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what i have been doing, if not writing

August 28, 2011

So I didn’t get my poetry house in order this week despite expressing that hope last weekend. And even though I have been home for nearly 24 hours straight to avoid the rain and wind from hurricane Irene, the closest I came to poetry was fetching the poetry books I want to read next and placing them next to me on the window sill. Here’s a partial list of what I’ve done today instead of reading or writing:

  • Play via Facebook, email, texts, phone calls.
  • Take videos and photos of the rain.
  • Light candles.
  • Brew coffee.
  • Drink coffee.
  • Eat breakfast. Eat lunch.
  • Hang things on my walls.
  • Dabble in the closet re-organization project.
  • Quit the closet re-organization project.
  • Go outside & peek at the park & look in on my car parked down the block.
  • Watch the weather on TV.
  • Download new software.
  • Stare out the window.
  • Take a shower.
  • Make my bed.
  • Open a beer.
  • Play with iMovie, iPhoto & WordPress.
  • Think about repainting my toenails.

These last months represent the longest stretch I’ve ever gone between submitting work or manuscripts; I haven’t submitted anything in 2011. And I am also in a really dry stretch for writing, as well. What’s frightening to me about it is that I worked really hard to get to a place that I felt good about what I was doing in the poetry world, and now I don’t feel like a poet at all. I cannot access those parts of my brain that notice, that assemble, that process. And it’s not just poetry: I really can’t see well, hear well or think through anything. I am a person who is accustomed to feeling things intensely, and so to be unable to feel anything? Let’s just say, even earthquakes (Tuesday) and hurricanes (now) don’t compare to how jostled I am by the absence of feeling.

I had an idea something like this was coming down the pike. About six months ago, I was looking for something “easy” to do that would help me document the days and weeks. Writers and artists know what I mean — the art, both the process and the products, are huge parts of tracking time and progress, of marking your place. I knew I was getting into some uncharted waters, and I knew I was going to struggle. I didn’t think it would last this long, but I wanted something quick and effortless that would help me, if I didn’t write or draw or paint for a while.

Have you heard about Project 365? (I know it as the Everyday project, but that’s probably because Apple has warped my mind, and I learned about the project through the app store.) I found it when I was on that search. And it has turned out to be the just-right thing. My iPhone beeps at me twice a day to remind me to take a self portrait. And most of the time, I oblige. I’ve tried to do it whenever it prompts me, no matter if I am bloated or wrinkled or sweaty or messy or dressed up or in pajamas or out of the shower. (I apologize if you’ve already seen this video on Facebook. I posted it there yesterday when I couldn’t get it to work here. But I really intended for it to be part of a blog post, so here it is again.)

It’s interesting to me that I gravitated toward this as an option and stuck with it (what you see fly by are six months of almost daily photos, and I’m still going). I am mostly terrified of my own image: my face, my body. I really struggle to carry it out in the world. Choosing a project that focused on my face? Frightening for me. But what’s surprising is that it has stirred up more positive (affectionate) thoughts than disgust and embarrassment. I can’t explain that right now (see “I can’t think” above), but there it is. People have commented on the Facebook post of the video with remarks about eyes and hair. What I mainly see is how the light plays around.

So what of the poetry? What of the processing? It has been decided, I think, via gentle suggestions from friends, that I should return to the basics: free writing. It makes my stomach turn to think about sitting down and spewing. I used to be the queen of free writing. What if I’ve lost her, too? You’re going to say something like, “She just wrote this blog post. Sounds like she may even have her thinking cap on.” You may be right. It’s *possible* that I’m being stubborn or lazy. Writing about not writing! One of THOSE, huh? Blech. Blech. Blech.

  1. August 28, 2011 4:32 pm

    “It’ll all work out.” My daughter and my mother inform me that I say this frequently enough that we can call it “the Mom refrain.” (I’m the Mom, in this case.) (My mom doesn’t say this.)

    Numbness is the one thing that disconcerts me, alerts me that I’m not OK, even when I know it’ll all work out. So, I hear you. Numbness is what I do something about. And then the poetry comes back.

  2. August 29, 2011 6:52 am


    (I hear you, woman. I’d say something profound, but it’s all I got. Oh, and this too shall pass and you will be back to writing like crazy. But that is just faith and knowledge talking. I hear you.)

  3. August 29, 2011 9:15 am

    I feel like toward the end of the photos, you are facing the camera more directly than in the beginning. Something to think about.

  4. August 29, 2011 10:27 am

    Maybe allow yourself to soak in this germination without recrimination until something emerges. After a long while, you’ve probably been to this stop many times, so I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Just this. Be patient with yourself. Remember that seasons end and return, end and return. I’ve been reading my old journals and they say nothing if not that.

  5. September 2, 2011 5:43 pm

    Bullet points!

    1. Hope everything is okay with your part of upstate in Irene’s wake…
    2. Photo-a-day montages always make the repetitive nature of the project worth it. Even in such a rapid video, one could tell where you had up days, where you had down days, and where you had haircut days. 🙂
    3. Free writing + strategically placed line breaks = poetry (sometimes).

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