The Trick

We are submitting our apology now for sneaking a little trick into the content of the RAR front page.  We wish we could make a claim for our innocence, but we can’t.  The act was deliberate.  The intention was to flush out the people or perhaps the person in any of us who can’t resist the urge to feel better by correcting someone else.   We don’t like to be corrected.  We don’t feel correcting our fellow writers and artists has any place in, on or around the RAR community.  (We recommend a professional relationship with a good editor for this.)  So, we have attempted to correct with our little trick anyone who is inclined to correct while engaging with RAR.

Instead of hanging garlic outside our home, we decided to dangle a little bait – the corpse of a quotation attributed to someone named James Joyce.   The full form of the quotation – the words we chose to post and the sentences we chose to post them in are, as we were so politely and genially informed by more than one urbane browser of our site, incorrect.  If we are referring to a quotation attributed to the celebrated Irish writer James Joyce, then the verbatim quotation is:

A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.

 But wait, James Joyce himself didn’t really say this, did he?  Stephen Daedalus said it in Joyce’s novel Ulysses Chapter 9 – the Scylla and Charybdis chapter.  (You know – arrogant, depressed, unproductive, lost, unhappy, brooding, narcissistic, solipsistic Stephen Daedalus.)  How do we know James Joyce himself ever said (or believed) anything like this?  Perhaps when he was a young boy.  Perhaps in a drunken stupor.  Perhaps in a dream.  Perhaps on the surgical table as he lay dying.  Also, how do we know, in fact, that James Joyce himself did or didn’t say first or later or never the variant of the quote we chose to post:

All my errors are volitional and are the portals of my discovery.

 Which do you like better? For us, the genius bit obviously needs to be excised for its pretension.  And, we like the idea that the latter form of the quotation brings it into our inner circle – where it can be appropriated and applied to help us listen to the deeper intelligence that often delivers these mistakes to us.    So, whether the mistake is more beautiful because it unfolds a deeper, smarter, more meaningful, more devastating, more angry, more lamentable, more tedious, more beautiful truth, or whether it’s there to draw us up short, make us pay attention to it and its surrounding language, tropes and grammar, or whether it is just a hilariously funny joke in its new form that needs to stay – the mistake is often better than the correct and not-so-original form.

And, then there is the thing about leaving a mistake in deference to the muse (in whatever divine trope it presents itself).  So, we could be leaving a few errant threads ostentatiously crisscrossed in a corner of our rug, or we could be emphasizing the transience and imperfection of art as in the Wabi-sabi tradition, or we could be painstakingly completing a sand painting that need not be perfect because it is so ephemeral.  We have a painter friend who paints gorgeous, ethereal landscapes in gouache on corrugated cardboard.   My god that paper is full of acid!  These beautiful paintings don’t stand a chance of lasting.   But, somehow the impermanence of the surface and the medium seems to contribute to their other-worldly beauty.  Should we correct him by teaching him to use oil on panel?

Anyway, James Joyce didn’t say that.  And by that, I mean either quote.  In fact, it could be argued that none of us are really the source of anything we say.  So, I am telling you now that the quotation is correct as it was delivered to me this or that morning by Joyce, my physical therapist, who said it to me while working on my cranial still points.  And the typo a few of you found – that was deliberate also. Joyce is a genius.  She is an artist at work on my battered body.  And that’s exactly the way she said it.

TAPPAHANNOCK
by Kim Harvey

Now you are here, walking through tall stalks,
fingering a rat skull in your pocket like a lucky
penny you picked up along the way. Now imagine

the claw that felled her or the blade, ants entering
the eyehole, hawk who finished her off, your shawl
shed like cornsilk and husk. Red fox darting across

the path, no other human, just rushes, cattails,
marsh grass, reeds where the swamp used to be,
where there once was lily pad, frogs croaking

their throat song into the night. Now it is quiet,
swollen wall of yellow-green after the calm, after
the storm, after the delusion of storm, deluge. In

your chest, a swarm of angry bees, a reason
to go on. Don’t carry the burden of tomorrow. Don’t
carry the burden of any hour. Carry the bird in

the tool shed out again. Let the bluebird out
with the wind, blueprint of wind: tulle, satin, silk,
husk, all as before, the rust-red fox at dusk.

Now you are gone. Outside the camera’s frame,
tanned hands of a fisherman bending down
to net the day’s catch. Now you are full,

lulled to the sill, cellophane, cello playing,
selling the dream of tomorrow dangling

on the end of a string. Now you are young
again. Now you are not afraid to die.

Now let the wind carry you home.

The Widow’s Lament In Springtime

by William Carlos Williams

Sorrow is my own yard
where the new grass
flames as it has flamed
often before but not
with the cold fire
that closes round me this year.
Thirtyfive years
I lived with my husband.
The plumtree is white today
with masses of flowers.
Masses of flowers
load the cherry branches
and color some bushes
yellow and some red
but the grief in my heart
is stronger than they
for though they were my joy
formerly, today I notice them
and turn away forgetting.
Today my son told me
that in the meadows,
at the edge of the heavy woods
in the distance, he saw
trees of white flowers.
I feel that I would like
to go there
and fall into those flowers
and sink into the marsh near them.