“The blog is all about the comedy and the novel is, well, not.”

awkwardprofilepicIf you have been feeling a lag in motivation in your writing life, you need to read this interview with Emelie Samuelson. Emelie is humorist, YA novelist, and all-around inspiring woman. She lives in the small town that the Gilmore Girls‘  Stars Hallow is based on. Read on to learn more about how and why she picked up and moved to this town. You’ll be inspired to follow your dreams.

What do you write?

I have my own blog, Awkwardly Alive and Pleasantly Peculiar, on which I share weekly stories about my many embarrassing moments in life, and I also just finished the first draft of my first novel. Now I’m in that dreadful editing process. The two projects are different enough, though, so my brain is never bored. The blog is all about the comedy and the novel is, well, not.

Can you tell us a little more about your first novel?
My novel is a psychological one, dealing with a teenager with schizophrenia, although I think it’s more about the characters than the illness itself. I think it will be marketed to young adults, which is great because that’s a genre I’m incredibly comfortable with. I’m pretty inspired by the Y.A. authors (but would never dare to compare myself to any of them because they’re too brilliant and I am…me.) Rainbow Rowell, John Green, and David Levithan (just to name a few, although there are a least half a dozen more). I like when authors of that genre can write books for teens that don’t over-dramatize things. It’s important to me that teen fiction is respectful towards what teenagers go through and what they feel. Whether or not my book will accomplish that, I have no idea, but I’m really hoping it will. Continue reading

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Michael Trocchia: On the Library, the Classroom, and the Study

CS-MT-Unfounded-Cover_FrontCoverMichael Trocchia lives not only a double life as a working poet, but triple life: he also finds the time to teach philosophy at James Madison University. His first book, The Fatherlands, is a collection of short fictions/prose poems that, for me, nod toward a haunted fairytale world where logic doesn’t unfold in the ways you would expect. This world is peopled with faceless figures of “the woman,” “the man” and “the boy,” and every time a character resurfaces he is changed. His newest book, Unfounded, is a bit more traditional in appearance–there are no prose poems–but here again nothing can be understood as common. Every line break is followed by a surprise turn in logic or a not-yet-imagined imaged. And reading this collection also became an exercise in letting go, allowing myself to be lead through the mazey path each poem beckoned me down.  In the second section of the collection (there are three sections total), the poems took a turn toward Ars Poetica. As a sometime instructor of poetry and writing, I’m always on the hunt for new Ars Poetica, and Michael has provided me a new one to add to my personal anthology with his poem “Poem Without Itself.” You can find Unfounded on Amazon.

 Michael was kind enough to share some thoughts on his triple life and the myth of finding the perfect job. Here’s what he had to say:

What do you write? How do you write it? 

Claudia in the study

Claudia in the study

I write poems, prose poems in some cases, and the shortest of fictions. I’m working on a lengthier project though, a hybrid novella, a narrative blend of poetry and prose. In it we meet a professor who in his youth was a thief. While he’s long given up thievery—having sold off, lost, forgotten, or abandoned much of what he’s stolen—he has to this day retained one item in particular, an item taken under strange circumstances. The work picks up with his decision to return this thing, decades later, to its rightful place, the very spot from which he took it, however wise or foolish that may be. We follow his journey back and meet with all sorts of characters and happenings along the way.

How do I write? Slowly, as if I am constantly learning to see, or learning to read for the first time. But sometimes it will pick up a degree or two and it is more like learning to play a piece of music that, in some sense, I already know. It occurs in the mornings mostly, or whenever I manage to find generous moments of solitude. If I’m out and about and there is no pen or keyboard at hand, I work the words over in my mind repeatedly, a small rehearsal of sorts, as if learning lines from a play. When at home in my study, there is often a cat nearby.

What are sources of inspiration that you return to?

The worlds of mythmakers, for sure, whether fallen to us in letters or images. There are other sources: I am often drawn back to the poems of Georg Trakl in autumn, the novels of Hamsun in winter, the Italians Sinisgalli, Buzzati, Vittorini, and Quasimodo in summer, and Yannis Ritsos, the Greek, all year round. Spring is my wildcard, a season for who-knows and not-yets, though Jeffers claws through sometimes, his narrative poems mostly. Then there is the music of J.S. Bach, Arvo Pärt, the sounds of Górecki and A Hawk and A Hacksaw.

