Somewhere in my life, there
must have been – buried now under
long accumulation – some extreme
joy which, never spoken, cannot
be brought to mind. How else, in this
unconscious city, could I have
such a sense of dwelling?
I play two parts, reader and writer.
There are other (many) moments when I am bereft of audacity and inspiration, and this quote from Doris Lessing—“Whatever you are meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.”—becomes my lifeline.
Sometimes in the quest for inspiration, I think about the fairly famous quote from the playwright John Millington Synge: “When I was writing...I got more aid than any learning could have given me from a chink in the floor of the old Wicklow house where I was staying, that let me hear what was being said by the servant girls in the kitchen.” I was reminded of that anecdote on a recent Saturday evening as I was sitting on a bench behind two very popular taverns in a beach city in the United States, listening to the lively conversation streaming into the alley.
On the reading side of town, I love extolling other writers who are so much better than I’ll ever be, and for these reasons: pure literary entertainment for me and an occasion to share, and the feeling of a burden lifted, a load off my shoulders, of having to prove the worth of the art. This almost always buoys my spirits and, in the background replenishes the audacity I need to create. I’m lucky that such serendipities occur to me con frequencia, especially since this is, according to Tim Green, editor of Rattle poetry magazine, a golden age of poetry.
In either frame of mind, there’s no getting away from the reality that Joan Rettalack describes: “The contemporary is the latest further complication of the past.”
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Sometimes when I reach out to the internet (a.k.a. surfing) and come up with startling and beguiling results I just go crazy in my head. The other day started with reading Andy Clausen poems online, I love the way he forces the mind to make connections, theater pieces ready to eat, “Alice” for one, and “Judas” on the same page. Wow! Other recent good luck needing shoutouts include work by Bernadette Mayer, John Weiners, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) and Ben Lerner. Yesterday and today reading Chilean visual poets, Finnish visual poets (long dark late autumn and winter nights) and two New Zealand poets, Raewyn Alexander and Michael Steven; Claire Blotter referencing Gertrude Stein’s “non-linear use of repetition and the continuous present.”; Auden “In Praise of Limestone,” Emily Dickinson “Much madness is divinest sense;” poets of Azerbaijan; , Maori and Pacific poets including work in Hawaiian Creole English. “Friends” from Facebook: Dan Raphael, Alicia Young. I have fun with Wiittgenstein and Epictetus (“the fashionable Stoic philosopher”) and can o.d. on Jules Verne any old time (in fact a sequence in my recent book You Perfect Thing is entitled “Mission to Mars” as a tribute to him).
From the It Fell Into My Lap department, there is Nikolai Gogol’s story “Diary of a Madman.” It is about an obscure civil servant working in a typical, faceless government office who is entering the nightmare of mental illness. Although not a little humorous, the story is also one of the saddest I’ve ever read, as the man struggles, futilely it turns out, to maintain his integrity and sense of being. Highly recommended.
And finally, Charles Simic reading three short poems; the middle one, “Country Fair,” is so good.
Wishing you happiness.