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.
[let's pretend that yesterday was a linebreak]
One of the rituals that I perform almost daily is the ritual of the gym. I wake up every morning at 5:25am, whether going to the gym or not (because my cat has set his internal breakfast clock to 5:25am). Most mornings, I walk a few blocks over and lift heavy weights / throw weighted balls / attempt handstands / do burpees / jump onto boxes / run up and down a 100-meter 35-degree ramp. I do this because I enjoy it. I love the ritual of approaching the bar, checking my stance, ducking my head under and resting the weight across my shoulders. Feeling the long muscles of my thighs activate as I allow the bar to press my body down into a squat, then reversing upwards—straightening out like a problem has been solved.
It's very form-driven, weightlifting, and that is the part that keeps me coming back. The way it feels to do a thing correctly. A clean and jerk works because of the angle of your body as you bend down to pull the bar. How the body is oriented in space matters, and as I think back to activities of the body that I have loved, I see they have all been driven by form: weightlifting, modern dance, horseback riding, discus, writing. In each of these, there is a feeling of right-ness driven by form. Form in writing is something that I feel just as viscerally as the arc of my arm traveling forward through the discus circle / following the twist in my body as my weight shifts from my back foot to my front foot / my brain orients / to the page. So the body, too, is always in the page / just as much a plane as any other.
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.
Those lines are from a poem I wrote 6 years ago, the first thing I ever wrote that splashed out over the page. I wrote it to be a jerk, because it was for a class, and I knew my professor would hate it. At the time, I wasn't convinced by projective verse and white space, either, and then I was surprised by how excited I was to shape the page, to scatter the words like pollen and gather them into a thick layer at the bottom. Reading it back, I don't find it that exciting anymore, but it's funny to see how many self-discoveries I made because I wanted to write the thing that I wasn't supposed to write. How many decisions made in negation, against, in preposition. I have always liked the swinging door of the word "against"—which is anti-, pushing, but also the pairing of one long body next to another. Day four is hard.
I started reading Edmund Jabés' The Book of Questions again today—it asks, among other things, how to write after the wound/disaster, how word and silence interact. I have been interested in white space and silence and the gap in poetry for a long time, so I'm always interested in these questions. The space around the object. What is / for the body. I finally repotted the orchids today, which need air pockets in their potting medium, which I had left waiting too long in moist, dense soil. I cut away the rotted roots and put the plants back in chunks of bark and pearlite. After it was done, I had the urge to do it again.
The density and lightness and contrast of prose and verse is something that I hope I don't get over. To be left dangling after the line. In how many times the spacebar / the backslash / the threshold is the word and the blank surface upon which the word.
Last night I dreamed of approaching the tower from my recurring dream, of green light and safe space and the illuminated hotel lobby that feels like home—the tower always looks a little different, but it is identifiably the tower. I think here about Bachelard and the tallest point in any house, the well-lit garret. It's the place of elevated thought, heightened reason, closeness to light, airiness. In the dream I had to approach the tower by water, a channel that ran through a city, by stepping onto a small raft that would take me there, and I stepped off the dock with my arms full of books and sank into the water instead. The books weighed me down and I considered not letting them go, but I had to in order to get to the surface. It didn't occur to me until after I woke up that they were already ruined.
The tower appeared in another recent dream, this time a giant buoy at the end of an arduous harbor-side trail. I stepped onto the platform and it rocked back into the water, and I saw that there was no door, and the water washed back and forth over me as I refused to leave.
Years ago, my recurring dreams were of giant, deadly dark waves and sinister bodies of water, and it is disconcerting to see my old, bad recurring dream combined with my new one, the one that is inexplicably happy and safe. The hotel is gone—the tower turns away from me, not a safe place for me but a place safe from me. I think here of Baba Yaga / Baba Yaga's house, the denial of entrance, my own poetic confusion of occupant and intruder, the woman who is both old and young, good and bad, a helpful obstacle.
I have no background in dream analysis. But writing dreams down feels worthwhile. These days it's the most reliable of my creative acts, not including the act of dreaming itself.
This morning I'm rereading Juliana Spahr's This Connection of Everyone With Lungs, which I grabbed from the free pile in the grad lounge a few days before we left (of course, we were packing up everything we owned and actively trying to get rid of books, but I had to take it). The MFA who owned it previously has written notes in the margins here and there, and now I'm realizing why this bothers me so much. In prose works, little notes have always distracted me, but in poetry they drive me a little batty. The page is important, the shape is important, the balance of text and empty space is important, and so, etc, the little notes are like the bug smears on the windshield of my Penske truck that the inadequate wiper fluid never wiped away.
White space becomes the silent medium that connects and supports the more volatile, vulnerable tissue of language, even as it also becomes the absence within the sign system that connects the work to the reading body, the body that is absent from the abstraction of language, the body that recognizes itself in the skeletal white spaces. - Cole Swensen
like an explorer the discoverer is not so much of a settler though they settle down and by doing so change the neighbor. /
Language would be easier if we could remove the prepositions but then the objects and subjects would be difficult to discern. Like I said, in my career as a writer—I know it suspect for poets to speak of career—I find myself more attractive as an object. If I am the object then who is the subject? Unnecessary. - Rachel Levitsky
This passage sounds like it comes from an essay or an interview or some kind of thinkpiece, but it's in the middle of a poem from Neighbor. This straightforward Rachel Levitsky voice comes in from time to time, addressing the means and motives of the project, how she feels about it, etc. Like a note to herself that she forgot to take out. This book is managing a balance between rawness and purposeful construction that I'm really enjoying—maybe a mimic of the same balance between self and Neighbor/Other, that strange relationship wherein you are formal and polite with someone, yet share some degree of intimacy. I live in a duplex, and sometimes we hear the neighbors' baby crying, which sounds a lot like our cat crying. I hear them most often when in the bathroom, which is the closest point between our two apartments, the thinnest wall, the most personal space to be in when you hear your neighbors talking. To share a house or a neighborhood is to share some kind of daily experience, putting your body near to another body. Under the circumstances / suburbia / this makes me more interested in parts of my thesis.
I read another book earlier in the day that I was not nearly as excited about. I read it, and it didn't make me think about anything at all. I guess I thought That was a book but I'm not sure that counts. I'm interested, mostly, in books that enact the ideas they're writing about.
I, uh, finally finished reading My Life yesterday. That's embarrassing. I'm a slow reader when it comes to poetry, but I'm usually not that slow. Winter break and driving to Missouri and coming back and my parents and sister visiting sort of slowed it up. I can see why my thesis advisor recommended it—personal, sentence-focused, image-based, anaphoric. My heart loves a book with a good heart beat. It was hard to digest all at once, though, even considering all the things that got in my way. It's not that long, page-wise, but very dense. I prefer to read poetry books all in one sitting, much like B likes to listen to whole albums. I'm interested in the whole of the thing. It bothers me when poets talk about reading other poets piecemeal, or out of order. I feel like there's a certain respect you pay to the writer and the way they used sequencing, at least the very first time you're reading the work. I'm also really big on following the rules, so.
My Life was like all the materials that make up a building, but not the building itself. Not a building as in a narrative, but as in a shape. I don't know. I like architecture. I think I like it because it follows the rules of reality, but sometimes you can look at it and wonder how it possibly follows the rules of reality.