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Les Semaines

02.03.03

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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March Comes in Like a Lamb

Now that the days are for sure getting longer (I love that it's daylight when I leave the house to go to work in the mornings) and we've had nearly a week of sunny (yet cold) days, it's starting to feel like spring is on its way. Things are starting to bloom. The sun and the longer days help my mood a lot. So does the winding down of the last effects of that cold (four weeks? that's crazy long for a cold to be bugging me).

Finally I have energy. Energy enough to call friends and suggest doing things together. Energy enough to clear away a few things off the pile of work in my study. Energy enough to do a little writing.

The sun and light is a good thing, and is what's keeping me from depression, especially as this week Jim had to spend his time learning the job of the co-worker who is going laid off, when he already has a job that keeps him full-time busy and the new work is not exactly what he wants to be spending his time doing. And this week we hear news that yet another close friend is going to be laid off--though it's in the future still, and his supervisor wants to find another position to place him in. Still, when I hear all those constant reports that the economy is recovering blah blah blah I cry bullshit. At least not here, not yet. I'm tired of the bad news.

It's weird to be middle aged and to have this kind of uncertainty around us. I always had this picture of this time of our lives being an oasis of stability. Maybe a little too boring. Oh, maybe one of us would have a mid-life crisis and buy a red sports car or something, but I never expected for both of us to be in dead-end jobs and glad to have them, with unpleasantness all around, in an economy that sucks. Compared to so many of our friends we have nothing to complain about, but still it's very strange. We have indeed suffered from the Chinese curse about living in interesting times. But have there been any that haven't been?

So what else has happened in my world? Jim and I both got our hair cut. For me it was the first time since last June--I remember because it was right before the Clarion West workshop started. It was getting ragged and long enough to do annoying things like get caught in the waistband of my skirt when I was dressing, dangling in the water when I was washing dishes, and more often than I care to think about it, drifting into the gas flame while I was cooking--never much damage with that, but it was alarming. I had about six inches cut off from the longest part, but probably no one will notice. When your hair is as long as mine, people tend not to notice anything unless you get it cut off entirely. Anyway, it looks much tidier. And Jim's pony tail is noticeably shorter, at least if you're looking.

So the month has turned to March and so far it's coming in like a lamb, all sun, and when I go out in the sun I don't need more than a sweater to keep warm. It's as though the weather has taken pity on us in all our grey and dark short rainy days and given us this sun, as though to dare us to keep from being happy. I must admit when pulling a few weeds in the garden with the sun beating on my back I can feel the tense muscles in my shoulders starting to relax. When I go inside the house and see the cats stretched out and basking, long fur-logs of pleasure, it's hard not to feel like things are looking better.

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

Listening

Still listening to Rachel Smith's The Clearing. In fact, it's streaming over from the player in Jim's study as I type. What a lovely thing.

Oh, and I bought a couple new used cds on an outing yesterday. And Gabriel Yacoub's new U.S. album arrived and seems just as wonderful as his recent French one. This one is called The Simple Things We Said, and should be readily available in the U.S. through the regular sources. Yay. That last album was well worth ordering from France, but this is so much easier and quicker. Anyway, the new album is a re-recording of songs we knew from other albums. We're still tasting the new versions of the songs.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

David Brin's Startide Rising is one of his Uplift novels (no others of which I've read). I don't remember what prompted me to put a library hold on it and bring it home, but I did read it. It's the story of a shipload of space explorers from Earth; the crew is mostly made up of senscient dolphins but there are also a few humans aboard and irascible chimpanzee. Humans are a rather outlaw species in the Galaxy, because it isn't known who gave them sentience, though they have given it to both dolphins and chimpanzees. They're out of the loop of dominant species and the subject races they have uplifted. But this particular ship has found a fleet of dead spaceships in an overlooked corner of the galaxy and had to flee when their message to earth about their discovery was overheard. They land for urgent repairs on a metal-rich backwater planet that is supposed to be uninhabited...but it's not and the dominant races have followed them there to fight for the right to steal their secrets from them. The story kept my interest all the way through, but I never quite managed to suspend my disbelief. I find SF like this harder to believe in than magic--just something in my psychology.

Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair is an odd mix of humour, SF elements, literature, thriller, farce, you name it. There has been a lot of buzz about this book, in both the SF and the literary worlds. It's the story of an alternate near past (1985), where the Crimean war is still going on well over a century since it began, Wales is an independent republic, the Goliath corporation pretty much owns Britain, and literature is the main love of the British people, to the point of there being street fighting between Surrealists and Classicists. The story begins when LiteraTec (a branch of the SpecialOps police) Thursday Next goes after the strange and dangerous thief of the manuscripts of Martin Chuzzlewit. The main feeling for me here is of farce--I found this too self-consciously amusing to just relax into and enjoy because there were so many moments where the author was showing us all how clever he was that I found it distracting. About the only time I truly laughed was when he portrayed a live performance of Richard III where the audience interacted with it the way contemporary audiences do with late-night showings of The Rocky Picture Show. For me this novel was too clever by half--exemplified by such things as explanatory historical notes being by Millon De Floss (Mill on the Floss, get it?) and the agent assigned to controlling vampires and werewolves' last name is Stoker (like Bram Stoker, author of Dracula). Still, a lot of people are loving this. I think I just a not so into humourous novels. That's not why I read.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

