friday roundup: being the plow mule, a 5th grade framework, and “Rites to Allay the Dead”

more prairie dog than plow mule...  (wikimedia)

more prairie dog than plow mule… (wikimedia)

Happy Friday, Reader. Here at the Wee, Small House, the decks are cleared. Everyone is at school all day. I’ve put in my time at 1st grade literacy centers, and now a quiet house and a sunny day stretch out before me. Is there anything better? Oh, yes, a cup of coffee. Hold on a sec — be right back. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm coffeeeeeeeeee. Ok, now on to the roundup:

being the plow mule  You must, must go read this post at Being Poetry. In it, Erin gives us an excerpt from The Rumpus’ interview with Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame. Gilbert talks about the creative life as a “contract between you and the mystery.” She says:

…the mystery is the thing that brings life to the work. But your part of the contract is that you have to be the plow mule, or the mystery won’t show up.

And she says a lot more about the idea of what it takes to live out a calling to the creative life, or, in my opinion, any intentionally-lived life.

I confess, when it comes to writing I’ve been more prairie dog than plow mule so far this year — popping up at my desk for a bit here and there. But in general I aspire to be that plow mule in writing and in life. And then, wow, those moments when the angel shows up… . There’s nothing else like ’em.

a 5th grade framework  I write a lot about what I learn from other poets, but it’s not often I can say, “Hey, look what I learned from my 5th grader!” This week, I can. Because I was looking through Friday Folders one recent Sunday night (late and hurriedly, as usual) and came across a framework for engaging with a text that struck me as useful. Useful enough to draw it out, and then do some thinking about what each portion of the framework might  mean. This framework suggests that readers can engage with a text in four ways:

  • text to text – this has helped me stay focused on what’s actually on the page, and reminds me to think about the other texts that a particular text converses with (Didn’t Yeats say something about how a poem should give light to all the other poems that came before it, and all the poems that will come after it? I think he did, but I can’t find it anywhere. #googlestumper).
  • text to self – this reminds me to think about the what? and why? of my reaction to the text, and to ask whether my reaction is supported by what’s on the page, and to remember Harold Bloom‘s belief that the reason we read is (1) for pleasure/beauty, and (2) to gain insight into our selves and our lives (he said this in The Western Canon, which I just looked for on my bookshelf and can’t find and so now I’m having a mini-panic attack).
  • text to world – this reminds me to think of a text as part of a wide canvas, to consider how it engages with the world politically, historically, and archetypally (new word?).
  • text to emotion – this helps me consider what emotion the text attempts to conjure, and to ask myself whether the text leads us toward any human universal experience or truth.

Anyway, I hope you find it useful to. Here’s the little drawing I made of it, if you’re interested:

5th Grade Framework

5th Grade Framework

(Sorry, I tried to insert this as a PDF, but WordPress has been Changing Things and I can’t figure out how).

“Rites to Allay the Dead”  Last night at writing group, one of the poets brought a really cool poem that started “If there must be a spirit in the house…” and then went through a long list of “let its” (my fave: “let it sometimes trip in the hallway…”). Another poet said it reminded him of this poem by Amit Majmudar. He sent us the link, and I read it this morning and fell in love. I hope you love it, too.

Reader, may you be a plow horse, and may the angel visit you often. Happy weekend and thanks for reading.

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