jupiter | atlas

credit: nasa / nasa.gov

atlas is a series based on the planet songs off of sleeping at last’s atlas: year one.
this is jupiter: a realisation of and hope for purpose.

If anything I do must be for something, then it is for them to mean something. Day after day, I turn any knowledge of who and what I believe myself to be inside out – all the light I collect within myself, everything I protect – in search of purpose, elusive as it may be.

Today, I close my eyes and realise that we are all extraordinary, and like that, none of us are. That nobody leaves without changing something, and that nobody can change everything. That the chaos of the present may be, in its entirety, something to get caught up in rather than to resist. That maybe, the undoing of everything that we all are is what we’re here for.

I think that maybe, in this here and now, the mess we make counts for both everything and nothing, and within them, all that counts. I think that regardless of however many moons we each have affecting what we gravitate towards, all of our fractures reflect the same thing. They sing the same song of wanting to know; of purpose. They sing:

Make my messes matter.

earth | atlas

credit: nasa / nasa.gov

atlas is a series based on the planet songs off of sleeping at last’s atlas: year one.
this is earth: an account of necessary and inevitable destruction.

I have a knack for destruction. It’s in my name, my veins, and  every movement I have ever made. This time, I am weary.

This time, I am not destroying a safe house I had made for myself. I am not undoing the world of work done in relationships, nor am I crushing the tower of support that I have stood on for as long as I needed to. This time, I am not destroying. This time, I am being broken, and it has been a long time coming.

I saw the sky change and saw myself create a courage based on a cheap attempt at self deceit. I saw the water rise, and I locked the door. I saw the fires grow and readied my bucket. I saw myself, and I saw futility. For what is a bolted door against an unending ocean, or a pail of water against a forest fire? No lie I tell myself can convince me that I have enough time to collect myself enough to survive this.

This time, I am not destroying. I am watching disaster after disaster wreck me magnificently. I am watching earthquake after avalanche after flood after fire, and I tremble and crash along with all it destroys. My family has since left, finding refuge in a place safe from disaster and destruction. Despite this, I greet the mess. I greet destruction as my old friend, my constant, my ever steady companion.  I allow the old self to drown and to burn, and wait for the change.

These wildfires grow and grow until a brand new world takes shape.

venus | atlas

 

credit: wired / wired.com

atlas is a series based on the planet songs off of sleeping at last’s atlas: year one.
this is venus: a reflection on discovery and love .

The space between the tangle of limbs that we are is heavy with wonder and potential. I remember the first time I stood close enough to you to realise that I could see you, after years of telling myself that I would never find you. I checked and double checked every feeling I had, just to be sure, but there I was: leaning into the white-hot heat that you were and are; my calculations for naught.

Like this, bodies touching no longer a dream, I start to question whether this quest was worth what I set out for. I looked for you and somehow, despite my search, I was the biggest find of the search. Me and all one billion fragments of myself spun far out looking for whatever we thought could be you. I learnt that too many different focuses really mean no focus at all, and found myself caught up in the sparkly wreckage of everyone and everything else. Somehow, you saw me looking out. You pulled me into frame, and I wondered if I knew that I could see you. I saw you, but did I know I did?

Now, your legs draped over mine and our fingers knotted together, I see you. Without the charts to fill, without the measurements that I religiously held this search to and without mistaking you for a mass of dancing stars rather than the celestial superpower that you are, I see you. I am helpless for the most part. My undoing is my becoming, and I see you.

Together is a place with you. Here – together – I realise that what I’m saying, what I’ve been saying is that this has been an awakening. That you are my awakening.

Astronomy in reverse; it was me who was discovered.

mothers

My mother wears her wrinkles
the way an ocean wears a wave

She is the only body of water
that has stopped me from drowning.

my mother is shipwreck and sailor
my mother is sink and plug
my mother is the start of the darkest parts of
myself, and then the light.

my mother is the last drops of
a bottle i cannot conceptualise
finishing
my mother is anything and
every
thing,
she is
the only chemistry that i did not fail
in twelfth grade.

my mother is a miracle of
science and god
of struggle and
strength
of
lived experience
and the power to shelter.

my mother is vessel: broken and
still letting me
take
my mother is fire: childhood
fascination and older childhood
admiration, my mother
is home:
where my closest friends are
from, where nurture is nature, where
i know. i know. i know.
hush, i know.
it’ll be alright. i know.

my mother leaped into every
ocean i found myself in
without knowing how to swim
my mother
refuses to drown even when her lungs
are heavy. full. enough.
my mother finds enough and
multiplies it every time
i do not have it
my mother carried me, and
carries me,
and carries me. home.

