Friday, March 28, 2014

How I Got Here

It's been almost a month since I committed to writing a small text every day and uploading it onto a web log reserved for text. I have been making art all my life having drawings first published in elementary school. By university, though I drew often, I self identified as a writer.
    I participated on my college newspaper as assistant entertainment editor and joined my university literary magazine as graphics editor and junior poetry editor. It was there that I was confronted with the world of poetastering in all it's undergraduate nuance. I was surrounded by very confident young poets who made a point of loudly declaring what was and what was not a poem. I realized that by the standards displayed by my fellows, everything and nothing made the cut. My own poems were essentially glitter rock operas, rejected Transformer era Lou Reed lyrics and psychedelic guitar solos jammed with a thesaurus full of paisley dewdrops. None the less, I was a writer and I enrolled in the study of literature to enhance this love of words.
    That I alone of my fellows preferred a copy of Robert E. Howard to Ezra Pound in my pocket did not escape their notice. I got the gumption one day to show my poems to a young man a year or two my elder who after a quick perusal fed me the line that would haunt me for years to come : stick to drawing. Those three simple words made my writer self screech to a halt. I was hurt, of course, but more than that I took it to heart. I did already receive praise for the shitty juvenilia I was drawing at the time and saw no reason to stop collecting those easy compliments. But I wasn't impressing anyone with my poetry.
    I continued to write semi-secretly, mostly either purple stuff or forays into conceptual text work. Concurrently I was experimenting with concrete poetry and was enjoying that very much. I did not share this work with those in my local literary community, reserving it for strangers via international post. From the offices of the literary magazine at school I swiped a choice issue of a Canadian lit journal devoted to concretism and have developed a collection of these rare books ever since.
    So I drew. I drew posters for poetry readings and illustrations for the literary reviews. I knew writers and involved myself in small press. I started on comics and got published. My drawings and visuals were spread far and wide. My words, though, were written on folded up sheets of ragged paper in my jean jacket pocket, mostly bumper sticker remarks, song lyrics, slogans and band names. Short form writing is good for those in transition. I transitioned for years. I am still transitioning. I did some secret journalism by writing an English column for a Greek community newspaper. I submitted long hand and someone at the paper typed it up and typeset it. Invariably every single column was botched by typos and strange formatting issues. I have nothing to show for those efforts.
    I won a writing grant from Ottawa for a graphic novel. My comic book was mute, silent, wordless. I was now considered, according to the grant issuing body, a professional writer. I didn't use any words. This paradox allowed me to relax a bit. I also told the story of the 'stick to drawing' advice to a senior member of the local literary community. He asked, Where is that guy now ? What has he done ? He reminded me that I was still around, being active in the scene. This steeled me and I gained another bit of confidence. I submitted short prose pieces to small run zines on music and subcultural themes. This exercised the muscles. I gained more confidence when I found myself at a giant strip club at a high school friends stag party. There on stage, in his underwear, ridden like a horse, his own belt in the hands of a bronco busting stripper was my once confident poetic detractor.
    I stuck to drawing. I'll keep at it. I've rediscovered text. I'll stick to that too.