Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


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The Way of a Poem

I finished a poem last week, it was seven pages long. I’d typed it in one long paragraph from notes and lines of possible poetry in a notebook and my Morning Pages over the previous week when I was on my way to and then in San Diego

SD Air 2with my wife Susan, visiting her parents.

I’d typed the long paragraph late in the afternoon, a clear cold day with an east wind howling outside our Portland windows, and before going up the basement stairs to handle dinner I’d begun my process of hitting the “Enter” key on the keyboard to create a new line — the next line — when it felt poetically proper to do so. I got maybe a quarter of the way through my lengthy mess. During and after dinner my wife Susan and I watched four episodes of NYPD Blue Season 11, though I nodded out here and there during the last 42 minutes. So when Susan was heading up to bed (and one of my most favorite things is to get into bed while she’s still awake and look at her in the dark and giggle) I truly meant it when I said I was too tired to do anymore work on the poem and was simply going to turn off the computer.

I came back up the basement stairs out of a trance 45 minutes later, then cut up and ate my mandatory (reflux) before bed every evening apple while watching “All the President’s Men” on HBO — it feeling kind of relevant these days — and so I found myself quietly slipping into bed in the dark beside my now long-dreaming wife at 11:19. One opportunity missed — and I don’t take that lightly — and another seized — ditto.

The poem is “San Diego Say So” and the plan is for all seven pages of it to appear within the next volume of poetry I publish sometime in early 2018 (on the cheerful assumption we’re all still here).

 

For show and tell purposes — and maybe serving as a teaser —  within a short section of the poem, this became this:

This

“We’ll pass the San Diego airport which I like, the one runway, the in-bound planes approach in wide arc out over the County, in fact fly just over the in-laws home, descend in a straight line 13 miles they pass so low, eventually, over India Street (in Little Italy) San Diegans can look into oblong plane windows at the wide-eyed expressions of young boys and their parents reaching for smart phones. I’m not a native here, but I’ve been on the street and seen those faces. And, in the air, been seen as one.”

Became This

We’ll pass the San Diego airport

Which I like,

The one runway.

The inbound planes approach in wide arc

Out over the County, in fact

Fly just over the in-laws home,

Descend in a straight line

13 miles.

They pass so low, eventually, over India Street

(In Little Italy)

San Diegans can look into oblong

Plane windows

At the wide-eyed expressions of young boys

And their parents reaching for smart phones.SD Air 1

I’m not a native here, but

I’ve been on the street

and seen those faces.

And,

In the air,

Been seen as one.

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Poems of the Week 2

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“There are some things we do simply because the doing is a success.” — Nikki Giovanni

 

From Federico Garcia Lorca:

 

“Lola

sings saetas

The little bullfighters

circle around her

and the little barber, from his doorway,

follows the rhythms

with his head.

Between the sweet basil

and the mint,

Lola sings

saetas.

That same Lola

who looked so long

at herself in the pool.”

 

and From me:

 

“Our baseball, tag, and beyond-touch football

lost in summer,

Leaf-pile snugglers and hiders

not so long ago.

Today we are Eskimos

Today this corner of Lowell is white

and begs for our attention

which we have come to freely give.

(Like Lowell’s Kerouac kid.)

We roll, we lunge, we duck

balls of snow,

here comes Jack Frost to model

for the round white guy.

My sons and I at play.”

 

Lorca’s “Balcony” and from my Minor Revelations, “I Have a Painting.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


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To Go Where No Buddy Has Gone Before

If the question is – “Why a book of poetry?”

The answer, (honestly), is – “Beats me.”

I do not remember writing the first poem. It was just there. Another followed, then another. Over a short period of time – no moSusan holding Minorre than 10 days – someone who’s never had much of an inclination toward or appreciation of the written poem fell down the rabbit hole and all the way in. Quickly I found myself entirely devoted to poetry. It began to fall out, every morning after sitting meditation and with coffee in the recliner. In fact, many of the poems to be found in my first book of poetry – “Minor  Revelations” – showed up in a flash sitting in the recliner.