-s.c.o

(art by safina stewart)

‘tortured artists’: a note

“The myth of ‘You have to be a tortured artist’ is a myth. You can have a happy, healthy life and still go to all these crazy dark places in your writing, and then go home then go play with your child and hug your wife.”

– Dr Lin-Manuel Miranda

The year is 1870. Vincent van Gogh is  a crazily talented man who is terribly troubled and misunderstood. Nobody buys his work. Nobody cares to read his letters, and he spends much time in isolation. Time passes, and he grows more and more lonely. 1890 rolls around, and he (allegedly)* commits suicide. He dies in the arms of his brother. People start to notice him once he’s died. “His work – it’s almost as if you can see his pain!” It’s believed by many that he wouldn’t have been able to produce any his best works had he not been in such dark places so often. His work becomes a hit, and he accrues posthumous fame. The tortured artist trope is born.

Following his death, and long after, many people subscribe to the idea that those suffering will create the most beautiful things. This idea is affirmed by tragic losses such as Sylvia Plath and Ernest Hemingway. The question: does mental illness make for better art?

I study English at university, along with my other three subjects. In the literary field, you’ll come across countless artists who were mentally ill, and claimed that the mental illness enabled them to write as well as they did. Some pseudo-scientific studies have shown a clear link between depression and good poetry, but I disagree with them almost entirely. Unfortunately, mental illness is romanticised to the nth degree, thanks to the likes of tumblr, and the idea that you need to endure some form of affliction to be great is frequently taken to be gospel truth. to  I’m saying what Lin-Manuel Miranda is saying – that the myth that you have to be tortured to make good art is a myth.

I’m certain that mental illness can inspire art. My experience has inspired my writing and my choices when performing on stage. I don’t, however, believe that a poem written about heartbreak by a happily engaged person, would pale in comparison to that of a heartbroken person.

I’m of the opinion that the ability to transcend your own experience in your artform is one of the highest forms of art. To get into another’s frame of mind without being in that frame of mind yourself takes a massive amount of skill, and the idea that your work would be inferior because of your transcendence sounds highly unlikely to me.

love and light,
shalom xo

*there is speculation that good ol’ vanny may have been murdered,but it’s all a bit sketchy.

Old, Old Literature in a Brave New World

My new English tutor is interesting. Granted, there are several other words I could use to describe him more accurately, but I’m going with interesting because of the way he’s made me think about things that I hadn’t had previously.

I met him on Friday, after arriving late to the first tutorial our group had with him. As a bit of an icebreaker activity, we were told to introduce another person in the group to him, and they us. (to him. Is this good English? Yikes.)

My introduction (thanks Tory) let slip that I was (a) in love with, and posthumously married to John Keats, (b) that I adored the Romantic poets (but mostly Keats srsly he’s my guy), and (c) that this blog existed. I helped with the last bit.

The point of all this rubbish background info is to let you know why the fresh hell I’m writing about this, and what the actual heck I’m writing about. What the tutor, whose name I was fortunate enough to miss (but I think it’s Ian?), said was that he’s of the opinion that poetry pre-1900 should be ignored as it’s irrelevant now. Or something. The Romantics (stab to the heart), Victorian poets – the lot. His reasoning was sound (and valid) (#IntroToPhilosophy FLEX) though: can Wordsworth and his bridge musings seriously teach us more than a Palestinian woman’s commentary on the situation in Gaza can?

Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, while lovely, really doesn’t do much for us in 2016. Unlike Wordsworth’s “calm so deep”, The Palestinian situation isn’t going away any time soon, and it only makes sense for us to focus on issues like that, right?

I’ve been having a think about this over the weekend. I’m reeling from a week that consisted of an average 5 hours spent on crying a day, and believe it or not, questioning the relevance of poetry periods has helped a lot.

The title of this post was a pun, but only to me – I’m starting Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World tomorrow. That’s it. I chuckled.

love and light,
shalom xo

featured image from http://e2ua.com/group/london-wallpapers/