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Les Semaines

01.10.21

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

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Another Week

A busy week. Nowadays when I look back at the end of each week the days have been so full that I can't believe that Monday and Tuesday weren't weeks rather than days ago. Monday was shopping for my student meeting and Tuesday was the annual meeting for the programs I run. The group of students was smaller than usual, but that worked well because we were better able to talk. And besides, there was hummous and sushi, and lots of it. However pleasant it was, I was happy that it was done for the year and now I can concentrate on maintaining the program and making some progress on old projects.

Nothing much otherwise of note in the working week. A couple of meetings and the usual things. Evenings trying to get organized and catch up with things and collapse after work. Saturday I went shopping with Tamar down into the depths of suburban mall-dom, though happily we never actually entered a covered mall just went to a bunch of places that are parts of big strip malls. I'd never gone to the area full of them south of Seattle before--it was a head trip in many ways, but I did make a small dent in my Christmas shopping. I'm worried about it because by the time I get back from my Ontario trip it's going to be the middle of November and I'll be running out of time for it all.

Sunday was a Clarion West board meeting, and felt to me like it marked my first full year working for the organization. It has mostly been a wonderful experience. I love the other board members--how committed they are to the workshop and how when they say they're going to do something, they actually do it. That's pretty impressive compared to what I'm used to with some other groups I've been in. They all have lots of interesting experience, all of them have gone through the workshop, and we all like working together. I hold back a little in the meetings because in many ways I'm still learning my way around and I also don't want to take on more things than I can handle and burn out.

But it's truly wonderful to enjoy doing the admissions (other than sending rejections) and the preparations for the students, and running the workshop. I love the opportunities to get to know the instructor and especially the students (I think this is because they help me relive my own Clarion experience). I think what we do is unique (other than the fact that there is a Clarion East) in providing such a lengthy and intense experience. It truly is a watershed in the lives of most people who attend it. I know I'm still feeling the impact of my time there.

But by the time I got home from the meeting (it started with a brunch with two f the board members and the meeting itself lasted from 1:00 till about 8:00 and I didn't wander out the door until 8:30, so by the time I got home I was pretty worthless. Hence this being a day late.

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

Listening

Listening to Sigur Rós' music. It's odd and dreamy and individual with odd eerie vocals but catchy tunes underneath it all.

Several new discs I haven't got my head around. Tamar got me Suzanne Vega's new disc for my birthday and I like it quite a lot--it reminds me of her earlier work and has a certain emotional intensity that I've missed from recent albums. I'm glad Tamar got me this or I might otherwise have let it slip by.

Also got Shannon Wright's new album, Dyed in the Wool is a lot like her previous one--I like it a lot but find it so downbeat as to be difficult to listen to often. Very spare and despairing.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

With every novel, Charles de Lint seems to get deeper and better and yet more light and magical at the same time. The Onion Girl isn't a light book at all, but it has wonderful moments of light. It's the story of Jilly Copperman, who has appeared in several of his Newford novels and stories previously but who only once told her own story and now we hear the whole of it. She has been hit by a car and is badly hurt: partially paralyzed, she calls herself the Broken Girl. Her friends gather around to support her, but it's not clear she truly wants to mend. She's haunted by her past and by the younger sister she left behind when she abandoned her abusive home. There are layers inside who she appears to be, and there are layers inside her sister, Raylene, too, whose history we also discover. This is a novel about deep human emotion, the kind of fundamentals that drive people through and colour their entire lives. They're the emotional patterns retold in myth and deeply powerful. Like this novel.

Molly Zero by Keith Roberts was an odd book to read, and not just because it was the first novel I've read in years that was written in second person, the author insisting he was telling my story or telling someone's story to them. I kept being pushed out of the story, and I'm not sure if the writer intended that, if I was just reacting to having me tell me I was Molly and I was doing everything the novel described, or if the novel simply had a lot of other speedbumps. It felt unrealistic to me. Was that the point or just the nature of such an arch idea and the strange feeling of second person? Anyway, I was interested enough in the ideas to finish this and I did get a little caught up in Molly's tale--brought up in the "blocks", closed worlds of school, fellow students, teachers and computers and not much else, until finally she has passed a huge number of tests and the authorities allow the men and women of that level to meet. Molly meets and is attracted to Paul, and the two of them escape to find out more about their world. It's a strange, post-semi-apocalyptic world that is rather like ours in flavour, but made up of closed enclaves. Molly moves through them, gets caught up in each, but them circumstances make her move on. In the long run the reason it is told in second person meshes with the theme of the book and the slightly disturbing/uncomfortable atmosphere of the tale but I can't decide if that rationale is enough for me.

