How to Ease Away from a Particularly Traumatic Semester: Reading, Listening, Thinking, Walking

This week I worked on the Prose Project even though I have my doubts and misgivings about the direction I've started on, I'm trying to be calm and just allow myself to write what may very well be nonsense. I'm trying to give myself space to try things, to fail, to start again, and to play. Particularly because -- other than reviews and this blog -- prose writing isn't usually my thing.

I finished a fiction book this week and I'm still reading Poets at Work, which is wonderful and strangely ... well, comforting, for lack of a better word. I'll be sad and bereft when I finish it. The Lowell interview is my favorite thus far, although I also just began the Walcott review -- and I love reading it because it reminds me of being in his classes, and also the few precious times I had conversations with him outside of class.

But it also might end up be my favorite because of what he says in the interview, and how it resonates alongside other things I've been engaging with, like the Airea D. Matthew's episode of the Commonplaces podcast. 

 For instance, this morning, I copied down this from the Walcott interview:

"What we can do as poets in terms of our honesty is simply to write within the immediate perimeter of not more than twenty miles, really."

This made me think about my own art in this context, and about how I write, and my subject matter -- which is often very much centered around my own experiences, not necessarily things that would seem universal -- and I can't escape that this is determined by my gender, my sexuality, my race, my socio-economic class, my career, where I live, etc. And then I was wondering if that's worth anything. But I don't think we can ever really know, or worry, about whether or not our work is worth anything to anyone else, unless we just want to make canned, color-by-number nonsense. We have to be honest, with ourselves and others, and perhaps in the way that Walcott suggests. 

Of course, he's talking about himself as a Caribbean poet, but I found what he said, and what I was thinking about, resonating with (in conversation with?) the Commonplaces podcast when Matthews speaks to host Rachel Zucker about writing identity into our poems. She speaks about her choices to signal to the reader early in her book, Simulacra, that she's a black person, a black woman even more specifically, and about the conflict that can exist within us about *owning* who we are and how it shapes our art and the choices we make within it. In the podcast, she speaks about what we disclose and what we don't, and her personal conflicts when she considers what she can include in a poem and what she cannot (particularly, she and Zucker speak about writing about one's children and using their lives for/inside your art). 

Anyway, that's what's been buzzing around in my giant cavernous head this week. 

Also, I watched my friend M give a talk with her friend and collaborator D. Leavitt about a project they began during the pandemic that has resulted in some beautiful prints, two of which you can see exhibited online here and also on Instagram here. The talk was so eloquent and inspiring -- I love hearing artists discuss process and aims and this satisfied immensely. 

Also also, I've slowly begun exercising again, which was difficult for the past year after suffering inflamed joints -- first knees, then feet, then hands, then elbows, then back. But I'm working through medications and treatments with my rheumatologist and trying to be a little more optimistic than I allowed myself to be over this past year. Honestly, I'm not sure it's possible to convince oneself to be optimistic or happy, but sunshine and regular walks to the water DO help provide some type of balm. (And sometimes even a walk in the cloudcover and fog is enough, too.)

My walk to the beach early in the week. I'll take any beach, sun or no, but especially an empty one.



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