“She turned her face seaward to gather in an impression of space and solitude, which the vast expanse of water, meeting and melting with the moonlit sky, conveyed to her excited fancy. As she swam she seemed to be reaching out for the unlimited in which to lose herself.” ~ Kate Chopin, from The Awakening
Sunday, early afternoon. Cloudy, low 80’s.
After I posted on Friday I went on a cleaning binge that didn’t stop until yesterday afternoon. I was feeling hyper and antsy, a bit like I was crawling out of my skin, so I did the floors, cleaned all of the air conditioner vents, bizarre stuff like that, and then yesterday I woke up at 10 and stayed up, making this week the first week in a very long time in which I got up early twice (for me) and stayed up.
I know that the previous statement might seem more than a bit strange for people who keep regular hours, and I understand that, especially as a woman who used to get by on five hours of sleep a night, a woman who used to rise at 5 a.m. deliberately, but I am no longer that woman, unfortunately.
Anyway, the house is clean, the laundry is done (except for the bundle of dirty clothes that Eamonn came home and deposited this morning), and I’m still antsy, antsy and aching. So much nervous energy. My big chore for today is to clean off my desk and put away my sweaters, as I’m pretty sure that sweater season is gone.
“All my life I told myself I was light and could soar free of things. I was light and could outrun things. I could fly away and keep flying forever.” ~ Kenneth Oppel, from “Airborn”
Yesterday I read two books, another preposterous statement, but true, nonetheless. First I read one of the books that Brett bought me for M’s day, Jon Winokur’s Advice to Writers, which was a really good read, so glad that it was on my wish list. And then in the evening I read Keepsake by Tess Gerritsen, which I have a vague feeling I may have read before, but I’m not quite sure. It was also a good read, fast-paced and not completely predictable.
Advice to Writers is a compilation of quotes from writers on various aspects of writing—characterization, genre, structure—and writing in general. What I liked the most is that the writers from whom he culled the quotes were varied and not necessarily the ones who are familiar to a general audience, in other words, writers not authors—and there is a difference. Just consider the different between, say, Judith Krantz and Dominick Dunne. Even my mother’s has probably heard of Krantz but would be hard-pressed to identify Dunne.
I underlined and starred passages, and then I passed it along to Brett, who is turning into quite an awesome writer. Perhaps he’ll do what I’ve never done and actually do something with his writing (something other than dedicating himself to a blog, which, granted, is my choice).
“This is what the things can teach us: to fall, patiently to trust our heaviness. Even a bird has to do that before he can fly.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
The other day I did something incredibly stupid: I received a text saying that my name had been drawn for a $1,000 gift card to Best Buy. I enter a few contests here and there, mostly radio contests or the rare contest associated with something like “The Borgias.” I didn’t remember entering a Best Buy contest, but I thought that perhaps Corey had, so I went to the website listed on the text . . .
. . . bad idea. It was a virus. Brett was incredulous. How could I do something like that?
How? perhaps I had hoped that it was a sign that the tide was turning, that our luck was changing. Perhaps it was a pipe dream. I should have known better. I’ve won two contests in my life, and one was for hockey tickets . . .
So anyway, live and learn. I mean, it wasn’t even a case of caveat emptor as I hadn’t bought anything. Lesson: Don’t respond to a text saying that you’ve won a contest you never entered. Wait. That could be a mantra for life, couldn’t it?
“I missed my stop
looking at heartbreak, the sky
almost criminal.” ~ Yusef Komunyakaa, from “NJ Transit”
I discovered Yusef Komunyakaa quite by accident: There used to be a bookstore in the shopping center down the road. It was one of those glorious book stores, filled with stacks and stacks of books. The reality is that it existed mostly because of the porn section, which was behind a swinging door, but I never care about that. If I was diligent, I could almost always leave there with a book of poetry or a journal of some kind, but it meant lots of bending down and sitting on the dusty floor, searching for treasures.
I found my first Anne Rule book there, The Stranger Beside Me, the book about Ted Bundy that made her famous. But I also found so many books by poets I didn’t know. I’d pull them down, create a stack on the floor, and then flip through the pages, reading samples from each. If I was intrigued, I’d purchase.
The books never cost more than $10, and most were only six or seven dollars, never the cover price. I realize now that my bargains were not necessarily boons for the writers, but I like to think that because of these discounted books, I bought more books later, balancing the scales of commerce.
Anyway, I discovered Komunyakaa there. I pulled down the book mostly because of his last name: What kind of name was that? It sounded poetic in itself. And I flipped through the pages of Dien Cai Dau (1988) and found his poem about The Wall in DC, the Viet Nam veterans’ memorial. The poem blew me away.
In 1994 Komunyakaa was awarded the Pulitzer for poetry, just one of his many awards. I would love to hear this man read; I’ve heard that he is incredible in person.
“And when a poet dies, deep in the night
a lone black bird wakes up in the thicket
and sings for all it’s worth.” ~ Miroslav Holub, from “Interferon” (trans. by Dana Habova and David Young)
The next book on my reading list is A Poet’s Notebook, another one that I learned of via tumblr. I continue to be amazed by the new things that I find on my tumblr dashboard: new poets, new poems, new artists. Truthfully, before I began my tumblr, I had never read any Polish poetry, and very little Russian poetry, something that I am embarrassed to admit.
The scope of world literature has broadened so much in the past few decades, and that’s really a good thing. When I was an undergraduate, the world literature to which we were exposed may have encompassed a narrow spectrum of Europe (Chekhov), perhaps some South Africa (Gordimer), a little South America (Marquez), but certainly not the wide scope of what is included in such courses today.
That makes me sad, in a way. I mean, I used to insist to the students in my literature classes that we were going to study more than the old dead white guy canon, and I tried to include writers and poets from every place and every race, but even then I was limited. The Internet has made so many more writers accessible, which is just one of the reasons why I am so against any kind of Internet censorship or limitation.
I know that I am buying more books by people I’ve only learned of via the Internet solely because of my exposure through venues such as other blogs and tumblr. I wouldn’t be interested in these people were it not for this information highway (which is a term that I find silly, actually). Anyway, the point is that while I understand that the Interwebs contain a lot of bad things, I believe that the good things far outweigh those negative aspects.
Like all of life, it is impossible to have access to the enlightening, the beautiful, the mystical without also allowing access to the ugly, the frightening and the despicable. But there’s that things called free will rearing its head again. The choice is ours.
More later. Peace.
Music by Wilco, “Black Moon”
*All images are taken from greeksky.gr., an absolutely incredible photography site.
Her eyelids were painted blue.
When she closed her eyes the sea
rolled in like ten thousand fiery chariots,
leaving behind silence above & below
a thousand years old. He stood beneath
a high arched window, gazing out
at fishing boats beyond the dikes, their nets
unfurled, their offshore gestures
a dance of living in bluish entourage.
He was only the court’s chief jester.
What he said & did made them laugh,
but lately what he sometimes thought he knew
could cost him his polished tongue & royal wig.
He was the masked fool unmasking the emperor.
Forget the revelation. Forget the briny sea.
He had seen the ravishing empress naked
in a forbidden pose. Her blue eye shadow.
Aquamarine shells crusted with wormy mud.
Anyway, if he said half of what was foretold,
the great one would become a weeping boy
slumped beneath the Pillars of Hercules.
~ Yusef Komunyakaa