An Attack Against Oneself

James Lucas

An attack

1

Good writing can’t be taught, only read.

2

The amateur writer constructs; the weathered writer discovers. In the former, the writer gathers props within order, and cliché walls in the writer. In the latter, the writer explores chaos, and time walls in the writer. Writers domesticate chaos. If not chaos, a blank page.

3

Never aim for a complicated sentence: aim for a complex idea written honestly, and if that sentence turns out complicated, it is of a complex richness, not of needless entanglement.

4

When you articulate your ideas clearly you make them easier to attack; therefore people do not articulate their ideas clearly.

5

A child runs the inward shop of genius, and his appraisals are final. How does one get to his pawnshop? Trust yourself: one needs no backseat driver nor their migrainous theories. ‘There is no theory except yourself,’ as Harold Bloom says. How arrogant must we be to look and see and ingest with our own eyes? Well, the child is arrogant enough, that’s why he left you in the first place and started his own business.

6

I know I’ve read a good sentence when it makes me jealous. That’s also how you know if you’re currently a victim of love.

7

If Eros will give no one tuition in love, then no one has suitable advice for you. Well then! perhaps I am Eros, and you are Psyche. And as the tower-myth goes, curving on the chronoship, won’t you be waiting two handfuls of forever for advice? Drop your handfuls of sand and write. Eros will get jealous.

8

If you can’t write well, subvert expectations.

9

Induce boredom and creativity spews forth, unasked. Boredom inspires as mortality spurs. It is the mind’s natural memento mori, and even though a child finds a skull endlessly charming, she knows that boredom is a very serious matter indeed.

10

Why is it important for a writer to read the classics? Well, if you write absolutely breathtaking sentences, how will you be able to read them? To know your soul-stuff is beautiful, one must first walk the wooded roads beat out for us by the old masters, a road that has its own kill count, mind you. Plant that with the seed If it’s not worth rereading, it’s not worth reading and your quality of sentence shall grow as a vine sneaking into Eden, stealing apples of the sublime for the limbs of itself, endlessly bifurcating and creating from its chaotic skyward crawl, for an ordered moment in time, a newer Eden aloft.

11

A good poet is willing to hurt himself. Every crossed-out line pains that part of the soul from which it was pared off. Be like a Vietcong prison guard: force your lines to play Russian roulette with one another.—Survivors will breathe fresher airs, have newfangled vitality for it.

12

As one’s room is the externalisation of one’s mind, when one allows the implacability of silence to reinvade one’s solitude the poet’s daemon may expose itself to reality, will externalise itself onto a page.

13

Poetry is agon.

14

Sainte-Beuve taught us to ask, ‘What would the author have thought of me?’ Terrifying; yet in like fashion I ask myself, ‘Would this sentence have made them smile, if only for a moment?’ Indeed, soon you will see a man terrify himself into poetic oblivion.

15

Poetry uses tropes of language while ritual uses tropes of action. It is outrageously literal to say poetry is the dance of words; prose, a hunt for boar or lover; linguistic rituals for transcendence of the familiar.

16

A poem is a small portion of life’s multicoloured chaos compressed into a consumable capsule of order.

17

Without subtlety one should ask oneself: I know this fact but does my mind know it? You cannot imprint knowledge upon the mind with the coldness of knowledge; one needs the singe of feeling or the factory of childhood. Poetry is the singe of feeling.

18

Honesty is the struggle of poetry:
I am not trying to say what I want to say
But letting truth say what it wants.
Listen, mouth, the ear is speaking.

19

An inevitable part of the writer’s editing process is that inward interrogation, the self-exegesis.

20

I must always read a poem twice to have read it once. In the tentative first reading my mind is frazzled with anxiety at the possibility of not understanding, thus I never understand a poem the first time round. The brain must first explore the boundaries of the unknown. Then the second time round, what I’d tried so hard to apprehend seems now to drop into my lap unplucked. The apple falls. As always, the mind understands more than the awareness, which is oneself.—The point is there’s a corollary for writing a poem somewhere in this poetical hanky-panky.

21

The unconscious is a parthenogenetic breeder. Ask, and it will breed. Knock, etc.

22

Say you play the piano, and while practicing you come across a certain passage that sends your mind off on a daydream wherein is reflected the emotions and imaginary landscape of this certain passage. Now you play the passage again incorporating the daydream into your hands. You discover, then, that for a brief moment you have achieved a perfect expression of yourself, and if this is a first, you cry.

The transmutation of internal objects into external verities uses art as its language of translation, makes one feel unalone, is the essence of beauty.

Daydreams are sacred. As an artist it’s your duty to protect them. Never turn away or ignore the unconscious when it has shown up at your doorstep, wanting to play. Else it will stop coming around for it knows rejection better than you ever have, and you will deserve the artistic barrenness that will then befall upon you. You are not the genius; the child of the unconscious is. The unconscious has been in business and shaping itself for two million years perhaps; homo sapiens, two hundred thousand years; language, maybe one hundred thousand. Know who the expert is and pay attention to its images and intimations. Since by all accounts the unconscious hates using language, but revels in sex, incest, embarrassment, jealousy, regret, shame, guilt, authority figures, classroom-nudity, and trauma. What a friend.

