Saturday, October 19, 2019

We spent most of the day north of the city, at the Chicago Botanic Garden, glorious and fading in its October mantle. I got to ride on one of those double-decker commuter trains, which made me happy as I am a hick who has never been on one before. Afterward we went back to the same comfortable bar we were at the evening before, where we listened to Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and ate, of all things, tater tots, which are a strangely compelling poison.

Today: the ballet. And then tomorrow: the airport at 4:30 a.m.

Friday, October 18, 2019

I left our house at 5:15 a.m., in the midst of a cyclone. Tom had to drag downed trees out of the road to get me to the bus station. Needless to say, I was terrified of this trip. However, the bus driver managed to calmly pilot us to Boston, where the wind had died down considerably. My flight wasn't delayed at all. And now here I am in Chicago.

Yesterday we walked all over the neighborhood, went to a used bookstore (I bought Murdoch and Descartes), drank beers at a beautiful dingy bar with a Merle Haggard soundtrack, ate cactus tacos from the church food truck, and fell asleep watching The A-Team. A fine day with a fine son.

Today: botanical gardens and double-decker trains and who knows what else.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Well, I did it: I finished that editing project, meaning I can leave for Chicago with a semi-clean work conscience. Picture me catching an early, early bus to Boston, in the black and pouring rain, and fretting that the storm will be messing with my flight. Whatever the case turns out to be, you'll hear from me only intermittently for the next few days. Let's hope it's not during a 24-hour stint in an airport lounge.

Today: an olio of desk, house, and packing chores. But for now: black coffee, grey couch, the rumble of a furnace, the squeal and hum of a passing train.

I have not spoken of current events here lately, other than my own. But I am horrified about the Kurds, so much so that I can barely frame words to speak of them. Our so-called president is a stupid, lying, vicious, impulsive bootlicker with a thug-crush and a maggot soul. Not one of these epithets is an exaggeration. America cannot go on like this.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

My white geranium is blooming bravely at the window. It's been an outside plant all summer, and I'm hoping I can keep it alive in the house over the winter. I get so lonely for flowers during the off-season. Meanwhile, the outside flowers just keep blooming. No frost yet, so dahlias and cosmos and marigolds continue to riot in the front yard. Here in the little seaside city, summer is refusing to wave good-bye.

In two days I fly to Chicago, and till then editing has me by the throat. Still, there's a chance I might get this manuscript done before I leave. I think my plans for next week's Monson class are mostly set (a Jane Austen-based writing exercise; a Natalie Diaz/Kerrin McCadden-based writing exercise; and, I hope, a guest poet visiting the class).

I've been imagining that I'll write a bit while I'm in Chicago, but I know that isn't likely. What I'll actually be doing is loping around the city with my dear boy, and that will feel like the best thing in the world. I bet I won't even think about poems.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Island weather. The cat steps out the back door and vanishes into cloud. In this still-black morning the fog is nearly invisible, except where headlights and window-lamps quiver like bog-beacons.

I have a good housewife feeling this morning because I got all of the things done yesterday that I meant to do. I cleaned out dresser drawers and closets, I planted bulbs, and I put away the outside furniture. I made an apple pie and froze a batch of endive and roasted a chicken. I updated my resume and cleaned up the pages on this blog. Meanwhile, Tom installed a new dryer vent, tore out a bunch of strange old wiring (at least two generations of ancient landlines, plus other mysteriousness), put up  basement clothesline, and filled my car tires with air. All if this sounds dull on the page, but in fact it makes me feel accomplished and orderly and ready to turn my attention to desk work.

Today will be a regular work day for both of us: no holiday in this household. I'll be editing and working on my Monson syllabus, and then running errands in the afternoon. My Thursday trip to Chicago is looming, and I'm anxious to get this project off my desk before I leave . . . though I fear I may be editing on buses and in airports. Ugh.

I think I forgot to mention that, on Saturday, Tom and I watched The Heiress, a late-40s film starring Olivia de Haviland and Montgomery Clift, and based on Henry James's Washington Square. It was compelling, and I can't stop thinking about it and wishing I could read the novel. I don't own it, however, so instead I've started rereading James's The Ambassadors. It's been a long time since I've been in a Henry James mood, and I'm glad he came around again.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

On the weekend of November 1-3, I'll be leading a poetry workshop at the arts center 26 Split Rock Cove in Thomaston, Maine. The title of the workshop is "New England Bards: Discovering Voice, Discovering Place," and it will center around work by the poets Jane Kenyon and Hayden Carruth, which we'll use to jumpstart our own conversations, writing, and revision.

The cost with lodging is $475, $325 without, and the workshop is limited to 10 participants. Events will begin Friday evening at 5 pm and continue through lunch on Sunday.

Included in the weekend are two classes and two revision workshops, as well as plenty of writing time and group sharing. Friday dinner, Saturday and Sunday breakfasts and lunches are included in the price. For a more detailed schedule, please contact or call 207-596-7624.

Thomaston is a beautiful coastal town, late fall in Maine is stern and glorious, and it would be such a treat to spend a weekend with you.

* * *

Today I'll be planting tulip, alium, and daffodil bulbs; reorganizing closets and drawers; roasting a chicken; maybe going bike shopping. But this is what I did yesterday.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

[H]e laid on the table a new publication--a poem: one of those genuine productions so often vouchsafed to the fortunate public of those days--the golden age of modern literature. Alas! the readers of our era are less favored. But, courage! I will not pause to accuse or repine. I know poetry is not dead, nor genius lost; nor has Mammon gained power over either, to bind or slay: they will both assert their existence, their presence, their liberty and strength again one day. Powerful angels, safe in heaven! they smile when sordid souls triumph, and feeble ones weep over their destruction. Poetry destroyed? Genius banished? No! Mediocrity, no: do not let envy prompt you to the thought. No; they not only live, but reign, and redeem: and without their divine influence spread everywhere you would be in hell--the hell of your own meanness.

* * *

It was windy and rainy in the night, but not unduly. This morning, the streets are streaked with wet leaves. A steady, lingering breeze ripples among the maples, taps the bright dahlias, skids twigs along the sidewalk. Passing dogs pause to lift their noses. An airplane coasts upward, invisible behind cloud.

I'm thinking about the staunchness of time, the mutability of space, the evanescence of ambition, the rigors of love . . . but not in any Great Man sort of way. Despite the bigness of the words, the sensations are modest, even meek. I bow my head to them, let them take charge of the story. I sweep the kitchen and fold the shirts. I don't know what else to do, or how else to do it.

That Bronte passage I just quoted:  Yes! I want to say. But also, What are you really telling me?