Can you tell us a little bit about your job and how you got there?

Carrier Library Stacks

Carrier Library Stacks

I’ve two jobs, or perhaps one job while the other, if not itself my vocation, comprises a good part of it. What I call “the job” is my work for James Madison University Libraries, where I am the E-Journals Coordinator in the Technical Services Department. In short, I’m responsible for setting up the university’s electronic journals in all library systems, maintaining the holdings and date coverage, and making sure all access points and linking to the journals are working. In recent years, I’ve also headed up an event program for the library called JMuse Café. Our series of events provides an informal and lively forum for students, faculty, staff, and the community to come together and explore topics of public interest in ways that reach across multiple disciplines and diverse educational backgrounds.

What I refer to as a part of my vocation is the work that goes into teaching philosophy (also at JMU). In this work, as much as I am teaching students philosophy, I am of course always teaching myself along the way. The teaching opportunity and its various rewards could very well cease one day, but it is tough to see a day when pursuing my own studies and its rewards will come to an end. The work I do in philosophy is integral to the work I do as a writer. If we were to shred many of my poems, they’d become, I hope, no less than confetti tossed in the streets by a parade of old philosophers. This is certainly so for a large portion of pieces in Unfounded.

To the question of how I got here: In 2007 I began working at JMU after graduate school at Temple University in Philadelphia. My first job here was full-time in the library as the Processing and Binding Manager. In this role I took care of the stream of books acquired by the library, ensuring that the books and their catalog records received everything they need (checkout information, call number labels, stamps, security strips, etc.) in order to make it safely and swiftly to the shelves. I was also responsible for binding the journals routinely and whatever books that were falling apart. I had been in touch with some professors in the philosophy department at the time and, shortly after, I was offered a spot teaching part-time (on top of the library work). In 2010, I moved into the E-Journals position I mention above.

How does these jobs/vocations challenge/influence/inspire your writing life?

Danielle Campbell Photography. Trocchia reading at Chop Suey Books in Richmond, VA.

Danielle Campbell Photography. Trocchia reading at Chop Suey Books in Richmond, VA.

I go to work with thousands and thousands of authors each day, from antiquity through the present. There they are when I arrive, sitting on shelves throughout the library, always willing to have a conversation, to confound and astound me, to reveal some new aspect of the world, or force me to reconsider this, to imagine that. I can ask for no better company from 9 to 5. At every turn in the building I am reminded of something exquisite, of some immensity indexed, some wondrous triviality. I am met with volumes, with orders of worlds bound up with our experiences of them, with stacks and stacks of fragmented knowledge, with the colorful and worn spines of our languages and thought, with imprints of question and formulae, with the inks of countless laws, natural and not, that line much of our existence, and will, as far as I can tell, continue to do so long after I’m gone. The library as a whole, we might say, is something of a law unto itself. As Borges writes, “the Library will endure: illuminated, solitary, infinite, perfectly motionless, equipped with precious volumes, useless, incorruptible, secret.” And now many such “secrets” and more have surfaced at our fingertips, at the touch of a key, given the electronic sphere that libraries, publishers, service and content providers have built up in recent decades. Through the course of a simple morning in the office, like this one for instance, I’ll work on a mix of electronic journals such as Psychology of Music, The Public Historian,  Journal for General Philosophy of Science, Canadian Slavonic Papers, American Antiquity, and so on. The various journals from our collections flood my workday, and sometimes bits of their content are thrown together, deposited here and there in my mind after I’ve finished working with them. And these sediments can often find their way into my writing in one form or another.

My work week setting then comes three-sided: this library environment, the classroom, and my study at home. Yes, the days come in the shape of a triangle, a shape well suited to my aesthetic.

So it seems that you’ve got a full plate, but your that plate is full of good things and each component nourishes another. I am reminded William Carlos Williams  when he said “As a writer, I have never felt that medicine interfered with me but rather it was my very food and drink, the very thing that made it possible for me to write. ” What are your thoughts on this sentiment?  

