Saturday, January 19, 2019

In surprising news, I slept till almost 7 this morning, despite the importunities of the cat. Now here I sit, unwontedly late, watching the weak sunlight filter in through the living-room windows. The sky is grim; we are bound for weather. But we've got ingredients for chicken cacciatore, blueberry-orange cake, omelets, salads. We have plenty of toilet paper and red wine and dry firewood. My snowshoes are itching for a walk.

Today, though, will be mostly just grey and portentous, so we're going on a little crosstown field trip to Westbrook see the famous spinning ice disk. And I'll also be dusting furniture, thinking about ordering seeds, wondering if I should start alphabetizing my books, working on my current sewing project, reading about the links between Napoleon and  Latin American revolutionary styles, copying out some Inferno, maybe submitting some poems . . . Anything could happen.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Richard III: Conversation (Act IV, Scenes 1 & 2)

RIII readers: the time has come to post your imaginative description of what it felt like to be Shakespeare creating one of the characters in the play. I look forward to your ideas.

* * *

The city is waiting for snow, though none will arrive till Saturday night. This will be our first major snowfall of the season--a foot or more--and already silly people are cramming into the grocery stores like there's a bread-and-milk crisis. You'd think we were living in Georgia or something.

For some reason I woke up this morning full of stiffness and ache, though I didn't do anything particularly unusual yesterday. I suppose it's just aging, so I will be patient and take my feet and my shoulders to yoga, and do my best with what I've got to work with.

My essay class continues to go well, I think, though the working hours are strange: blog-tending all day long so that I can quickly respond to bursts of comment and conversation. And now I've got batches of new editing to address, and only a week left to myself before the big teaching residency begins. I hope I can juggle it all.

But I've found time for Dante, so that's been a good thing.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Yesterday I got hired to lead an afternoon how-to-write-a-love-poem workshop for the Maine Historical Society . . . in Longfellow's house. So if you're mucking around Portland on February 9, you could sit around and be romantic with me for a couple of hours.

[Poet gigs are so peculiar. You just never know what odd thing is going to turn up in the inbox.]

I also wrote a short contributor's essay on the genesis of my poem "Sonnets for the Arsonist," which is forthcoming in the Split Rock Review this spring. In fact this poem does have a strange genesis, since it was triggered by a co-writing experiment with my friend Nate. So writing the little essay was enjoyable, and I am hoping Nate will someday dig out his own poem from our messy word painting.

Then I started dinner, and then I helped out a friend who'd just gotten her car crushed up in an accident so couldn't get to her dog-sitting job, and then I came home to discover that dinner was not as far along as it should have been, so it was a very long time later before we ate it.

Now I am having a hard time being awake, but I expect the coffee will accomplish its good deeds soon. It's very cold outside, and I have much classwork to do this morning, and a tiny cozy room to do it in. Home is my favorite workspace.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

"It was [the Swiss artist Henry] Fuseli who taught [William] Blake that art was a highly emotional and intensely personal business.  While painting, he said, 'First, I sits myself down. Then I works myself up. Then I throws in my darks. Then I pulls out my lights.'"

"A person living as an Epic Poet should be able to exist on 5s2d a week, [according to the artist Samuel Palmer]."

[from Paul Johnson's The Birth of the Modern]

* * *

I seemed to spend all of yesterday wrestling with literary administration: solving some online-class snafus, dealing with an invitation to teach a workshop that had some untenable conceptual problems, sending out an application for a research fellowship (always perplexing when it comes to creative work), pondering a request for a manuscript edit, considering an invitation for poem submissions . . . It was one of those days when I did not exactly seem to be working and yet I worked for hours. Fortunately, I also managed to invent a delicious salad: red grapefruit, toasted pumpkin seeds, fresh greens, balsamic dressing. It was excellent alongside minestrone, a fresh-tasting contrast with the slow-cooked vegetables. Also, I found a pencil case, finally!

