Friday, January 06, 2006

The best ever said to me...

Including when a rejection said I wa sfunny, but not funny enough...

The review below written by my good friend and MindFire partner, Thomas Fortenberry. He overstates, but that is okay.

Sales on the book are slow, so if you were thinking of buying... You will get a corrected copy.




A Poet Transformed: This records a journey. I have known Gary Blankenship for many years now and our friendship continues to deepen and grow richer. It is one of mutual respect, because we’ve created together for years. His mind and spirit never cease to impress me. Our relationship has been one of dawning amazement on my part, because it took me a while to realize it was a full-fledged dawn. A creative dawn I was lucky enough to share in and witness.

I realized early on there was a unique spark here, but now see that at first I was merely watching a slight predawn glow diffuse the night. I had no idea how brilliant the blaze would become until the sun erupted over the horizon. Morning via Gary is dazzling indeed.

As H. G. Wells phrased it, “The past is but the beginning of a beginning.”

For more than a decade, Mindfire has brought me many wonderful treasures. But I can say unequivocally that the most important and rewarding of them all has been Gary Blankenship. Mindfire is both a literary e-journal and a literary community. Early on I wanted it to be far more than a standard zine, more than the usual few pages of collected works. I wanted it to be a living body of works, a group for spawning creativity. I did everything in my power to break open forms, blend genres, cross boundaries, cultures, languages, and to fuse new and old, foreign and domestic, strange with familiar.

Therefore, outside the journal I created a real time Mindfire writing forum that moved among several early online systems that eventually were superseded by and absorbed into Yahoogroups after it formed, where it has remained ever since. I met a wide range of wonderful writers over the years, very creative and diverse in the international milieu that is Mindfire. The journal itself also went through many formats and web site incarnations throughout the 1990s.

During one of the later (to me) incarnations of Mindfire, in wandered Gary Blankenship. He was a self-professed newbie but had an innate spark that instantly caught my eye. We started out with the usual student-master b.s. of poetry critiquing but quickly moved beyond. He was old spirit, regardless of his claims. We had mutual interests in study, exploration, and experimentation, so these became the guiding principles of our collaboration. I also shared my love and admiration of Oriental culture and literature with Gary, who promptly taught me a lesson as a good Zen student should. It soon became evident to me -- there on mountain high in the great temple sitting serenely in my pristine rock garden -- that the student was the master and the master was mu. Bark, dog, bark.

To put it very mildly -- compressing years worth of friendship, work, and growth -- we began a multilayered dialogue that continues to this day. This book is a part of that dialogue. Gary is now so integral to everything I do that I eventually turned Mindfire journal over to his editorship a few years ago.

It is strange how mutually beneficial good friendships are. I’ve grown alongside Gary as a writer. I also have the pleasure of reading his great writing. Someone once mentioned great things arising from a simple mustard seed, if you have enough faith to believe in its potential. Here in this book we have ample proof of realized potential. Gary’s work has obviously blossomed for all to see and enjoy.

I have been very blessed by this friendship on all levels. He is a friend, but we also share a kindred spirit and work well together. We have collaborated for many years -- in fact this is my longest running collaboration with any writer -- and it has been a thorough joy. Similar to studying Zen, we’ve been meditating on the nature of poetry and life while extracting lessons by working on our creative goals. Gary is a very gifted person, naturally.

The thing I like best, though, is that he is a deeply flowing river that is ever in change. His works are in flux and there is no stagnation where nothing sits still and everything is eternally refreshed and invigorating. This river is being constantly infused by rare minerals and rich soils from the surrounding mountains and forests, and can be very exciting to watch as it spills down rapids and plunges over high falls with a crashing roar of creativity. However, I often find myself staring for hours into the quiet, small, clear pools gathered in meandered nooks and crannies which dart and glitter with half-hidden, almost-dreamed of wild life.

Gary and I began a journey some time ago that continues to this day. A River Transformed is all about that journey. Wang Wei’s original works were all about this same journey. Here it merely continues. This is a poetic transformation, a journey of thoughts, emotions, and works from the past to the future, from the East to the West, from classical forms to experimental modernity. Most of all, this records the journey of a creator. I once asked Gary how many songs were held within his garden, but he transposed the koan, broke open those pathetic walls, and has answered here:

“In a world without walls, there are no windows / to hold the moon, my songs.”

I am so proud to be a part of this glorious world. I find myself returning full circle to Wang Wei’s words to explain what this book means to me. In the closing of “On Returning to Sung Mountain” Wang Wei states, “I’ve come home, and close the gate.” I have.

Of course, anything written and printed has already moved into the past, so.... Gary, come on. I see something on the horizon. Let loose the dog.

-- Thomas Fortenberry


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