I have always been a Shakespeare fan, a big one. Beyond that, no friend of poetry. In fact, a couple of years ago a friend named Kate, someone with whom I’d worked years earlier in a Portland foster care program, got the idea to bring poetry into Portland area juvenile detention centers and groups homes – something she’d been involved with in Seattle – and when asked, I signed up as a volunteer. I went to a number of the poetry planning meetings and brought home the books of poetry written by the kids up in Seattle Kate gave me to read (though I never read them much). After a while, the familiar fog of guilt upon me, I respectfully resigned…..Little did I know.

Today I have a second book of poetry in the works, about a third of the planned way complete. One of the poems in that project is called “Kate, I Didn’t Know”. Kate and I had a cup of tea at the Chinese Garden downtown Sunday morning and I told her about it – my new life as a poet, the second book, the poem with her name. She laughed — with me or maybe at me, who can tell. Probably a little of both. Kate’s always been a fan and supporter of my varied adventures.

My answer, above, to the question “Why a book of poetry?” was “Beats me.” While  the “you got me”, “couldn’t tell ya”, “never woulda thought it”, all those ring true, there’s also a fabulous obsession in which I found myself immersing about a year ago with the literature of “The Beats” – Kerouac, Ginsberg, Corso, Hettie Jones, Diane di Prima, Clellon Holmes. Obviously there’s a lot of poetry there and while reading everything Kerouac I began the tiptoe through some of Ginsberg as well. “Howl” for sure. Then others. The point being that it’s possible the Beat poets were reaching out from the 50s and 60s, whispering in my ear – and in my heart – “come along with us, Buddy. It’ll be worth it. It’ll be exciting. It’ll be fun.”

So far it has, a joyride eons beyond anything I considered, never mind hoped for. I’ll talk in more detail –  in my next post – just how that ride has looked as I’ve whizzed along all the road maps and signs of my interwoven life.

Here are the last 19 lines of “Kate, I Wasn’t Ready”:

…..

Though I suspect it was a game,

Always a game.

Call it hide and seek

Where I was

Forever ‘It’

And poetry a better hider.

 

So,

Then,

When Kate took my hand,

Led me to workshops,

Filled my flimsy arms with thin volumes

of the good stuff,

Explained to me as if to a child.

All that time –

All this time –

Poetry giggled

Almost silent,

Hiding behind my favorite tree.

 

Invisible.

 

 

 

 


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On My Newest Book

Minor cover

I had an idea for the cover of my new book, my third, a project on which I’ve been quietly at work. The front cover was going to be a photo of one of my paintings, the back cover a photo of me leaning against a stone wall, the wall rising some 15 feet and covered in hanging vines turned red with autumn’s imperative. But my wife Susan and I never coordinated picture schedules and times and as the deadline approached for all exterior and interior files to be readied for formatting and printing I changed my mind and decided to work with something quieter. I chose the photo above.

This photo will be wrapped around the book in its entirety — front cover, spine, and back, with title and author words on the front and spine and a quote from the one person to whom I have sent the book – in Word document – for pre-publish review. Her feedback has arrived and the boys from Bulgaria who do my covers have already placed Jamie and her thoughtful review front and center on the back. They’ve sent me the first draft and I could share it here now, but why spoil the secret. If good things come to those who wait, please wait a little longer.

Cover aside, I am most excited with what’s inside, completely new prose territory for me. If nothing ventured is nothing gained, well, I have ventured deep into the dusty, dusky inner workings of my mind.

“Minor Revelations” is the result.

Coming soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I


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A Laugh and A Tear

 

Hunter 1

Hunter Thompson is one of my favorite authors. These are my Dr. Hunter S Thompson books, most of which I’ve owned for a very long time, as evident by the covers, in this case by which you can judge the book.

I’ve posted about Hunter Thompson here in the past, and an opportunity I had one night on a cross-country airplane to hang out and talk with him. You can search my past posts for “Hunter and Me” and read about it there. This brief post speaks to something else.

