Sunday, April 01, 2012

It's Spring, I'm Happy. I'm Spending Time With the Kids, On the Porch

Good luck indeed.

I’m not writing poetry. I suppose I’m still thinking about poetry, but I can’t for the life of me think of anything to post on this blog about it.

I’m happy not to be writing poetry. Specifically, that’s it. It’s not that I’m happy and I’m also not writing poetry. I’m specifically happy not to be writing poetry.

Something happened at AWP this year. I’ve mentioned it to a few people. I mentioned it in passing on the blog. I’ve nothing more to say about it than that. Something happened and I decided to write no more poems. It wasn’t a big thing. No one did or said anything specific that made me say “I’m out of here.” In fact, I’m not out of here. I’m still reading poetry. I haven’t turned my back on art or anything. I just, well, I’ve been to 15 or so AWP conferences now. I’ve seen so many people walking around the bookfair. I’ve read a lot of books of poetry.

But something did happen. Something must have happened, for I arrived home without any desire to write a poem. I didn’t weep over the keyboard or nail a list of grievances to a door. I just arrived home. It might have something to do with the amount of unpublished poetry I have in a drawer: four manuscripts and a box of scraps. Why should I add more? I’ve gotten to an endpoint.

AWP is a whirlwind, and I’ve never really much liked whirlwinds. Maybe that’s part of it too. I had this image of the conflagration of all our poems, all the pages we’ve all written rising above us in a grand mass. And there we are with the piles of our unread art. I can’t keep up. I can’t keep up with all these books that keep appearing. We’re supposed to read them, right? And how many books do any of us read? And how many books are there we could or should read?

I was thinking about this as I was unpacking my many boxes of poetry at the new house. I came across books that I loved from ten, fifteen, twenty years ago.  Whatever happend to some of these people?  These first books of what I was sure were going to be amazing careers. What happened to them? 

I keep missing things. I miss whole people sometimes. And then suddenly here are new books by Bin Ramke, Lyn Hejinian, D.A. Powell, Rusty Morrison. These are people I admire. Books I want to read.  To live with.  And then a new book from Heather Christle, and then a book I completely missed from 2007 from Johannes Göransson. They don’t just pile up, they deluge.

It’s an old problem. We’ve all talked about it many times. The inability to keep up. So for now my resolution is to add no more paper to my drawer. It’s full. It’s a mess. “It’s April Fools Day” they all call out, laughing. And who is the joke on? And who’s making the joke?

In fact, it’s such a mess that I’ve lost Heather Christle’s new book in it somewhere. The book is called What Is Amazing, and the irony is that what is amazing is that it disappeared and I can’t find it anywhere. So I will be halfway though it for a long time, I guess. I started to write a song from it while I still had it, and then it scurried away.

I want one of those lives where things don’t continually get lost. Does anyone have one of those lives? That’s something to aspire to.

This is equally true for new music. Last year I really tried to stay on top of what was happening in music, and found it impossible. This year I’m going to wait for chance operations. Maybe Christle’s book will reappear.

So here’s my way of saying something about What Is Amazing:

And also A New Quarantine Will Take My Place, by Johannes Göransson:

Maybe that can be a kind of participation for a while.


At 4/01/2012 11:25 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 4/01/2012 11:30 AM, Blogger DLev said...

I spend a good portion of my time not writing poetry. I don't write poetry a lot.

At 4/01/2012 2:05 PM, Blogger underbelly said...

Stopping is good. I use it as an opportunity to do something else. I quit visual arts years ago and studied music. A few years later that hit a wall and I got back to art. Now I art sometimes and write the rest of the time. There's even room in the middle sometimes for leaving the house and talking to people and trying to earn a living.

At 4/01/2012 2:14 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I think you're right. Robin was reminding me yesterday that years ago I used to take several months a year not writing poetry, and instead making music or art or building a deck or something. It was only in the last ten years that I spent all my energy in one thing.

It's not good to put all your energy in one thing. Well, it's not good for ME to do that. I think it's an outcome of having the job in academia, where, if I write poetry that is rewarded, while videos and music and such isn't.

Is it like that for other on the tenure track? Once you get it, you can kind of take stock and think about what you really want to do with your time?

Of course, I'm sure that will end up with me writing poetry again. There are so many words out there I've not used yet. Pusillanimous, for instance. And that wouldn't go well in a song at all.

At 4/01/2012 6:07 PM, Blogger underbelly said...

Quite a word. Breaks down into pus, ill, and animous.
I bet of a lot of songwriters wish they knew a word like that.

Obviously you can't retire until you've dispatched with this one.

At 4/02/2012 5:43 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

Anima and Animus
fled the Self in a Shadowbus,
escaping the billion barrels of pus
that BP had, with consummate skill,
spilled in the Gulf to make us ill

The Jungian stuff there reminds me of this passage by Bly:

"What did Blake say?-- 'No person who is not an artist can be a Christian.' He means that a person who refuses to approach his own life actively, using language, music, sculpture, painting, or drawing is a caterpillar dressed in Christian clothes, not a human being. Blake himself engaged his shadow substance with three disciplines: painting, music, and language. He illuminated his own poems, and set them to music. There was no energy around him that politicians could use to project onto another country. One of the things we need to do as Americans is to work hard individually at eating our shadows, and so make sure that we are not releasing energy which can then be picked up by the politicians, who can use it against Russia, China, or the South American countries."

You seem to engage your shadow substance in a variety of ways, John. If you set language aside for a while, you'll make music
or approach your life with some other activity. I'm sure you're doing all right.

At 4/02/2012 10:09 AM, Blogger underbelly said...

A day later and I realize that animous is really spelled animus.

Not such a perfect word after all, John. I don't think you need to hold out for this one


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