Tuesday, September 05, 2006

to play with venomous beasts

Watching Rock Star: Supernova on TV and reflecting on why I, your basic frumpy middle-aged librarian type, love loud rock & roll so much. I love that intensity, the sense of skating on the edge. Maybe because I've fairly effectively banished that kind of hair-pulling, fist-clenching angst from my own life. And thank goodness for that.

I like that "live or die right here in this moment" intensity in some sports, too. Tennis. I love how psychologically intense a hotly contested tennis match can be. Win or lose, live or die by the half-inch that fuzzy ball falls inside or outside of the painted line. Watching Richard Gasquet late last night, cramping terribly, using everything in his body and his will to somehow rocket the impossible passing shot, saving match point against Lleyton Hewitt (who ended up winning anyway, but nevermind that). Watching Andre Agassi say goodbye, at once completely spent and completely full.

I don't really understand the need to put oneself in physical danger, to play with venomous beasts, et cetera. But I guess sometimes writing poems can put the poet in emotional danger that is just as dire in its own way. I've written poems that have left me feeling wrecked for days. I've written poems that have pissed other people off. I'm sure I'll do both of those again.

Ideally: a balanced, comfortable, sane life, with the need for "live or die in this moment" intensity channeled into poetry. I have no patience with romantic angst or manufactured crisis mode. There's time enough for crisis when it happens despite our best effort. People leave us, people die -- isn't that crisis enough?

What I do like: working at the reference desk. I've always been someone who likes having answers, being a know-it-all. It's actually kind of dangerous to reward someone like me for being a know-it-all. *grin* I love it when I help someone find the information they are looking for, or when I help them understand how something works, or when I help them feel okay about the process of discovery they need to go through to get from here to there. When the interaction ends with them saying "you've been REALLY helpful!" with a note of surprise in their voice, like they're not used to anyone being quite that helpful, like they'd almost forgotten what "good customer service" was like. I love surprising them like that. They get a little bit confused by it sometimes, like there must be a catch to it. I love that.

It doesn't always go that well, of course. It's not like that even once a day. But when it is, it makes it all worthwhile.

I still intend to make that fresh start, spending 90 minutes a day at my desk reading and writing (and maybe I'll count submitting as a part of that -- I haven't decided yet -- what do you guys think? does the submitting process count as part of writing, or is it a separate thing?) but I've decided that, as wiped-out as I've been from work, it's okay if I wait to start until next week. After the US Open is over and there's no more tennis to veg out in front of. I don't have to keep the same semester schedule as the university just because I work there. After all, I'm not going to stop writing for three weeks over Christmas, either. This new job takes more out of me than I'm used to, and it's OK that I need some time to acclimate.

I need to start thinking about (and seriously getting publicity out for) the Five Women Poets reading at the end of the month. I've got a couple of poems I'd like to read then but which need revising first.

* * * * * * * * * *

Steve Irwin to a charging elephant seal: "You're a naughty boy! You can't catch me, I'm a land mammal!"

(I'm not kidding. That was on an episode I'd recorded and just watched tonight, about Antarctica.)

On that note, adieu for now.


Garbo said...

Hi Anne, I hope the new productive schedule plan works. I heard on the radio today that Mike Tyson feels that he's wasted his life. That's a feeling I never want to have.

My daughter, who's ten years old, has just caught on to the idea that it's the starting, not the doing, which is hard. Once she's actually in her gymnastics leotard and on the gym floor, she loves it. Once she's in the fifth grade classroom, putting away her backpack and saying hi to Prince, the class toad, she's happy.

I think a lot of the problem of starting is that it's hard to be the optimistic nerd. Most people are slouching around cynically, acting like nothing's important and they don't care. So I'm like the goofy one alone on the dance floor before the cool crowd's ready to boogie. I sit down and click my pen while I figure out where I left off writing last time, and then I make a scribbled note and I'm committed.

A huge part of the starting process for me was having a decent space to work in. I've tried various spots around the house, but finally settled on a portable craft table which adjusts to different heights on criss-cross legs like an ironing board. I put my writing stuff -- notes, current draft, reference books, pens -- in a big plastic buckety thing that I think knitters carry their yarn skeins in. So I can find the cleanest, least crazy place in the house, set up the craft table, bring over a chair and the plastic bucket, and a big tumbler of iced tea, and I'm ready to write. Oh, and the cable TV company has all these music channels so I can put on nonstop bluegrass, jazz, big band, classic rock, etc.

Of course as soon as I sit down, I think of how my feet are chilly and I need socks, or my teeth feel scuzzy and I want to go use my toothbrush, or my iced tea's not sweet enough. But I try to remember that Alexander Solzenitzen wrote on toilet paper while imprisoned in a gulag. That helps.

This comment has become so long that I will turn it into a post on my blog, and how convenient for me! Thanks for getting me going this afternoon, Anne.

Lyle Daggett said...

The habit (I guess is the word) that seems to have been the most helpful over the years with helping me to keep writing is that I carry my poem writing notebooks everywhere. At home they're always sitting open next to me, either to a poem in progress or to a blank page. At work I'm not really able to write while I'm doing job things, but I keep the notebooks in my backpack under my desk, and pull them out during breaks, lunch, etc. When I'm out in the world, visiting friends, riding the bus, I either have them in my backpack or they're sitting open in front of me or beside me.

Having them there all the time acts as a constant subtle pull, that makes me think constantly about writing, even if (sometimes) just at the back of my mind. I'm always working on poems at some level.

The actual physical setting, other than basic obvious limits (I can't write outside in the rain because the ink runs and the paper gets mushy, etc.), doesn't seem to matter much. I can generally write almost anywhere.

I carry two pems in my shirt pocket, so if one of them runs out of ink I don't have to go digging for another one. (A simple idea I got from Vladimir Mayakovsky's "How To Make Verse.")

Lyle Daggett said...

Typo -- that should be "I carry two pens..." (not pems, whatever they are...)