Well, I finally finished a draft of that poem that I think I've been working on (mostly in my head) since November, the one that works on connecting the west coast of Scotland with the Pacific Northwest. The form I wrote it in is a kind of next step from my two-sided poems (for an example, see my poem "Paper Rock Scissors Stone Water Air," in the Alsop Review). This one has two sides but also a common center, so three columns of poetry, and it can and should be read any which way. Heh. Lots of fun to put together and my poetry workshop group thought it worked well. Yay. I would hate to be obsessed with a poem for this long and have it fall flat.

Not only that, but I revised a story this week--the alternate, earnest version of my "Cruel Sister" story. On working on this I actually quite liked this version while I'd been annoyed enough with it the last time I looked at it to go back to the one with the sarcastic voice. Hmm. Well, at the next workshop we'll see what everyone else makes of it. Strange to be following and revising two quite different version of a story, like a not-quite-twin story. They even have different titles--this one is called "The Drowned Girl".

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

October - November 1981

1261. Vagabondage [1]                            October 31, 1981

Developments in a life full of haze, my vision shaking. End of October in the dying season, soon the dead. (Everything that's lost and won when the day is done.)
     Marcesent--withering but not falling--my life, my loves. I'm getting depressed tonight before I go marauding. I'll be wild tonight. I'm planning that now.
     Hey, an interruption, the phone. A man I'm not that interested in, asking me out. A nice interruption, though. Cheering me out of that depression. Nice to be wanted and all that depression. Nice to be thought of on a Sunday night at the end of time. Drifting; vagabondage.

1262. End                            November 1, 1981

The end of a lovely day, a day spent walking along the edges of a mountain, gathering dried seed and flowers in the cuffs of my trousers. The sun and heat and the rush of cold air from the ravines, discovered like magic, like a dream.
     A dream and I'm here listening to my favourite music, remembering, musing on the dream and my friends and lovers and what living here can be. I want too much and it brightens me. And I want to be alone, and I am, joyfully, tonight, though earlier I asked for company. A day, a day to remember and keep and treasure and use in bad weather. To feel that something cannot end. To feel it already has. [2]

1263. Fuck the pedants                            November 4, 1981

Bleary, raining morning after a night of upset at myself for my own inarticulateness and inability to shape my thoughts. My inability to define why I believe poetry the highest written form [3]. I felt like I had betrayed my god and had to leave in shame. Try again, in the bleak morning:
  • historically--ritual; prayer poetry even before drama, invoking, begging, primal way of dealing with the universe
  • connection w/ spell, magic and need to reach beyond man (novel & short story discuss man) (to me) poetry is the reaching from man to infinite (Graves--"the function of poetry the religious invocation of the muse")
  • necessity to deal with language more purely, images that suggest other things, the need to define carefully, to spark that jump out of self, out of time
  • the message sent rather than the message
  • rows of lies on the way to truth--deal with sufficiencies and approximations of language, to attempt to reach, short stories and novels deal with what language can do
  • Bevis--condensation--most in smallest, impact less diversified
  • Greg--unity of language & subject matter

1264. Burning Prometheus                            November 5, 1981

Build fire
before shelter:
because I hope
I gather sticks
and learn waiting:
because I hope
they're a pyre
not foundations:

building fire
building shelter
we're the darkness
we hide from:
we are the shadows
without form
but our own form
without light:

your hand shading mine
not fire, not shelter
buildings my hope into ungathered sticks:
light behind shadow,
shadow from light:
the fire
that shelters [4]

1265. Any weather                            November 13, 1981

Try the light--it
at least
is something to walk
into. It's something
like morning or
like rain when you
taste it. When your
skin tastes it.
This light (again)
is a continual revision. Cutting
ideas down to size.
(Never add, never
build from ideas, it's
there you cannot help but go
wrong.) I couldn't resist
adding that.
But the light, yes,
that's something
central, even
in November when it's
more the rain
that burns. [5]
Mike Yates [6]: "...Any weather, and I'm full of the urge to forecast."


NOTES

1. I don't know where the term originally came from, but I know I'm I swiped it from the song by Bruce Cockburn.

2. I actually do remember this day and walking through there with a dear friend. It was magical, beautiful, and cold.

3. Yeah, this is the kind of argument I got into in graduate school. It seemed worthwhile at the time.

4. I think this is a love poem for a doomed affair.

5. This is the final poem that made it into Seven Robins. Here's how it appears there (very much the same as the first draft):

Any Weather

Try the light--it
at least
is something to walk
into. It's something
like morning or
like rain when you
taste it. When your
skin tastes it.
This weather
is a continual
revision. Cutting
ideas down to size.
I couldn't resist
adding that.
But the light, yes,
that's something
central, even
in November when it's
more the rain
that burns.

6. The poet, J. Michael Yates.

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