4 September 2013
I think I am all talked out today. I have written quite a long entry in my poetry blog and it has left me emotionally and mentally exhausted. So for now, this letter will be full of links that will lead you to other places.
I am thinking of making this a thing, that is, not so much as a habit but an option–something for us to fall back to if ever the day is too much for us, if ever we can’t summon the energy to write a proper letter and yet want to keep in touch still. It’s Part 2 because I think I have started it here, which I have just edited and renamed (formerly “Bits and Pieces”). Anyway–
You might like these:
• Humans Fall for Optical Illusions, But Do Cats? I thought of you and Bloom, and wonder if your cat would react in the same manner. Here are a few more illusions. And here is a TED Talk from Beau Lotto: “Optical illusions show how we see.”
• Artist Lives Without Money, Barters Portraits For Things He Needs. Ah, to be able to live like this. I wonder if that would work for poetry. I wonder if people would trade for words, and what they would give for a poem.
• Mailbooks for Good. This is simply brilliant. “When you share a book, you’re sharing more than just pages of paper and ink. You’re sharing the opportunity to learn, discover and feel cared for…Mailbooks For Good is an innovation in book publishing, which allows you to donate books directly to those who need it. When the books are finished, readers simply turn the covers inside out and the books become pre-paid and pre-addressed packages. Once posted they are sent directly to the charity for distribution to those in need.”
• The Rumpus interview with Elizabeth Scarboro and Lidia Yuknavitch. They talk about memoir writing, which is something I am interested in lately. There are so many gems here. Also I think Roxane Gay asked meaningful and important questions.
The Rumpus: Is memoir a genre we can consider critically? How do we begin to approach such a thing given that memoirs so often expose such intimate things from a person’s life?
Lidia Yuknavitch: The question you ask is puzzling. Though I consider The Chronology of Water to be an anti-memoir for very precise reasons, it is an art form, and thus as open to “critique” as any other art form. Memoir has a form, formal strategies, issues of composition and craft, style, structure, all the elements of fiction or nonfiction or painting or music or what have you.
Your question is itching at the skin of CONTENT. Memoirs have at their heart a content that “happened” to someone in real life. Is that what you are itching at in your question, so that if you are a reviewer or you are writing a critique you might feel as if you are stepping on someone’s actual face?
Lidia Yuknavitch: Fiction and poetry expose intimate things from a person’s life every bit as much as memoir does, and sometimes more. I don’t quite see or live the distinction you are making about the forms. Poetry, for example, goes so deeply into the space between corporeal affect and deep emotion (even primal in some cases) that, as Emily Dickinson said, it can blow the top of your head off. Poetic language is sometimes misunderstood as “abstract” when in reality, it’s precise—precisely the language of emotions and the body. Underneath the forms of fiction and poetry, you can bet your ass the ground comes from someone’s actual life experience.
The Rumpus: I think very carefully about how much I expose of myself in my essays because implied intimacy with strangers is difficult for me to make sense of. I don’t want people to assume they know me because they know of a few experiences I have shared from my life. I don’t want to put too much of myself out there and leave nothing for myself. At the same time, I am sharing those experiences for a reason and it feels important to talk about certain experiences that we tend to keep to ourselves. It’s all rather fraught. How did both of you, in writing your (anti-)memoirs, decide on what to include and what to leave out? How did you begin to shape the stories of your lives?
Elizabeth Scarboro: …People assume that when you’re writing a memoir, you’re making peace with spilling your guts. But it doesn’t feel like that to me. You’re definitely revealing yourself in a way you wouldn’t to an acquaintance, or in some moments, even a very close friend. But you’re in control of every aspect of the revealing.
• Speaking of memoirists, a (belated) happy birthday to Mark Doty. He writes about turning sixty: “I can’t say I am fine with the motion of time; who among us could honestly claim that? A Buddhist saint, or one who believed the best way through this world was to get it over with in favor of the next. I was appalled, a week or so later, to be hit with the bald thought that in ten years I’d be seventy. Ten years seems like no time.”
By June our brook’s run out of song and speed.
Sought for much after that, it will be found
Either to have gone groping underground
(And taken with it all the Hyla breed
That shouted in the mist a month ago,
Like ghost of sleigh bells in a ghost of snow)–
Or flourished and come up in jewelweed,
Weak foliage that is blown upon and bent,
Even against the way its waters went.
Its bed is left a faded paper sheet
Of dead leaves stuck together by the heat–
A brook to none but who remembers long.
This as is it will be seen is other far
Than with brooks taken otherwhere in song.
We love the things we love for what they are.