Recently I picked up and began reading again “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas“. You can see the bookmark there, about halfway through. Back a ways, in Part One of the book, is a passage I’ve always considered my favorite of his — among so many favorites. I’m going to quote it here in its entirety.

“My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe 40 nights — or very early mornings — when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L.L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder’s jacket…booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turnoff to take when I got to the other end…but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was. No doubt at all about that.

“There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda…You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.

“And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.

“So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

For me that is beautiful writing, and I feel this passage deep in my bones, the certainty that we had something then that we have no longer. What? Righteous belief? Pure hope?Universal love? Musical and colorful joy?   “Those days are gone forever”, Steely Dan sing in ‘Pretzel Logic’, “over a long time ago.”

I got to meet Hunter Thompson and talk for some 90 minutes in the back of a plane due to my most fortuitous entanglements with two men named Bob Zimmerman and Dr. Doug Martin. That’s explained in the previous post.  Sadly Bob and Doug and Hunter are no longer with us on our tattered planet, and its the planet’s great loss – and certainly mine.

Bob gave me a present back in 2006, the copy of “Hey Rube” up in the picture on the middle left. Hunter was one of the ways we connected – along with Doug – in what we considered “the main vein”. Plugged in. Turned on. With it. Bushel-full of personal faults (especially me) or not. Bob signed the book in his only-Bob way.

Hunter 2

Only way to be.


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A Wareham Druids Freshman Tabor Musical Contest

Blue Flowers

 

I’m thinking of a song.

This is a song that reminds me of my hometown of Wareham, Massachusetts, in the US of A. I’ve been thinking about my hometown more than usual this week and posted in this Blog Tuesday about the good old days and some of the bad new ones. That post received quite a bit of attention and a number of comments, one of which, from Thom Laine, was musical in nature.

I replied to his comment and in my response mentioned that I had been for a brief period in time a member of a musical group in Wareham. We called ourselves The Druids (I don’t remember why) and consisted of Billy Fisher on guitar, Wayne Lavallee on drums, and a summer kid from Hyde Park (in Boston) named Roy (last name lost in the cobwebs of my mind), who played bass or rhythm guitar (again, the brain cell thing) and lived summers with his family in Swifts Beach – one of Wareham’s many and distinct and wondrously enchanting beach communities. Oh, I was the singer. Billy was a couple of years older than me and actually was on active duty in the Navy, stationed in Newport, Rhode Island. Wayne was a year older. Roy was around my age and had a brother and I hung out in their summer house. We held practices in Wayne’s garage, poured concrete floor and all, which – I believe – officially makes me a member of a garage band. Cool.

 

April Flowers

 

We got to play in public, at least two places I remember were a Wareham High School freshman dance (and my memory here in crystal clear of screams and wails from the female members in attendance, just like with The Beatles) and in a battle of the bands in next town over Marion at Tabor Academy (along with Wareham’s Table Scraps), said Academy so many years later serving as the slightly unreal Tabler Academy in my first book, “Ring Around The Rosy”.

We sang cover songs. Other groups’ songs. One of which I’m thinking of right now. And in the spirit of fond remembrances of days past, I’m offering a contest. This is it — correctly guess which song we covered – one guess only – and in my mind today and be the first to post your answer on the Blog itself or my Facebook page and you will win one of these three paintings I have recently created, your choice. Each is painted on 11 x 15 watercolor paper in acrylic, and will be packaged as safely as I can get it and mailed out tomorrow. I might even throw in a Wareham-related surprise.

 

Duck

 

The rules are simple: Guess the song (remember, one guess per person) and reply on the Blog or my FB page. And be the first with the correct guess. Of course, as there are probably 127, 555 songs in my mind from which I might be listening I’m going to give you three hints. I’m hesitant to do so in fear it will be way too easy. Heck, I’d only need one of these hints to make the correct guess. But in the spirit of fairness I feel obligated to help out. So, here they are.

