Saturday, August 27, 2011

Spike Driver's Blues




I'm back from the extended break of August. Thanks, everyone, for sticking with me through all that empty space. I do appreciate it, as what started out as a family vacation blogging break grew into a plain old blogging (and writing) break. A long one.

Partly, I just needed a little downtime with the kids. Partly, I needed to attend to work-work in preparation for the new school year. And partly, well, I've been a little detached from my novels lately.

You may recall my post about John Henry, the folk hero. Henry was born to drive steel and went down swinging when the team drill made him obsolete.

Mid-revisions, I felt quite a bit like Mr. Henry. I was in love with the practice of writing and with my work. I found value in it regardless of what the larger world might ultimately think of it-- whether it it was published or not.

And I do still feel that way.

Often.

But then, there are the "Spike Driver's Blues" kinds of days (or months!). Spike Driver's Blues, by Mississippi John Hurt, is sort of "the flipside" of John Henry, about a more sensible man who decides to turn in his hammer before it kills him and go back home.





This is the hammer that killed John Henry
But it won't kill me
No, it won't kill me
No, it won't kill me

Take this hammer and carry it to the captain
and tell him I'm gone
Won't you tell him I'm gone
Won't you tell him I'm gone

John Henry, he left his hammer
Laying inside the road
Laying inside the road
all covered in blood

John Henry, he left his hammer
All painted in red
All painted in red
All painted in red

It's a long way to East Colorado
Honey, that's my home
Honey, that's my home
Honey, that's my home

Take this hammer and carry it to the captain
and tell him I'm gone
Won't you tell him I'm gone
Won't you tell him I'm gone


Here's Mississippi John Hurt:





Writing--any art-- is a cyclical sort of enterprise. One day you're John Henry, the next, a lowly spike driver heading home.

What are your experiences with the your work?

5 comments:

A.M. Swan said...

Right now I am feeling good and I know that this moment may be lovliest DISTILLATION will ever be, before it either turns to dust or turns to real work (ie. someone else is calling the shots and giving me deadlines). Obviously, I hope for the later, but it is so important we rejoice in the personal exaltation of writing for ourselves and loving those moments of creation just for what they are.

And P.S. even given the worst possible outcome I am not signing any contracts saying DISTILLATION is dust here after.

Julia Munroe Martin said...

Today I'm the lowly spike driver -- but I'm working hard to be back to John Henry, easier said than done somedays. Really excellent right on post for me today. Thank you.

Elizabeth Young said...

Nobody realizes what you have written here is more true than someone who is bipolar, whose writing abilities always swing between two extremes. The healthy part is knowing that Summer follows Winter and Winter follows Summer and at least there is some kind of permanancy in that one can try to prepare for. Great post!

LisaAnn said...

Thank you so much for your sweet post about the loss of my Bridger. I really appreciate your support and advice, and I think you're right. In time, maybe I will have my own callus. (I hope.) Thanks for being there.

Perri said...

Ariel, Julia, Elizabeth: Writing brings out the cyclical nature in things, doesn't it? Just a question of degrees. I love the summer/winter metaphor! It's so hard to remember the feel of the sun when in the depth of winter.

Lisa, your post really touched me. So brave of you to write about your loss!