A Still Center

Solitude Standing by Philip McKay

Solitude Standing by Philip McKay

15 October 2013
10:39 pm

T. —

I’m here. I wish I had more to offer, but at least I can give you my presence.

I was going to write you a longer letter tonight, but my back is aching, and then I opened up Stephen Elliot’s email called “mornings” which is just pretty much the perfect thing I wish I had written. So, here you are:

Last week we ran an essay about male reviewers of Mary Gaitskill. Mary Gaitskill wrote us a response to the essay which we’re going to publish in The Weekly Rumpus tomorrow, and then on the site.

Melissa Febos- On Loving And Leaving New York: Home.

The Rumpus Review of Gravity.

All Over Coffee #654. I always love these. I was thinking about All Over Coffee yesterday, and then this morning. Like, if you just practice every day doesn’t the art just come? There was that thing about luck and sand traps and Jack Nicklaus. He said the more he practiced the luckier he got, or something like that. And then there’s the whole 10,000 hours thing, which I tend to believe. I believe just about everything in Outliers, though I can’t say the same about David And Goliath, Malcolm Galdwell’s new book. David And Goliath is about exceptions, and Gladwell once told me, You can’t learn anything from exceptions. Exceptions are just interesting stories.

But I know Paul. He’s a working artist. I don’t know many writers like that. I know some. Most of the writers I know are poets, even if they’re not writing poetry. It was Allen Ginsburg’s description, as played by James Franco in Howl, probably Franco’s best performance other than Spring Breakers. He was reading direct from a Ginsburg transcript. Ginsburg told his therapist, I don’t want to go to work in an office. I just want to lay on the couch and stare at the ceiling. And since then that’s what I’ve thought about being a poet.

That’s why poets don’t write for television.

Nick told me poets only write poetry for an hour a day. If they spend that hour doing something else they miss it. They end up writing manifestos, he said. Poets write great manifestos.

Paul just cranks it out, and his art gets better and better, changing, evolving. The poet has to put in the time too, but it’s a different kind of time, and there’s less to account for it, usually.

I want to be the kind of artist that goes to work, but I’m usually the kind that lays on the couch.




10,000 hours. Or even an hour a day. God, I wish I had the stomach for an hour a day. It would feel nicer to know the poetry would come. What am I doing, if not working towards this? Why do I keep backing away from it?

I hope everyone is still safe. I’ll hold a still center here tonight for you.



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