It is strange to be working on a manuscript right now, while I am trying to get back on my feet. Which is a strange way of putting it actually: getting back on my feet, when the whole process right now is passive. As a former mentor put it: waiting for the season to shift. Waiting is not doing. I’ve written about this before in terms of acting. Who are we when we are not doing? There’s no such thing as a hold button in terms of the way we interact with the world. Time flows.
I don’t know. Maybe holding our ground while it does, is doing enough? For now.
Didn’t Camus say that one way to attempt to deal with the absurdity of life was to create artwork?
I am writing. I keep second-guessing words like fecund. Perfect, but too rarefied. Like the word rarefied itself.
Who am I writing for? I am struggling now with editing. Which, in my case, is always a matter of addition not subtraction. Working from the essence to tease out just enough story for it to convey more than just an atmosphere to anyone who might read it.
I have something to say. And lack the courage too often to say it.
One of the poets I am mentoring now asks me what is too mundane a subject for poetry. Nothing, I say. It’s all about perspective. What I didn’t confess was my own fear that people will judge my perspective to be mundane. Or derivative. (What about human experience is not derivative?)
They will, you know: judge. And that is okay. I shrug sometimes, too, at things that touch other people deeply. Our experiences meet randomly through art – every poem is a crap-shoot at an over-crowded table.
This poet I mentioned had a little epiphany reading Mary Oliver. And Patricia Fargnoli. And what is more mundane than cancer, really? Mental illness? Death? Sex? And the fact is if the subject of the poem is truly original then what human would understand it? Human experience is the subject matter of all art, isn’t it? (Even when intellectual activity is the experience being addressed).
I’m pretty sure trees create poetry. Mushrooms, absolutely. And maybe someday I will see it for what it is. We all will. Maybe every network of roots that run along the forest floor tells a story in carefully metered verse. Internal rhymes, intertextuality with lines that will reach right into our coffins.
I’ve given up on originality. It seems someone somewhere has always done something similar before. I remind myself that while Darwin – his structured biography, these specific letters on documents: D.A.R.W.I.N. – are remembered
in history as history, Wallace also “discovered” natural selection. No one makes history. History makes stories.
Yesterday I nearly dumped my entire project, remembered suddenly that someone somewhere did something vaguely similar – but not at all the same. But I remembered, raising the bar is nothing more than self-sabotage.
I am a middle-aged white woman who is not going to shatter the cultural narrative in any way. History will not shape my artifacts into legend.
When did we all set the bar so damned high? Camus also said that “Creating or not creating changes nothing.”
Even Camus now is a legend of interpreted scripture. A morphing biography and quotes/misquotes like merit badges worn proudly by college graduates.
Camus is dead.
and what if the most
exquisite book of poems
those that would shift
the world from its course were
dumped overboard in a funk