I would agree with Williams, but the key is for one to make “food and drink” of whatever it is one does for work. Not every doctor is a poet of course, but Williams made his work in medicine “food and drink” for writing because he was a poet. In a comprehensive way then, yes, everything must be made to nourish the other. So I’d say Poet Williams also fed the very experiences, shaped the vision and ear, of Doctor Williams, in the invisible ways he took to his daily work and what he took from it. “The poet feels abundantly the poetry of everything,” said Williams’ contemporary, Wallace Stevens, himself no stranger to a job “outside” of writing. But, I’d add, the poet only feels it abundantly insofar as he’s sought and gathered it inside him. If it wasn’t medicine for Williams, I imagine it would’ve been some other food and drink he’d gather together and put on the writing table. This is no easy effort, for sure. “Poetry,” wrote Jean Genet from a prison cell, “is a vision of the world obtained by an effort, sometimes exhausting, of the taut, buttressed will. Poetry is willful.” The challenge to all writers, I believe, is not to write but to live and write, no matter the living. This challenge, to echo Genet, is met by the will.

A few more words on this, concerning the idea of interference: We put ourselves at a great loss if we regard the “job” or anything else as interfering with the writing. Taken as such, it opens up all kinds of harm to one’s writing and causes what may be the real interference. One easily slides into the thought that one is not writing what he or she could be writing, reducing one’s efforts to an “if only.” “Only if I had some other job, or no job at all, what wonderful things I’d write! What a writer I’d be!” In this state, whatever writing one does risks suffering in the shadow of this phantom writing (that he or she is not doing). Or worse, understood as interfering, one sets oneself up for an excuse to write less and less, or eventually not at all. We might compare the batter who says that all pitchers interfere with his hitting. This player has somehow missed that the pitcher, though his opponent, provides the very thing he’s meant to hit.

That is particularly important advice, it seems to me, and well-explained too. And, one more question, if you don’t mind! I noticed in the bio on Unfounded it describes you as teacher and then as working in the library. What was the thought behind listing teaching first? 

That’s a good question. I am not sure what my reasoning at the time was for putting it down in that order. What I can say is I identify myself a bit more with teaching philosophy than I do with the work I do in the library, as, again, I consider what goes into teaching to be part of my vocation. Also, teaching just literally requires more of me, as that “job” does not really slow down or end throughout a semester. In addition to class time, I am often, as any professor is, plugged into my teaching responsibilities in the evenings and on the weekends—whether it is putting material together for class, thinking up new ways to engage the students, responding to emails, grading, meeting with students, and so on. The library position itself—that is, the daily responsibilities—is typically confined to the forty-hour work week, aside from the resources I might draw on or the effects that the library world has for my writing.

Underrated Grasslands

IIMG_6773‘m pleased to share with you my poem “Prairie” published in The Other Journal today, but which I started just after I heard Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson speak at IU, more than four years ago. And I’m still learning about the wonders of the grasslands and savanna ecosystems. Did you know that the grasslands is one of the only ecosystems that does not have a national park associated with it the U.S.? National Parks favor great changes in altitude (think Yosemite Valley to the peak of Half Dome). Though the prairie be humble, this rich ecosystem is still worth appreciating and thanking for its bounty. There are a few swatches left. Here are two I recently heard about: a patch in a st. louis cemetery and a restoration project in Iowa, with bison!

“Being An Artist is Alright. Some Other Jobs Are Alrighter”

On Q CBC Radio tonight, radio host Gill Deacon, talks to Darren O’Donnell, a Canadian novelist and performer and all around artist,  about this Facebook post and forum about the reality of being an artist. Here’s his Facebook post that started it all:

Wanted: strategies to convince young people that being an artist is actually not that interesting and that, when you’re 39, you’ll look at your friends who went into most other fields and be shocked that they’re actually doing really creative and meaningful stuff while you’re spending most of your time drunk at openings and launches within a small circle of other drunk people who only socialize at openings and launches.

O’Donnell has some interesting points about creativity in the real world, but I also love how Deacon pushes back and questions his motives: “Part of what you describe sounds like you being at a point in your career when you say,

‘I’m kind of fed up’…Everyone gets to a point in their career when they look around and all the other jobs look like they have more of what they wanted.”

Is O’Donnell experiencing career envy or is most every artist really just sending email?

I’ve definitely have experienced career envy.  Right now, after reading Rambunctioius Garden by Emma Marris, I wish had studied biology or ecology in college. In the world of plants and animals and how they all work and relate…there is still so much to discover. I’ll admit I’ve been in a bit of writing funk, and partly because I’m lacking faith in the empty page (and in myself) to discover. And for me, writing needs to be the act of discovery.

