Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Hour after hour the snow fell, as the thermometer clung to ten degrees. It was winter's first winter day; and now, in the dark of the morning, the dull gleam and shadow are unsettling, the way a photographic negative can be.

I have been reading a book of short stories--Donald Hall's Willow Temple--which is shockingly beautiful. I had no idea he was such an assured story writer. Reading the book has made me sad, in the way reading Alice Munro's stories makes me sad. This is a world I understand. Why can't I write these tales? Whenever I try again, my stories are terrible. I do not have the knack of prose fiction, and it seems I never will.

And yet I love it so, and I know it feeds what I am able to write. I should be content with this knowledge, but mostly I just feel skewed and unsettled. Why does a poet turn to prose for her sustenance? Why does my friend Tom, a novelist, turn to poetry for his? When I try to address this in my teaching, students sometimes glance at me suspiciously, as if they've caught me cheating. She's never read anything by Famous Poet. Hmm.

The dark has faded, and now I see that the snow is still falling, lightly, lightly. In the house the quiet mutters to itself. On the kitchen table a tiny potted rosebush, gift from my son, proffers two perfect blooms, crimson and incongruous. Alongside it rest a white cup and saucer, a silver laptop, a small blue book. I am thinking about how to write--how to simulate the names of things, how to invent the blood-beat of a sentence. It has taken me close to an hour to compose these small paragraphs for you, an hour of shuffling and discarding. Yet I've said almost nothing.


Richard said...

Good morning, Dawn. Why is it that your mere mention of a name like Donald Hall or Alice Munro invites in whole worlds, whether novels, stories, and personal biographies? It's expansive and enlarges consciousness. Whereas your sounding of a word like "shuffling" immediately focuses attention, deepens our awareness of just ONE recent experience of those Unidentified Sighing Objects in daily living, namely, a poem like Baron Wormser's "Ode to the Ghost Dancers"

In retrospect isn't your blog itself a very loose, liberating, and also gratifying form of story-telling for a "skewed and unsettled" someone who has gravitated toward those tiny, terrifying "what ifs" of writing a good poem? Or am I missing the point?

Dawn Potter said...

Richard, my blog is a version of storytelling, yes: and my poems and essays are also: yet for some mysterious reason I cannot transfer those stories into prose fiction. It's a peculiar problem, and I don't have any answer for it.

Carlene said...

I am reminded of the part of Little Women when Jo writes her terrible novel, and her friend (later husband) tells her it is "fine" but not hers. She soon writes her novel, one of family and daily living. Dawn, your prose pieces are so musical, and so familiar as well; they feel suffused with life, with warmth, a certain yellow lamplight and the hint of coffee and cold snow...these ARE your "novel" perhaps.

Just a thought.