  1. The song was originally released between 1962 and 1969. (Which you probably could of figured from the years of and around my high school life. Duh)
  2. The song was released on Capital Records. (Hmm, could this be any easier….Beach Boys, Beatles, Bobbie Gentry, The Lettermen, The Righteous Brothers, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Helen Reddy, Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps, Don Yute….a few others. Heck, I might as well just tell you.)
  3. This would have been a great song blasting in a convertible roaring down Route 66. (Sorry Helen Reddy.)

Okay, I’m sure I’ve given it away. Thank you Billy and Wayne and Roy and especially Wareham for the memories. Swifts Beach and Tabor and The Table Scraps and The Revolutionaries and  The Monday Club and summer crushes Roberta Magarian (Lexington) and Pattie Parent (Wakefield) and Elaine Flinkstrom (Easton) and Parkwood and High Street and  Royal’s front yard and Main Street and Onset Beach and plain old Route 6 – thank you too.

I bet you get the picture.

Call me. We’ll have lunch.

(Contest ends tonight, 7/13/17, at midnight.)

 


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Interview With Author W.B. Cushman – Part Three

Editor’s note: Clarrisa Everglad is a former journalist, and Professor Emeritus at Cape Cod Community College in Barnstable, Massachusetts. She is the author of seven books on fiction and fiction writing, including “Show Up and Follow“, winner of four internationaltierra-del-mar-2-061 awards. She regularly interviews authors on their fiction work.

Following is Part Three of an interview with new author W.B. Cushman of Portland, Oregon. His book is “Ring Around the Rosy“. The interview was conducted by phone from Everglad’s home office in Orleans, Massachusetts.

Everglad: We’ve gone off topic, a little, away from the book which is the focus of this interview. Though the points you’ve made about the writing process, and its joy for you, are most interesting and, I believe, invaluable. I’ll want to ask you more later. But now, back to your “Rosy“. There is a small paragraph coming near the very end of the story that stands out for me, in its language and, I’d say, subject matter. I’d like to read it to you and ask for your feedback.

Cushman: Okay.

Everglad: Here it is – “The sun slid out from behind a passing cloud, and a soft breeze moved across the land and out over the ocean. If there were seagulls they would have been making their seagull calls. Minnows would swim around eddies in sand pools created by the eternal waves, and small brown and gray pipers would chase the tiny fish back and forth, playing tag with the rhythm of the watery world.”  It’s quite lovely, for me as a reader, and different in the power of its imagery from much of the rest of the book.

Cushman: Thank you, Clarrisa, for bringing that paragraph into our conversation. It may be my favorite paragraph in the book. If I can take a minute I’ll explain why.

Everglad: Please do.

Cushman: My favorite genre in fiction writing has always been mystery. I love speculative and horror, if its good – like Stephen King’s – and lots of science fiction. Clearly Rosy falls into a speculative category, and most of my writing – “Astoria Strange” and another collection of stories I’m gathering for publication down the road, “Collected Strays” – is horror and science fiction in nature. But, there is something about mysteries, Detective mysteries, that satisfy me most. Perhaps my favorite mystery writer is author James Lee Burke. He has a series of maybe 20 books with a character named Dave Robicheau that is outstanding – the plots, the characterizations, the ongoing story line. But, what sets him apart from other famous and successful mystery writers is, for me, the power of setting he creates with language – language that allows the reader, transports the reader, to be there completely, to see it, hear it, touch it, smell it, experience it. There is a majestic poetry to Burke’s writing. And, to the point you raised, Professor, that is an ongoing goal of mine, as a writer, to use words to pull the reader thoroughly and willingly into my story. It’s a goal, like I said, and at this point in my time as an author I’m nowhere close to where I want to be. Having said that, the paragraph you quoted is me moving toward that place. The story of Rosy and all her traveling companions is coming to an end, at least in this book, and, for me, the end feels so much like a pause.  So into this pause comes a memory, told as an ‘if only’ – if only life as Rosy and her friends knew it continued to exist. Then seagulls would be seagulls and the tides would come and go, with shoreline inhabitants doing there forever shoreline things. I stopped at that paragraph, when I got there, and tried to infuse it with a Burke-like sense of thusness. Look and hear, and you will know this and remember, what’s gone now. In a way coming in a complete circle back to a sticky summer day in August when kids went to aquariums and the waves in Buzzards Bay licked the hurricane wall in New Bedford Harbor.