Making a living vs. making art

In this article, cropped-mg_0080-version-32.jpgthe writer claims that as newspapers die so do writers’ opportunities to work, write, and get paid, while improving their craft. The MFA is no replacement as many force aspiring writers to take out loans, digging themselves into ditches that they will never be able to get themselves out of based on the skills gained in the MFA. He laments the loss patrons and the artists who created magnificent works with their financial support.

I agree with some points made here, but not all of them. I agree that the MFA is not worth going into debt, but not all writers/artists want to write/make art for a living. In an interview Cate Marvin said: “One cannot have ‘success’ in poetry. As a poet-friend of mine once said, ‘If I wanted to be successful, I’d have become a lawyer.'” And precisely because poetry has no monetary value, no aspirations for success, it is free to fend for itself, to dig out a space for itself that is not shaped by market demand.

Whereas art forms that do have potential to shower their creators with money are actually more dangerous. My sister and I are both artists. I am poet and Sonnet, my sister, is a singer and songwriter. Because I have never believed poetry will gain me a viable income, I’ve been forced to define success on my own terms and not on how people pay me, and I’ve built up my resume in other areas. My sister, on the other hand, has had success defined for her by a rabid dog, the music industry. She has been getting by on singing and big promises that have yet to fully pan out. I admire my sister for her stalwart pursuit of her craft as her primary income. No one I know is more dedicated to her art than Sonnet. But even with successful commercial campaigns, a fantastic first EP, gigs around LA, and a making it to the top 12 of the reality TV show Rising Star, it has certainly been the much harder road. She is living the dream, pursuing her dream, but it comes with high costs of inconsistency and never knowing what’s around the next corner.

William Carlos William points out not all artists need to be paid for their art or embrace the starving-artist model. I’m interested in finding this sustainable solution–the middle ground between crying about the loss of appreciation for the arts, and complaining about work that I don’t want to do, and starving for my art.

I think the worst part of this search for middle ground is that it will never be the same for every artist. There is no model I can follow, I have to find it for myself. William Carlos Williams found being a doctor as equally fulfilling (and inspiring) as writing. I am 100% sure being a doctor would not be a sustainable career for me. As the 5-9 interview series has highlighted, what works for one artist will not work for another. And even what has worked for me one year may not work the next.

At dinner with other writers and artist not long ago, one artist who was a new father asked the group if we would wish for our children to have the desire to be artists/writers when they grew up. The responses were mixed, but the majority said No! Life would be so much simpler, and perhaps even happier, if our unquenchable desire to create did not demand so much of our time/money/space. The desire to make art is a gift, a joy, a purpose, a calling and–at the risk of sounding overdramatic–it is a burden.

Rebecca Talbot: Essayist and Orchard and Farm Marketer

Writer picI first met Rebecca at a fortuitous holiday party in the neighborhood, when our mutual friend introduced us by saying, “You both write. You should talk.” We did talk and now I count her among the few writer friends who have seen me Pilox at Women’s Workout World. This is a testament to her kindness and grace, which is evident in all her essays and stories that I’ve been lucky enough to read.

I hope you will be as inspired as I was by her thoughtful interview about her own diligent writing practice, finding inspiration in other art forms, and how gears and gauges are like words and sentences.

What do you write? How do you write it?

I write nonfiction and sometimes fiction.  Fiction always feels like giving myself a break from nonfiction because I tend to write essays that require months of picking away at research.  But no matter what the genre is, I write slowly.  That’s probably a matter of not making as much time for writing as I could, but I also like to think the story or essay is always there with me, walking around with me, and when I spend that much time with it, I finally get to know it better and realize what it’s missing.

There was a short story I was working on for three years, off and on, and it never felt finished.  Then last January I was with my in-laws and while I was looking at a book of M.C. Escher’s artwork, I found an image that brought the story together and became central to its meaning.  Then on the flight back I was reading Zadie Smith’s essay, “That Crafty Feeling” in her collection Changing My Mind, and it made me realize some super annoying things I was doing in the story that definitely needed to go.  I revised the story again, sent it out, and Apeiron Review published it. 

There’s definitely a hidden snare, there, too: Everything can be improved, and you can’t wait forever for the right piece of information to drift along.  But I do find it comforting that if a story or essay isn’t coming together right now, I may have the resources later.

What are sources of inspiration that you return to?

