So I finally figured out a way to continue the damn novel. I need to insert chapters from a DIFFERENT PERSON’S POINT OF VIEW. I have spent the last three days working with this idea and I have written, in the last three days, 6350 words. In August, I wrote about 5000 words. So I guess that big changes work…
Social media is not the villain everyone claims it to be. Sometimes social media actually helps us get stuff done. I often have a Word doc open on one side of my computer and some social media site open on the other side. When my brain wanders, it has a place to go for a few minutes to rest and recuperate and do other things that also probably start with the letter R. If I am lonely, I can feel connected briefly. If I feel like what I say doesn’t matter, I can hit the little thumbs-up hand and Like all kinds of stuff.
I mean think about it. Facebook has cat videos (and goat, otter, dog and people videos, but we all know what really matters). My Facebook feed also has groups dedicated to my favorite actors, TV shows, movie franchises, writing and social justice, mostly in that order. You would think that such things would be Inspirational, Moving Me To Write Stuff. I mean, after all, putting up motivational posters in Pinterest helps me to get my sorry little butt to the gym, right?
Of course, the gym is easy. You show up and lift things over and over again. Then you go lift other things over and over again. You don’t need to think, “Yes, sure, but WHY does this 25 lb. weight NEED to be lifted? What is it trying to ACHIEVE? What will be the CONSEQUENCES of my lifting it?”
Is there anybody here, maybe that lady on the elliptical machine or the guy jumping up and down, thinking, “WHY must she lift that? Why can’t she just LEAVE IT ALONE?”
And the chick who takes the laundry basket filled with used towels, she is probably thinking, “I am the PROTAGONIST, dammit, not that 25 lb. weight, which isn’t CHOOSING to be lifted, the way I am CHOOSING to launder the damn towels for the tenth time since Monday!”
And the trainer who is showing some guy the Proper Way to Do Squats, she glances across the gym floor and thinks, “Yes, but HOW WILL IT ALL END?” Or possibly, she is just wishing she had had that second cup of coffee.
I mean, you don’t actually have to PLOT your gym time. The weight might or might not be expecting to get a happy ending, but it’s not telling either way, so you can pretty much tell people, when you get to the end of your workout, that you killed it.
So social media must work, because, no, I haven’t worked on my novel today, but I did just manage to bang out a blogpost.
So although most people go on summer vacation by, for example, actually going somewhere that is else, I took a summer vacation by working on my novel and basically abandoned the Blogosphere for two months. There were no beaches, maybe two cocktails, and zero blogs about sharks. Or much of anything else, or at least not written by me.
I would like to thank Wine and Cheese (Doodles), A Kinder Way, and Robert Okaji for letting me steal, um, reblog their wonderful work to keep my blog alive while I was writing 37,000 words of a book that starts with someone creating an OKCupid profile.
Obviously, the book will be a comedy.
So although I have not been writing for YOU, Gentle Readers, I have been writing, and thinking about writing, as always, 24/7. So we will declare vacation over, alas, but at least you get ME back.
Lately I’ve been thinking about my blog and what I post about. I’ve also thought a lot about what people seem to enjoy and generally seem to connect with the most.
This poem is for Jane Kokernak of Leaf, Stitch Word, who saw this sight and wondered what I would make of it. “I don’t know why,” she said. “Because I write about weird shit,” I answered. “Oh, that’s true. You do.” Natch.
She asked me why a street might need its own
Pillow, off-white against concrete, light
And fluffy when compared to tar, all crabbed
And broken from wheels and feet and packages
Dropped, lives dropped. What moving student
Dropped the pillow, distracted, overloaded, and
Eager for freedom in a new space of his own?
No matter. No man’s pillow now resides here
In no-man’s land, as everyman tramples this
Sidewalk, proceeding from home to work,
From bliss to worries and woes. The sidewalk
Itself wearies from the eternal sickly glow of
Streetlamps, damp leaves, cigarette ends still
Smoking themselves. The sidewalk longs for sleep.
Now, Jane, send me the picture and I will write the other half of this poem…
So yesterday in my last day at MIT for the spring semester, I wrote a fairly brilliant little poem about blue based on two lines from a Jeremy Nathan Marks poem. I thought I had successfully emailed the file to myself, but no such luck. So I am going to have to go in to MIT to get it, because it is very cool and I want you to learn stuff about blue. Because blue is cool.
That is all.
You probably thought I took last week off because I was intimidated by the three forms of dance folks suggested to me: Minuet, Rondelet, and Flailing One’s Arms Wildly to the Beat of Drums. You would not be wholly wrong. Also I spent several days coughing up first one lung and then the other (even days, right; odd days, left).
