Monday, February 28, 2011

warning: in which i talk about *feelings*

excuse me a bit of self-indulgence. if you can't excuse it, well skip this post and everyone's happy.

so at some point last week (Thursday? Friday?) i got excited about writing. i don't know when i stopped being excited about writing - i want to say at the start of winter, but really, i didn't write much over the summer. this lethargy seems to have started sometime last winter. it hasn't helped that i've been sick (the doctor's helpful advice was 'sometimes people just stay sick'). a constant stuffed-head feeling is not particularly motivating. not all of this lethargy is related to writing: some of it comes from job anxiety, some from the sleepless nights that come after any event where i interact with people because man they must think i'm so stupid and why did i say that and i'm so awkward and unlikeable, some of it comes from that grad-student feeling of 'i'm not smart enough to be here and hold my own with these brilliant people,' and some of it definitely links to the weather. there have been a lot of days in the past few months where getting out of bed did not seem like a feasible achievement. i wanted really badly to quit. school, writing, everything. but i can't afford to quit: i have grants that would need to be paid back if i left the program unfinished. i'm financially obligated to see this thing through. i've just lost sight of why i'm here, studying for an MA. i mean, why am i studying for an MA? to give myself time to write . . . except i haven't made good use of that time, and suddenly there is no time and i'm too busy to get everything done. well that's life, and it was poor management on my part.

why am i talking about this?

well because i suddenly feel like myself again. and i've had few moments like this over the past couple years, and i know i need to leverage this momentum so that when i start feeling mopey again i don't just fizzle out. i want my thesis done by the end of summer. i have to assemble a chapbook of student writing for my job by April. i have to be more disciplined, and not let myself feel so overwhelmed and so hopeless. this is one of the reasons why i decided to post Of Wyrms and Women. It is work i've already done, so with relatively little effort i can achieve something (a blog post) every week. not much of an achievement, but it's within my reach. i've also added a poem to my thesis for the first time in nearly two months. my thesis is a huge problem: i've not been honest with myself (or others) about what a terrible state it's in. i'm behind. really behind. i still think i can pull it off, and part of that is that over the weekend i actually bought some books, and requested others from the library. small steps. i do still like my thesis project, and i still think i can write a badass academic component for it. badass indeed.

i also have an idea for a new project once my thesis is done. something different. something i want to write NOT for school. this is progress, because now i have something i want to do once my MA is done. before, well i had no idea. i couldn't really imagine being done, that there would be an after. so. this is where things stand. march and april are going to be busy months, so this clarity of self won't last. but this is some kind of progress.

i had my birthday last week. maybe i leveled up all at once, and this is the result. a year's worth of experience, a +1 to Con, +1 to Int, thank you now i can complete this dungeon crawl.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

underwear poetry: results?

So i gave my family their poetry books at christmas. My father seemed uncertain, but kept his game-face on. i suggested poetry might make good bathroom reading (watch out Uncle John, poetry's in the throne room now!). My youngest sister made a remark about how she doesn't like poetry (she has previously called poetry 'frivolous') but at least pretended interest when i explained how Poets and Killers was composed using lines from advertising. My mother said she would definitely read her copy of Poets and Killers, and my middle sister seemed enthusiastic about [sic].

My mother seemed particularly pleased when she noticed that her book was signed. My father was a disappointed that his was not also signed. Whoops. And with every book I was asked "Is this one of your profs? Do you know this writer?" No. Yes.

It did seem to make a difference that i could talk a little bit about the writers: my folks were definitely more interested in who the writers were than what project the books were undertaking. It let my parents get a little glimpse into this mysterious world of the poet/academic, and suddenly the books are more meaningful because of a personal connection - a low degree of separation between the poet and the reader. i think it reduces the factor of intimidation (sort of "well if my daughter knows this person, it can't be so foreign and incomprehensible").

But it's nearly March, and as far as i know, the books are unread. My mother has, however, looked through an issue of filling Station magazine. "I didn't understand it at all" she said.

i'm working on it.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Of Wyrms and Women pt. 1

I sit on the subway, thinking of Wealhtheow. Whether or not Wealhtheow existed. Whether her name was a work of fiction. Hrothgar is a historical figure, as are his sons. But who was his wife? Was she Wealhtheow? Was she the peace-weaver?