Today will feature more classwork, more solving of administrative issues, more cooking and laundry, more reading about Romantic-era painters, more walking on slippery sidewalks . . . As much as I enjoyed New York, I'm glad to be back at Alcott House, with my white comforter and thick pillows, my pots and pans and knives and bowls, my hearthrug and my books and my bossy cat. Snow is on the way this weekend, and I am all for it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

We got home yesterday evening and more or less crawled immediately under a couch blanket and stayed there till bedtime. New York, as always, was entirely exhausting. I don't know how people can manage to live there full time and not always be asleep on the subway.

But anyway I saw good art (highlight: the Neue Galerie), ate good food (highlight: the Grindhaus in Red Hook), played many card games, walked for miles in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and hung out with a gaggle of beloved men. And now Ruckus is glowering at me, and the laundry baskets are full, and the refrigerator is empty.

Today, I'll wander back into life in the little city. Deskwork and housework, that inseparable pair. A walk through the cemetery. A fire in the woodstove. Dinner and candlelight. A warm white bed.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Greetings from Brooklyn, where it is cold and bright, and where I slept until almost 9 because I was up till after 2 because that's how life works here when your host's working day often ends at 4 a.m. So far we have drunk New York State beer at Commonwealth in Brooklyn (the aforementioned host's bar), eaten dinner at Sparks in midtown (famous mob-patronized steakhouse, famous spot for mob hits, though no one was murdered while we were there . . . at least not in the dining room, where the waiter insisted on referring to me as "young lady" all evening), had a ginger beer at the bar under the constellation ceiling at Grand Central Station, read interesting advertisements in the subway ("Relationships may fail, but philosophy is forever. Sign up for a class now!"), hugged a large son, sat around in a basement living room listening to Queen and Pavement, and tried reading the directions for how to use a theremin but had to give up because I was mostly asleep.

Today I have no plans, other than to (1) eat dinner with my son and our friends this evening and (2) buy a pencil box. (Why do I, of all people on this planet, not own a pencil box but just have a purse full of writing implements with the tips broken off and the sharpener lost among the extra Band-Aids?) Surely NYC contains a pencil box I can afford.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Assignment: Richard III (Act IV, Scenes 1 & 2)

As I caught up on my Richard III reading yesterday, I couldn't help but think about Buckingham's Sarah-Sanders role as press secretary/massager of facts. I imagine his part must have been enjoyable to write, and I'm sure that actors must also relish it. He's got elements of Polonius's obsequiousness, but with more power to influence others. I find him, as a character, irresistibly icky, and I can easily imagine him being interviewed on CNN.

So this week, as you read, choose your favorite character in the scene and write a paragraph that imagines what it might have felt like to be Shakespeare as you created this person. What would performing that role teach you? Are you attracted to this character because you admire him or her? Or are you attracted because the character embodies traits that are compellingly awful?

Let's post these thoughts next Friday.

* * *

Today is a special day in our house because it is Tom's birthday, and he is my dear friend and partner in downpour and sunshine. We met when we were 19, moved in together at 21, got married at 26, moved to Harmony at 29, raised two beautiful loud boys, struggled with money and broken vehicles and busted well lines and stony soil and gloom and loneliness and disappointment, and here we are . . . 54 years old, transplanted into a modest city life, planning a lobster dinner and a game of cribbage, still smiling at each other, most days. I suppose it's a success story, of sorts. And certainly he is worthy of devotion: a wry, mordant, clever-handed, acerbic, silent man; a brilliant photographer; a lover of music; who works too hard every day; who says thank you for his meals and washes the dishes every night; who invents stories about the cat; who likes to win at all games but isn't a jerk when he loses; who is a terrible speller who nonetheless is not bad at crossword puzzles; who sometimes struggles to put up with my incompetences, but does. As partners, we're a patched-up machine that squeaks and bumps but keeps chugging along. I'm so grateful to be sharing a life with him.