It is zero degrees in the town where I used to live, heading toward a daytime high of five. Five. Degrees. It is 37 in the Peninsula Town, heading toward a high of forty-eight, and I am as cold as I ever want to be again in my life. I now understand the vibe I used to get from Californians — the vibe that said, Why live where it gets so cold? Just.. why? Of course, my intellect knows why and even how to survive in the cold, but my creaturely instinct is all about just wanting to be warm. Forever and ever. To all my people in the frozen northland, you have my undying admiration. Pass the hot tea.
And now, here are a few thoughts from my writing life this week that warmed me:
unless there is time alone I’m reading the journals of May Sarton and finding comfort and kinship within its pages. The opening lines of this volume of her journals is:
Begin here. It is raining.
This now ranks amongst my favorite book openings ever. She goes on to write:
I am here alone for the first time in weeks, to take up my “real” life again at last. That is what is strange — that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or what has happened.
This is where my kinship meter maxes out. If I don’t have time alone to devote to my writing, my life doesn’t feel like my life. And I think this is true for many people and many artists — that time alone with one’s thoughts, or one’s art, is a fundamental need. I’m glad to be reminded of this as we enter a very busy time of year. I’m doing my best to make sure I get that time by hook or by crook. I’m a happier person and mom if I do.
speaking differently Speaking of warming thoughts… I’m unspeakably happy at the news that Mary Szybist won the National Book Award for her collection Incarnadine. I know I’ve raved about this poet and this book before, but I think both are incredibly rave-worthy.
In her acceptance speech Szybist, quoting Paul Connolly, said,
“I think often of the words of Paul Connolly, who said, ‘I believe it is not arguing well, but speaking differently that changes the culture.’ Poetry is the place where speaking differently is the most prevalent.”
Poetry is a place where you can write poems titled “Annunciation in Nabokov and Starr” (as in Vladimir Nabokov and Kenneth Starr. Kenneth Starr!) and “Annunciation as Right Whale with Kelp Gulls.” Poetry is the place where you can write from the perspective of the grass beneath Mary and the angel at the moment of the Annunciation. Poetry is the place where you can, as one reviewer wrote, “buil(d) an entire world around the coincidence of (your) name.” I’m so glad there’s a way and a place to speak differently in this world, because conventional modes of speaking can’t even begin to say what’s going on here.
If by some chance you’ve not yet read Incarnadine, you can buy it here.
overheard And speaking of speaking differently, of re-interpretation and different perspectives, here is one of my favorite poems from the collection:
Annunciation Overheard from the Kitchen by Mary Szybist
I could hear them from the kitchen, speaking as if
something important had happened.
I was washing the pears in cool water, cutting
the bruises from them.
From my place at the sink, I could hear
a jet buzz hazily overhead, a vacuum
start up next door, the click,
click, between shots
“Mary, step back from the camera.”
There was a softness to his voice
but no fondness, no hurry in it.
There were faint sounds
like walnuts being dropped by crows onto the street,
almost a brush
of windchime from the porch —
Windows around me everywhere half-open —
My skin alive with the pitch.
Personally, I’ve always been amazed at what can be overheard from the kitchen, from one’s place at the sink.
Thanks for reading, and Happy Friday!