David Christopher la Terre… Margaret-Piece

Margaret-Piece*

i called her a ‘commandant,’ but not aloud, & to-myself – the manager of our subsidy building – ‘a building full of retards’ as one local comedian said (after our underground power line caught fire &        displaced           150          of         us.          we’ve         had           a           lot         of           fires becausewe’reabuildingfullofretardsapparently. but that’s another story). & i often reiterate she was completely the wrong choice to manage a low-cost building of the mentally-ill, disabled, blind & elderly, since she was so insensitive, sadistic & passive-aggressive. i often thought: how could the holding-company appoint her? i even wrote a detailed letter to her superiors/my ‘advocate’ there, relating 18 months of mean-spirited victimization (& a ‘failed inspection’ due to boxes that had just come out of our family storage & hadn’t been distributed, but that’s still another story). more recently, she intentionally kept me waiting – procrastinating – & casually walked round the building while she got me a set of replacement keys, which cost $45 for three. i had asked her for a copy of the mail key until one could be made, but she told me “I never get them back.” i told her “i was a First Class scout; i’ll give you back your key!” i often wondered if it was just me she bullied or treated coldy, or everyone. (in hindsight, however, i really think it was everyone.) -what an odd choice to assign one so gratuitously stern, like some villain-marm. she seemed to get off on draconia, along with affixing excessive fines for simple maintenance or replacements that i always felt were personally pocketed.

-now i wasn’t responsible for her getting fired. the letter might not have helped, but it was 15 months old. one weekend i just saw a box or two of her materials by her office door: various files & a placard that read Margaret. i stopped seeing her car – always parked in the No Parking elbow of our driveway like a showpiece (with all its patriotic bumper stickers). at last i could discern that the office was virtually empty. finally i saw her the second-to-last time down in the basement – our ‘first floor’ – speaking seriously & quietly with our Resident Maintenance man (having replaced long-time repairman Tom, who died of swift & aggressive cancer & was the agreed heart-and-soul of the building). the next thing i knew; she was out & another woman was shuffled in – threw an Introduction Party – & was mysteriously & quickly replaced with another woman. (even since then the holding company has changed again along with the management).

& that was the last time i saw Margaret, again in the basement; coming to join the festivities of that mysteriously-vanished first girl. & i tell you: i felt bad. i shouldn’t, of course. i had no reason.

once we talked – briefly – of her passion for Civil War history. i don’t remember much other non-building discussion. i never saw her as anything but invulnerable. but this seems to be a story of one ‘mentally-ill’ narrator’s – humanity? – vs. another’s out-sane inhumanity, or some misplaced .. predator? i had every right to feel vengeful; i had every reason to feel righteous. but i didn’t. her karma burned up in the atmosphere. no, i don’t know what inevitably ‘caught up’ with her ..

i just think of that line ~ perhaps speaking of my own sensitive & even rigid mental illness ~ from Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion: “Damn this world that just won’t hold still for us! Damn it anyway!”

 

David Christopher la Terre is an old punk, advertising brat, artist, writer, hit-and-run orator, humorist, exfilmmaker, “asexual icon” and sentimental Modernist pursuing work in new formats, hybrids, language arts, Sound Poetry, decon, “post-mod,” prank-art … ‘living satire’ … he has been published in the Slate, Spleen, Lost & Found Times, Rag Mag, Roar Shock, Open Minds & Monkeybicycle.

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

Cruel Summer… by D.C. La Terre

 

Cruel Summer

seven months: i loved the non-linear & abstract writing i was doing. & the most prolific i’ve been in years. but he told me, more or less, ‘give it up. time to give it up. oh, i do so prefer your more linear, statement-writing instead’ (the basic statement, manifesto or ESSAY easily understood by all).

of course that person was like that; devaluing what most considered my otherwise progressive & inventive work. i had to question his motives. he was competitive. he would never give a compliment without some variety of dismissive rejoinder – especially if it encroached on his limelight.

i often thought: what would the world be like if there was only one type of writing? surely the aim wasn’t unselfish: eliminate all attempts of attaining the new apart from his own? he once related: ‘you do have some good attributes; you’re a good audience member.’

i have had some experience with Negative Imaging. i view this very strongly. the manifestation of low self-esteem often belies some negative-imaging done in the past. -which is to say, not constructive criticism. i have had two such harsh critics from the past who were not professional critics.

i should state here that since i’m not a NAME, since i’m (for the most part) unpublished; & that i pretty much do all this for nothing, i should be beyond criticism. like most writers, i am prolific enough – more bad than good, & stowed away in countless folders. the only reason i’m not ‘mediocre’ is because i’m not in the GAME.

mediocre isn’t this wincing valley of bad & failed work; it is, ironically, completed & successful work that is read, published & usually notable in some degree. many don’t understand mediocrity. it is the result of time & labor, that merely achieves a middle-ground; but not greatness. a mediocre piece can even move the emotions. there is nothing wrong with being merely entertaining, inventive, playful & progressive. does one expect a salmon rushdie from a rod mckuen?

