November 9, 2009

I am a braindancer. In my dissertation (Learning • Teaching • Leading: A Patchwork of Stories from a Non-Traditional Life, 2004,  p. 47, read more in the Oregon State University library archives), I defined this neologism (new word) this way:

Braindancing. A term that came to me in a dream. I define it as mindfully aware, playful, open, connective thought. The term brainstorming has never been appealing to me because of the negative connotations of the word storm. As I wrote in the middle of the night:

What does a braindancer do? S/he [yes, even in the middle of the night when I’ve awakened from sleep to write something down I am aware of sexist language—I don’t know what this says about me] allows an unfettered mind to roam to twirl to leap. S/he refuses to restrict thoughts to proscribed pathways. S/he intuits, connects, explodes, delights in thought for its own sake. S/he is mindful. Aware, playful, open, and perhaps difficult for others whose minds are walking careful paths to follow. They may not even want to dance. (Zinnjournal, 2003)

I am trying to be kind to myself as I think about my failed poetry weekend. I really wanted to focus some of my time on gathering up bits and pieces of poetry ideas and patching them together in some fashion, but my thoughts are unruly and often ramble along paths of their own choosing, and the piper whose tune they follow is not always apparent to me immediately. I wanted to work on poetry this weekend but instead I ended up thinking about other things. My brain wouldn’t cooperate. It seldom does when it comes to poetry. Instead, what began as a focus on writing poetry became thoughts about words themselves and how much they matter if we are to truly express what we are thinking. There are so many of them. So many of them are used incorrectly. So many of them never get used because potential users don’t know about them or are unsure what they mean.

So how did I get to these thoughts? I am always fascinated by the paths of the brain and I try to record its ramblings from time to time so that I can see how I got from one point to another. On Saturday morning, I’d written the following quotation from Kahlil Gibran on a 3×5 card to add to my collection of quotations that could inspire a poetic or otherwise artistic response:

Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.

“A dash of the dictionary.” What could I do with that? I’m working on ideas for a pARTicipatory art exhibit called “Shelf Analysis,” and after all my thinking about the books that have influenced me the most, I suddenly realized that it is likely to be the dictionary that is most meaningful, even more than L. Frank Baum’s The Patchwork Girl of Oz or Edgar Allen Poe’s poetry. My favorite book when I was little was a children’s dictionary—quite fat—a “big girl’s book”—but with lots of pictures. I remember loving that book and wanting to understand every word in it. I still love dictionaries. Every time I look through one I learn something new.

And then in the middle of the night, around 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, I read the word “sporadically” in a book I’d picked up because there was nothing else safe to read handy. It was Eloisa James (2002) Duchess in Love and it was piled next to the bed with others I’d just bought at thrift stores to send to my cousin who is bedridden and loves Regency romances. I have to be careful what I read in the middle of the night because if it’s intellectually stimulating, it’s likely to zap my brain like six cups of caffeinated coffee! Alas, even Ms. James book did it. There on p. 58 lurked the awakener: “sporadically.”

I love this word and I seldom use it. Could I use it in a poem, I wondered? And so it began, the only poetry I captured this weekend:

and somewhat
she was devoted
to the tasks
she’d rather not
be doing,
like washing floors
or dusting shelves
or scrubbing bins
that need degoo-ing.

De-gooing? Really? The only reason I share this is to make you feel better. I’m hoping that you spent some time this weekend doing something you wanted to do. At least I got a post out of my mid-night ramblings.

Where do your thoughts take you when you braindance?

But I also found a wonderful quotation I wish I’d had to use in my dissertation, so all was not wasted:

Dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum of all noble education: dancing with the feet, with ideas, with words, and need I add, that one must also be able to dance with the pen?
• Friedrich Nietzsche



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