friday roundup: first day of summer edition

photo from wikimedia

photo from wikimedia

Reader, is it the last day of school or the first day of summer? The kids get out at noon, and sometimes I like to look at things in their most positive light, so let’s call it the first day of summer.

I confess, I’ve not been much of a poet this week. Some weeks require all-mama-all-the-time, and this was one of them. It was comforting to learn (well, to re-learn actually) that even when I’m not trying to balance family life with writing life things pile up: laundry, books, dust, discarded shoes in the front hall (Ha, ha! “front hall…” Here at the Wee, Small House we use the term loosely). All the more reason not to drive oneself crazy trying to keep up. Let there be art!

a net for catching days  Next week I’ll re-commence my efforts at a summer writing schedule. Today on Brain Pickings there’s a great Annie Dillard quote about schedules. Here it is:

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.

Yes… “a net for catching days,” “a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time.” This is just how a writing schedule feels to me, and it’s why I feel a bit off-balanced and fading around the edges when I’m not writing.

The Act of Creation  Yesterday, through the semi-secret super duper library nerd lending program, I picked up Arthur Koestler’s The Act of Creation. I’ve just begun reading it, and already I’m hooked (Still, I’m not without a little bit of reader-ly dread: I think a semester-long graduate-level course could be taught on this book. Add it to the syllabus for the Emily Dickinson MFA).

Sometimes I feel like just reading a particular poet’s work helps me get to a new place in my writing. Although I often spend time pulling poems apart, looking at how the poet uses the tools of the trade, it still feels as if getting to a new place can happen without that — that the reading itself has shifted things around inside me and helped me to make a breakthrough. I’ve often been curious about why, and Koestler has something to say about that: “Everybody can ride a bicycle, but nobody knows how it is done. Not even the engineers and bicycle manufacturers know the formula… . The cyclist obeys a code of rules which is specifiable, but which he cannot specify… .” Or, he says, to put it more abstractly:

“The controls of a skilled activity generally function below the level of consciousness on which that activity takes place.”

This is not (I repeat IS NOT) to say that we can’t become better writers by studying craft, by tearing a piece of writing apart and looking at how it’s built, by practicing, practicing, practicing. But it does help explain, for me, why the mere fact of having read something seems to bring forth growth in my writing. I’ll share more of Koestler’s insights as I read.

a summer poem  Is there a poem in your life that, for you, just says “Summer?” Share in comments, if you like. For me, it’s this poem by Anne Sexton:


I Remember by Anne Sexton

By the first of August
the invisible beetles began
to snore and the grass was
as tough as hemp and was
no color — no more than
the sand was a color and
we had worn our bare feet
bare since the twentieth
of June and there were times
we forgot to wind up your
alarm clock and some nights
we took our gin warm and neat
from old jelly glasses while
the sun blew out of sight
like a red picture hat and
one day I tied my hair back
with a ribbon and you said
that I looked almost like
a puritan lady and what
I remember best is that
the door to your room was
the door to mine.


Whenever your summer begins, I hope you have lots of time to wear your bare feet bare and watch the sun blow out of sight. Happy weekend and thanks for reading!

10 thoughts on “friday roundup: first day of summer edition

  1. oh, molly. a net for catching days. i wont’ drink my gin warm, but maybe my red wine. i have cherries to put in my hair when the right moment comes..

  2. I want to have an affair with this post – love it all so: the quote, the poem, the new book you are reading. Marvelous launch, dear Molly. Yes, Let There Be Art!

  3. Looking forward to seeing your “Summer Writing Schedule” — as you may know, I’m horrible unless I have a schedule, but I’m also lazy and never really get around to making one! I did actually start one, based upon yours, but..yeah…again with the lazy…. 🙂 (and perhaps busy, as I can totally relate to having to be a mom all the time too)

    Happy First Day of Summer to you!

  4. Molly! We are in sync, it seems with life interfering. Also, today was C.’s last day of school, too. He’s currently blowing off steam with an all guy weekend at a friend’s deer camp. There will be several teachers there. Once he’s through playing in the woods, our summer will commence. Hope yours is fantastic!

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