Hi, Reader, and happy Friday. I have felt quiet this week. Our ginko tree is bereft of its leaves. November, and the year turns. There were my plans for the week, and then there was the actual week: sick child. So much depends on those two words. But I tried (oops — first time through I typed “tired”) to keep myself from floating away entirely by reading and writing in the morning. And I am still here, somehow, anchored at my desk, though loosely. Now for the roundup:
a poet walks into a bar It’s always fun to be in a social setting and to answer that age-old question, “So, what do you do?” with “I’m a poet.” I always anticipate this scene with a mixture of glee and dread. Glee because it’s somewhat fun to catch people off guard; dread because: conversation stopper. Last weekend Husband and I were invited to a retirement party at a bar in downtown San Jose. Have I mentioned that Husband works in the tech industry? Social situations full of engineers are even more … interesting… than most, and the “poet” response can come close to unhinging people :).
It couldn’t have been five minutes before someone asked me, “So, what do you do?” “I’m a poet,” I said and waited for that deer-in-the-headlights look. But instead, this woman looked at me with warm eyes and said, “You know, that is some of the most important work in the world.” And she meant it. Not that we want to go looking around for our sense of purpose in other people’s impressions, but I was heartened by her sincere response. She went on to ask me several questions about my work and my process. This is my wish for all poets: May you one day be asked what you do and greeted so warmly in return.
totally-indifferent-to-angora Speaking of being heartened, I was poking around online and read Poetry Daily’s 2006 interview with the poet Bob Hicok, who is a fellow native Michigander, and who wrote one of my favorite poems ever, “A Primer” (BTW, if you watched the video I just linked to, I can’t believe the audience wasn’t laughing harder and more frequently in this poem — they probably weren’t from Michigan).
I’ve always been heartened by Hicok’s story. He worked for many years in the automotive industry as a tool-and-die man (this is a Michigan term: tool-and-die men and women make the dies to stamp out parts for cars). He didn’t come up through academia, but through the hard work of reading and writing. Here are a few things he said that I found particularly heartening:
…on being identified as a funny poet:
“I like that I’m considered a funny poet, so long as that isn’t the end of it. It would be nice to be known as an ambidextrous poet. A totally-indifferent-t0-angora poet.”
(I’m actually not indifferent to angora; it makes me itch.)
…on writing with an audience in mind:
“It would be fun to have an audience. I’d keep it in the garage. I don’t know how anyone could write with a group of people in mind. It’s difficult enough to rummage around in my own head, let alone estimate how my words will enter another life. Writers should be good at sensing where readers will be more or less confused, angry, emotionally or intellectually involved, at evaluating the content of their writing in general terms. But to think about readers while writing is to invite the hypothetical into the process in a way that stops me from being open to the actual, to myself.”
….and on what the best thing a book of poems can accomplish:
“The best thing a book of poetry can accomplish is give your back pocket something to cherish.”
So much depends on that cherished, back-pocket book. You can read the whole interview here.
“The Book of Dreams” I’ve been reading Robin Ekiss‘ book The Mansion of Happiness this week. Oh, Reader, I adore it. I promise to tell you more about it soon, but for now I’m just going to leave you with this stunner of a poem for your Friday:
The Book of Dreams by Robin Ekiss
Everything is inscribed: the paper hawk
and dried branches of statice,
topographic maps of the moon,
its face damaged by lakes,
the laundress bent over
the metal ribs of her washboard,
kettle on the cold stove,
generating more heat than an idea.
From far away, sound approaches.
Crickets rub their dry-wing blades together.
A child’s first words sentence here:
I helped God make the stars.
Death hangs on the back of the door
and says nothing. Before it wakes,
the mind travels the usual route:
precipitous drop without a parachute
You can buy this book here.
Have a wonderful weekend and thanks for reading!