Muppets are good therapy, especially when faced with the worst kind of writer’s block–inabilitytowriteapoemitis. Kermit’s wise words tell us to embrace our differentness, but ANIMAL may be the real key to unlocking our truest selves.
He knows how to rock the beast, how to unleash that wildness that is sorely lacking in much contemporary literature and art. I’m not talking about debauchery or creating for shock. I’m talking about tapping into your animal core. Be the wild beasts, like Les Fauves.
ANIMAL would have loved these guys! They were a tight group of French painters that decided to shake up the art world at the dawn of the 20th century.
Theirs was a wide departure from the subtleties of the impressionists and the more structured post-impressionist style, with an ultimate goal of capturing crystallized emotion in their big, lusty brush strokes and bold colors.
While not immediately popular in the art world, their work took off amongst the literati, most notably with writer Gertrude Stein, who purchased A Woman in a Hat (left) from Matisse very early on in his career.
Other key artists of the movement were Derain, Braque, Vlaminck, Camoin and Dufy. Just a few representative pieces, and then I move on.
Though Fauvism as a movement was largely over by the time that Pablo Neruda came onto the scene (having been absorbed by the German Expressionists), its influence is strongly felt in his work, both in his use of color (scroll to the Ode) and raw emotion.
For instance, in this poem:
I Crave Your Mouth, Your Voice, Your Hair
I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.
Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets.
Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day
I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps.
I hunger for your sleek laugh,
your hands the color of a savage harvest,
hunger for the pale stones of your fingernails,
I want to eat your skin like a whole almond.
I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,
the sovereign nose of your arrogant face,
I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,
and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight,
hunting for you, for your hot heart,
like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue.
What passion! The man was surely a genius. And he got there by throwing off worldly constraints and embracing his animal instincts. Think about that. Think about how that would feel. It would give you the wild energy that John Lee talks about in Writing From the Body (ch.7). ANIMAL would approve.
Even more so, the exercise recommended by Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones (pgs. 83-84). She asks us to “be the Animal..to walk in the world in touch with that present, alert part of ourselves, that animal sense part that looks, sees and notices…to move slowly, stalking your prey, which is whatever you plan to write about.”
In other words, write through animal eyes. Let it make a new way into your poetry. No boundaries. Just go with your emotions. RELEASE THE ANIMAL. And write.
Then perhaps come back and take a look at Peter Jay Shippy’s poem, The Palm of the Paw, or Cynthia Huntington’s, From the Dunes.
And if you end up with something great of your own, please feel free to share.