Inspiration means two things to me: first, what sources tend to spark ideas, and second, what sorts of things help when I get stuck.  Social history sparks ideas.  I like to know all sorts of nutty things people were up to in the past.  I’ve been reading a lot about Romantic era scientists and poets lately.  The Age of Wonder, Richard Holmes’s chronicle of the relationships between the poets and scientists of that era, makes me want to write at least eleven books.

When I get stuck, I turn to visual art, live lit, and poetry.  I feel more inspired to write after I’ve browsed an art museum or gallery or spent an evening at the Uptown Poetry Slam.  It helps me loosen up, not take myself so seriously, and just be part of the conversation.  Poetry on the page helps too—I guess it moves me out of perfectionism and into joy.

Can you tell us a little bit about your day job and how you got there?

I’d been an adjunct for five years, up until 2013.  I loved teaching, but it took everything I had.  Weekends, evenings, and early mornings all went to lesson planning and grading.  I wrote one story during the whole five years and it was for my mom, for Christmas, because she specifically asked me to write something.  Eventually I gave up teaching and began freelance tech writing.  The projects came in bursts and between bursts I could work on projects of my own.  That was ideal for a while, and then the projects came in less frequent bursts, so I started working for my sister’s company, marketing orchards and small farms.  Right now, I am doing that and working in a university writing center, which has brought many of the aspects I loved about teaching back into my life.

How does it challenge/influence/inspire your writing life?

I love this question.  Is it okay to give a shout-out to my dad, who turns 60 this week?

Of course!

My dad will spend all day working on pharmaceutical packaging equipment, facilities maintenance, autoclaves, or whatever else he’s assigned, and then he’ll come home, eat dinner, and head out to the barn to fix old cars.  He just loves the materials.  He loves lifting large metal things on jacks.  He loves gears and gauges and catalytic converters and pumps.

I think I’m the same way about sentences and words.  I love these materials.  Any day I get to spend with the written word is a good day.  I believe that good, clean writing brings beauty into the world—whether it’s good copy for a good cause, a clear pharmacology report for a pharmaceutical company’s investigational drug, or a gripping essay in Harper’s.  The marketing job allows me to do lots of writing, and that feels fulfilling.  It is a challenge to find time to work on my own projects, and it’s easy for work to just spill over into everything.  (I work with social media.  That’s dangerous.)  Working from home several days a week is good, though.  I had been waking up early and spending a few hours writing, and my goal for October is to get back to that.

You can find more of Rebecca’s fine writing on her client’s blogs and in Curator Magazine where she inspires us with an interview with Jazz musician Ron Thomas.

A Shout out to St. Pachomius

In the latest Image Journal update, they reviewed St. Peter’s B-list! They even gave a shout out (bolded below) to my poem, “St. Pachomius of the Unemployed.” Totally made my date

St. Peter’s B-List by Mary Ann B. Miller

St Peter's B-ListA chorus of diverse voices brings the saints to life in unexpected ways in this spirited collection, St. Peter’s B-List: Contemporary Poems Inspired by the Saints. This is a highly enjoyable book, well-developed and curated by Miller, a gifted editor who has gathered over 100 poems on the saints without redundancy or narrowness. Some of the speakers are parents, deep in the trenches of everyday struggle, as in Martha Silano’s opening poem, “Poor Banished Children of Eve.” It begins as a kind of creed (“I believe in the dish in the sink”) then dips headlong into a version of the Lord’s prayer: “Lead us away from the temptation to chuck it all flee / to Thetis Island and glory be to dishwashing liquid / and the sponge glory to the microwave and Mr. Coffee.” Further along, Brian Doyle builds a wonderful defense of faith upon the theme of parenthood, beginning with Santa Caterina, who “conversed at length with the One Whom No Name Can Encompass / …he called her dearest daughter.” And for Kelli Russell Agodon, St. Pio (“Patron Saint of Worry”) remains a constant in the unfolding story of motherhood. Along with another friend and mother, she confesses: “We still pray though worry / we’re hard to please.” There’s humor here, too. St. Francis heads to yoga, at home among the Downward Dogs, the Cat, Cow, and Happy Baby poses, and in “St. Pachomius of the Unemployed,” one of the most delightful of the collection, we find the saint striding alongside a downtrodden but dogged pursuer of gainful employment. Even Santa Claus shows up, in an extended conversation wherein St. Nick is unemployed, estranged from his wife, broke, and endlessly thirsty for beer. In balance, there are also breathtakingly earnest poems, like Franz Wright’s stunning “Say My Name,” a poem of longing and loss that hinges on a few spare images inside St. Paul’s. Or Edward Hirsch’s sonically rich triptych “Away from Dogma,” which explores moments from Simone Weil’s biography. And there are poems like “St. Vincent de Paul’s Food Pantry Stomp” in which the saint in question is little more than a name for the speaker, but who still seems to witness and shelter, in some way, that speaker’s humanity. Whether deliberately or otherwise, the saints walk among us through this collection—bright with love, odd, downright scary sometimes—and yet vividly real for each speaker in very personal ways.