23

One is so used to conceiving perfection as an unsurpassable pinnacle. This is not the case, for the sublime awaits through the pinnacle of perfection. And perhaps this pinnacle is the highest rationality may take us. From there, only the black flame of creativity can take us past perfection up into sublimity. So perfection is a black hole. If something is perfect it may not be beautiful, so one can separate perfection from beauty. Beauty can be found at random anywhere in nature. But past the event horizon of perfection one encounters beauty itself. The black hole presents the sublime through which, if one goes, you may help us understand its unknown limits.

24

Literature of the self, of any villainously abstract subject. When deducing, the mind resembles Zeno’s Achilles and the Tortoise. The closer one gets to the answer the more complicated the prose, the stuffier the integer, until the observer reaches a point where it would be simpler to use fractions instead, and so the metaphors of the elusive mind torrent forth, and sensible society decries Jung as a mystic. The race never ends, and Achilles will be
forever in chase of that wraith the Tortoise.

To take this to its analogous end we might say that the only way to pass the Tortoise is to undergo an ego death, a separation of self that allows Achilles the Metaphysical Man to pass through the Lynchian Tortoise. Once Achilles has passed the Tortoise he looks back: the Tortoise is crawling in the opposite direction: Achilles is again behind the Tortoise and must work the whole process once more. Therein lies the realisation that there is nothing to realise. Achilles is content to not race any longer. The Tortoise waves. Achilles waves back. Until next time, they both think.

Some subjects cannot be chased, only caught in some magic string of words. The unconscious has received a contract, and dreams have rented new office-space. Give them time.

25

When your story is mediocre then some violence must be done to you by yourself or other. To save such stories from a nasty conglomerate of dust-motes a story must undergo great change, be cleansed by fire so deadwood can get the hell out. Great change as such harms us when its totality happens in one true and painful thought, from within or -out, but that’s the only way it can happen. Remember: vultures form an integral part of an ecosystem, so breed your own.

26

A sentence without a verb is a portrait.

27

So much depends
Upon

A dictionary
Containing

‘Red’, ‘wheel’
And ‘dictionary’.

28

Language mimics landscape; slang mimics lifestyle within landscape.

29

The inept can invent new content, but only the adept can invent new forms; the masters splice both.

30

Say you’re a god, charming devil that you are, and you have a crippling predilection for caves and a gusto for cave-making. Content is the cave drawings, form the cave itself. The beginner mistakes the cave drawings for the whole. One must exit the cave and inspect and be suspicious. And although there are those artists that can make a cave from cave drawings, how rare they are, and how inside a cave they still are.

31

Be not ashamed amid your ink-cities of imaginative fiction; feel not guilty for the betrayals you’ll commit to real people or the lies you’ll tell for your art’s sake, as long as the lies are truer than the truth. If so, betray the world.

32

Perhaps there is no tragedy in your life, but there is a hologram of one beneath the surface of your life’s chaos, waiting to be actualised in ink. Well then, change the names and you’re off.

33

Praise itself never started any worthwhile conversations. When one can expand on what and how they feel instead of what they think they know, conversations may enter profound feedback loops. Search not for praise but for the carriers of augmentation. Why? Praise confirms the ego. Do not let ego deal himself into this game: he will ruin it for you and you alone, because you’re playing solitaire.

34

Courageous people create poor horror stories. Vulnerability is strength; thus they become strengths.

35

To be scared of silence is to be scared of death, and a writer must write in silence.

36

Know when to cauterise.

37

To write following external rules is death. Trust in the unconscious, the true creator.

38

If you cannot go further with the writing, go live. See outside where the birds dally on. Whitman the dubiosity, he tells me of a dalliance of eagles: ‘Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling’. So go outside. Find a park perhaps. I have found one. I am looking for the eagles. Very good. Well you have lied to me,—there are no eagles here. That is okay. We have introduced to this habitat our own eagles, wraithlike, glimpsed among the treetop furrows, dipping and plunging throughout the sensorium’s modalities, as mind gently inhabits space. And it is as if the old Whitman, out of his wheelchair himself a walking strait of nature, accompanies me to this new park and is stunned by familiar splendours, makes show of it as I begin to grasp his tropes, and in one shocking instant he grasps my hand.

Returning home through the old dirt road, I find myself ready to write again.

 

39

We eat of art to be as of genius.

 

James Lucas exists. Tomorrow he will die. He thinks this a dubious proposition, for he is still alive. He’ll get back to you with the details, soon. In the meantime, he writes about this Getting Back and about How soon really is Soon? The thisness of it all concerns him. He has seen importance in the hooha. He likes objects, but objects seldom like him. He likes subjects, especially disagreeable ones. He is not to be trusted with verbs. Never. Mood swings follow. He spends his time in the dungeon of sentences. Is also studying scribbling and naptime at QUT.