Les Semaines


what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout


Five Wits

Going back to work hurts. At least getting up at 6:00 when you're used to working till 3:00 am does. My body hates me for this and tells me I'm jetlagged. It felt like a busy week, probably because I'm adjusting to how much time disappears in the going-to-work, work, coming-home-from-work arc. And I'm still trying to get things done (meaning mostly writing, but also continuing on the office organization, the reading tour organizing, the paperwork accomplishing). And am still getting them done, by god. By hook or by crook. Or by starving myself of sleep, mostly.

I am starved of sleep, and am drifting off at inappropriate times, though I'm wide awake when I should be going to bed. Which means I can write then and that's a Good Thing but how I feel in the morning isn't. I'm grateful, so grateful that Jim is making me mochas again each morning. For a while last year he was only doing it once during the work week because I was trying not to become a total caffeine addict (and the chocolate I need to have to make coffee palatable isn't something I truly want to have every day) but dammit, I need it now, and I'm grateful.

Work is still work, and has changed not at all. I feel I have changed some over this summer. Maybe it's just that working for Clarion West spoiled me: working for something I was really engaged in, wasn't 12 years weary of, even though it was a lot of hard busy stressful work spoiled me. It's always hard to go back to work but this year perhaps more than ever. It doesn't help that I no longer have the UW Bulletin Board to sustain me. I've realized that without it I don't get any more done, but I do get more antsy and bored. I think BB was my pacifier. Alas, it's dead. Deader than a doornail. Deader than a dead parrot. And the alternatives just don't cut it.

My fiction writing workshop went to Portland, Oregon this weekend to meet. We have two and a half members from Portland (the half in one member who is in Portland so often he might as well live there but he does have an official residence here in Seattle). So we drove down Saturday afternoon, attended a book launch party for one of our members whose first novel, and young adult novel, has just been published (check out Sara Ryan's Empress of the World, which was critiqued by our group but before I joined it), then we hung out in our hotel rooms and talked, got up and has breakfast, then had the critique session at our friends' house, then drove home. All in all, it felt like we spent very little time in Portland as hotel and sleeping and driving doesn't count. Hotel time especially, as there have very little to do with place. But it was good to see Portland again. The area our friends live in is wonderful. The old school, The Kennedy School, where the book launch party was held was an especially wonderful place. All one level, old chalkboard that slid up with the cloakrooms behind, nice decorated, huge old school windows. Just lovely.

But the trip didn't do my sleep deficit any good.

My Forgotten English daily calendar for September third told me there are five wits: common wit, imagination, fantasy, estimation and memory. I have some of all but the last. It's interesting to think of these abstract terms and the differences between them. Between imagination and fantasy. Estimation and common wit. And memory. Memory, hah!

Especially on a sleep deficit. I hope it doesn't rob me of the powers of them all. I need all five of these wits for my writing. Perhaps my problem is that working for Clarion exercises these wits again, rather than relying on sheer dogged get-this-done-once-again-for-another-yearness that work seems to be mostly built of these days. Maybe I just need the students to start showing up again. This is the dead time of the year, the paperwork and preparation time of the year rather than the year itself.

I guess I should just be taking advantage of the quietness while it lasts. I am getting a lot of catch-up and preparation paperwork accomplished. And I can save my wits for writing. All five.

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing


Re-listened to the oeuvre of The Moon Seven Times, which I haven't done in quite a while. It was funny how much of the discs struck me anew rather than reminding me of themselves--I guess it really had been that long since I'd really listened to them rather than playing them in the background of other events. I still especially love Henry Frayne's guitar style--I find it so evocative. I really wish the band were still in existence, or that he was playing again in a similar band. Oh well, apparently there will shortly be a new album by his instrumental project, Lanterna.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Freda Warrington's The Obsidian Tower is the conclusion to her epic fantasy Jewelfire Trilogy (discussed The Amber Citadel in my April 16, 2000 entry and The Sapphire Throne in my June 4, 2000 entry). I found the conclusion eventful and full of interesting ideas and the participants in the struggle were rewardingly complicated. I would say overall that this was one of the best, most original, and most mature of these epic world-at-risk fantasies I've read. My only quibble with this one is something I don't recall noticing in the previous volumes: the characters all repeatedly used contemporary phrasings and slang that just felt dated and tied to this world to me and it threw me out of the story whenever it happened and so I became even more aware of it, which made me notice even the slightest examples of it. Finally, toward the end of the story I got so caught up in it that I stopped noticing (or it stopped happening, I haven't gone back to check)

