Sunday, 26 May 2013

Dragonfly

who let in the sky
whole tin the sky

From an interview:
The one book you always recommend is?
I always recommend Jack Kerouac’s On the Road: The Original Scroll. Kerouac described how the writing “went fast because the road is fast.” He had written the whole novel on a strip of paper 120 feet long. He just rolled it through the typewriter and wrote without paragraphs. It just rolled out on the floor and looked just like the road. He wrote it fast and furious as if he was traveling on a long mania-induced sleep deprived road trip. Influenced by Zen Buddhist teachings, he followed the practice of “first thought, best thought” – writing without halting to revise or edit his work. Instead, he wrote from gut instinct which gave his work a fresh, raw, unpolished, accelerating and spontaneous energy and excitement. I recommend the original scroll – the legendary first draft which is rougher, wilder, and racier than the 1957 edition. Real names are used as opposed to pseudonyms giving the manuscript an air of documentary authenticity and subjective realism.  Kerouac is arguably the most famous experimental writer of his time.  Like Henry Miller before him, he helped liberate literature from the traditional literary canon; in the similar way Jackson Pollock liberated painting with his experimental accidental “mistakes” that brought about new startling possibilities in abstract experimental painting. In my opinion, the original scroll is far superior to the edited, sanitized and censored 1957 edition. Reading the original scroll is like reading a totally different book – one truer to Kerouac’s original vision. The publication of the original scroll is a cause for celebration for fans of Kerouac’s writing – rediscovering On the Road as it was originally conceived and envisioned.

~ Kagan Goh, Read All Over-- Kagan Goh, by Erica Mattson 

I haven't read the unexpurgated On The Road, but Kagan's comments bring to mind my frustrations, in reading the expurgated diaries of Anais Nin. One of the literary practioners and theorists whose constellation included Miller, Nin's Diaries were her primary offering and masterworks, writ and polished with the expressed intent of revealing life as she is lived. Unlike her highly experimental novels, and her more straightforward erotica, the diaries were her "scroll." But when the times changed and it became permissible to publish the sexual aspects of her diary, the decision was taken, not to reveal her masterwork in the form read by her friends in typescript, and praised so highly, but in an overheated extraction. Her understanding of life as she unfolds and her artistic decision to reveal it thus, in a true to life and integrative way with all the turns and flows of an actual life, continue to be withheld (as i understand) from all but the archivists.  

These thoughts on presence and absences, constellations of friends and artistic decision-making, the wild spin and changing tempos of life, with an eye to the gate-keepers of all kinds, are a good base from which to consider Kagan Goh's Who Let In The Sky? 

Subtitled, "A son's tribute to his father Goh Poh Seng's courageous struggle with Parkinson's Disease," this small jewel of memoir opens with a biography of the father, a foreword by poet and friend Jamie Reid, and a poem by Goh Poh Seng. There follows seventeen perfect chapters, prose with poetry, of pure Kagan Goh storytelling.  His language is direct and resonant, revealing the particularity of Poh Seng and his son/the author, the particularity of the family constellation and the medical conditions discussed, and through them, the universals: love and relatedness; the vital spirit and creative forces of being; memory (and it's discontents); emotional weather (affection and anger, grief and fear).
"We swim back slowly. I swim close to him; half drowns to get back to shore." (p 24, The Swim) 
"I would rather die than listen to you!" (The Good Fight, p 51)

As the chapters unfold, a sense of transcendence takes hold, not in the sense of a dissociation between mundane and celestial, but in the sense of the simultaneity and coherence of all levels of existence, and the ways in which all are called to surrender. Reality is beautiful. A time to create and a time to be recreated, falling apart, expressing the whole.     
Having worked up an appetite, father uses the blender to make a healthy fruit smoothie with a dollop of yogurt and a spoonful of honey. Famished, I inhale my breakfast like a starving man.
"You eat like a prisoner guarding your food from other inmates," observes father. "Slow down. How do you even taste your food if you eat so quickly? Take your time and enjoy your food."
I eat slower, feeling slightly embarrassed. 
"That's better. Savor every morsel and it will make you immortal."
(Defying the Hourglass, p. 43)
 
Throughout the book are black and white photographs that relate directly to the stories told. Through the tribulations and trials suffered by this constellation of family members, what shines through is pure love. 

My father holds a baby
with his strong arms up to the sky.
My father
larger than life
lies on the grass
defying gravity itself

...

Father held me with his strong arms
all my life until the day he died.
Reluctantly father let go
handing me to God.

(Snapshot, p 71)

Central to the tale is the writer's life, the necessary joy, both the pragmatism and the liberation of poetry. At birth, at death, through harmony and dissension, the permeable walls between the worlds soften, and madness sometimes reveals what lucidity cannot. Bring your deathbeds, your heartbreak, your fear of living a life, and your whole family with you, when you read this book.

More about the elder Goh:  

More about Transcendence, disambiguation, which is not the same as simple clarity.

More about the author, on this blog,

Kagan Goh: Out of the Box


Visit Select Books online/to purchase Who Let in The Sky?

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