Purchase your copy here.

WCW: writer and medical doctor

Despite all my issues with the grand Mr. Williams in my previous post, his “interview” about being a writer and doctor reveals an interesting (and helpful) perspective.  William Carlos Williams above all else is a proponent of language and of medicine. Being in the world helped him write about the world. If he had not been a doctor, it seems he would have not been able to be a poet. His views outlined below, excerpted from The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams, are a kick to get moving. So after you read this, ask yourself what is the other half of my writing practice? What helps me see below the surface of nonsense and humdrum to the substance of poetry?

AKS: So, Mr. Williams, what do you write?

WC: I write poetry, essays, plays, stories, and novels. Please refer to Poetry Foundation for a full listing

AKS: How did you get your start as a doctor and writer?

WC: Right after high school I was accepted into medical school, but soon discovered theater.

“The struggle was on…I thought I’d quit medical school and get a job as a scene shifter! Such was my humility….It cost 25 cents to sit in the top balcony to see plays in those days. I wanted to write, to write plays–plays in verse! I saw the great Ben Greet Players outdoors in the Botanical Gardens. I climbed a ten-foot spike fence around the nearby cemetery to get into that one. I had no money.

But it was money that decided me. I would continue medicine, for I was determined to be a poet. only medicine, a job I enjoyed, would make it possible for me to live and write as I wanted to. I would live: that first, and write, by God as I wanted to if took me all eternity to accomplish my design. My furious wish was to be normal, undrunk, balanced in everything. I would marry (but not ye!) have children and still write, in fact, therefore to write. I would not court disease, live in the slums for the sake of art, give lice a holiday. I would not “die for the art” but live for it, grimly! and work, work work, (like [my] Pop) beat the game and be free (like [my] Mom, pour soul!) to write, write, write as I alone should write, for the sheer drunkenness of it.

AKS: How do you find time to write while also being a full time doctor?

As far as writing itself is concerned it takes next to no time at all. Much too much is written every day of our lives. We are overwhelmed by it. But when at times we see through the welter of evasive or interested patter, when by chance we penetrate to some moving detail of a life, there is always time to bang out a few pages. The thing isn’t to find time–we waste hours every day doing nothing at all–the difficulty is to catch the evasive life of the thing, to phrase words in such a way that all stereotype will yield a moment of insight. That is where the difficulty lies. We are lucky when our lives will send up its pure water. It seldom happens. A thousand trivialities push themselves in front, our lying habits of everyday speech…

AKS: So you mentioned earlier, that you enjoyed medicine…tell us more about that.

It’s the humdrum, the day-in, day-out, everyday work that is the real satisfaction of the practice of medicine; the million and half patients a mand has seen on his daily visits over a forty-year period of weekdays and Sundays that make up his life. I have never had a money practice; it would have been impossible for me. But the actual calling on people, at all times and under all conditions, the coming to grips with the intimate conditions of their lives, when they were being born, when they were dying, watching them die, watching them get well, has always absorbed me.

As a writer, I have never felt that medicine interfered with me but rather it was my very food and drink, the very thing that made it possible for me to write. Was I not interested in man? There was the thing, right in front of me. I could touch it, smell it. I was myself, naked, just as it was with out a lie telling itself to me in the its very own terms. Oh, I knew it wasn’t for the most part giving me anything profound, but it was giving me terms, basic terms with which I could spell out matters as profound as I cared to think of.

[You] naively ask [me], “How do you do it? How do you carry on an active business like that and at the same timefind time to write? You must be superhuman. You must have the energy of two men.” But you do not grasp that one occupation complements the other, that they are two parts of a whole, that it is not two jobs at all, that one rests the man when the other fatigues him. The only person to feel sorry for his is wife. She practically becomes a recluse. His only fear is the source of his interest, his daily goings about among human beings of all sorts, all ages, all conditions will be terminated. That he will be found out.

