All Subjects Are Real

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25 January 2014
10:00 am
Dublin

T. —

We had internet this weekend, so I could have written a bit, but as you say – I enjoy being present – so these Dublin letters are all backdated. I like the idea of my letters being titled into sections someday when I’m maybe famous: the Dublin letters, the Scotland letters, the Amsterdam letters. I’m all for it. Someone tell my biographer.

I haven’t read Possession by A.S. Byatt in a long time, but part of what I really loved about that book (besides the letters, of course) is the role of the biographer, who approaches her subject like an academic, except that her subject is a real person. I guess that’s actually true of all academics and their subjects — all subjects are real. But what I really mean is that the biographer almost brings her subject back into existence. A living breathing person again, at least while the biographer choreographs the return to life. If I were — when I am an academic, what is my subject? Is it poetry, or is it something more than that as well? I’m not entirely sure.

We went to the Dublin Writers Museum today, but they didn’t come alive for me.

Thanks for your list of what I’m good at. Thanks for your support, is really what I’m saying. I feel like I’m in a translation phase. Do you ever get that? Where you say a statement, but almost immediately follow up with what I mean to say is….

*

If I Leave You Then Maybe I Won’t Have to Miss You So Much
Ali Shapiro

Lately I keep things
just to throw them away: practice,
practice. What I mean is, I’ve had enough
longing, enough of nothing
ever being enough. Look how the earth
shrugs its mountainous shoulders, how the cows don’t blink
unless there’s a fly, how the pavement quits
to dirt without warning, how the river can’t tell
itself from the rain. Since when can I not
get over anything? Just watch me go
to this town’s lone bar, which is open and chock-full
of blondes, blondes, blondes. The jukebox plays country
for free, which leaves me
with my ballast of quarters and cornered
by a woman who tells me she breaks things: horses
n’hearts. I wish she would take
my heart out back and shoot it, lame
as it is, run as it’s been
by you into the ground, but she’d rather teach me
to two-step, which it turns out
I’m born for having indecisively shuffled back and forth
through your door all these years. But from here
you’re a myth, tiny
jockey, impossible as Brooklyn,
elevators, it not being summer anymore.
Look, even the shades
are half-drawn and drooping
like eyelids, the walls
like the patrons, sloppy
and slouched. I promise I’ll love you forever
if you please just don’t make me
start now, in the brief dumb calm
of the just-fine, with this cowgirl pressing
her big stone-washed hips into mine. I want to take her home
but to someone else’s home, or perhaps just send her home
with someone else. What I mean is, I’m tired
of everything gorgeous. Of the burden
of burning. Of wondering
when. What I mean is, on some nights I miss you so much
that I never want to see you again.

*

Good morning,
M

Listening, Living, Flow

Ferocious Mingle Marcade, Dublin 2013

Ferocious Mingle Marcade, Dublin 2013

24 January 2013
8:00 am
Edinburgh — Dublin

T. —

This morning, at this time exactly, we are on a flight from Edinburgh to Dublin for the weekend (so this post is being written on Thursday night — also because I had some amazing conversations today, and I’m not ready to give them up into the past yet. Maybe this is part of the problem — if I don’t write as soon as things happen, or while I’m riding the wave of how they happened, then I feel wildly out of touch, and I can gloss over it quite easily by saying, “Yeah, Thursday was a funny one, and then I went for coffee, and then — and then –” but never really get to the meat of what happened).

So I’ll start the story by saying that on Wednesday night, my plans got de-railed. Someone once told me that I’m the type of person who does things out of habit: like sitting in the same seat, going the same way, expecting the same things to happen. Last week, Andrew told me that I’m a person who dips her toe into things before committing, or before jumping it. Which also resonates with what Rory told me this evening: that he perceives me as someone who flirts with a lot of different things, but without hitching my wagon to them completely, in case I might get disappointed. And then he scolded me for remembering everything too well (because I repeated back for him what he had said, and then, now, am writing it here) and told me that perhaps I should have been a Russian spy instead of whatever I’m doing now.

What I’m trying to say, is that it is both helpful and strange to see yourself through the eyes of other people.

I was listening to a podcast today from Buddhist Geeks, where Diane Musho Hamilton was being interviewed (episode title: Everything Is Workable), and she said that too many people are asking the questions, “What do I want? What do I want to do? What do I want to be?” when instead, they should be listening to their lives, and allowing their talents to be highlighted or shown to them, which often involves listening to what other people think you do well. I asked Rory what I do well, and he replied with a question: “What do you like to do?” which always unravels to more questions to me, and eventually ends somewhere close to the realization that I have no idea what I want from my life.

When I ask Andrew the same question: “What am I good at?” he answers: “Where do I begin?” Anywhere, I say. Editing. Manifesting (which has everything to do with knowing what you want and then getting it — sigh). Singing, acting. Writing, but creatively. Journaler (Rory also commended me on my letter writing earlier today, or instead of commending, more expressed his gladness about how many letters I write). Event organizing (really?).

What I mean to say is, I never thought I was someone who was married to plans. I have definitely been flirtatious with the future, with options and possibility. I definitely get disappointed a lot. And yet I still think I subscribe to life as an optimist. All of those things seem like they shouldn’t quite fit together, but I guess they do.