The train jerks to a stop. The doors open, the off-key jingle clangs a second afterwards. Whose job is it to fix that? Is there a subway tuner who will adjust the chime to match the rest? I like to imagine him, an old man who began his career tuning pianos, and switched to subways when he found it more lucrative. There is less competition in the field of subway-tuning, it being a somewhat maligned occupation in the world of professional instrument tuners. The doors close, and immediately afterwards the warning chime sounds again, too late.

I reread the opening of Beowulf, and match the modern lines to the facing Old English transcription. I sound out the words phonically, mouthing the syllables. A pink-faced businessman across the car watches me. He sits pressed tightly against the side, as far away from me as he can get without actually standing up and changing seats. Sweat greases his forehead, and he rubs his racoonish hands together. I picture Vikings as I read, but I don’t know if that’s really who I’m reading about. I was taking a course at the university for something to do, hoping perhaps to meet people, maybe make some friends. Instead, I was introduced to Beowulf, briefly. The instructor assumed that everyone had encountered Beowulf before, and so dove right into the details, took a brisk lap of the text, then climbed out quickly to dive into the next. When the rest of the group moved on, I lingered on the epic, and stopped going to class. I was always a weak swimmer.

The subway arrives at my stop, and I stride quickly out the door and across the platform towards the stairs. An elderly couple stand on the top step, waiting out the rain. I tuck Beowulf into my shirt and start to jog homewards. It’s not far, but I wish I thought to carry an umbrella, or a jacket, or really anything that would keep the water off. I turn the corner, and dash into my building. It’s an old, depressed structure, with an ugly grey exterior and peeling paint in the hallways. The elevator license has been expired for about a year. As far as I know, few people use the elevator anymore, both because of the horrible clunking sound it makes and the way it doesn’t really line up with the floors when it stops. The stairs, at least, are level. And I’ve never known them to lurch the way the elevator does.

The building is only six stories high. I live on the fifth floor. The climb’s not too bad, but I’m out of breath by the time I reach the top. Fortunately, my door is the first one on the left. I dig into my pocket for my key and let myself in, and carefully pull Beowulf out of my shirt. I examine the book. It’s not too wet. I set it down on a table, and go to find a heavy textbook that should do the trick. Gently, I smooth Beowulf flat and place my ninth grade history textbook on top. I probably should have turned the book back in to the school at some point, but no one ever asked for it. Besides, I like history.

Monday, February 14, 2011

a new blog project

lately, i've been thinking about the novel i developed for the manuscript course i took last year. it was the story of a woman, Sam, who worked as a janitor at a university library while writing a story about Wealhtheow (from Beowulf). Sam also had a twitter and livejournal account - the text straddled the online world. of course, these links have been dormant since last april - if i were to revise the project i'd have to restart the online component. i don't think i'm going to do that again; i've moved on to other projects. i'm wondering if i should just let it sit in towards eventual deletion, or if i should post it in installments here for folks to (hopefully) read.

why not?

well it's a first draft. i've been warned against letting those ugly things called first drafts into the world. what if i'm embarrassed ten years from now? well, i was a teenager on the internet. can anything i put up here now be any more humiliating than the no-one-understands-me poetry that is still out there with my (screen)name on it? i dare you to find it if you can.

well, why then?

maybe someone will read it. that's all, really. maybe someone will read it. it would be awesome if someone read it and cared enough to comment and/or criticize - because that would be really useful for my future work - but really, a reader would be enough for me. because in a workshop course, people have to read your texts. on the internet, if it sucks no one is compelled to follow through.

what i really hope is that looking at work i did last year will kick my butt into getting productive this year, because damn if i'm not discouraged at just how little i've been writing.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

teaching haiku

i'd be lying if i said i wrote these poems specifically for teaching the haiku form to grade seven students. but they sure did get a kick out of them.

Batman is awesome.
He fights villains in Gotham.
His parents are dead.

Batgirl is super.
She used to be called Barbara;
now Stephanie Brown.

The acrobat is
Robin. He's the Boy Wonder.
Underwear outside.

(i know, these are senryu because they don't deal with nature. i did make that distinction to the kids, and gave them the option of writing either.)

one-minute haiku was a successful activity. once they got the hang of writing a haiku in under a minute, students were racing to see who could finish two or three poems before the time limit. not bad, considering this class had a number of students who "hate writing."

and now i'm blogging instead of finishing a paper, so it must be a really productive day!