Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Nothing to say

So D asked, and, grateful to be asked, I said yes but thought immediately that I have nothing to share because I write so little these days. I don’t have any advice except the obvious: keep doing what works. I work in retail now, far from academia, far from colleagues who might drop by to discuss what we’re writing or reading. Has social media become my literary lifeline? A couple of years ago, I wrote 28 poems during April, and almost every poem was started in my car. Three decades ago, I went to my department chair (I was an academic administrator) and asked for writing time; he gave me a key to a windowless office with an electric typewriter, and there I composed poems on my lunch hour. It can be done.

Much of my free time is spent promoting, as much as I’m able, the work of others. Does editing and publishing prevent me from writing? I don’t think of these evenings as lost opportunities—I love working on chapbooks—but I definitely fantasize about a room without internet where I might escape long enough to finish my next book (or maybe just a poem or two).


I’m writing this at my old desk, a work table in the corner of the bedroom, the quietest spot in the apartment. The spider plant I started from two pinched cuttings has just this week sent out its first offshoot, a slender wiry arm with tiny leaves unfolding at the tip. 35 years ago a student intern told me the plant’s Spanish name was mala madre—because they throw away their young—and I grabbed that name to use in a poem. Once a man I went home with told me the secret to growing spider plants was to pinch off all those shoots, redirect the energy into the main stalk. But the new plants, if left to develop, are still attached to the mother plant; they’re not so much orphans as literal offshoots. Clones. Am I writing the same poem? Am I too attached to them? Is that why I’ve stopped? If I don’t get the poem out, do I reabsorb its potential?

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