Monday, January 28, 2013

Someone in the Room of Writers Walks You Over to Another Guest

I only went outside once yesterday, just up the block to the small organic grocery store, where I paid 10 dollars for some additions to my planned turkey chili--a red pepper, a jalapeno pepper, a can of kidney beans, a can of garbanzo beans.  I couldn't walk any farther than that because of the ice, glittery in the trees, a half inch thick and crackling on the sidewalk. I slept a lot, fighting off a cold, and when I wasn't sleeping or cooking chili I was reading.  Natalie Goldberg's forthcoming book is called The True Secret of Writing. Her book Writing Down the Bones has been hugely influential in my writing and teaching life and habits, and in all of her books about writing since that one she delivers essentially the same message: write as a practice. Keep your hand moving. Write it down first, write more.  Judge/edit/cut later. Walk into the room of writers and make yourself at home there.

The new book doesn't break new ground, but Goldberg, as always, approaches writing from a Zen perspective.  New is not the point.  Sometimes the message, repeated in a slightly different way, will fall on the ears or in the mind in a new way, the way the ocean is always the ocean but at some point the sight of it is imbued with more meaning by the viewer. I have some new writing prompts to take from the new book, and some writers to explore further--another part of Goldberg's practice, and her writing advice books, is the study, admiration, and kudos to other writers.  It's one of the really cool things I get from blogs, from books, from conversations--someone in the room of writers walking you over to another guest and saying here, you two should know each other. Here is one poet she passed on to me:


suddenly nothing but grief
so I put on my father's old ripped raincoat

The other book I was reading is Sharon Old's Stag's Leap, a book of poems she wrote as her husband of 30 years was leaving their marriage.  I started it a few days before, and finished it this morning over breakfast at a cafe called Taste of Heaven. It's an astonishing, complex and powerful work. As I was finishing reading the poem "Years Later" I gasped at the end, one of those beautiful and deadly silver arrows that poetry can shoot into the heart, and as I looked up to the window, I met the eyes of a bearded young man walking up Clark Street. Because of the poem, my stunned reaction to it, I held his gaze, surge of electric blue, and I'll remember that moment, and how his winter cap matched his eyes, and we saw each other, and maybe I'll write a zen poem about it when I am very old.

a sideways gravity in him, toward some
vanishing point. And no, he does not
want to meet again, in a year--when we 
part it is with a dry bow
and Good-bye. And then there is the spring park,
damp as if freshly peeled, sweet
greenhouse, green cemetery with no
dead in it-except, in some shaded
woods, under some years of leaves and 
rotted cones, the body of a warbler
like a whole note fallen from the sky--my old
love for him, like a songbirds rib cage picked clean.

 --from "Years Later" by Sharon Olds

Late at night, I wanted to take a photo of the jeweled ice on the window, because it was all due to melt away by morning:

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