For me, this is the spring of commitment, a contract with my new novel, The Double Sun. I vow to listen to my characters, to let them tell me their story. When my protagonist, Caroline, courts danger, I will trust her to find a path to safety. When her brother loses his basketball scholarship, I will allow him to express his rage. When Caroline’s parents struggle to repair a failing marriage, I will wait for them to find the answers. I will give voice to and write down the words of the people who inhabit my imagination. My lack of balance often threatens to overwhelm me. I immerse myself too often in obligations and responsibilities, forgetting that art requires space, time, and a quiet mind. Imbalance was a condition of the past; balance will be a condition of my future. Therefore, I have decided to leave behind me the guilt of abandoned stories and unfinished projects, for they inhibit my creativity. Someday I may return to them, but I will do so without regret. The dog and I shall walk the neighborhood every day, finding joy in small pleasures: the bloom on a cactus, the scent of the air after a rain, the clever mimic of the mockingbird. I will then return to the writing desk, refreshed and renewed, ready to listen and to write. No regrets, no guilt. Just pleasure in the craft of the art.
Archive for 2013|Yearly archive page
“Define Your Own Road in Life”
. . . It’s up to you to define your road in life based on what you’re truly passionate about. By discovering that sincere path, you’ll end up contributing to the world in your own distinct way. Imagine the collective impact of an entire generation discovering their own roads and using their lives to build more efficient vehicles, cure cancer, or teach elementary school kids how to learn in a fresh, new way. When we discover our own paths, we’re not the only beneficiaries; the world is waiting for us to manifest ourselves and needs us to rise up to that challenge. . . .
According to legend, a sportswriter asked baseball great Joe DiMaggio why he always played so hard. DiMag replied, “Because there could be a kid in the stands who never saw me play before.”
A lovely sentiment, from those pre-SportsCenter days when kids might see their hero play on only a single occasion, that such a hero would feel personally obligated to give his best.
That sentiment motivates my writing. Maybe there’s a kid who never read my writing before–a boy wondering why his football coach invokes religion and his priest sermonizes about football; a girl who’s been told she can’t bring novels to school. Maybe those kids encounter my scribblings before they’ve formulated the thought that their President is a tool of the rich and powerful or that their religious leaders are frauds or that their assistant principals are sadistic brutes.
Or maybe they’ve barely begun to formulate those thoughts, and maybe they need a voice to assure them those thoughts are okay. Maybe they need the voices that I had, the voices of Heller, Vonnegut, Orwell.
Or maybe they need my voice. Maybe I’m too old and cynical to change anything, but maybe those kids will change the world if and only if I can provide them the voice that says it’s okay to think those thoughts.
Incidentally, I don’t believe that the story about DiMaggio, a cramped, selfish man, was anything but a press agent’s fiction. I don’t believe in DiMaggio.
But I believe in those kids.
Because it is four in the morning and love is asleep but slowly stirring. Because the trace is as elusive and illusory, as it has always been. Because there were hints of its shadow, moving, everywhere, even when I was five, and the puzzle pieces arranged themselves into neatness. Because the alphabet seemed to come easy, unlike math which seemed a latticework, one cage stacked upon another. Because my mind needs to see its own desire, its thought, its speech, and let it manifest in a shape or a color. Because the immanence of becoming, this ongoing presence, as Deleuze would have it, demands the poem be written as architecture, as if there was a building to be made, one built on the soil and flower bed of forms. Because metonymy is more than something makeshift, more than metaphor, and life drives itself onward, into the early morning like conatus, and Spinoza’s own endless striving. Because this is the chance to see the eight lines within an ottava rima splinter and reposition themselves into triangles and squares and oblongs, as the circle bounces off an edge, then rolls into the field of another shape. Because this is the shape of things in my mind, in its pasture where letters and geometry construct their own artifice. Because Derrida and Lacan too were inscribed, their unwitting economy of exchange a gift to language. Because in philosophy, there is poetry, and in the poetic something philosophical. Because something of an aesthetic thinks, and therefore comes into being – its own sense of becoming.
Daughters age so fast. Wars disappear from view as we watch, mostly don’t watch. Pervasive violence of contemporary culture as “war.” My daughters Sonia (four) and Alma (one) as “daughters.” Wanting to write the beautiful horror of these things together, to hold them as they run through my fingers, to make permanent this terrible enchantment of being; what luck to have these skies and not those with drones coming to bomb us, what luck to wake to brilliant daughters, what horror of universities building of elements to melt flesh, what horror of mechanized death, how to write these things with the same breath, think them with the same mind. Forcing my quotidian happiness into dialogue with that terror.
