
Drifted in to disturbed consciousness to catch the time.
The astronomer with his charts, diagrams, and applause.
Then I, rose, wandered, and looked up.
Oh pompous astronomer! Graphs and maps are veiling your sky! Go and wander. Look up. Look up!
No graph or diagram, nor learned astronomer can really explain it. It is almost like the great mon, if I believed in that stuff. Maybe more like an ocean, something like negative capability, but I doubt a thousand words could capture it.
In the mean time, I got my tenth shot today. One more left. Now just to decide, what will be more affective? (Is it effective?)
Is it better to write as if I am three different characters, making different rules each week to be the funnel of my experience....?
Or to remain myself, showing the difficulty of expressing experience without the mask of characters? Somehow coming off as not skitso, using the different mediums to mediate my experience?