friday roundup: Virginia Woolf version with card table and questions

Hello Reader, and happy Friday. Spring break in the P-town is almost over. Don’t look now, but it was actually a good writing week for me. The children were instructed to let me work in the mornings, get their own breakfasts, clean up the kitchen, etc. With the exception of one pitched battle fought over a package of mini-sausages on Monday, the system worked fairly well and I ended up with several revisions, one new draft, and submissions sent off into the world. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about and reading this week:

on card tables and rooms of one’s own  This week on Facebook there was a thread about writing spaces — I can’t even remember how it started, but at one point in the comments people where sharing what kind of space they have to write in. There was a corner, an almost-room with a half-wall, my own three-foot stretch of wall amidst the kitchen, and one actual study with a door that closes (although the owner lamented that the door did not necessarily guarantee an increase in productivity).

Then I came across this article by Susan Straight on learning to write without a room of one’s own. Straight writes about having written in all sorts of places: at the counter of a Mobil station where she worked, in the front seat of a blue Toyota, on a flimsy card table (#beentheredonethat). She writes:

“For 24 years I wrote not while driving but while waiting in parking lots for hours — basketball and tennis and doctor appointments and hospitals, Girl Scouts and plays, driving exams and prom nights… .”

Thankfully, I am not at the prom nights time of life yet, but: Yes.

She writes:

“The whole time, I waited to be alone.”

(Who, me?). She writes:

“For those of you… who might believe, as I once did, when someone tells you there are certain conditions necessary to be a serious writer, a real writer, let me say: I am writing this in a dollar notebook from Staples with a purple gel pen.”

I love to read about how other writers fit writing into their lives and into the spaces (literal or figurative) of their lives, and I feel heartened when I learn (again) that we all fit writing in when and where we can. Yes, Virginia, we all sometimes wish we had a room of one’s own, but when we don’t: Write anyway.

bodily syntax  Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams has been getting a lot of press in the literary world this week. Here is a piece by Jamison on writing about the body. She writes about having found permission to write about the body after reading Woolf’s On Being Ill. The whole article is interesting, but the insight I took away from it is Jamison’s comment on Woolf’s writing in the essay: “Even (Woolf’s) syntax feels bodily — full of curves and joints and twists, shifting and stretching the skin of her sentences.”

I do a lot of writing about the body, and I keep a lot of lists of words, but I have never thought about creating a list of bodily words, or about arranging syntax so that it seems muscular, joined, physical, sweaty. My middle schooler would say: “Poet fail!” I will be thinking about it from now on.

questions  Speaking of the body, many of you are probably familiar with May Swenson’s poem “Question,” with its muscular opening lines: “Body my house / my horse my hound / what will I do / when you are fallen” (whole poem here). This week I read a new-to-me poem that’s in dialogue with Swenson’s poem, and it’s a keeper. Here is Sara Eliza Johnson’s “Question.”

I love how this poem both engages and breaks free from Swenson’s poem, with form that wanders away from Swenson’s sturdy stanzas and images that spin off wildly from the hunting image system Swenson uses. Brava! You can learn more about Johnson and her work here.

And now, to return to the fray: more sausage arguments this morning (there were two left and three kids and somebody was pig-hogging!), grocery getting, prescription pick-up, basketball practice, family movie night, and maybe a few minutes with my notebook at the card table in my mind. Happy weekend, and thanks for reading.

 

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