Because I believe in the value of formal constraints, I am doing the above through the following:
1) Poems will be 28 lines long.
2) Poems will start with a line from a poem by another poet, going in reverse alphabetical order (first day Zawacki, second day Young, so on).
3) That line will come from the 28th page of a book or project.
4) Where possible, poets who will provide the first line have been asked to choose the line themselves.
A poem a day? For February? Why for? I say:
For slip happens more than catch & grasp mars even with tenderness. For wrap cares more than embrace when all is said & gone. For the hand breathes elephant trunks that lift, shower, & cradle.
For justice divests blindfold & balance to witnesses the kiln firing. For the medicinal claim declares neither reparations nor manumit. For the lesion that rips the nerves open. For the deceives we suffer. For semipermeable wonders.
For months waked & wordless turns matters blasphemous & messages plunderers. For hanging threads demand the mangle-truth. For the hack who repairs more softly than the cutter. For the oil-pastel tucks under the mechanic’s workbench. For form boxes the unexpected, aligns the discoveries.
For lilac, seven years fallow, blossoms liquids of warm scents in spring air. For canvas & piano & clay puckers inside poems—mouthed or minded. For tremulous kisses’ lockings beneath Corinthian columns.
For beckon retorts even when satisfied. For flushed skin around the hip of the hot Saki carafe. For book & tongue saturates ecclesiastic & sensual aural & oral awe. For what poses fascinations beyond the wet-spot.
For any more & less moots the Golden Mean. For the nothing nothings, yet poetry, somehow something, silks harangued scatters of mood. For subconscious, shuttering bellies ovulate only so long. For the trunk & handle of the grave seems a still mistake.
For those & despite those & for many more those, I will muster.
I’m writing to make sure perspective isn’t buried under pop-culture. Well, or even buried under so many other layers of life. And to give myself a place to breathe & listen to the worries I have.
I am writing, as ever, so that my sweet clam, my darling son, will always know that being creative can be amazing & that the opportunities for his little heart-dreams are boundless. And so he can be proud that I followed my passion, & so too, follow his.
And I write, so that I can process my husband’s deployments in Afghanistan & in Africa. Poems give way to bear the weight of his absence, his aviation.
And I write, to remember & remind, that we must not forget that there are so many widows among us, who need us, who need our thoughts & words daily. This is for them, for the weight they carry, for their folded flags.
Because I am in a rush. Because I need to slow down. So that the daily will become the routine. I practiced in January and now February is real time, made virtual. Because my friends are watching. Because my mother is so far along in her Alzheimer’s that I have to salvage what memory I have for her. Because my father is not here. Because that nagging to clean your room didn’t work so I have to make something that counts. Because I am willing. Because I want to say something I forgot I had to say. Because I need a habit that keeps me company and whispers fiercely in my ear even when I am running on the road. Because we sat around the dinner table and listened to all the crazy stories. Because no one plays cards anymore, or cracks the almonds and walnuts with the bird shaped nutcracker. Because I really love to sing and this is as close to my voice as I can get, even if I am not in a night club singing sexy love songs.
I write because I hear voices and I want to get them down and dialog with them while I still believe in them. Walking along the Erie Canal, in silence, in winter, the voice of the old lift bridge on Main Street groans as the cars cross it, howls as the wind whips through the struts. Walking on, it is easy to forget that independent voice of the bridge, unique, musical, sad. It is even more likely that rather than forget the voice, an assumption will creep in and lie down in my memory with the voice and whisper “it was not a voice but a sound.” I write because everything has its own voice and to deny those voices is criminal.
What stands in my way? The din of mind chatter, the clock, the calendar, the “to do” list, the mind dulled by nine-to-five. Each day born and each day dead without my noticing its passing. What stands in my way is the gray noise that obscures my ability to hear and pay attention to those voices that surround me.
Until I dialog with each new found voice, for instance, the trees above the pond down on Wesley Hill on the last day of October, until I respond, write of them, write to them, then they remain for me, at best unknown and at worst unreal. I write to investigate, to envision, to witness, to dialog, to chat, to add my voice to those that call out to me from just over my shoulder. I write in order to call back.