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On Songbirds

In Reasons on June 18, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Fats; a starving rigor; a curious man admires the form of his wife’s curling iron: these are the elements of writing.

An enchaînement of stolen bodies, rearranged; disemboweled ideas; an eye becomes an item, or an index, a frenzied movement of the bergamasca: these are the forms of language.

My task as a writer is that of the mad bird keeper; the pen is the key; release the songbirds from their cages!

Over many a morning’s coffee have I pondered the syntax of birds. I think also of the rhythm of automobiles and the breathing of the things I eat and drink. I wonder the name of the birds in the bird language when I see them.

I find solace in leathered footsteps, magic in tiny matchboxes, answers in a lover’s heartbeat; and yet; what happens when music becomes flat and geometric, when colors migrate into lurid ambiguity … one faces the terror of speech, the tearfulness of love poetry, O red death.

Curious to think of Émile Zola; stories buried beneath sterile schema; tragedy as a medical text. And curious to think of the nightmares of Kafka, death of Kharms, sexlessness of the mad Artaud.

I find a pain in writing. It is an ascetic work. Only when I write do I ever feel a draft about my feet, an inexorable feeling. And yet I cannot escape the foreseeable derangement of the senses.

My methods involve a simple set of qualities, and they are: memories of synagogues, enclosed fields, old photographs, suicides, received ideas. I reward myself for hunger, I am receptive to wounds, and sometimes it is the anger of these things that I unload upon my writing.

I disvalue sleep, misunderstand money: these are the untenable secrets of my passion for text.

My inspirations are: mythical biographies of desert fathers, saturated images of crying mothers, eulogies for lost and dying children.

I am never satisfied in finishing a piece. I avoid the empty corridors of a final mark of punctuation; and yet I fill pages in the frenzy of cluttering an empty piece of mind.

I am not so meticulous as to assign colors to vowels; and yet I think of the fictional female in terms of the whiteness of her teeth and the depth of her collarbone: to me, these are ravishing, fantastic ideas. Sometimes they are the only ideas I have.

The act of writing is the emulation of instantaneous models, the re-evaluation of an expiring grammar, the articulation of a societal eroticism.

Most important is that I know nothing. I write to get the insects out; I put them on a paper; I transcribe pages of a girl’s perfume; I change the color of things with my mind. I tear things apart. I close a book as a meditation.

Bobby Alter is the winner of Lamination Colony’s This is not not a Contest, and this appearance on Writers’ Bloc is one of his prizes. His winning story is called The cardiovasc, and he has also just started a blog at

  1. radness.
    way to be champion.

  2. while people like PHM bitch and moan (apparently about the lack of literary prose in the writing scene), there’s this sort of contempo-romanticism going on. so glad to see it. keep it up, bobby.

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