Ice Friday: Raymond Carver’s “At Least”

I want to get up early one more morning,

before sunrise. Before the birds, even.

I want to throw cold water on my face

and be at my work table

when the sky lightens and smoke                          

begins to rise from the chimneys

of the other houses.

I want to see the waves break

on this rocky beach, not just hear them

break as I did all night in my sleep.                                    

I want to see again the ships

that pass through the Strait from every

seafaring country in the world—

old, dirty freighters just barely moving along,

and the swift new cargo vessels                              

painted every color under the sun

that cut the water as they pass.

I want to keep an eye out for them.

And for the little boat that plies

the water between the ships                                   

and the pilot station near the lighthouse.

I want to see them take a man off the ship

and put another up on board.

I want to spend the day watching this happen

and reach my own conclusions.                               

I hate to seem greedy—I have so much

to be thankful for already.

But I want to get up early one more morning, at least.

And go to my place with some coffee and wait.

Just wait, to see what’s going to happen.  

Writing Guidelines from Raymond Carver

When something feels complex or complicated to you, write it out carefully and thoughtfully, several times if necessary, until it flows smoothly and expresses exactly what you want to communicate and nothing else. WebsterHallSept (3)Inspiration will never, never happen if you don’t work hard at it and don’t consider the act of writing as very nearly the most important thing in your life, right up there next to breath and food and shelter and love.

Raymond Carver & The Bachelor

Readers of this blog may have noticed an odd confluence of reflections on Raymond Carver as well as various citations from the television show The BachelorCarver gaspingIt is possible, Carver wrote, to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things – a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman’s earring – with immense startling power. IMAG2458It is possible, he continued, to write a line of seemingly innocuous dialogue and have it send a chill along the reader’s spine. 

Like Carver wrote about commonplace things with commonplace language, The Bachelor presents commonplace sexual relationship with the same innocuous, albeit redundant, zeal. article-2633504-1E06A34900000578-553_634x467This is not to imply that the producers of The Bachelor do any of this knowingly – or indeed with any craft – but that the participants, like Carver’s lost and lonely characters, surrender themselves to the process, seemingly unaware of how stupid and damned their lives must be.Screenshot (1058)

“Birdman”: Inarritu’s Unexpected Film of Intelligence

Birdman is not as advertised. It is not a quirky dark comedy, but a claustrophobically relentless attack on modern-day life. birdman-michael-keatonEmma Stone screams it best: “You’re scared to death, like the rest of us, that you don’t matter! And you know what?! You’re right! You’re not important! Get used to it!” birdman-clip-stone-09192014-165429Michael Keaton plays a washed-up super-hero actor who tries to find relevance in his Broadway staging of Raymond Carver’s personally raw What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Ed loved her so much, he tried to kill her.

Raymond Carver

Raymond Carver

Inarritu’s film is an intense combination of the intellectual – akin to Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author – and visceral – offering an edit-less flow of images that winds through the serpentine backstage hallways and stairwells of a Broadway theatre, only briefly escaping to a bar, a tight balcony and a nightmarish run through Times Square. birdman-keaton-underwearAnd while the film does tend toward polemics – with everyone, including a theater critic, overtly stating their points of view – it will leave you breathless, wondering what it is you just saw and when you might be able to see it again.