Forget writing, its a trivial matter. But day in day out, when the inarticulate patient struggles to lay himself bare for you, or with nothing more than a boil on his back is so caught off balance that he reveals some secret twist of a whole community’s pathetic way of thought, a man is suddenly seized again with a desire to speak of the underground stream which for a moment has come up just under the surface.

The physician enjoys a wonderful opportunity actually to witness words being born. Their actual colors and shapes are laid before him carrying their tiny burdens.

For under that language to which we have all been listening all our lives, a new, a more profound language, underlying all the dialects offer itself. It is what they call poetry.

William Carlos Williams takes an interview

“So Mr. Williams, tell me, what do you write?”

Okay. So, WCW died in 1963, twenty years before I was born, and even if he hadn’t, I’m sure he wouldn’t have deigned to speak to the likes of me. I recently read The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams, first published in 1948 by New Directions Books. There are many things to be said about the life of prolific writer and doctor Williams…

Observation #1. He surrounded himself with artists…famous artists.

How did he know so many famous people. He went to school with and was a life long friend of Ezra Pound and H.D., dined with James Joyce, partied with Man Ray and bunch of other artists, conversed with Gertrude Stein, doctored Charles Demuth… the list goes on. Literally the index in his biography could be a who’s who of first half of the twentieth century.

Observation #2. He loved and respected his wife very much, but he had misogynistic (and racist) tendencies.

They leak out the sides of his autobiography and sometimes hit you square in the face. Besides numerous condescending descriptions of women and girls throughout his book. There was this stunning passage:

I have had several but not many intimate friendships with men during my life, patterned, I suppose on the youthful experience of my brother…You could count them surely on the fingers of one hand. On the other hand there is Flossie, my wife, who is the rock on which I have built. But as far as my wish is concerned, I could not be satisfied by five hundred women. As I said, at the beginning, I was always an innocent child.

Why, I remember once as medical student falling in love with the corpse of young negress, a “high yaller” lying stripped on the dissecting table before me.

Men have given the direction to my life and women have always supplied the energy.

There is so much weirdness in that passage. I’ll just let you stew on that for a while.

Observation #3. He is an amazing writer and thinker.

Through at times, I felt I did not like the man I was reading, ultimately he has a thoughtfulness and delicacy with words–that made his autobiography a page turner. As a case in point and prelude to my next post–an “interview” with WCW about being a working writer–I’ll leave you this:

And it must be said of a life of confinement, if he survives it, that much of the world’s greatest writings has waited on a removal from the world of affairs for its doing. Concentration is what a man needs to bring his mind to harvest. We may and he will, whoever he may be, change ourselves by our contacts, but to drain off the good we must find quietude. The monk’s cell is ideal for the purpose…it represents a quiet relief from economic pressures: one can write then. Prison, though, is better, or seems to have been so in the past. Aesop was a slave; many a Greek did his best work in exile to Sicily or even the next city. Sappho must have felt mightily confined by Lesbos; Raleigh wrote well in prison: Pilgrim’s Progress came from confinement–as birth does also–but the best of all was Don Quixote, when Cervantes was put in jail…

The poem is a capsule where we wrap up our punishable secrets. And as they confine in themselves the only “life,” the ability to sprout at a more favorable time, to come true in the secret structure to the very minutest details of our thoughts, so they get their specific virtue.

We write for this, that the seed come true, and it appears to be this which makes the poewcwm the toughest certainty that life experience acknowledges.

 

Where are they now?

A lot of things worth talking about have taken place in the last year!

Lana Spendl has been tearing up the flash fiction pages: Read her piece “The Virgin” in Prick of the Spindle and look for her forthcoming piece “Soap Bubble Words” in Monkeybicycle.

Paula Carter has been making it waves on the nonfiction circuit both on stage and on the page. Listen to her podcast from Second Story in her piece Lessons from Almost-Mother or read her recent essay in TriQuarterly.

 

And Angela Narciso Torres published Blood Orange  available via Aquarius PressSmall Press Distribution,  and Amazon.  Watch the book trailer for Blood Orange! Yes, a trailer for a book!

Congrats you lovely ladies and writers on your accomplishments!