Why do you refuse to admit that in poetry, as if in a mirror, I attempt to collect and to see myself, to pass through and beyond myself.
Last week, for a few days, it was doing nothing–long walks on the beach, listening to the ocean, watching the sea foam extract itself from the waves that produced it and scatter down the beach. Staring at the flower of a jellyfish, remembering being stung as a kid.
Oh, this innate bad habit of always existing in places where I do not live, or in a time which is past or is yet to come.
One week until I send in my last packet. In seven weeks I’ll be in Vermont. In a little over eight weeks, I’ll have graduated.
The memory of it would have vanished utterly had he not enclosed it in a fortress of words…
No Place on Earth by Christa Wolf (born in 1929) is a different kind of book than what I usually read. Wolf is a German author, who in this slim volume writes about the imagined meeting in June of 1804 of an unknown female poet and a famous male writer at a social gathering “for tea and conversation.” One hundred nineteen pages of almost no action and some dialogue. Mostly, it’s the back and forth of the relentless minds of these two characters, as if their minds were communing, on the subjects of life and death, the freedoms of men and women, the necessity of art:
That time should bring forth our desire, but not that which we desire most.
The repressed passions.
We are not worthy of that which we long for.
We must understand that longing needs no justification.
Matisse wrote, “To paint an autumn landscape I will not try to remember what colors suit this season, I will be inspired only by the sensation that the season arouses in me: the icy purity of the sour blue sky will express the season just as well as the nuances of foliage.” I’m not sure I agree, Henri. At least not today, standing at my desk with the bold scarlets to my right.
When I was cleaning out my study, I rediscovered this journal written in 1906 by the English naturalist, Edith Holden, who drowned in the Thames in 1920, at the age of 49. I have the French version, and I wish I’d written in the book when and where I found it.
Inside there’s a new feeling–no more books on the floor, no more clutter, lots of space. And there’s movement.
Things are changing. Now I stand to write and walk when I feel like it. I can also sit, which I find I sometimes need to do if I’m having to work really hard to turn an inside thought out.
Inside I’ve cleaned out drawers, moved things that haven’t been moved in years, given away books. Created white space.
Poems and novels, histories and memories, dictionaries and blue-books; books written in all languages by men and women of all tempers, races, and ages jostle each other on the shelf. And outside the donkey brays, the women gossip at the pump, the colts gallop across the fields. Where are we to begin?
~Virginia Woolf, The Second Common Reader
I dropped the last packet of the six-month semester into the FedEx box yesterday afternoon. After I fill out some end-of-the-semester forms, I will have completed the first year of my two-year program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
To celebrate I went to run in the rain–a new personal best: two miles. Twelve weeks ago, I started running again–starting at one mile and g r a d u a l l y working up to two miles.
The first week in October I started wearing contacts. I’ve gone from taking an hour to get them in to just a couple of minutes.
It was the air, really–the clear brightness of the air that in the evenings now held the first chilliness of autumn, and brought with it that subtle undercurrent of old longings and new chances which autumn often brings.
from Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout
Today it’s very coppery and auburn outside. No rain but no blue anywhere either. Maybe that’s still to come. And today I’m taking it easy: a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
October’s almost gone–each day zooming by like a page I’ve turned in a book. Underline this. Try to remember.
Yesterday I finished my essay. I printed the next section of the novel. I wrote the letter. I accomplished.
Today I’m listening to Mumford & Sons and The Mountain Goats. Over and over again. I’m putting discarded drafts in the shredder. I’m collecting my sticky notes and making a list. I’m responding to comments (sorry to be so late), checking in on Twitter and Facebook. I’m re-shelving the stack of books I used for my essay on narrative distance in beginnings.
Jim Harrison’s “The Woman Lit by Fireflies” slides off my stack and opens to these words:
A half-dozen fireflies had gathered in the darkness around her green cave, and the tiny beams seemed to trace the convolutions of her thought.
Yesterday was filled with purpose. Today I’m letting one thing lead to another…
This leaf, propped up like it is here on its stem and all by itself, was waiting for me when I opened the front door yesterday morning. Do you think it thought I wasn’t noticing?
I moved it for a moment over by the pumpkin…
Then I brought it inside where I showed it to everyone.
I sit at my desk and write on this cloudy fall Saturday, working on this new story. Outside, the leaves are changing. But what keeps drawing my attention is this eucalyptus bush in the left panes of the window. When I first started this blog in September of 2008, the top of that bush, which I planted, was below the window.
I sit at my desk and write. Sometimes it’s easy to see change.
I spent any free minute I had yesterday looking for a poem to go along with this picture.
This morning, when I found the poem, I knew I’d been looking for the wrong thing.
It was a poem to go along with how I was feeling that I’d wanted.
Perhaps the tiny crystals would last forever.
Once it seemed the function of poetry
was to redeem our lives.
But it was not. It was to become
indistinguishable from them.
from Old Ice by Brenda Hillman
Low of 29 this morning in Columbus, Georgia. Frost. Sugared leaves. It made me want a poem.