Sunday, October 11, 2015

from The Great American Novel by Philip Roth
Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages.
So said Chaucer back in my high school days, and a' course it is as true now as then.


It's Sunday, and another cool October morning--temperature hovering at 32 degrees, a skim of frost on the windshield. I've finished reading The Cherry Orchard and started reading a musty copy of Philip Roth's The Great American Novel that I found at the Goodwill. The woodstove does not want to light but I am forcing it to behave. The coffee is hot and strong, and the poodle's stare could easily be transliterated into a window sign with "Breakfast Time Now!" flashing in curly neon wish-lights.

All week I have been working on the first draft of a long poem that I'm not at all sure I like, which is making me nervous. Nonetheless, stanza after stanza, the piece keeps rolling onto the page. I don't know what the final result will be. I might run out of gas and scrap the whole thing, or I might try carving it into smaller vignettes, or suddenly the scales might fall from my eyes and I'll figure out that I'm doing something more interesting than I thought I was. Meanwhile, I'll plod into another stanza.

The strange thing is that stuff written under these circumstances can turn out to be just as good, or even better, than stuff written in a state of authorial hypnosis when every word feels absolutely, indisputably perfect and I've lost all interest in food or children. Neither situation is a reliable indicator of quality.

But this morning I won't be writing; I'll be playing music for a few hours at Stutzmans' Cafe, and then buying a bag of potatoes and driving home in the chilly sunshine. The poem will take care of itself; and perhaps, when I dare to look at it again, it will reveal itself as an evil dragon and I'll have to quickly slay it with my bright sword. Otherwise, it is bound to eat the villagers, and then who else could the king blame but me?

1 comment:

David (n of 49) said...

"Then cry havoc and let slip the Smaug, unborn!"...