the landscape is assembling

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Woman with Coffee Cup by Anders Montan, wikimedia

Hello Reader. How are things falling into place for you in the new year? Here at the Wee, Small House, the landscape is assembling (that’s a Louise Gluck phrase, btw, from this poem): This week, one sick child and one sick car. But no sick poets, so I’m counting my blessings. I’ve found the courage to add two events to my blank calendar, not that there aren’t more floating around out there in the near future, but I like to come up out of denial slowly. I’m joking, kind of, but it is true that this winter/spring will be busier than the fall was in terms of kids’ activities, so I’m treading carefully on my plans and energy stores. Wish me luck.

The landscape of the writing life is assembling, too. I’ve had two mornings to write this week and loved every minute of it. This morning I was able to write in a coffee shop for the first time ever – very exciting! Normally the energy of so many other people makes it hard for me to write, but I found a coffee shop that has very lovely booths, slanted and with high walls, so I can pretend I’m alone. And it opens early, so I can get started before the 10:00 library opening bell, then just scoot around the block when the library opens. Happiness is a new place to write. Do you have any new places to write this year?

Today I worked more on the exercises I mentioned in this post, and wrote in imitation of Sappho and Louise Gluck (ha – those two go together like peas and carrots. Or not). It had been years since I’d read Sappho, and all her ecstasy made me happy. I also grooved on the fragments as they’ve survived — hole-y and half-there. They make me want to write like that on purpose, and maybe I’ll give that a shot. Or maybe it’s a good revision strategy: If you knew your poem would survive only partially, what phrases would you choose to be the survivors?

I read from The Wild Iris by Louise Gluck. As I have often said: exacto knife! Here’s what I jotted in my notebook about her poems:

  • Bold, confident statements
  • Plainspoken, unadorned, and very precise language
  • Lots of wind (which, in The Wild Iris, I sense takes the place of the presence of God as wind often does in the Hebrew Scriptures)
  • Asks a lot of questions
  • Idea poems

I decided I’d try to write a poem that began with a bold declaration and ended with a question — neither is a strategy I’d normally feel comfortable with.

Although Daniel Halpern, in his instructions for the 21exercises, says, “I have found that more often than not… (the exercises produce) poems which, with a little revision, manage to become keepers,” I remain skeptical. Perhaps my output is not as stellar as his :). Still, I feel my poem muscles flexing, which is always a good thing.

I hope the landscape of your new year is assembling in beautiful and amazing ways for you. Thanks, as always, for reading.

2 thoughts on “the landscape is assembling

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