Les Semaines

June 24, 2007

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: old journal

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First Week of Clarion West 2007

Lord, this is late. I feel like time evaporates from between my fingers. It was a busy week, getting the workshop working. Lots of little, time-eating, complicated details to take care of.

The students are all settled in. Nancy Kress is a terrific first-week teacher, giving them both the basics and pushing them to push themselves farther. She's an insightful critic, and very sharp with it. Kind, but doesn't pull any punches. I think she gave the class a great start. And the story she read at her reading on Tuesday night, soon to come out in Asimov's, was vivid and powerful. Wow.

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

Listening

Efterklang is full of sounds to turn your head.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Nalo Hopkinson's The New Moon's Arms is the story of a touchy but fascinating woman who discovers that magic is returning to her life as she unhappily begins menopause and loses her father. Then she finds a strange, bruised child on the shore. Oh, and meets a man or two. This is a delightful story, set in the Caribbean, and both it and the characters came utterly alive for me.

Clare Clark's historical novel, The Nature of Monsters, starts powerfully with a naive and selfish daughter of the local wisewoman falling in love with a nobleman's son. When she finds herself pregnant and shipped off to London to be a maid in an apothecary's house she expects that he'll help rid her of the child. Instead, he has suffered all his life from a disfiguring birthmark, and he is opium addicted and obsessed with the idea that pregnant women's weakness and fears cause such disfigurations. He is anxious for the scientific recognition of his theory and so he embarks on a course to terrify the girl wih dogs to cause her child to be disfigured. A strange, strange novel and hard to empathize with, even though the girl does eventually grow up.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

My message to my Write-a-thon sponsors:

Sorry this message is so late. It was a hard week, and I have to admit that I struggled with the writing a lot.

For my eight hours of fiction writing I'm re-introducing myself to the novel I began in 2005, by reading it and tweaking it as I read. That hasn't been so very hard, though I do confess to having to fight napping as I worked. I really do need to get more sleep. The good news is that I do still like the novel and the characters and their situation, and the best news is that the main character's voice (it's a first-person novel) feels alive to me, so excited and happy about that and enjoying getting re-immersed in her story.

My big difficulty this week was getting the first draft of the poem out. It's one I've been thinking about for a few weeks and I kept trying and failing to start. In fact, the last poem I wrote before this was to avoid writing this one, or at least it was written when I couldn't manage to get this one started.

As the week ran out and the poem had only accumulated a couple of lines, I decided my only hope was to sit down and just make myself do it, so I did. At 1:00 Sunday morning (yes an hour late) I finished the first draft. It's five pages, which explains some of the difficulty and why it took me so long, but half of that isn't mine: it's a mixup of a poem meshing my words with the Scottish ballad about True Thomas, a man supposedly taken away by the queen of fairies. She takes him to elfland, where he must stay silent seven years. His reward for doing so is being able to go back to the human world, oh, and he has the gift (?) of speaking true.

So at least I did finish it--even if it was an hour late. It was still Sunday night somewhere not very far away, right? Maybe the westernmost tip of the Aleutians?

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

1648. Loving the Green Man
September 13, 1992

for Bette

Vine flow pour smile from the corners of his grim
mouth, their fluid beauty a story,
a trail of leaves like breadcrumbs
untouched eyed by birds or and wind, but
for this one moment perfect, still.
Smooth face, deep eyes looking out, out, over
our heads, though us, his

cheeks round as the haunch
of a deer His eyes loook bloankly out at the tangle around us.
The wines speak
for him an agony of symmetrical
voices tamed on his either side,
a tangle twist of waves and spreading branches
and his face in the center. What he dreams
he sees. Carved in wood, in stone
his face changes from one church
to the next, to the fireplace in the Little Dean Hall.
And it's the forest that was, the
man in branches, green and beating
all over these hills. He sees
what he once was. Through us.
The taste of wildness taste that rises
that into our mouths that we must
speak. his clear & bitter voice on our tongues,
bitter and true,
We're off listening to the wind
of what he needed to say. [1]

1649. The cairn by the Road

The sheep on the green mountain.
The Empty road. Owen's grey wind
on the hills of where we are. That wind
shears the sheeps sharper than
any electric clippers a man
could use. Some walk on.
Some sit in hollows chewing
the pale grass. It's a land
of stone enough to make anyone
build a castle, there, on the
next rise above the forst the
sheep cross like peblles drifting
from a builder's hand. Out over
the distance we're in awe of
that is only sky. [2]

Notes:
1. This is the essential part of the poem that appeared in Blood Memory.
2. This poem, much revised and added to, is part of the Scotland travelogue manuscript I'm currently completing.

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