Cam Scott is Contributing Editor to Cheek Teeth. Learn more on his website
Sometimes, in the darkest of nights, but mostly in the light bright light of day, I wonder, not about the intuitive side of my writing life, but about the logical-critical part. The part that sounds like a Kurt Vonnegut novel. The part that thinks we are a bunch of monkeys with over-developed cerebral cortexes. The part that purposely says flippant and Napoleon Dynamite things like “I do what I want” in response to actual questions I could spend hours philosophizing about. The part that process through all of the crap of everyday life and who’s top ten list of human idiocy includes television and fancy made up Latinate words like “polyamorous” to avoid really saying open, miserable, and unable to invest. Apologies polyamorous people. No apologies television.
In the fly fishing shop where I spend my summers guiding, we call this month Angry August. None of us have had a day off for longer than our short term memories can remember. And a fly fishing guide’s short term memory can be surprisingly longer than you might first assume. Things happen to us in August that make us attract deer the same way a salt-lick might. A deer-attracting-ever-lasting-salt-lick. Gobstopper. Like falling through the frozen surface of a lake. Or what happens to local reservoirs in the winter when the surface temperatures are below freezing: all the warm water sinks to the bottom. Inversion. Or opposite of inversion. Cryptic, I know.
In August, perhaps because it is the month of my birth and I am a Virgo, I return from my long intuitive ramblings in the world and become, for the first and mostly only month, a truly logical and critical writer. I want to sit in a study and chew on cigar butts with dark circles under my eyes reading Kant and Arendt, writing poems heavy as stones that I can put in a sling to bring down giants with. And that is how I want to end my sentences in August. With with.
And while the logical critical month of my writing life isn’t devoid of compassion, it is just mostly devoid. As the writing life goes, so goes life. And life becomes like Keatsian negative capability. Meaning, a lot is left unsaid. Life becomes poetic. And my poetry becomes un-poetic. And I just bear down in the most manly Hemingway corners of my soul and take what comes with short sentence like sentences that sound like rifle reports. I wake up. I go to work. I go home to a blood red sun. I wake up. And go to work again. I master the ever curling wave of couch surfing.
Which leads me to a writing exercise that is most like life in August. Take a poem, and replace every single word in it with its opposite and see what you get. What you might get is a poem with a lot of negative capability, that sits like a stone in a sling, and can bring down giants. And that is sometimes, what a poet needs. To slay, without remorse, that which has crept up silently in the lush forests of intuition. That that. To go about each day in a linear and focused fashion. To emerge into the battle-scarred world of September and let intuition slowly roll out like a panting tongue or red carpet. And then to follow that red carpet wherever it might go until you reach August again. With with and that that.