One of us lives on the east coast. One of us lives on the west.

One of us lives in a rural community. One of us lives in a city.

Both of us wander. Both of us witness. Both of us write.

This is a record of what we find.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Landscape of The Unthinkable Mind

I’ve been taking a cool online poetry class from Mark Olmsted, who studied with Allen Ginsberg (I mean, how cool is that?!?) Last weeks’ lecture started off with a Ginsberg quote:

"Notice what you notice."

From Lynda Barry's Syllabus
Now, thinking about this, it can be read in two ways—like, do what you do, an instruction to just get on with it, to stop trying too hard. But it’s also advice to pay attention to what catches your attention. (But first, you have to learn how to pay attention. As in, Be Attentive.)

This is a good thing to do whether you’re trying (but not TOO hard) to write a poem, or draw the world, build a novel, or just go for a walk. Actually, this is what the art of flaneur is all about. And here at Kissing The Earth, we’re all about the art of flaneur…

On a slightly different but very connected note, I continue my ongoing exploration of what lies behind the need, the desire to make things. I’ve just finished working* my way through Lynda Barry’s Syllabus, which could be thought of as a manual for learning to be present, for noticing what you notice. (*I say working, but it felt more like playing—it was hugely fun and enlightening—enlightening as in a new sense of lightness, a feeling of buoyancy with my approach to drawing and writing.)

The slim volume is full of ideas, questions, assignments, exercises and quotes by famous people who had something to say about the arts.

From Lynda Barry's Syllabus

One of the quotes I especially liked is from someone named Milner, who said: “Instead of trying to force myself into doing what I imagined I ought to be doing, I began to inquire into what I was doing.”

Kind of like noticing what you notice.

Another often quoted person is psychiatrist, writer and literary scholar Iain McGlichrist. One of his ponderings is: “The arts, I believe, have a pivotal role in putting us in touch with the transcendent, with whatever it is that is beyond us. They are core to a civilization, measures of our health, and should be treated as such.” And “Art brings into being a truth about the world that was not there before.”

From Lynda Barry's Syllabus
Barry built the book from her three years of keeping notes, drawings and sullabi, teaching art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and specifically for a class she called The Unthinkable Mind, which had keeping a journal at its foundation. She tells her students to think of a journal as a place not a thing.

A place to doodle, a place to experiment, a place to relax and record and notice what you notice.

To tell the truth, I've always hated journaling, but this is different. I've actually been having a great time and may just stick with it for a while!

Do you keep a journal? If so, I'd love to hear about your process. Is it legible? Beautiful? Do you go back and read what you've written? Do tell...

Take Good Care,


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