The life of the thing (II)

This past week, jubilat launched its new website, one new feature of which is a video archive of some of its authors reading pieces from past issues. One of my poems, Ten Second Windows (which appeared in jubilat 12) was selected by the editors for the archive, which meant that one day last September I shot about 20 takes of me reading on my laptop (because it took that many takes to get a recording in which leafblowers outside my sunroom, maniacal neighboring dogs, unexpected knocks from UPS, and weird, never-before-and-never-since squealing noises from my ceiling fan didn’t cause me to crack up or add unscripted expletives into the mix). If I remember correctly, at one point my laptop even slid off the pile of magazines it was stacked on top of and landed with a thud on the work table in my living room where I was filming. (Given the fact that the poem is “about” things turning over, about moments in time separating themselves from before and after and constantly resetting our windows of sense, this was of course all fitting.)

I wrote the poem back in 2004 (I think?) after one of my dearest friends, Brent Armendinger, and I exchanged exercises with one another one Friday night during a long catchup by phone. I count it among my greatest blessings that I have friends whose own relationships to creative work are so deep and defining that we can hold one another to our edges and simul-balance one anothers’ needs for support and challenge.

For the last couple weeks I’ve been unusually nostalgic, and have been thinking lots about some of the more luxuriant magics of memory, especially as they relate to sense of community: the condensing, reordering, relayering, superimposing, underscoring. The way memory invites us to plummet into archaeological ground sometimes. To keep dropping in; to continue. To form a sense of always. I’ve been rereading Bachelard (The Poetics of Reverie, The Poetics of Space) and thinking lots this spring about longevity and relationships, and about adaptation versus evolution between people who shape one another, and about what is of particular importance to me as an artist and as a human being with tender values. What meaning is not just sense, but my own actual gold. Within that window, I am thinking sideways about the group of poets who were with me for the MFA years when I was lucky to have institutional support and peer community for setting my sense of writer-self down exactly where I wanted it to be in my life. That sense grows stronger all the time, and now we’re all over the place – sometimes down on our hands and knees with our projects with tiny delicate tools, sometimes plummeting.

Ten years ago this month I had an unreal week at Michigan: I won a Hopwood Award, and (the incredible post-graduate fellowship) the Meijer, and two other poetry prizes all in the space of seven days. I was dizzy. I remember wondering whether I was having an allergic reaction to something during my first Ann Arbor spring because it felt so different to be me. Now I’m thinking Newton, for every force there is an equal and opposite force. I remember going for a walk at the end of that week and feeling like the sidewalk was a kind of miracle. What it is we call world, and how sometimes it appears in front of us like a line are coming to know.

Last month, I repotted five dwarf citrus trees in my backyard, and right now I’m watching all of them drop fruit and leaves in rapid succession, taking with them only what they can.

This is to say thanks again, Brent, for the exercise, and for the future ones there will be, and thanks, poems, for sometimes holding so much more than the time it takes to read them can.


2 thoughts on “The life of the thing (II)”

  1. “a human being with tender values”…that’s what stood out for me reading your blog today…an apt description of you from the vantage point of one of your students…and I include me in that category. I’m happy you’re alive and that you ventured out to sunny California.

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