So what fell apart on Wednesday night: the Bangladesh program that I wanted to sign on for next year has been cancelled, indefinitely. No reasons, no explanation, just a confirmation when I emailed the company to ask why it was no longer on their website. I don’t know why it threw me so much, but it felt like the last straw. Although, so much has failed to work for the past few days, that there seem to be multiple ‘last straws’ going on. Multiple things going wrong, and plans changing, and all I feel like I can do is just stand still in the middle of it while everything shifts around me. Like those movies where a button gets pushed, and a magic door/stairwell is revealed, but the protagonist has to stay firmly rooted to their spot until everything is finished moving, because he doesn’t know where the walls and floor will end up.

I know it should feel like an opportunity to re-define what I want, but again, that familiar problem. Instead of feeling like a door is opening, all I can see are the plans that are getting de-railed, the many ways that the universe is redirecting me through negative confirmation: not here. This is not right. Not for right now. Don’t go this way. If I’m not supposed to go in all of these directions, then where am I being pushed, led, offered, shown? It feels like walking down a road with your eyes closed, and the only way you know is the right way is when there is no resistance. But that doesn’t tell you anything at all about where you’re actually going. Frustrating as hell, when I just want to open my eyes.

So we continue from coffee to rehearsal, but stand in the middle of the cathedral as Rory asks, When you are in the middle of doing something, are you focused on the fact that you’re doing it — like, are you continually questioning yourself and critiquing yourself in it — like, does it feel like work, or are you just in it? I wasn’t sure how to answer, but then I thought of Songs For a New World, and I thought of singing in my lessons with Natalie, and I realized that when I am the most engaged with what I am doing, there is no separation between myself and the experience, the process, the result, the action. It’s only been in the past year that I’ve gotten over the anxiety and stage fright of speaking or singing in public. One day, it just stopped. I think it was during Songs For a New World. It was just embedded in my body, and I stopped questioning myself, and I stopped running it all over and over in my head. I just lived it, and I was in it, and there was no separating me from it until it ended. Somedays I wonder why that quality isn’t really there in my work, as in, in my writing. And I also wonder why — when people ask me about my work — somehow, I never really think of my writing. Is that just a temporary glitch? Or is it a larger discussion I need to be having with myself? Or can I use singing as a case study to work out, to unpack, to question and dig deeper into that idea of engagement, that idea of absolute flow? I think maybe the answer is: yes, all of those things.

*

More on coming topics after this weekend: accents. Are they bound to identities like languages are? Are they vessels of language, or semi-languages in and of themselves? What would change if I woke up one day and only used one of my accents (say, my American one?) — how would that affect my relationships with people who only know me as British? Which one is the most natural to me? Why is there such a clear delineation between both of them? And how can they merge, or grow together more organically so that I don’t have to constantly think about them?

My Skittish Scottish Accent
Annie Boutelle

Where do you hide? Why do you leap
away mid Atlantic and parachute

down to Iceland — did someone laugh,
or curse, or put you naked on a stage?

Och, no, the world adores a burr, “r”s
tumbling out, acrobats at the circus,

rowdy, manic with energy,
charging around Ardnamurchan.

And the “ch”s at the back of the throat,
“braw bricht moonlicht nicht the nicht”

— now there’s a lullaby! My Uncle
John abandoned Caledonia, married

a lass with a creamy Devon voice,
and each year his Scots accent swelled

operatically till he outpassed the entire
clan, even the Glaswegians. You move

in contrary direction, master of camouflage,
present as soon as there’s talk of haggis

or Loch Linnhe, but somewhere else
when poets gather. Come back. I miss

you. We could be brave together, skin
flushing purple in the absence of thistles.

*

Good morning,
M

Bold and Bright

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29 June 2013
2:21pm
Dublin

T. —

I’m writing now in case there is no internet later. I’m on the bus right now between Galway and Dublin — a brand new bus, taking it’s first trip. Everything in here feels new and untouched, but every seat is packed. Someone said that there is wifi in each seat, rather than the bus as a whole.

Last night was even better than i had been expecting it to be. I read well, laughted at stories, watched as strangers spun tales, made friends with the strangers. One of the new friends invited me to Munroes after the Crane Bar, where his band was playing. He dedicated a song to me. I had a great time.

Last summer in New York City, Andrew and I went to go see an interactive play called “Sleep No More,” a contemporary version of MacBeth performed in a 5 story hotel. The audience wears masks, and can choose to follow whichever performer they want to, which often involved sprinting through dark corridors, trying to keep up with them. On the elevator up to the start of the show, a host told us: “Fortune favors the bold.” We came to realize what he meant by that: that apparent walls became curtains and portals if you looked hard enough, that nothing was as it seemed, that there might be a fludity to the boundaries between actor and audience that could be transcended if you offered the right kind of curiosity. As soon as the show finished, I was pulsing with excitement, and Andrew wanted to do it all over again.

It’s a little bit how i feel about Ireland right now. Excitement, wishing I could do it over again and change some things on my first day in Dublin, knowing what I know now. The understanding that fortune does seem to favor the bold. But I also think it’s true that the meek will inherit the earth. I just don’t agree with the usual definition of meek.

More soon. Lots more tomorrow.

Good evening,
M

Cheating

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27 June 2013
10:45 pm
Dublin

T.–

Anything i would write tonight feels like cheating. The internet is terrible, I’m exhausted. The only saving grace is finding a good bookstore and a lovely Chinese student from Edinburgh named Ellie. Apart from that, Dublin is not impressing me so far. I hope tomorrow is different. I’m sorry.

Goodnight,
M