Everglad: That’s well said Mr. Cushman. Your explanation with a poetry of its own. And I do know Burke, and like you, I am a fan. I also appreciate your honesty, that to write with the sense of majesty you describe is, for you, a goal, that you are not there yet.

Cushman: I’m nowhere near there. But it’s good to have goals.

Everglad: I would hope that every writer would hope to improve with each passing day, and story. Do you have a plan to help you on that path?

Cushman: I read a lot. Maybe four or five books a month. I’d like to read mbooksore. In his book “On WritingStephen King says the two most important things a writer can do are read a lot and write a lot. So those activities are certainly the foundation for becoming a better writer. Which includes reading books about writing. I just mentioned King’s, which is my favorite. Another that’s important to me is Ray Bradbury’s “Zen and the Art of Writing”. Those are both autobiographical as well as instructional. There’s a third book as important for me and that is “The Art of Fiction” by John Gardner, which is more of a textbook.

Everglad: It is a very important book for any aspiring writer.

Cushman: I took a class – Fiction Writing – at Portland State University, either in the Fall of 2014 or 2015, I can’t remember. One of the reading assignments was the first chapter of Gardner’s book. Upon my first reading I had the reaction that there was an arrogance in the writing, what he was saying. I remember saying that in class, and I’m pretty sure I remember the Professor chuckling, or something like that. Anyway, for some reason, a couple of months later, I ended up going on Ebay and buying the book. A brand new paperback copy. Now I’ve read through it at least twice, it’s marked up and highlighted and underlined, meaning I’ve made it my book, and like I said, it’s become very important for me – as a student of writing.

Everglad: What about it speaks to you, and if you can, please relate that to your writing of your newly published book.

Cushman: In the second chapter of the book – which for me is the bonanza – Gardner says, “Fiction does its work by creating a dream in the reader’s mind.” Further in the chapter he says, “What counts in conventional fiction must be the vividness and continuity of the fictional dream the words set off in the reader’s mind.” That, for me, is the highlight statement in the book, and the thought I carry all the time I am at the keyboard, or brainstorming with myself on a yellow legal pad. What I ask myself – Am I continuously engaging the reader with the vividness of my writing? That is The Question, and I emphasize those two words, for me and my writing. So, with Rosy, the feedback I’ve received so far would indicate that I have had at least some degree of success in the continuity of the story maintaining reader interest, in a couple of cases people asking about a potential sequel, wanting to know what happens next. I’d like to think that I was able to move forward from the story’s apocalyptic beginning and create first three and then more characters who mattered, who were worth caring about, characters that hopefully people could identify with. And want to travel across the state of Massachusetts with, and see how it turned out for them. And that was true as well, I hope, for Peter Frates, an entirely different character with a completely distinct milieu of emotions from the kids, but someone you could still root for. And hopefully I maintained a continuity describing the day-to-day physical survival needs and activities as well. The other part, the vividness of the writing, I guess every reader will decide that for themselves. I think it goes back to the earlier conversation of writing with a majesty like James Lee Burke. It’s good, and in places very good, and hopefully I can do better.

Everglad: Every question, and every answer, incites further questions. There is so much more to talk about. Marvin’s mother, why you wrote her the way you did? What was your level of research for the book? How is it that a second character with Down Syndrome appears? And of course a number of questions about the narrator and your choice of perspective. I ‘d call it an omniscient third person, with an attitude.

Cushman: I’m yours for as long as you need me, Professor.