Jeez. First Creeley, now Bellow and Conroy. It's a bad month for writers.
Here's the Iowa City newspaper's Conroy obit.
I used to think "ugh, Iowa, who would want to go there, that program is mean." Then I went to the Iowa Summer Writing Festival a few times -- which is, I know, a completely different animal from the Workshop, but it gave me the opportunity to talk to a lot of people affiliated with the Workshop & several of its recent grads. And for all its faults, I think programs like that instill in one the understanding that writing MATTERS. Doing the work matters. Doing it as well as you can matters. It matters enough to hurt.
I came real close to applying to Iowa (& other programs as well, of course) then, around 1992 or so ... probably would not have been accepted, but who knows. Who knows how different my life would have been.
Anyway. Met up with Jenni yesterday evening at the Runcible Spoon; we talked poetry and blogging and read each other's chapbook mss. Didn't do any in-depth critique or anything, but it felt really good to talk about putting together a chapbook with someone else who's actively working on one -- my poetry-group colleagues aren't doing anything of the sort. Jenni's fun to chat with, opinionated (that's a good thing), and she's got some terrific poems in her manuscript. And it's always so good to spend time talking poetry with someone who cares passionately about it.
It matters, this poetry stuff. Not the po-biz of it, not the networking (though I find that fun sometimes, getting to know people and making small talk and everything), not the publishing -- publishing matters in the sense that it's one way of trying to chisel out a lasting space for your work, but that's a different kind of mattering. It's the poetry itself that really matters, both the process of writing it (and the learning/understanding process that goes along with the writing) and the poems that result.
That's why I feel so frustrated when I'm not writing well, when I'm not able to devote to it the kind of time I think it would take to become the best poet I could possibly become, when I can't figure out how to get better. Because it matters so much, and I don't want to give it half-assed attention. This isn't a hobby. It's a life.
I need to win the fucking lottery. Don't we all. *heh*