Yesterday I spent the morning taking stock of everything I've written since midsummer. As of now, I've got 25 finished poems, which feels breathtaking, unbelievable, a hallucination. The poems have arrived quickly, confidently. They have not required extensive revision or rewriting. They are in numerous styles--a sonnet, a pantoum, invented forms, free verse, blank verse. Some are lyric; some are narrative. Some are political; some are personal; some are persona poems. Some use heightened language; some are harsh and colloquial. The variety, as much as anything, amazes me. In past moments of intensity, the poems I wrote tended to be of a piece--that is, a series of personal poems; a series of history poems. This batch is not a linked in that way. Though I feel their relationship to one another is clear, I'm not sure I can yet articulate what the links are.
As always, while I've been writing or not writing, I've also been reading steadily. Since the end of June, I've read the poems of Akhmatova, Blake, Herbert, Schnackenberg, O'Hara, Jarboe, Fisher, Dante. I've read novels by Wilder, Byatt, Hamilton, Dickens, Mantel, Trollope, Gaskell, Atwood, Sayers. I've read Seward's history of the Wars of the Roses, Walls's memoir of her homeless childhood, Middlebrook's biography of the Plath-Hughes marriage, Richard III, of course. But this is not a complete list.
In between, I edited several poetry and fiction collections as well as a number of academic books. I did some teaching. I played some gigs. I stepped into emergency overdrive when my dad almost died. I managed my household, tried to support my sons in their lives afar. I planted, and tended, and harvested, and preserved a garden. I pushed myself to become a better seamstress. I walked a mile or so, on most days. I went to yoga classes. I unpacked boxes, arranged rooms, tried to learn to live in a new place.
I'm not writing these things down in order brag about them, or to impress you. I expect your lives, different from mine, have been equally busy, equally productive. But perhaps, like me, you haven't, till now, sat down and thought about exactly what you've done. I get paid so little that I frequently think of myself as lazy, ineffective--floating hazily through the seas like an infant jellyfish. And yet when I stop to look, I can see I've been doing the work.
The end of the year is upon us. At this time, in 2017, I was feverishly packing boxes, painting rooms, struggling with worry and hope, homesick for Harmony, pretending that I was getting over my grief, trying to figure out how to make some kind of holiday for my son, wondering if I would ever have running water in the kitchen. Now, in 2018, here I am. At home. At work. I don't think I need any other Christmas gift.