And so it’s stated in the first page of Richard Hugo’s The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing, the most important arguments are within. Great; in this I’m well versed. It’s been the substance of procrastination for many a day and it’s the general recipe of chaos versus control. Aren’t poets known for requiring long walks in the park to watch squirrels?
Though currently growing my hair long, during bouts of unproductivity I’ve in the past obsessively snipped my hair, each cut piece representing a sort of burial of an old part of me—sort of like a more sustainable method of “washing that man right out of your hair.” Like the rest of the internet-accessing humans, I’ve Googled-searched and watched hour long vlogs, basically doing a lot of messing around in the hopes of triggering some great epiphany relevant to writing the next Great American Novel.
But for a decade I’ve waited with my matter and the big bang just hasn’t happened. Pressure is supposed to help the process (ala control) but instead all these particles float aimlessly over my head, unreachable.
Were I less literary and smarter, I’d take the old “I’ll hit a softie this time and knock the next one out of the park” approach. “Write a new version of Little Women using your daughters as the main characters,” advised the tenured executive editor after declining to accept my last book proposal.
But now, now—there will be none of that; this is my legacy we are talking about! And like the next self-absorbed writer, I crave rave reviews, prizes, and applause. With all my chaotic matter, my goal becomes to merely finish the book. Surely afterwards discovery will find me. In the short-hair days, during such times, I’d become depressed with my potholed do and begin feeling invisible. Thinking I should further disenfranchise myself, I think about writing a new book of poetry but decide there is not enough to watch squirrel watch. I keep reading.
I wait for my subconscious to gain control and grant me some great reflection that will be the sum of all summaries. Where is my triggering town?
If nothing else comes from this, count comfort. Honor has never been associated with cowardice; knowing I am but one sand pebble out of many across countless beaches hiding behind the mask of art, adjusting, peeling and removing the layers one by one until I can say, “Damn it, this is me!” gives me a sense of family. Security is knowing you are not alone.
After finishing The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing, I write a poem. The day has turned into another and I relax for a moment before going back into the bathroom where my scissors lay. I pick them up and begin to cut fearlessly. I watch the cut hairs fall like plucked feathers. They were born dead. I look at my new pixie and feel my toes twinkle.
On page 104 Hugo states he believes no one wants to be civilized. I think of Toni Morrison’s references to total freedom; not social freedom, but personal freedom and how it can actually be dangerous. If one is free, they have no reason for moral code, no norms—they are “uncivilized”. Does this mean they are uncivil? Does this mean by nature we are devils? I’ll file that one in the pondering category. When I awake the same day I am happy, as though I’ve been dipped in new life.
There is no way to cohesively join all the gold points of “The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing” in a few pages. And even a dissertation would have to concede the triggering of creativity largely remains a mystery.
It is said all things originate with darkness. During my big chop, I watched the red copper strands fall, one by one, leaving only dark roots and became liberated from some sort of constraint or fear that had been holding me back. To create is to unleash, born from whatever—maybe confidence, perhaps rage—and conform to method. Once again, it is the fight between chaos and control triggered into being by pressure. Once this happens, the cloak of critical thinking appears and art is perfected through craft; as Hugo states on page 29, the fat must be trimmed. The spark is not understood; the cause is not understood; and, often the outcome is not fully understood. Yet we—writers, readers and critics—love It because the truth in It permeates though our bones and into our souls setting us, for a moment, free.