Finding Direction in Other Genres
Rosemerry & Christie talk inspiration from painting, music and fiction
“I am filling my well.” —Christie Aschwanden, on why she’s binge-reading fiction
Preview: Episode 67, Creative Cross Pollination
Sometimes we need to fill the creative well, and one of the best ways to do that is to look for inspiration outside the genre we are working in. In this episode about nourishing the muse, Christie talks about the novels she’s reading and what they are teaching her about non-fiction and how to be a better writer. And Rosemerry talks about a new project she’s working on writing poems inspired by the art of Vincent van Gogh and the music of Kayleen Asbo (episode 27, Creative Communities) The Greeks have a word for it: Ekphrasis, basically the art of being inspired by other art. She offers many practical, specific angles for how to engage with other works of art. If you’re interested in hearing a more in-depth conversation between Kayleen and Rosemerry on van Gogh’s life, using van Gogh as inspiration and working together, visit here.
What We’re Reading and Listening to:
I was gifted Book of Questions, questions by Pablo Neruda and art by Paloma Valdivia. It’s gorgeous. Talk about cross pollinating arts! Written in both Spanish and English, the questions are playful and provocative. And the art! Mind opening! Good for any age, I think!
I was so lucky to see Mission Joy: Finding Happiness in Troubled Times, a beautiful film about the friendship of the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu. It’s the visual recording of The Book of Joy, with biographical information about both visionaries and their histories, only it’s better than the book (which I admit I didn’t get through). You can hear them giggling like two third-grade boys. Such a gift, this film. It comes out in late July. It opened me in all the best ways, made me fall in love with them, with life, with ferocity of spirit and kindness of heart.
Dahlia Lithwick is my go-to writer on all things SCOTUS-related, but her recent Slate piece about the Uvalde shootings, “Why Politics Is Both the Poison and the Cure” gets at something beyond the horrors of our current court. She writes about “trying to reassemble” herself in the face of events that could provoke hopelessness and being reminded that “In any march toward authoritarianism, fostering a broad sense of public hopelessness is very much the point.” Which is how she found herself searching for a word to express “the need for action and hope.” What she found was the Yiddish word tzebrokhnkayt meaning “the quality of broken-heartedness that gives strength in healing.” She goes on:
At its essence it means that “we each carry our shattered pieces with us.” The essential bit is that tzebrokhnkayt is not something in need of quick fixing; it is instead honored. It means that we are obligated to gather up, tend to and honor the pain, but also to take up the work of healing. …my friend Dahna turned the word into a prescription: “Let’s not be OK. Let’s find power in not being OK. Let’s honor our brokenness—and the brokenness of our country—by finding the collective strength to fight for change.”
Speaking of words we need… after reading Rosemerry’s recommendation here, I picked up John Koenig’s beautiful little book, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, and I’m so glad I did. The book features little dictionary entries punctuated with short, thoughtful essays about life. The words in Koenig’s dictionary are ones he created to describe common human emotions, and I was pleasantly reminded of how satisfying it is to have a way of naming a feeling. For instance:
n. the state of being simultaneously entranced and unsettled by the vastness of the cosmos, which makes your deepest concerns feel laughably quaint, yet vanishingly rare.
From galaxy, a gravitationally bound system of millions of stars +agog, awestruck. Pronounced "gal-uh-gawg.
In the “Wheat Field with Crows”
inspired by “Wheat Field with Crows” painted by Vincent van Gogh and “Blackbirds” composed by Kayleen Asbo
Oh Vincent, I long to pause with you
where the three paths converge in the wheat field.
We can stand there beneath the sullen sky
like two piano notes side by side,
which, when played at the same time,
rub against each other
in an awkward, uncomfortable music.
Sometimes what unsettles us
is so unbearably beautiful.
I want to meet you in this moment
before you return to a wheat field
with not a brush, but a gun,
want to meet you in this moment
before the choice, before the shot,
this moment when there are still three paths,
all of them leading beyond the frame.
Let’s linger here, Vincent,
beneath the dark arpeggios of crows,
linger here while everything is still possible.
The storm is coming, I see it, too,
turbulent and full of change
while in the honest wheat, look,
you’ve shared so much light, so much gold.
—Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
A Note About Paid Subscriptions:
First, we want to thank ALL our subscribers! We are so grateful you join us in this conversation about what it is to engage with yourself, the world and others in a creative way. And a BIG thank you to our paid subscribers. You make this podcast possible. Starting this month, only our paid subscribers will receive our bonus episodes as a thank you for their financial support.
This week we feature the piano music Kayleen Asbo created for the paintings of Vincent van Gogh and several of Rosemerry’s poems inspired by Kayleen’s compositions and Vincent’s paintings. If you are not yet a paid subscriber, you can go now to our website, EmergingForm.substack.com or by clicking the button below. Thank you!
(share your answers with us here on Substack or in our FB group)
Talk about a time when you were greatly inspired in your art by another art form.
What do you do to fill your creative well?