2012: I turn 55

  2012: After I give my lecture and reading, I start making the changes to my first novel that my agent (late addition to yesterday’s post) has requested, Tori Amos’ Silent All These Years and Regina Spector’s Us on repeat.  Cal comes … Continue reading

2010: I turn 53

2010: The new year begins in the deep snow of Vermont. I stay in the dorm, wear my first pair of snow boots, and vow not to waste any more years writing novels that don’t sell. I will go shorter. And I … Continue reading

2009: I turn 52

2009: Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th President. After a visit to Bobby in Scotland, Cal comes with me to Sirenland. It’s the only writing conference I know that is spouse friendly. In Italy we make a daily habit of climbing all those steps … Continue reading

the next writer in the series: october 1, 2016

I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with … Continue reading

from the airport

I am mid-journey.

On my way home from Montpelier, Vermont and the successful completion of  a two-year low-residency MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. This last residency went by so fast–it’s hard to believe it’s over.

Both my lecture and reading were on January 1st. And graduation was yesterday.

This morning, breakfast at the Skinny Pancake. Then a drive to Burlington and a flight to JFK. Now waiting to board a flight to Atlanta. Then I’ll have an hour and a half drive to Columbus.

As many of you know, I love traveling and airports. Today, especially, it’s nice to have all these hours in transit to mark the transition.

no place on earth

It’s difficult to think of anything other than the stunning crimson and gold leaves outside my windows.

I have been doing too many other things lately. And I have come to the place where I need to set aside time for writing.

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.

Sunrise on the Atlantic. Beautiful, yes, but I prefer sunset on the Gulf.

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.

the words return

For a writer whose days are mostly spent by choice by herself in front of a screen, eleven days of amazing and stimulating workshops, lectures, and readings–connected by speaking to people, finding seats, speaking to more people, making plans for dinner, and speaking to yet more people–can be quite disorienting.

I used up all my words.

The people in charge of the residency encourage us to get away from it even while we’re in the middle of it. So I would often run, or take a walk and take photos.

After a week of posting some of those photos and very few words in an effort to recover from those eleven days in Vermont, as you can see, I’m starting to feel the words return.

One of the main events at residency is the announcement of the advisers for the next semester. The list is posted around 7pm on a bulletin board. People trickle in, huddle around, emit small sounds or large ones, sometimes kick things.

My adviser for my last semester will be my first choice–Douglas Glover of Numéro Cinq and the author of, among other books, Elle, which won the 2003 Governor General’s Award. This semester I will finalize a creative thesis of 75 pages, write a 45-minute lecture, and prepare for a 20-minute reading. I will give the lecture and the reading at the winter residency, on the last day of which I will graduate, ending this wonderful journey.

VCFA visuals #5: a river really does run through it

downtown Montpelier

I have this thing for the ocean. But in a pinch, a pond, a creek, a river will do.

The Winooski River flows through Montpelier, Vermont. From the balcony of the old Victorian, we could actually see the river.

And when I was out running, I discovered the cool bridge below:

the cool bridge

Look one way, and this is what you see.

Look the other, and this is what you see.