A cool morning. Two days ago I tore out my exhausted peavines, and this morning I will replant the beds with a fall crop of kale and turnips. Finally, the garden is showing signs of richness: the potatoes are flowering, the corn is shoulder-high, and my beautiful bean plants are covered with long purple string beans. These are by far the loveliest bean plants I've ever grown: not only are the beans themselves a deep purple, but the flowers are lavender and the green leaves are veined with purple.
I've been reading Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, and thinking about how similar the central character Catherine is to Elizabeth Bowen's Portia in The Death of the Heart. Both girls are questioning innocents dropped into the world of adult machination. But Catherine is lucky enough to find friends who guide her through these confusions, whereas Portia drowns in a sea of double-entendre and spite.
An acquaintance posed a Facebook question yesterday: "How soon do you show your drafts to other readers?" Almost everyone who answered declared that they shared work very soon after beginning it. I was the only person who said that I rarely showed any poems to anyone until they had reached submission or publication stage. With essays I can be more forthcoming, but on the whole I feel very uneasy about sharing poetry in its infantile stage. And I was surprised, even a bit shocked, at how free and easy all these other writers are about showing their stuff to other people. I can name a handful of people who have ever seen my recent poems in embryo, and my family members are not any of those readers. (I am not counting poetry workshops, where one is required to bring along unfinished work. This may account for why I have taken relatively few poetry workshops.) Why would I burden my loved ones with such trouble? And infant art is trouble: unformed, awkward, ugly, self-satisfied, noisy. Better to let it grow up with me before I let it out into the world.
Of course this is a highly personal reaction. When I was studying with Baron (and he has seen more of my student work than anyone else has), I found the process tremendously painful. I trusted him and I wanted his help, but I also hated publicizing my struggles. As I've become a more self-confident reviser, I've also become far cagier about sharing first drafts. I wonder how other poets feel about this. So many people seem to thrive on the writing-group model. Does this imply that I am an anomaly?