Hello, Reader. Please take a moment right now to make sure you are still breathing. Because sometimes we forget to breathe at this time of year, right? I just checked, and while I might not have been breathing just before I checked I’m definitely breathing now. It’s good to check.
Now on to the roundup:
fantasy holiday letter This week, I actually wrote a draft — two drafts — but I’ve also been writing a fantasy holiday letter in my head. At the most wonderful time of the year, I sometimes have to laugh at our custom of sending out glossy photos and good news bulletins. I think the world would be a better place if we all told the truth:
The children are pretty average. They often argue over stupid things and forget to take out their laundry. I’d include a photo but I’m not up to the effort of making sure everyone has clean — let alone color-coordinated — clothes on all at the same time. I keep writing my poems and sometimes even send some out to lit mags. Usually, they get rejected. In other news, I am sick to death of allergy, orthodontist, pediatrician, urology, sports doctor, radiology, rheumatology, and sundry other appointments. As for D., no promotion this year. In fact, the job he moved us here for disappeared last spring. Luckily he found another one fairly quickly, and only occasionally does he have to travel to Malaysia, which doesn’t make me nervous at all #theplane. In this joyous and wonderful time of year, I often think of the last recorded transmission from the Edmund Fitzgerald: “We are holding our own.” Love,
Seriously, though, no complaints here. We are some of the luckiest people on the planet. It’s just the rebel in me that’s tired of reading glossy-mag versions of life in holiday letters. I offer you this one for comic relief.
“and the task reveals itself” Last night I finished the novel Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. Which I loved. For so many reasons — the writing, the story (or, in some ways, the lack thereof), the gut-punch ending. Here is a passage that reminded me of how it feels to write poetry:
“… I close my eyes every time I have to do something practical apart from the daily chores everyone has, and then I picture how my father would have done it or how he actually did do it while I was watching him, and then I copy that until I fall into the proper rhythm, and the task reveals itself and grows visible, and that’s what I have done for as long as I can remember, as if the secret lies in how the body behaves towards the task at hand, in a certain balance when you start, like hitting the board in a long jump and the early calculation of how much you need, or how little, and the mechanism that is always there in every kind of job; first one thing and then the other, in a context that is buried in each piece of work, in fact as if what you are going to do already exists in its finished form… .”
Although my father is not a poet, bless him, I think of all I’ve learned by observing and trying out the gestures of other poets. And I think of how it feels when a poem is really coming into the world — “the task reveals itself and grows visible” — and how the body is somehow, mysteriously a part of that. Yes.
I love that god is not omniscient in this poem, that “he had to make sure.” I love how it plays with the Christian sacred text of the creation story, and how the poet grabs onto that phrase (and word) from it: “this was good.” Oh, and all that amazing sensory detail. When I grow up, I want to write a poem this… well,… good.
Hope everyone has or is having a wonderful holiday season. Thanks for reading.