last week's reading § next week's reading


I've been working hard on not utterly losing momentum, trying to write at least a little bit each day so I don't lose touch with the story and also so I feel the forward motion continuing. Inertia not yet winning. I fear so much the moment it stops I'll be lost and won't be able to pick this up again until next summer. That would be gruesomely painful. Even more painful than not getting enough sleep? We'll see; we'll see. In the meantime, my characters continue to surprise me. Which is a good thing. I keep going "of course that's what happens next--that's exactly what s/he would do."

It has been really funny not really knowing what was going to happen but just writing the steps forward and figuring them out as I went along. The next thing that has happened has always been the logical thing. I'd be all worried about it and then realize of course what would happen next. It's funny how my characters have surprised me a couple of times--stuff I never thought would happen, has, and it has all made sense (I think so now, at least).

For years I've been trying to figure out what happens at the exact climax and this week I quietly realized what the antagonist was going to do to precipitate the protagonist's crisis. And it all makes sense (again, maybe only to me, but...).

You would think that with all the tossing around of stuff and all the time I've spent chewing on the question I'd have more worries or the revelation would have been a bigger surprise to me, but it just was of course.

It has been pretty satisfying. I know I have a lot of revising to do later, especially to punch up the background and characters, but I think the plot is working. I hope so.

Of course, I still have to finish it.

For now, I'm still moving forward, but I don't know how long this will last. I already find myself at 10:30 whining things like "I don't want to write tonight. I want to sleeeeep. I want my novel to write itself."

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

March 1980

1140. Here in the dark                                         March 10th 1980 (3 am)

I wonder how many hours I can waste here, alone, pretending to be someone I am not. The candle flickers and makes this seem like the inconstant light of an old movie. But if this was one, surely someone would enter at this moment. No one enters. There is only the cat scratching at odd corners, hoping that I will let him out.
     The record ends, but the candle burns on, flickering in some strange code, resting and flickering again. I pretend that I have green eyes, and that I am a woman a man could love.
     Somehow I am always someone I don't want to be. Tonight I lay the young girl, dreaming of living (next I will play n old woman, dreaming of dying). Whoever I am there is always dreaming, and a lost sense of time--or a sense of lost time. And solitude. I live in a world of islands and every one of them is isolated. My hand shakes and my eyes are still blue, and tired, but I don't want to sleep--I don't want to five in to the dream of living, or dying.
     This is the place halfway between, where the candle can't decide whether to burn, or die, and so the self doesn't have to make a decision. In the daytime or in the night, or in the light burning in the night--of all three I am the last, an indecisive candle, burning and dying all at once.

1141. After a Long Silence                                         March 19, 1980

I lose myself in the March forest,
weary now, aching in my bones.
The month won't end, I won't find
my way through it. Harold writes
and writes and I have nothing to
say. My writing crumbles. My bones
crumble. I keep wondering where the light
is coming from.

The poem won't even approach, only the silence will, and does. The poem isn't coy, it simply has a better place to go than to be with me. (Excuse me, I'm heading south.) My, I'm heading for Avalon, the trees bend before me. (Is the only human emotion despair? Are there no excuses?) Silence tapes me on the shoulder, and I read his lips, he says (Where have you come from? Where are you going? Why do you persist in all this talking?) I talk because I have nothing to say.
     I will have more to say, I want the poem to come back, or better still, not to go (I catch at his coattail going out the door). It whispers over its right shoulder (I won't be back--Nor, sir, will I). And where will I go? Wherever he's been. What will I find there? Bits of his coattail, his collar, a sleeve, the shoulder of silence blocking the door...how will I leave? How the cloud does, slipping away before even silence notices, he will be too busy looking for the shape of me [1].