Connie Willis' Bellwether was delightfully fast and funny. In many ways is reminds me of her new novel, Passage (see my August 5th entry for my comments on this). It's a breezy novel about a scientist studying how fads work. She's part of a large research corporation, and is bedeviled by corporate culture (forms and quality management meetings) and co-workers with various enthusiasms, especially the mail carrier who is supposed to assist everyone but causes chaos wherever she goes. A fun but also thought-provoking novel.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

Working on the novel and poem both in my head. Which is better than not at all.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

July 1980

[in which I am 21 and have a nice fresh B.A.]

1167. Half-done, but alive                           July 9, 1980

I went talking to Robin [1] yesterday to remember who I am. It seems that a reminder has been necessary lately, and I have been lost in what happens to me every summer--too much to do, too much work, too many concerns, and not enough writing. Always, after university ends there is this kind of so much, and I eventually have to go to find someone who can remind me who I am.
     It was good to talk to Robin. He is always writing so much, and involved in so many things he reminds me that this is what I should be doing, rather than resting on my shaky (!) laurels. My poems haven't gone anywhere; I haven't gone far enough yet, and resting, wasting time, is something I daren't do.
     So now I'm slightly invigorated again, ready to face some sort of challenge. A new one. Ready to get some more discipline. Or, so now I'm drifting back into lassitude, losing again.
     Summer has arrived. Even here the heat hazes and moves in blocks of light [2]. In the heat the sea hazes into the sky--it is all elemental, and indistinguishable. The air moves slowly despite the breeze, and the clouds trail into sky. The year is half done, but alive.

Sky Dark, Cloudless and Starless [3]                         July 16, 1980

i. They take lights now down to the water
It was the first day
that I found the pool deep
in the pines. It glowed, reflecting
the sky, and I broke off parts
of the surface to give to the men
as mirrors.

ii. Only we two have moved
That day darkened
so early, love, you told me that sky
had fallen, and laughed,
and we found a warm place
away from the camp,
quiet for night

iii Poured we libations unto each the dead
That night each man
looking into his mirror
saw hell
and we came too late
to lead them away.
You said Shards are luck
and filled your pockets with
ice and fire.

iv That the body of light come forth
          from the body of fire

We climbed the rock
and your pockets melted
leaving a slow trail of mirrors
behind us. Watching this
I turned to see the light of the sun
as it rose.
You said No, look. It is the sky burning.

v Dawn stands there fixed and unmoving
And it burnt for days, but with such a burning there was no night
but day following day.
You took the last of the shards
from your pocket saying
it can show me nothing more.

vi Love, gone as lightning
And it has ceased to burn.
The time is all silence
like ice or mirrors.

vii The word is made perfect
Sky is not sky, but cloud;
behind the cloud it is the blue
that blue is not--I mean
the sky is everything falling
onto the wind-honed branches of the pines.

1169. Everything in the middle                           July 19th 1980

Time has been so much of nothing, and in the midst of it, a very unexpected poem. I have not been writing because it was a duty, and I was so deep in Lessing that I couldn't see out. That poem is the result of the reading I've been doing. It is about relationships. Aha.
     I am still in the middle of everything or everything is in the middle of me. I want this miracle to occur again--to write another poem (Will "Three By Eagles" ever emerge? [4]) And I wait for the rain or the sun, either will do. (Eagles in this time are eagles flying.)
     I type out my poem with an amazing sense of unreality--as though the poem is not mine.
     It's one of those dark and silent nights--I read and type and drift (I always drift) but I do these things with a sense of anticipation. Something will happen.: it is in the air (more rain?) Will I pick some sad lines out of the air and beg in another poem? It's too warm in this room, and as I rise to open the window I find I've more energy than I thought, then the wind holds me for a second, but not long. I am falsifying everything: O hell and the rain.

1170. Ten days out                           July 20th 1980

I could be out of here in ten days. Out of this book and of whatever that has done to me, out of the places I live in. I need to be out and away.
     It is midnight, and it is always at this hour that I want most to write--when I have tried for several hours to sleep. So now I write by the light only the stereo and the streetlight. It is more than enough at this time--so who needs sleep? Bloody useless I calls it ,and I already spend os much time wasting time-so who am I turning into now?
     At least I don't divide myself in four...I write it all together--a jumble, a loss.Thinking about things I understand... My sister purposefully cutting; myself cut out of time on a night like tonight. The middle of the summer is coming.
     I am frightening of wanting anything or anyone tonight.
     I am frightened of turning some corner and confronting myself.
     Of finding I am not who I think I am.
     Of finding I have been lying to myself (it is so easy).
     In the morning I will have to find something to hold onto; at night things slip away and you sit in the light of a stereo and you write things you find don't matter at all, and you despise yourself.


NOTES

1. Robin Skelton, my poetry teacher for my B.A. and my mentor. Who died several years ago. I still miss him. His birthday was last week.

2. Harold talks about this in one of the poems in his first book, Winter.

3. This is substantially how the poem appears in Seven Robins.

4. It did.

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