Monday, July 11, 2011

Perception as Muse

I am often inspired by the way in which people envision the world around them, particularly when they insist that their perception offers little in the way of inspiration for my pen.

For instance, I have a friend who works in the Alaskan tundra (he can actually see Russia from his house!). During a recent conversation, he described his surroundings in cool and barren terms. He mentioned a heavy fog that limited his view to just a few hundred feet ahead; enviable, cool temperatures; and that he stood among several dull, red buildings which flanked one lone green structure, unworthy of any further description.

My response was typical of a writer; I wanted to be there to compare and contrast his point of view to mine. He contended that his landscape would leave my pen dull and my paper bare. And just like that, I felt challenged to discover a revelation within my friend’s skepticism.  A few hours later I presented to him, “Alaskan Fog”, my tribute to his austere vista.

Alaskan Fog (for Greg J.)
He works within the barren tones
of an unforgiving landscape;
insisting there is
no rhyme
no reason
for my pen and ink to make its mark
in this tundra of black gold--
I beg to differ.

His purpose grays his surroundings
and antiques nearby scarlet and jade structures nearby;
silver-linings are lost in low clouds
content to insulate fog’s influence
and obstruct farsightedness.

in the midst of his existence,
constrained by distance and a gulf of Pacific mist,
he manages to keep me in full view.
© 2011 Camille Gray. All right reserved.

For writers, perception is an undisputed means to harnessing the creative process. I find it especially useful to employ conjecture at times to record the movements of a particular individual in a crowd.

During a recent downtown outing, I noticed a young woman in distress standing on a railroad platform, seemingly waiting for the next train. I could not tell if she was waiting to board or waiting to jump.  She left little distance in her face and in her posture to change her mind about her decision. I recognized the despair in her countenance; I have been its counselor and friend.  

Perhaps it was a mother’s prayer that led this bystander to board the train with me; maybe it was the simple realization that all was in fact not lost or as bad as she perceived it to be. Perhaps it was both.  She left the train two stops later without our exchanging so much as a glance. I continued on to my destination, composing this poem enroute:

Melancholy hovers heavily as she waits for the next train:
The memory and demise of Virginia Wolfe and Sylvia Plath
encircle her space along with private demons thought long exorcised.
Don’t judge. You have yours too.
I watch and wonder:
Will she board --
joining the other unhappy travelers on a hapless adventure;
riding until her mind no longer
will she join her circle of mischievous spirits--
taking an impolite and well-heeled stride
into the path of her intended;
all spin
all thought?
©2011 Camille Gray. All rights reserved.

So much of creative composition is an exercise into discovering the insight of others. Some of our noblest and innovative creations arrive when we give ourselves permission to be the inventors of and witnesses to fabricated perception, whose outcome gives our audience a clever, climatic and delightfully sensory literary experience.