About Everything But

I worry that my children are still ashamed or embarrassed by me. I still talk too loudly - an American voice is placed in the mask - it carries (in more ways than one). It's a matter of physics. What am I going to do? Adopt an accent?

It strikes me as funny that this of all things probably allows me to claim status as a "first-generation immigrant" (as opposed to expat): Worrying that your cultural traits will embarrass my children.

Or it would, if first-generation immigrant wasn't code for something else.

Do you still miss living here? Miss being an immigrant? Are you happy with the unexpected repatriation in terms of your identity? Sometimes I forget which one of you is actually Norwegian: you or M.

Opening Myself to the Awkwardness

I also have a fear of being too personal. It's like showing up in a dress that is just a smidgen too short and crosses some line no one explicitly told you about. Everyone lifts an eyebrow, and then looks away. Be honest, but don't be too honest. Earnestness makes everyone feel awkward.

I'm reading Gregory Orr's Poetry as Survival. He talks about the terrifying vulnerability of the self, and he describes the personal lyric as the self encountering its existential crises.

You know, I'm just going to give into this. To the fear. To the existential crises. To the who-gives-a-damn about propriety and position. To the friggin´earnestness.

Like Eavesdropping on Birds

Like listening to the birds in the park without trying to identify the calls of the individual species. There's something rather meditative about that, about not putting things in boxes, not categorising, not judging. Just sitting in a teeming civilisation of birds - or humanity - and listening to the music. And then dancing on your own.

I fear that psychiatrists might call that parallel play and diagnose me with some kind of anti-social disorder. But then, authenticity is about rejecting arbitrary boxes, isn't it? Like I tell my students every year: "Pity the Platypus", who doesn't fit the man-made categories. But we should all be the platypus.

A Physical & Metaphysical Sense of Self

When I look down at my hands now I see my grandmother's hands when I held them during church services. It's a strange kind of self-comfort, having her incorporated in my life in such an intimate and physical way.

Although a friend was visiting a few months ago; she saw a photo from the wedding and said, "Oh, your hands don't look that old in reality." To be honest, what I was uncomfortable with was how thin my hair looked in the photo - but now I have yet another thing to be self-conscious about.

On the Question of What to Say

What I truly miss is letter writing. And I miss the long email exchanges of the mid-90s, when my children were small and napping nearby - I could dig deep, take my time to think things through, but still be in conversation with a real person. Both my boys have left home. They are napping in foreign countries these days. So I'm asking myself, why is it I feel rushed now?

Writing From Need

I believe there's a primal, unconscious fear of people whose emotional needs are obvious. There's the mistrust: if no one else has been there for that person, there must be something wrong with them. And there's the gut knowledge that loneliness is contagious, I guess. Monkeys shy away from the shunned and the injured, and so do most of us.

I think it's a matter of learning how to attend to our needs obliquely.

The Push & Pull of a Place of Safety

Being busy, being occupied with the ordering of things gives me an illusion of control. Once that flurry of activity is over, the illusion is broken. I feel vulnerable.

I think that is why, content as a I am in so many ways, I have flashes of envy when you share your experiences of arranging your new life. I want to move house again. Which is absurd. Instead: yesterday I decided on a new bookshelf for the living room. So you see, I need a healthy adventure soon.

Poetics & The Good Life: A Manifesto

Poetry is a "made thing". But it's not just a pleasant rhyme, not a pretty little story with tidy conflicts and a reassuring resolution. Poetry demands a representation that somehow conveys living consciousness. It's transcendent of its own artificialness. And it is necessarily awesome, in the sense that it is also tinged with fear; if something conveys a true sense of life, it must also convey a sense of mortality. Poetry, as an art form, is not escapism. It is a confrontation with our truths.