friday roundup: obstacles, anguish, and the recognizable fowl

A bevy of waterfowl by Mori Tetsuzan (wikimedia). May we all have a bevy of recognizable fowl.

A bevy of waterfowl by Mori Tetsuzan (wikimedia). May we all have a bevy of recognizable fowl.

Did someone say Friday? I guess it’s time for another roundup then. I will try to be efficient, because someone just asked me, “Mom, what are we going to do that’s fun today?”

I have no response to that.

obstacles  I wrote last week of being a bit stuck in terms of creative work. That has continued to an extent, but has eased some as I (for lack of a better term) gave in to the process that seemed to be working best, or rather stopped trying to force the process that wasn’t.

Long-time readers know that the bedrock of my writing practice has always been what I call my morning reading and writing, in which I get up early, read poems, and do a few pages of free-writing based on what the reading evokes for me. I’ve continued that, to an extent, but the free-writing has been tough going. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Zen concept that “the obstacle in the path becomes the path.” So, I decided, if the free-writing wasn’t working, I should try something else. It’s been a sort of collage-like process of writing new lines and using images and phrases from old free-writes. I have a couple drafts that might grow up to be poems, which is all I ask of myself in a given week. And while I don’t know if this process will stick, or if it will ever feel natural, it got me through one week.

Either way, having long since given up on the Muse in favor of plain old hard work, it was good for me to learn to work in a different way.

anguish  One reason I read is to console myself. “We read to know we’re not alone” (that’s C.S. Lewis). Just in time for the fits and starts in my writing process, I read, in The Writer’s Chronicle, an interview with Vijay Seshadri. One of the questions had to do with what the interviewer saw as his relative lack of prolificacy compared to many American poets (“Why the eight or nine year gap between collections?” she asked). His response was a great comfort to me:

“(T)hough I haven’t published much, I’ve written a lot… . My ratio of fragments—some of them large fragments, some of them sixty or seventy lines—to finished pieces is about ten to one.”


And then:

“(T)here is nothing easy or obvious or regular or reproducible about the way I write a poem. It’s all anguish.”

So there’s that. And although I think “anguish” is a bit of a stretch—I mean, it’s not like we’re shoveling coal in hell here—it’s comforting to know that even Pulitzer winners struggle with process, leave things undone, work slowly, and all the rest.

(Also, for the record: eight or nine years between books doesn’t seem all that shabby to me).

the recognizable fowl  And since we’re on a little theme on the making of poems here, why not a poem about making poems? I’ve been reading Laura Jensen‘s Bad Boats (and, I confess, constructing a parody to the tune  of Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood”… cuz baby now we got Baaad Boats…). I knew a couple of Jensen’s poems from classes over the years, but had never read a collection. Bad Boats is rocking my world. I love the way that, in making the world strange, she makes it recognizable. Here is her imaginative take on subject matter:


SUBJECT MATTER by Laura Jensen

On the good day, it cracks out,
the recognizable fowl that falls in love with you,
nothing to offer but itself in your eyes.
When you keep walking it starts after, helpless,
unrejectable. It would never harm you, you are certain.

Someone has seen one go fighting, taking a chevron
in lieu of the humming garden. Roses are red
because their ears are burning.
Someone hears the ocean and repeats its sound.

In your favorite country, the one no one remembers yet,
the hen, the duck, the other ones that settle—
all of them are minor deities. It is with composure
that they see flocks turn to the other mothers,
the peculiar foreigners they look in the eye.


[In pencil next to line 5 (“It would never harm you, you are certain”): Bwhahahaha!]

Well, that’s it for today. The child who asked about doing something fun is working on a needlepoint project #winning. I may just be able to sit down with a book and have a cup of tea. Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading.

4 thoughts on “friday roundup: obstacles, anguish, and the recognizable fowl

    • She has published a couple more books… Shelter is one, Memory is another. I’m reading Shelter now. I’m quite taken with the strangeness of her poems.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s