It's Spring, I'm Happy. I'm Spending Time With the Kids, On the Porch
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 It might have something to do with the amount of unpublished poetry I have in a drawer: four manuscripts and a box of scraps.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.