First Adventures in Beauty --

Making my first collage/erasure book absorbed me so completely that now, recounting it, I can siphon off that special sensation, that loss of bearings only sidelong, only partly. Writing is way more painstaking, hard-won, slow, and full of anxious blanks. But this endeavor let in the body, my body, in new and collaborative ways. As I sat among my cut pieces, pieces taken from books that called to me, that I loved so much for all kinds of quirky reasons that I could hardly snip into them (that’s a whole other conversation – the sanctity of the book, my resistance to altering, coming to see the ways I’d be rescuing and transforming, not harming - -thank you Larry!!) they began to move together of their own accord. There were secret magnets and strings at work.  Rivers finding seas. Needles flying out of haystacks. Birds calling across fields finding birds listening in far trees. I arranged stuff without language intervening. Kinned images made me laugh, made their own stories – sometimes those stories got so elaborate I had to make side-collages, nothing to go in the book, mind you, but the pieces that wanted to live together asserted and I obliged. (I kept building these collages with words and images, sent them off to friends – I never wanted it to end!) I guess the most astonishingly freeing part was – the unwordedness. Sure, I was looking to match up image with language in the book, but once I freed myself from the assumption that the images had to illustrate the words directly, once the images could behave on their own terms, everything just flew. Once my essay’s language and the language of image could speak their form of dialect together, I was free. I disappeared. I was a large listening pair of hands moving stuff around. I wanted to quit my job, any known form I inhabited: dishwasher, mother, writer, pal, partner, dog lover, darner, walker, talker, etc and just work in this wordless, timeless, conjuring way. The alignments that moved through, that worked by suggestions from who-knows where were so powerfully satisfying, so joyful, so full of chance-filled rightness that it’s been hard to believe Iactually reentered the workaday world, once I finished a session. Sometimes I had to look down and be sure I had my shoes on as I left the house. As a writer, the practice of knocking the known and expected word off stage, trusting in the way so much comes in by association is of course familiar to me. But to embody this behavior and to practice it so concretely -- and to have such forms of shock/delight/amusement(I can’t really find the word for the rightness, the lightness of images finding each other, the surprise for sure, the sense of something hidden suddenly revealing itself) – to be able to work so concretely with these sensations was a very pure joy. A way of thinking and being. A way ofrecognizing a whole other form of intelligence just below the surface of anything conscious. Lorca wrote about ‘the duende” – that force in the body, that directs and offers its living breath up and through a performer -- “…it is not a question of ability, but of true, living style, of blood, of the most ancient culture, of spontaneous creation.” And while I make no claims to anything so grand in my own small creations, I recognize the particular freedom he describes when absorbed, utterly dismissive of outcome or evaluation, and alive in the moment of listening in – when you’re one with an otherworldly/internal form of spontaneity. 

Lia Purpura