likewise, it is ineffectual for mediocrity to criticize mediocrity; it of the same pool. a writer cannot grow from such comments if the critic inhabits the same middle-ground. should greatness even be expected or taught? it simply appears. it is almost never cultivated. you cannot suggest it …

mediocrity should not strive to be great. it is this desire that encourages less-than-creative competition. although this variety of critic, to his credit, will always preach perseverance. but in the end, if not the beginning, they will inform you that you are limited. a teacher wouldn’t say this but a critic would.

what motivates a critic? what portion of their job is helpful & what part of their job is sizing-up-the-competition? & critics should not be in the trade. they should do what then is their job: produce constructive criticism apart from product. let them teach then; let them labor in the progressive & noble role of contrasting & comparing. yet they want to push them to the next step, just not in the same town! that ‘critic’ may also want to write; they may have an old manuscript between the bookcase & the wastebasket…

though a critic is not entirely against abstract & nonlinear. unfortunately they know that the market is usually limited to the novel, short-stories, essays, nonfiction, or even epic poems & libretto. they claim to be realistic. ‘let someone else forge new writing so we can all dive in, only after it’s been established.’ critics want to make discoveries (& take the credit) – they long to be taste-makers/they have ulterior motives!

my response is: i have now been published three times from working seven months in these formats. yet the critic argues ‘it’s not mainstream.’ -you know, mainstream like steinbeck or hemmingway … ‘-but that’s outrageous – they were so great!’ no they weren’t. & that’s my point: innovators had to stay off to the edge. ‘-but surely these artists were finally appreciated…’ no, actually, they weren’t. go to the library – go to the second-hand/did they survive?

you have to dig deep – for inspiration, & in your own work. these folks have done a bang-up job burying the work of artists so you can’t find them. & i’ll tell you this: they walk among us! they’ll tell you that they are looking for the New, but they refuse to showcase it. if you bury the Next Big Thing then you can achieve a wide middle-ground. -why does it have to be so wide? so one cannot tell the difference between mediocre & GREAT – & everyone can play.

‘-just get out of my way because i got a dusty manuscript i want to pass off as the Next Big Thing!’ critics, bless their hearts, don’t actually know what the world wants. they’re like the Borg; stealing & assimilating culture – trying to forge the same crap into the same pressed-wood bookcases. -it’s just like Tooey in the Fountainhead …

you know, you can’t argue with a HOBBY. you cannot argue with the timeless pursuit of mindless busywork. you can’t repackage & judge mediocrity. nor can you expect mediocrity to lead & inspire the masses. you cannot appeal to the masses – they resent it.

i really do wish a genuine non-trade critic would emerge with suggestions that don’t apply to what-worked-before. i would often walk away from these realistic ‘sessions;’ review the world of abstract & nonlinear writing & forget all about the ‘critic.’ for this reason these people cannot actually discourage anyone. they cannot alter anyone’s inspiration. they can only allot a temporary ‘value.’ all these pundits can do is compare your work with some other work.

 

Copyright © 2002 by D.C. La Terre

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

Strings… by David Newson

 

Strings

If there were not a sinew for every daughter in the village, a home would seem much further, because the silk string that sent them out was the same that had always led them back, constituting unique and unbroken avenues. That is not to say that the sons of the unnamed place, albeit more carefree in this concern, don’t also possess the twisting strand, secured, in several knots, to the wrist of each child before they are too old to know that it has not always been there; the other end feeding from the web of the town itself, a great tangle of the lace-like structure appearing as one might, often in a lightless corner of the cellar or along the beams in the barn, here reaching out through a decrepit stone well in the town square where curious little spiders spin their fluids endlessly into that air hardened rope; men and women making use of such production to join their children from the wrist to the eternal weaving of spiders, which itself is connected to homes, earth, flora of the region that one scarcely knows all the names of, and each other person, although when they look at the sky they look in exasperation, as it lacks the physical makeup required here, yet it can still be seen and, they feel, is a necessary part of life growing up in the hamlet.
       In a few short years, the children are instilled with the qualities that comprise a community, but grow, as all do, to eventually long for the unknowable lands of far away. There are now many young girls and boys encountering this exploratory phase, departing by various routes and revealing, as can be seen from the air as the sinews tense but do not break, something like the spokes of a bicycle tire, all calling the centre of the wheel, that old watering place in town, their birthplace. Of course, very rarely, a taut string would slacken, and upon no arrival, pulling it home, the father would see that their child was lost, and experiencing the many mixed emotions of a parent in such a state, would solemnly and not without breaking the hearts of onlookers, bow his head. But this was a rare occurrence, usually a person would carry that connection with them forever, forging new meaning and values with their free arm while persisting through the soft friction of the bound wrist.
       We speak about webs, those sinewy structures formed by spinnerets and if viewed on a much larger scale, one can perceive between the first village, and now hundreds of others, a potent network, lines of life drawn between places, fixed to the experiences and ethos, leading a person back, inexorably, home.

       When one looks they can see, overall, a flawed but practical structure, interminably formed and repeated. That is until meeting one of the very rare men or women with unbound wrists who come at experiences with different eyes, untrained eyes, and can themselves still find strings in the world, but do so alone and when they tie them down, they do it in a wholly different manner.

 

David Newson has studied writing, photography, and design at Ryerson University in Tronto. He is a newly published author of essays and prose poetry.

Copyright © 2013 by David Newson