For may people, especially but not only those of us who teach, the weeks leading up to Labor Day are like the Sunday night of the whole year. The hard work hasn’t started but the shelf life on good times is running out. There are a few days to take a final short outing somewhere, put a final touch on those summer projects, stash your provisions or otherwise get prepared, whatever you do on Sunday night to convince yourself that you’re ready for the next morning, which of course you never are.
And now here it is, the Sunday night of the year, and it’s also Sunday night. I’ve got a full 14-hour day tomorrow.
In terms of its structural relationship to the society I live in, for me the kinds of writing I do break down pretty blatantly into a shape like this:
bureaucratic/official writing — critical writing — fiction writing — poetry writing
When I’m working, critical writing is sometimes most possible, when I have any time at all, because it’s most like the kind of writing I have to do for my job. Fiction is more difficult, and poetry almost impossibly strange.
I don’t mean to say though that I don’t write any poetry during the regular university semesters, just that writing it requires a painfully conscious effort to twist my brain into a shape entirely unlike the shape it has during the work day. In fact for many years I’ve made a huge effort to write at least some poetry during long work days (all of Party In My Body was written that way; one ten line poem a day from Monday to Friday whether I wanted to or not, and I almost never wanted to) because it’s so much unlike everything else that my life is about that it takes on a kind of talismanic power. It’s a source of something that I need to get back to if I can, especially at those moments when it most feels like I’m about to have to abandon it for good.
I was finally able to write quite a bit of new poetry this summer, but only after I wrote some critical pieces and some fiction, as if I had to write all the way through the distance between myself and the possibility of poetry. It was as if writing the fiction actually allowed me to feel comfortable (some level of comfort anyway) writing poetry. I liked the effects it had. And now that it’s all drifting away, I’m gearing myself up for the effort to try to get back to it again.
But how do you get it back again, when you feel it going? I’ve managed it repeatedly, but I still don’t understand how. Anybody have some good techniques to keep it all from drifting away for good?
MORE NEW THINGS - "Since last we spoke," I've written a couple of new essays for The Smart Set (which just got an attractive redesign). Here's one on "the mind of poetry" ...
2 hours ago