Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"You just go on your nerve."

Frank O'Hara is like laxative, creatively speaking. Not that he pulls crap out of you, but that he gets creativity rolling like bran muffins.

O'Hara held that to write, to live, "you just go on your nerve." He writes close to the bone, no unnecessary flourish or convention. This from the cat that wrote a book of poems all during his lunch breaks. His "Lunch Poems" has been one of the seminal inspirational find-you-when-you-need-it books for me.

Erik Mongrain performed at NightCat in Easton last week. His guitar is it for him. His life and dedication pour out from it. He looks at his instrument as holding more sounds and more possibilities than most would consider. He is not constrained by convention. Nor was O'Hara.

I hope to come at words that way. Yet sometimes I feel like words are the lamest medium, for being the most used and thereby hollow or tinny for their misuse. If we spoke in music notes, perhaps they'd be cliche riddled.

But we work with words. And we converse by convention, which makes it harder to break out, to "go on your nerve."

Where are the times when I live by going on my nerve? When I run down a winding, wooded singletrack or quick step over rocks and roots running downhill. No thinking, just instinct, nerve.

When I am lost in the sound and vibration of polyurethane skateboard wheels humming on new pavement. Presence.

In the improvisation of Miles or Monk or Coltrane. Or the nerve of O'Hara.

Through all of it, I learn to peel back the skin, with a ballpoint pen, to expose sinew and bone. To live and write from the core, from beneath the surface, pushing past appearances. At least that's the hope. To sometimes get it right, going on nerve.

No comments: