On Sunday, Entropy published my first creative nonfiction essay, and I suspect I haven't written about it here because it meant so much to me. This is definitely an essay about Doctor Who, but it is also definitely about reaching toward a void, returning to the missing, to the things you cannot and will not ever know. Like I said in this earlier post, I have been returning to this piece about returning since 2012. Talking about this yesterday, I explained that language, writing, the open field of abstracted thought—these are ways, for me, of reaching into that blank space. Literally: the blank page, but also the specter of what waits there. The nothingness of numbness. The silence between us. The space between the sections in this essay are just as interesting to me as the sections themselves. I leave it open-ended because if it was not open-ended, it would be a still and edible thing. You wouldn't have to reach for it.
When I’m writing the way I want, the way I love, which is without thinking about what I’m writing, a strange thing happens: I feel simultaneously the most myself I could possibly be, and at the same time totally relieved of self.
I read this piece today, on writing by not thinking, or writing from an unlit place, or moving forward no matter what, which is exactly the kind of motivator that one needs when one undertakes a National Poetry Month blog challenge that nobody asked one to do, and that one knows no one is keeping track of but oneself. But also: this is how I write. In a sort of haze. I'm thinking back to this recent post on the physicality of poetic form, and this recent post on my early/forever love of Diana Wynne Jones fantasy novels, and this physical/unlit meditative writing state, and these things all make sense together. In so many Diana Wynne Jones books, magic is done not through spoken spells or rituals, but in subtle twists. Nudges on another plane. It is often described in a slanted way, not quite looking right at it, which is how I write. This sort of vague aspect becomes material, or at least material enough, or at least material to the person doing the nudging—who is, after all, the reader. I'm not sitting around writing poetry pretending to do magic, but aren't I?
I find myself wanting to defend short posts like last night's, though it may not be thoughtful or careful. Though I may have written it very quickly, because I was tired and wanted to go to bed. Even then. That's what makes it so defensible--that I did it even though it would have been easier not to. Especially in a time-based project like this, it's those posts that make the grout that are maybe the most important.
When I was working on my thesis, which was a collection of individual poems, my advisor reminded me more than once that every poem in a collection can't be a knockout. This is because books have a rhythm and a shape, and you create it through impact in addition to content and form. I think about this when working on a poem, too, judging where to cut a line, where to extend, where to leave a hole, how to place one line near another line. There is a rhythm to the page, and a rhythm to this site. I guess I'm disrupting that by dumping 30 posts in 30 days. But so: what kind of rhythm am I creating? Am I establishing a pattern? Am I giving myself space with this condensed block of posts? It's hard to tell while this is still in process.
April is the weirdest month. I'm convinced that Philadelphia is constantly windy because it is a pathway between two rivers. My grandmother has forgotten my name, but remembers my brother-in-law. "Brother-in-law" is still a strange phrase to form. My hair blows in all directions. Another protein bar. In the mornings, I feed my cat twice before I feed myself. Following B around in books, I am learning and despairing. Another protein bar. Confession: at my desk I remove my shoes. There was a break in the rhythm of the procession of oxygen through my body this afternoon when I discovered that the office softball team is called the Tornados. An exclamatory email in the corner of my screen, my actual heart. A blessed protein bar. I made a joke about myself and regretted it. Timing targets. If I were the wind, I too would whip along the arterial streets.
Often, after I write a blog post, I have the urge to go back and add to it. To clarify, to make sure all details are present, which leads to more details. I'm realizing that I also do this with poems sometimes, and used to use it as a drafting strategy. I would write a short piece very quickly and then break it up into fragments, and use each fragment as a launchpad. It's not how I work all the time, but it's useful. I think it also speaks to a worry of mine, about what is known and public and perceived, and what is not. If I don't say it, will you assume it's not on my mind? If I don't explain, will you understand? And so I end up with big, soupy poems, and whole books that are actually all one poem, all one movement. Is that a good way to work? I don't know. Is that what this blog is for? I don't know. I enjoy reading most when I have room to teach myself. Maybe this is why form is so important to me—it can never be just casual. All the poem parts are telling something.
Oh that's just me, trying to save the villagers from the onslaught of my clarifications.
And then, and sitting looking out over the Vermont River, which is frozen, and out at Wantastiquet Mountain, which is frozen. And the light hitting the snow to bounce back up at itself. It's very beautiful here.
Melanie Page at Grab the Lapels was nice enough to interview me, on how/why The Bone and the Body will be handmade, and long poems, and my cat.
When I started writing the poems in The Bone and the Body, I was just following my nose. I got saturated with that speaker and her feelings, and I researched folklore that I had only known peripherally, and I kept finding connections. That’s a thing that I love about writing, the way it spins out and back through itself.
Poems from The Bone and the Body appeared in Tarpaulin Sky Magazine today. I am pretty happy about it (is an understatement). I've been focused on Doors of New Jersey for the past year, so it's nice to return to the rhythm of these prose poems. This voice and these beachscapes still matter, still echo.
in Iliam /
I've been sending and receiving work to/from a friend, and last week I sent her everything that was left from what I had written since moving here. The end of August and the beginning of September were a tired time for me, and I wanted to give my friend everything so that I would have nothing to send. Yesterday I only managed a showing of a revised and expanded poem, but this morning I woke up and wrote for real, for real for real, and it has been really nice. My writing journal alerts me to the fact that I haven't written anything in it in a month. Self, I forgive you. If you want to read something else I wrote, here's a piece for Coldfront's Song of the Week series.
And here's a poem I wish I'd made more of a fuss about when it went live in the Nashville Review. It was one of the first things I wrote last fall while the conscious feeling of my book was sprouting, and it sat for a long time in a very different form, and I came back to it at the end and reworked it and reworked it. It was very frustrating. And then one day I came back to it again and sort of let it lead me where it wanted to go all along.
Getting up early to write has been hard, less so the waking up than the actual writing. I need more runway time. But the cat has been noticeably less demonstrative in his affections since I started working full-time, hardly ever climbs into my lap and stays there. Early in the morning is the best time—he's in my lap right now—so for that I'll keep trying.
I wrote in my writing journal this morning: I can’t speak to dreams-as-prediction, but I do think that dreams, coming from the unconscious mind, dredge up thoughts/anxieties/memories and represent those things both directly and indirectly. I think the tower of my dreams that had felt so safe and green was somehow my writing, and now it is my writing that’s out of reach. Even if my unconscious was trying to say something else, the act of dream interpretation reveals the unconscious. I know that’s the truth. I feel away from my writing, though I keep trying to approach it. Every approach is unstable: a rocking floating platform, a tiny raft that gives under my weight.
Then inexplicably I wrote a poem. The mouse in our kitchen made an appearance.