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Doubled Mirrors

It is the dark of the moon.

Late at night, the end of summer,

The autumn constellations

Glow in the arid heaven.

The air smells of cattle, hay,

And dust.  In the old orchard

The pears are ripe.  The trees

Have sprouted from old rootstocks

And the fruit is inedible.

As I pass them I hear something

Rustling and grunting and turn

My light into the branches.

Two raccoons with acrid pear

Juice and saliva drooling

From their mouths stare back at me,

Their eyes deep sponges of light.

They know me and do not run

Away.  Coming up the road

Through the black oak shadows, I

See ahead of me, glinting

Everywhere from the dusty

Gravel, tiny points of cold

Blue light, like the sparkle of

Iron snow.  I suspect what it is,

And kneel to see.  Under each

Pebble and oak leaf is a

Spider, her eyes shining at

Me with my reflected light

Across immeasurable distance.

 

~ Kenneth Rexroth

 

This eerie poem reminds me of my short fiction “Windmill Ridge,” which also evokes the transition from summer to fall and a sense of being watched.  To read an excerpt, visit the page above.

 

Dave Hitchborne

A white, indifferent morning sky,

and a crow, hectoring from its nest

high in the hemlock, a nest as big

as a laundry basket…

                              In my childhood

I stood under a dripping oak,

while autumnal fog eddied around my feet,

waiting for the school bus

with a dread that took my breath away.

 

The damp dirt road gave off

this same complex organic scent.

 

I had the new books – words, numbers,

and operations with numbers I did not

comprehend – and crayons, unspoiled

by use, in a blue canvas satchel

with red leather straps.

 

Spruce, inadequate, and alien

I stood at the side of the road.

It was the only life I had.

 

~ From “Three Songs at the End of Summer” by Jane Kenyon

 

Myles Birket Foster, 1899

Life, it seemed, was such that it was impossible to wish for better: there was abundance, there was health […].  Anna paid attention to herself in the same way without guests, and was also very much taken up with reading – of novels and the serious books that were in vogue.  She ordered all the books that were mentioned with praise in the foreign newspapers and magazines she received, and read them with that concentration that one only finds in solitude.

 

~ From Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, born on this day in 1828

 

National Media Museum

 

 

September

The leaf-watcher’s month,

if she can bear to

 

The year changing its mind,

voluble as an older bride

 

The year undergoing pears

 

September being also a floating classroom

for studying the great lakes

 

September,

who gives anyone who asks

 

a guided tour of the year,

the month who keeps all year’s promises,

 

leaf by leaf

 

                         ~ Penelope Shuttle

 

“Maple Leaf” by Edward Edmondson, Jr., circa 1870

I cannot describe to you my sensations on the near prospect of my undertaking.  It is impossible to communicate to you a conception of the trembling sensation, half pleasurable and half fearful, with which I am preparing to depart.  I am going to unexplored regions to ‘the land of mist and snow’ […].  You will smile at my allusion; but I will disclose a secret.  I have often attributed my attachment to, my passionate enthusiasm for, the dangerous mysteries of ocean, to that production of the most imaginative of modern poets.  There is something at work in my soul, which I do not understand.

 

~ Mary Shelley, born on this day in 1797

 

“Expectation” by Richard Eisermann, 1927

Ten years ago on this day, with a succinct, autogenous “Hello, World!” announcing its quiet arrival on the heavily populated, cyber literary landscape, Archetype was launched.  Conceived originally in 2009 to chronicle my academic journey through Chapman University’s dual Master of Arts in English and Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program and provide a forum for peer critique and camaraderie, I promptly posted passages from one of my short stories (“Windmill Ridge”) and my then novel-in-progress Time of Death and invited classmates to contribute their work.  I also published original essay excerpts on Jonathan Franzen and the waning of a literary America (“Antisocial or socially isolated?”, “‘Tis the good reader that makes the good book”), mirrors and reflective imagery in world literature (“Masks, Manipulation, and Madness”), and the notion of the invoked doppelganger in fiction (“The Self We Seek”), all of which I was studying in those first few months of scholarly bliss.

Like any creative endeavor, the site evolved as I did and soon reflected my deepening involvement in and abiding commitment to literary and academic pursuits.  In addition to promoting Chapman fiction, poetry readings, and publication opportunities in those first years, I mined journals and the Internet for interesting and informative local events taking place beyond the university’s borders.  Details regarding local and national writing contests and calls for submissions were and still are also posted regularly.  In 2012, I added a section for the growing number of my guest blog posts, my one-on-one interviews, and other places where I’ve stumbled pleasantly upon my own work in the cybersphere.

