Friday, April 26, 2013

Summer time when the writing is easy(-ier)

Every year I do this kind of computation with the same anticipation and longing I used to employ making lists before going on family vacations.

1. Figure out when I will be done grading.
2. Identify date fall semester begins.
3. Count up how many weeks are to be all about writing.
4. Lop one week off at the beginning (dissipating exhaustion).
5. Lop one week off at the end (intense phase of fall semester prep).
6. Count what's left =12 weeks (sounds pretty wonderful).
7. Make a list of books I'd like to read/annotate/buy--poetry, poetics, how-to, serious fiction.
8. List what I'd like to accomplish:
  • Book ms. out (should I give it a once-over to make sure there's no horrifying weakness, no creeping gauzy semi-invisible wounds?)
  • Poems out (what a wonderful thing summer submissions are)
  • Poem ideas I've already had (list)
  • Write, write, write.
  • Gauge series I'm working on to see how to/if to expand (I'm pretty sure could use at least 2-4 more)
  • Cock my eye at the poem-a-days. What do I want to do with them? I recall thinking that some could be put together. Maybe I should think fragment.
  • Begin working on a new project. (I recently asked someone what they were working on and they had a wonderful historical person to bounce poems off of.)  I have a note that says "this kind of long dialogue of poems" which sounds like a series to me.
  • I'd like to think about myself as a writer apart from what I am actually writing. Maybe thinking about placement or trajectory or brilliance (as if I were some kind of astronomical sign).
I find that writing is a lot like gardening. There's a seasonal quality to it. And when working fiercely (always my goal) there's time spent on the standing work and time on the kneeling.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Present But Not by Heart

I never have a class where I require my students to memorize poems. This has nothing to do with how useful/pleasurable that might be and everything to do with my secret childhood piano recital memorization fiasco. In the only college class where I was required to memorize a poem, I went with Philip Larkin's "This be the Verse," because of the rhyme and meter and brevity--all of which helped me fulfill the requirement.

I'm reminded of memorization because this month, since it is National Poetry Month, I've been posting a quotation from one of my favorite poems most days.

So far:

"The small rain down can rain." 

"The knife there on the shelf—
it reeked of meaning, like a crucifix.
It lived. How many years did I
beg it, implore it, not to break?
I knew each nick and scratch by heart,
the bluish blade, the broken tip,
the lines of wood-grain on the handle ... "
From Crusoe in England by Elisabeth Bishop

"First came the crib
with its glacial bars.
Then dolls
and the devotion to their plastic mouths.
Then there was school,
the little straight rows of chairs,
blotting my name over and over,
but undersea all the time,
a stranger whose elbows wouldn't work."
--from "Rowing" by Anne Sexton

"But at my back I always hear
Time's wing├Ęd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity."
from Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress"

"It so happens I am sick of being a man.
And it happens that I walk into tailorshops and movie houses
dried up, waterproof, like a swan made of felt
steering my way in a water of wombs and ashes."
From Pablo Neruda's "Walking Around"

Tomorrow, I think it's going to be Robert Creeley: "I Knew a Man."