The minuet is a dance of small steps, which is apparently what the word means (also, menu, as it happens). So we are going to do just that this week, take small steps toward health and that whole Breathing Without Coughing thing. So a haiku pour vous:
Spring robins skitter
Through new grass, look up to see
Raccoon in the tree.
I just burned through reading C.D. Wright’s new book with the impossible title, The Poet, The Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, A Wedding in St. Roch, The Big Box Store, The Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All. It is made up of short prose-poem style essays largely about how she feels about words, poetry and her favorite poets; in short, her poetics. It made me want to get back to that project myself, as that was one of the goals I had when I started this blog about a year and a half ago.
And since, as they say, talking about music is like dancing about architecture, and since I began this blog considering the poetic architecture of cathedrals, it makes a certain kind of sense (to me at least) to go about examining the music of poetry by talking about dancing.
I took a ballroom dance class once in college. I didn’t much care for always having to follow rather than lead, but I loved the jitterbug, and the circular waltz, with each couple doing small circles inside the larger orbiting circle of the dance, was like being inside one of those spirograph toys. One dance is simply enjoying your partner’s company. The other is about being together one of the small moving parts of a larger communal piece of art.
And maybe that’s true of poetry as well. Sometimes you give your readers a little gem of enjoyment, showing the unique way you see the world in such a way that they want to come back again—also the way friendships begin. Other poetry you write to show off your virtuosity (and yes, poets, unlike English teachers, think about virtuosity; sometimes I have to look in the mirror before I think so I can remember which hat I’m wearing).
In the coming weeks I will write about flamenco, tango, those awkward junior high school dances and anything else I can think of or you can challenge me with—oooh. I like that idea. Gentle Readers, suggest a dance and I will explain how poetry is like it. If I haven’t heard of it, you may need to direct me to a YouTube video to enlighten me. Game on!
Thirty years ago, right around now, when the spring had announced itself in birdsong and melted snow, my friend C. and I jumped into his red* convertible and headed for the mountains. Damp air enhances scents, like the fertile musky smell of cowshit** that tells you that now, now, finally, winter is over. The pale grey road wound uphill. The trees were in bud, all the pale greens stepping out to wave hello to us, and goodbye. We drove onward, with neither map*** nor plan, but only a sense that spring requires a journey and a breeze ruffling your hair. On the edge of the road, a brown sign proclaimed “Texas Falls” even though we were deep in Vermont. We left the car, strolled among the trees, every footstep sending up a waft of dead pine needles. Our feet made no sound**** so the waterfall never heard us coming over its quiet splashing roar. The sun, so golden between the leaves, came through them with emerald light, both water and sunlight spraying us with blessings.
*Was the convertible red? Was it black or blue? Do I recall it as red because of the intensity with which the mountains were painting themselves green?**Herbivores’ doings smell like grass and wildflowers and the mud that comes from mixing summer and snow and the long grey of January and February, and then adding sunlight and warmth.***When they tell you the map is not the mountain, they are right. Maps are conquistadors of the fallen, flattening and denaming the things that know for themselves what they are. The worn folds also erase the world in lines that intersect like a****Sounds in the forest are hushed, like a library whose books are stones and birdsong.
So my pal Mike Allegra over at heylookawriterfellow is doing his semi-annual Doodle Contest. So here are my words: panther, dapper, samurai, flying pig, poetry. Because the Middlebury College mascot is a panther (and let’s face it, my cat Musashi is kind of like a very formal, tuxedoed panther), Musashi is dapper, I studied Japanese fencing, I had a coaching company with a flying pig logo, and um, er, uh, can’t remember the reason for the last one, might have to think about it more…
HOW TO ENTER
To get your name in the drawing, leave a list of five words in the comments section below. They can be any words at all, but – and this is important – the words cannot be completely random. Each word must be connected to you in some way.
For example, here are my five words:
Chip ‘n’ Putt
The connection between you and the words doesn’t need to be deep or profound, it just needs to exist.
HOW TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING
Want me to stuff the ballot box in your favor? Fiiine. I’ll add two more ballots if you announce this contest on your blog and link back to this page. That’s three chances to win!
Don’t have a blog? No problem. I’ll give you one extra ballot if you announce this contest on your Facebook page or Twitter feed. (Be sure to post links in the comments.)
As I mentioned, the winner of the drawing will get a custom made, one-of-a-kind, Mike Allegra doodle suitable for framing! Woo!
But the winner will also get something else:
An original, one-of-a-kind, Mike Allegra-penned story! This story will contain all five of the words you supplied to enter this contest. I can’t promise you a good story, but I will do my best.
So do me a favor and choose fun words, OK?
Your entry is due on or before Tuesday, April 5. The winner of the drawing will be announced on Wednesday, April 6.
That’s it! Give me five words and get going!