One Big Self

Dear Carolee

Even over here, the election results color everything. I started reading Alain de Botton’s book Status Anxiety last night. It traces the evolution of the perceived connection between personal value & wealth, and morality & wealth. It’s difficult to avoid seeing how our current society that perceives personal value= wealth and morality=wealth; combined with the rise of meritocracy on an unfair playing field got us where we are today.  I’m only on page 87, so I’m not sure if he will talk about “influence” as wealth. It was published in 2004, so perhaps not: that was before the average person thought about things like klout (I was actually hoping the app was defunct), or twitter followers.

I hope this is the tipping point of all this chest-beating. Someone told me the other day that human beings are the only animals to act spitefully. I don’t know if that’s true, but how sad it would be if that were the defining feature of our species: the little factions pulling each other down from the rung just above, while a tweeting demagogue climbs high enough to topple the whole rickety thing.

That sounds much more pessimistic than I feel. I scour the net for good news. There is some. There’s always some.

And, hey, they found an ocean on Pluto. That’s worth a poem.

This morning I’ve been listening to Poem Talk. This episode is about C.D. Wright’s One Big Self. It’s one of my favorite books. I’ve always been a sucker for verbatim theater in all forms.

And yesterday I sent an application for kind of verbatim project in England. It’s the first time in a long time I didn’t talk myself out of putting myself “out there”. It’s a collaborative performance poetry project that I would love to be involved with. I’m probably not at all what they have in mind, but just sitting down with the application process sparked a lot of ideas. I don’t need to wait to be invited to work. That kind of brings up another one of those clichés: the audacity of youth.

Yeah. So, okay. There actually is one thing from my twenties that I do want back.

I go back to work on Monday, and it’s been nice to have this week to organise and set new goals. You asked what I’m up to: I have an old performance project that I’m dusting off. I’m going to see if I can reignite the passion I had for it. For him, actually. I have to remember wanting to get under his skin.

…and that’s all I’m going to say right now.

Several years ago I had a little project writing “running metaphors” on my blog. I’d compose tiny poems in my head while running in the mornings. I have several hundred of them printed out in a folder somewhere. They aren’t very good. Not that it’s an excuse, but I’m too long-winded for tweets. (I bow to the beauty and elegance of Dave Bonta’s The Morning Porch.) I may dig them up, and mine them for metaphors or prompts.

Meanwhile, at the suggestion of a friend I met while taking a therapeutic writing course last spring, I’ve starting writing haibun based on the morning 6K: And I’m posting them on the blog. I’m looking forward to binding them by hand next year.

I’ve entitled the category on the blog Eros of Language. It’s a phrase lifted from Gregory Orr’s Poetry as Survival. He talks about the sensual aspect of poetry. The way poems be tools that use the body/the physical world to connect. Wikipedia says that the term erotic has been used to mean “life energy” – there’s no citation, but I’m going with it anyway. Eros as life force makes sense to me, the way I’m writing now. The way I am trying to connect – not just with other people – but with nature. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this past year (since I am rather new to camping) is to stop resisting discomfort. I mean:



I’ve been running again for years now, so I’ve learned to accept my own body -the cramps; the neglected achilles; the little, painful seeds of shin splints. But I’m learning now to give up the resistance to the outside world. Learning to accept the hardness of stones, the sharpness of frozen rain hitting the bridge of my nose, and the slickness of the lichen that sprawls over the mountain’s granite (though it all too often lands me on my very unappreciative ass). Learning to accept the cold feet & the hot belly, or the cold belly & the hot feet, when I’m in the sleeping bag with a rubber flask that’s filled with water we boiled on the Primus – knowing halfway through the night, it’ll be cold “as a witch’s teat” and I’ll have to toss it out.

I guess the root of all acceptance is appreciation. I am learning to appreciate nature (and being out in it) on it’s own erotic terms.

So while I am staring at the lichen, are you looking at the stars these days?

XO Ren

Carolee’s reply

This is one of a series of weekly open letters to friends – friends who write back to me on their own blogs. Please click through.  Category: Correspondence.

If you’d like to catch up, read the letters in chronological order here.


9 Replies to “One Big Self”

  1. Oh, camping. We used to camp often; now, not so much. My bones ache when I sleep on the hard earth, yet I love being out upon the earth, separated from the night-creatures and the night air and the stars (or clouds) by only the thin veil of nylon of the tent.
    I am glad to know you are looking for good news. That is a form of seeking. 🙂

  2. This is so inspiring, Ren. I always love what you have to say. If you haven’t already read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Park, I highly recommend it. I read it twice years ago and now I’m listening to the audiobook. It’s so good to laugh out loud, to travel with him on foot. I wrote my poem today about that. I badly need laughter now.


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