Saturday, June 20, 2009

On a night like this

San Diego happens to have a wonderful Jazz/Blues station, if you ever want to listen.

A friend in the office (a fellow master of the fine art) and I seem to have a joke we bring up over and over about reading each other's work, only the joke is that we say things like "I just wrote this like, 5 minutes ago. I really think you should read it. I know I just wrote it, but it's really good." When we do this, we're being snobs. We're making fun of people who press their work on other people like that all of the time. We're also, hopefully most of the time, getting into our own processes, and trying to look at context.

This evening, I'm about 9 months behind my notebook. That is to say, I'm only reading what I jotted down back last September, and typewriting it. It'll take another few months before those typewritten lines are read again and put into a file into the computer. So, it seems, a single poem takes about a year to get from my head into something that looks like a "poem." I've come to do this partially because I'm in no hurry, but also because I like to forget. That's a different meditation--in this case, I mean I like to forget the context the original stuff in the notebook was written down in. Because I can't remember what was in my conscious mind when I read the words, they are allowed to have their own context, which seems truer than my perceptions at the time they came.

Better poems come from forgetting. As it happens, I have no ownership over any moments or events. And my ability to witness is limited--my mind moment for moment is silly and distracted.

A different co-worker found a few poems online, and asked, "What were you thinking when you wrote this?"

"I don't know."

And how could we know? What do we know while in the process of creating? It seems to be a process of listening, and it takes longer to hear than it does to have a child. Ain't that something?

From Randell Jarrell's uncollected poems:

The Forsaken Girl
(after Eduard Mörike)

Ere the cock has crowed,
The least star dwindled,
I knell here at the hearth
Till the fire has kindled.

The warm light is beautiful,
The flames soar eagerly.
I stare unseeing
Sunk in my misery.

All at once I remember:
The whole night through,
Dear one, wicked one,
I have dreamed of you.

As I remember,
The tears come one by one.
So the day begins--
If only it were done!



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