Old story. New beginning.

You are here.

Crystal Cove, CA. Photo Credit: Catherine Keefe

The surge gathers force.

A swell peaks, begins to curl.

It’s time to roll.

Welcome to the wild ride that is the beginning of any creative endeavor.

One of my favorite poets, Tony Barnstone, wrote in the introduction to his book, Tongue of War,

According to Japanese esthetics, the object is of most interest before or after the climax (the flower bud, not its full bloom; the cracked teapot, not the perfect one), whereas in the West we tend to emphasize climax, epiphany, the world and the mind at its height….Our lives are a moral continuum, not something to be judged by our best and worst moments.

So if I embrace Eastern taste, then new students are of the most interest to me in the very moment before a semester begins.   But if I accept a Western stance, then I’ll have to wait until the end of the semester when I can reflect on how it went and perhaps come to an epiphany about writing or teaching.

As Barnstone explores in his book, the truth is that life, and by extension writing, is a continuum.  “Good writing” is not a fixed point on a compass.  We will not be judged by our best and worst word fusions.  We revel on the breath in, the inspirare, the moment just before.  We concentrate on the great middle, the wave, its risings and fallings and churnings and smoothings.  We may or may not unearth an epiphany,  a great ah-ha! to share with readers.

I know for certain one thing about good writing and that is: it only happens when we show up at land’s end, wade into the sea until we can’t touch ground, then dive deep, and once again deeper.  The syllabi, under construction now but with a guaranteed delivery date of the first day of class, reflect this.  Your courseload is heavy with the need to show up in class, read, write, edit, repeat.

I hope you can swim.  I know you can breathe.

Come on in, the water’s fine.

About Catherine Keefe

Catherine Keefe is the founding and managing editor of *dirtcakes* a journal of poetry, creative nonfiction, art and photography. Her creative nonfiction essays, interviews and book reviews have appeared nationally. She teaches undergraduates how to Write About Literature, or Write Creative Nonfiction, or Compose Self at Chapman University in Orange, CA.
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