Thursday, June 11, 2009

Guest in Progress: Sparrow

Sparrow is…well, I don’t even know how to finish that sentence. He’s a thinker and poet, an American original, a man with an infectious and joyful laugh, a delight in every sense of the word. He was at the Sun magazine conference that I recently attended in May, sitting with us on the panels, nodding thoughtfully as the rest of us answered questions off the cuff.

When the microphone came his way, he pulled out a sheaf of brief, written answers that were exactly on-target while also being fascinating and exhilarating non sequiturs. Off the cuff, he took a question about how to find a writing group that would help focus the writer’s work, and then leapt up in excitement to spin a long and true story about the Grateful Dead…and then masterfully (and impossibly) wound back the story into the absolutely perfect answer to the question, and the benefits of “wasting time.”

I asked if I could share the piece he wrote in response to the last panel of the gathering. The panel was described this way:

"Digging the Well: The authors will discuss their individual writing practices and share ideas for stimulating creativity and inspiration or just developing the discipline to sit down with pen and paper or laptop. What methods word best for getting started and staying the course? How can you avoid distraction and manage your time?"

And here is Sparrow’s insightful response:

My mornings are given to thought. "Thought" is the word I use. It describes me lying in bed with the my eyes closed, remembering my dreams, then forgetting my dreams, then pursuing words which occasionally arrive in my mind. These words arrange themselves into little poems, at times. Here is an example:


I am
smoking --
not a cigar,
or pipe --

It is one of the four poems I wrote this morning. When I must urinate, I leave bed, visit the toilet, then turn on my computer and begin speaking to it. I have carpal tunnel syndrome, so I use a voice-activated computer. I am a "thinker" and "talker," not a "writer." Writing is dead, anyway. It will be replaced by iPods, iPhones and video games, within 30 years. But I will be ready, because thinking and talking will survive.

After speaking my poems, I pursue other types of thinking, back in bed. Sometimes I'll give a long discourse to someone I met the day before, a good-looking woman on the bus. After listening to my own speech, in my imagination, I may have the urge to preserve three or four lines. So I return to my computer and say:

Wouldn't it be nice if mammals flowered? Why should colored ornaments only be on plants? I'd love to see a flowering hippopotamus.

Without criticism or pause, my voice-activated computer (whose name is Dragon) transcribes my thoughts. ~~Sparrow

About: Sparrow is "no doubt the greatest avant-garde ocarina player in northern New Jersey," according to Drownbeat magazine. (He lives in Teaneck.) His longest recorded solo is:

And watch him run for President on:

If you’d like to read more, here’s his essay “Bathifying” in The Sun’s archives.

Enticing excerpt: “Americans prefer showers because showering is a kind of job — you stand, you scrub, you shampoo. In comparison, bathing is inactive. You lie in a bathtub, your eyes closed. You accomplish nothing. By the end of a long bath, you’re slightly older and slightly cleaner.”


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.