Sunday, August 26, 2007

the Sunday night of the Sunday night of the year

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?


clintonista said...

Hi Mark: I thought I posted this just now but it seemed to disappear. Thanks very much for your kind comments in the last blog. But w/r/t this post, and being myself in my own Sunday night of the year (a lovely figure) - I start teaching on the 5th, after a month or so off - I can relate to those difficulties of getting some writing done while the teaching's happening. But what about travel time? Did you find that being up here in Vancouver in May, or the other little trips you've taken, has helped w/ writing? I always find that going away - even just camping as we did a couple of weeks ago, or to another city, country, language - is immensely productive. And as for fitting writing in with work, sometimes stuff I'm reading while prepping for class can be useful - I stole some lines from a book review Henry James wrote in the 1860s for a poem I'm working on right now, the first poetry I've done since the spring when I was working on some homophonic translations from Benjamin. But KEEP IT UP bro, or down.... CB

mark wallace said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mark wallace said...

Ah, Clint, I love traveling to a preposterous degree. When I'm traveling is when I feel the least degree of dread, mainly because focusing on what's immediately happening becomes so much more intriguing and consuming. I get so busy being where I am, and trying to be there, and enjoying it and figuring it out, that I don't have a lot of brain left over for the standard worries of the ordinary capitalist work day, which often so pointlessly and relentlessly consume my creative energy while at "home."

Talking to other poets while traveling, and hearing their work, is greatly helpful to my writing, making me think about a lot of things I wouldn't have otherwise thought about. The writing happens later--I can't write a word while traveling--but I've often had some of my best ideas about what I'll write later when I'm traveling and involved with life, unable to write.

The degree of dread (and not just fear; I need to thank Paul Naylor for reminding me of this distinction) I feel on the Sunday night of the Sunday night of the year doesn't last forever, or even sometimes all that long. And ain't that a relief.

So yeah, let's keep on helping everybody keep it going. I really appreciate your comments a lot.