Followers know that I most often post poems and passages that have timely personal significance.  From my occasional struggles with insomnia, feelings of isolation, or major life transitions to my simple delight in a book or summer peach, each post, like a journal entry, suggests where I am intellectually and affectively.  Early on I rejoiced to find pictures, particularly nineteenth-century oil paintings, that evoked or complemented the literary piece I was posting, and I now spend nearly as much time searching for corresponding artwork as I do compelling literature.

Thanks to my passionate professors and their fascinating courses on Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetic Movement, the life and novels of Virginia Woolf, female enchantresses of modern British literature, and Gothic and fantastic fiction, Wilde, Woolf, and the works of A. S. Byatt, Katherine Mansfield, Angela Carter, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Edgar Allan Poe were frequent early Archetype subjects.  Posts on Wilde peaked in November 2009 with the writing of my course thesis on The Picture of Dorian Gray (“The Act of Creation,” “Wilde Irony”), while Woolf reigned in the fall of 2010.  My essay on chaos theory and the butterfly effect in the works of Virginia Woolf remains one of my proudest literary achievements to date and served as a Ph.D. application writing sample in 2016.  (Click on these links to review excerpts from “The I in the Portrait: A Bakhtinian Analysis of The Picture of Dorian Gray and “On the Wings of Angels and Butterflies: The Chaotic Journey to Woman in Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse.”)

My penchant for Russian literature and philosophy was also soon discovered, and I immersed myself and, by extension, Archetype in Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Nabokov and began to examine just about everything through the lens of Mikhail Bakhtin.  Later courses exposed me to the intriguing life and works of Gertrude Stein (“Back to Bakhtin: The ‘I’ in Ida), Junot Díaz, Ralph Ellison, and many others, and every newly encountered author was explored here to some extent.

The craft of writing is another recurrent theme on Archetype; “Genetics-Based Grammarianism,” “In Celebration of Technique,” “Last Writes,” “More Is More,” “Not Quite Write,” “Drafting Perfection,” and “A Sense of Style” are my personal favorites.  However, it is the angst of writing about which I tend to muse and articulate most freely; “Why Write?,” “One True Sentence,” “Bird by Bird,” “Write About Now,” “Demons and Darlings,” “The Reality of Rejection,” “The Joy of Ending Well,” “A New Summer of Writing,” “The Write Stuff,” “You Heard Write,” and “Imposter Syndrome” all convey my own grapples with the creative stall and feelings of inadequacy.

With the MA in English and MFA in Creative Writing attained and a few modest writing awards under my belt (“Praise for Time of Death,” “On the Write Track”), I spent most of 2015 considering what’s next—for me academically and literarily and for this site (“A Silent Abyss,” “A Beginning and an Ending,” “Writing in the Afterlife”).  As I’ve mentioned more than once on Archetype (“Это правда?”) and in an interview on TreeHouse, applying to various Ph.D. programs in English, Comparative Literature, and/or Rhetoric was always in the “someday” plans.  To that effort, I devoted much of 2016 to researching local curriculums, preparing for the treacherous Graduate Record Examination, and pursuing admittance to my chosen university.  In December of that year, I received the happiest of news (“We Are Pleased”) and began my doctoral studies in nineteenth-century British and American literature and neuroscience at Claremont Graduate University the following January.

Velual

Now in the middle of my third year at CGU, I am thoroughly immersed in the psychopathology and general madness of both the protagonist and poet.  Recently, my research interests have taken me from the Special Collections areas of local libraries to the far-flung museums of France.  While I continue my explorations of languages and literature here and abroad, my ancillary focus remains on several journal and book editing projects, submitting my nonfiction work to various conferences and journals, establishing a part-time freelance writing career, revamping Archetype and launching a new site, and, someday, completing and marketing my semiautobiographical and thus ever-evolving novel (“This Is the Year,” “This Is That Summer,” “Writing in the Aftermath”).

During the last decade, I have published over twelve hundred posts about literature, critical theory, writing technique, literary figures and events, submission opportunities, favorite poems and passages, articles of interest, books I’m reading, classes I’m taking, papers I’m writing, other literary blogs I’m following, conferences I’m attending, and demons I’m wrestlingArchetype celebrates holidays, welcomes new seasons, and gives the occasional nod to lunar activity—and to much-needed sleep.  Finally, personal aspects of my affective life and literary and academic journeys are memorialized and shared (“Write of Passage,” “Cartwheels Under the Arch,” “Beyond Words,” “Finis,” “Running the Risk of Beginning,” “The End Is Where We Start From,” “It Couldn’t Be Done,” “My Janus Year,” “Pathetic Fallacy”), even when the discovery and healing are mine alone.

 

 

A noiseless patient spider,

I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,

Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,

It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,

Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

 

And you O my soul where you stand,

Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,

Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,

Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,

Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

 

~ Walt Whitman

 

Pieter Gallis (1633-1697)

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