friday roundup: learning from Virginia Woolf, wingbeats, and about those daffodils…

What would Dorothy Wordsworth do? (photo from wikimedia)

What would Dorothy Wordsworth do? (photo from wikimedia)

Reader, it’s Friday again. How does this happen? Just yesterday it was Monday, and now we’re only two days away from the next episode of Downton Abbey. Yes, the flitting of time works out well for us that way, doesn’t it? Here’s this week’s roundup:

learning from Virginia Woolf This week, I’ve been reading excerpts from the journals and letters of Virginia Woolf ( in this book). In a couple of places, she outlines her plan for work “for the next fortnight.” Oh, she says offhandedly in the entry for Thursday 14 May 1925, “I should consider my work list now. I think a little story, perhaps a review, this fortnight.” It struck me as I read this that a fortnight seems like an utterly sane period of time over which to plan. Whatever happened to the fortnight, anyway? Why has the week taken hold of us so? I may just give the fortnight a try in my writing and household planning — on the premise that it seems hard to get anything done in one week, but maybe if I had two weeks to focus on the same set of tasks I might get somewhere (I understand this is not 100% rationale, but that’s okay with me). I’ll let you know how it goes.

Here are a couple other things I’ve learned from Virginia Woolf: 1. That even very successful writers struggle with doubt. About her novel The Years, she wrote: “I think I anticipate considerable lukewarmness among the friendly reviewers — I suppose what I expect is that they say now Mrs. W. has written a long book all about nothing — respectful timidity… that this is the long drawn twaddle of a prim pudist bourgeois mind, & … that now no one can take Mrs. W. seriously again.” Um, Virginia? 2. That even very successful writers have times outside “the flow”: “I am not reeling it off, but sticking it down.” I pause here to sigh for all the “sticking-it-down” that’s been going on at my desk lately. 3. That a new problem can be a good thing: “A new problem… breaks fresh ground in one’s mind; prevents the regular ruts.” She was writing about how to employ the element of time in To the Lighthouse, but I think this is true in life as well as writing.

wingbeats  Last week on her blog, Diane Lockward wrote about working her way through Wingbeats: Exercises & Practice in Poetry. I immediately ordered the book (I confess, there are times when I fall prey to and their doggone “one click ordering” #naughtypoet) and I want to shout out a big THANK YOU to Diane. This book has already paid for itself by giving me several new ways of working and extensions of some of my old methods. What I like about this book is that it not only has straight writing prompts, it also has exercises that look toward process and method rather than focusing on the production of a single, prompted poem. I’m pretty sure you won’t be able to shut me up about Wingbeats, so take this as fair warning.

about those daffodils… (caution: profanity ensues) One of my poet friends sent me a link to this poem by Jennifer Chang and, Reader, I cannot stop reading it. I am completely in love with this poem (despite its use of the word my BFF’s mother cannot abide in the first line, please forgive me, Mom W.). The poem appeared in The Nation (Feb. 7, 2011) but I can’t get the text on The Nation‘s website because I’m not a subscriber. I’ve linked to a tumblr site so you can read and relish this fierce, imaginative poem.

Happy Friday, happy weekend, and thanks for reading. Stay tuned next week for more “next big things” and who knows what else.

2 thoughts on “friday roundup: learning from Virginia Woolf, wingbeats, and about those daffodils…

  1. Thanks for the shoutout about Wingbeats–you’ll be glad to know that Wingbeats II will be out later this year! And yes, I am the editor!

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