Sunday, June 24, 2018

June 24: Force of Nature, Classic Saint Marty, Adult Reponsibilities

I find myself in the middle of craziness.  Lots of poetry things going on.  The kickoff of Art Week in a neighboring city.  A Sidewalk Chalk Poetry Contest that I'm helping to judge.  A concert to attend this evening.  And then, if I'm not brain dead after all that, I'm going to see the new Jurassic World movie with my wife and kids.

I don't mind days like this.  It's all part of being a parent and a poet and a teacher.  You can add a few other hats onto that list if you want.  Last night, I was able to write a draft of a new poem.  That makes me very happy.  Like I've accomplished a lot. 

It's difficult sometimes to maintain my energy.  Just met with a poet friend of mine for a little while.  She said to me, "I don't know how you do it.  You're a force of nature."  My response was something like, "I just take things one at a time.  That's how I survive."

A few years ago, I was sort of thinking about the same issues.  How to maintain youthful enthusiasm in the face of adult responsibilities . . .

June 24, 2015:  London, Youthful Passion, Louise Gluck, "The Open Window"

It had been a lovely trip, London everything they had wanted and imagined--for Annie, reading selections from several Dickens novels at the time, it was an enchantment; they took strolls through the Queen's gardens, fed the swans in Regents Park; tried to envision the shantytowns that Dickens had once written about, along the Thames, the city's architecture sometimes suspending their notion of modern time.  In fact, out of their usual context for a glorious period of several weeks, the veil of grief had somehow lifted from their hearts, Ives regaining a sense of childhood wonderment about many things.  Walking about the city with a black-bound sketchbook, Ives drew madly, as he once had as a kid . . . 

Ives' trip to Great Britain does something to him.  As a kid, he used to sit for hours with his sketchbook, drawing cartoons, people, buildings.  He was obsessed with art.  Everything he saw inspired him.  He sent samples of his work to Walt Disney, and Disney himself wrote back, encouraging him to continue drawing.  That's what Ives recaptures in London.  Passion.  Curiosity.  The love of life.

I used to have the same kind of youthful passion that Ives rediscovers in London.  Everything made me want to write.  I'd read a Stephen King novel, and it made me want to write about vampires in a sleepy Upper Peninsula town.  I'd go swimming, and it made me want to write about the moon climbing over Lake Superior.  I saw the original Star Wars (before the episodes and director's cuts), and I wanted to be Isaac Asimov.  I had that much enthusiasm and drive.

I still write every day.  During the course of my 14 or 15 waking hours, I still sometimes find inspiration.  Not as often as when I was a kid, though.  Life gets in the way.  Sick kids.  Broken windows.  Car troubles.  These things tend to stifle my passion.

Right now, I'm sitting in my office at the university.  I rode with my sister to work, and I have a couple hours before I have to punch the time clock.  So, I'm typing my blog post.  I did the same thing last Wednesday.  I find my mind much clearer at this time of the day.  The worries of job and home intrude less on my thoughts.  In the space of a half hour or 45 minutes, I'm done, and I've written something that I'm not ashamed to publish.

It makes me wish I had a life that allowed me to follow this writing practice every day.  I would be able to produce so much more work.  However, rising at four every morning, writing for three hours, and then driving to the medical office to work for eight hours is not a schedule I could maintain forever.  By 8 p.m. today, I know I will be exhausted.  Falling asleep on the couch.  I don't even know how I'm going to answer phones and deal with patients for the next nine hours.

I'm not complaining.  I'm just wishing I could somehow reclaim some of my youthful enthusiasm for writing.  I feel a little too old and too tired at the moment.

Maybe Saint Marty needs to take a trip to London.  It worked for Ives.

The Open Window

by:  Louise Gluck

An elderly writer had formed the habit of writing the words THE END on a piece of paper before he began his stories, after which he would gather a stack of pages, typically thin in winter when the daylight was brief, and comparatively dense in summer when his thought became again loose and associative, expansive like the thought of a young man.  Regardless of their number, he would place these blank pages over the last, thus obscuring it.  Only then would the story come to him, chaste and refined in winter, more free in summer.  By these means, he had become an acknowledged master.

He worked by preference in a room without clocks, trusting the light to tell him when the day was finished.  In summer, he liked the window open.  How then, in summer, did the winter wind enter the room?  You are right, he cried out to the wind, this is what I have lacked, this decisiveness and abruptness, this surprise--O, if I could do this I would be a god!  And he lay on the cold floor of the study watching the wind stirring the pages, mixing the written and unwritten, the end among them.

Charles Dickens wrote Great Expectations at this desk

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