1142. How I'll Never Get Out                                         March 20, 1980

It's amazing now how we have taken a bow but the stage follows us. How we never walk out of a room but the doorway follows us to the next room. Amazing that it's the same doorway. Amazing that I am through.
     The door to the hall is open, my light gets through to the dark hall. Windows are closed but always open. There are cats in the dark outside, and there are forests there.
     I can light a candle for my theatrics I can as quickly blow the flame away. I will blow the flame deep into the labyrinth, set a spark onto the end of his tail and hear him bellow for miles and years.
     I can blow it all anywhere, call me Flame-tosser.
     I will look out into the hall, and see only a reflection of my own light from my room, it's like walking through the maze and finding the passage isn't the passage out, it is only the passage farther in, they are all only passages farther in, and the wind has taken the flame from your candle for you. [2]

1143. Surely this is not the end

It's the small, small hours of the morning and rather these are the small hours and I'm bone-weary but mind awake, and I've lost myself, but this surely is not that end. There is some key still to be found. What can I make of it? What can I do?
     You see, I'm asking questions, and that surely is a good sign. A sign, a sign. I am tangling myself into self-fulfilling prophecies, those that hold themselves and asking nothing of no one. They miss out so much. Am I the same? Do I ask too little of people, am too much to myself? I prefer to live on poetry and dreams. There are too many pairs of eyes out there with nothing behind them, images leading nowhere, and the frightening reflection of yourself in those eyes makes you check your heart for beating. I remember when I slept nights, and didn't ramble, and never got lost, and so never found anything. I thought I was very wise. I still think that.
     I will find a poem that will not resist falling in love. The rest doesn't matter. It will follow me...I am thinking of travelling, and I will waken ad say it has been enough, i will walk again, mind weary and bone tired, growing moss for slippers on my feet.

1144. Language and air

Have I come to the end of this journey? That surely must be the palm at the end of the mind saying stop [3] (sleep and heal yourself). I'd rather cut myself more. I am willing to bleed deeper. To cut an artery and have life spurt from me. It's only language, my blood.
     It's only my blood, and when it meets the air it coagulates, is a poem. That poem must either be the last and stop the flow forever from that particular wound, or I must peel it off and let the words keep flowing whether it weakens me or not, or whether I never heal.


1. This fantasia turned into a poem in Seven Robins, which now goes like this:

After A Long Silence

I lose myself in this March forest,
weary now, aching for sleep.

The month won't end, I won't find
my way through it. My bones crumble.

My writing crumbles. I keep wondering
where the light is coming from.

Words won't approach, only the silence
will and does. The words have a better place.


I'm walking south.
The trees bend before me.

Silence taps me on the shoulder,
and I turn to read his lips:

Where have you come from?
Where are you going?

I talk because I have
nothing to say.


I will have more to say.
The words will return.

Or better still, I will catch
the poem going past a fir.

And where will I go?
Wherever he's been.

What will I fine there?
Bits of his coat tail,

his collar, a sleeve, silence
blocking my path.

How can I get past him? Only how
the month does.

I will slip away while he's busy
looking for the shape of me.

2. This second fantasia turned into the final poem in Seven Robins, which now goes like this:

How I'll Never Get Out

It's amazing how we never walk from a room
but the doorway follows us to the next.

Amazing that it's the same doorway.
Amazing that I am through.

Still more that the word is a maze,
no, a labyrinth, the minotaur (its meaning)

tears at everything
moving down the corridor.

The door to the hall is open,
my light gets through to the dark hall.

There are cats in the dark outside.
There are forests there.

I can light a candle with my words.
I can as quickly blow the flame away.

I blow the flame deep into the labyrinth,
set a spark onto the end of the bull's tail,

here him bel[l]ow for miles and years.
I look out into the hall,

and see only a reflection of my own light;
it's like walking through the labyrinth

and finding the passage isn't the passage out,
it is only the passage farther in;

they are all only passages farther in
and the wind has blown

the flame from our candles.

3. From a poem by that title by Wallace Stevens.

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