Tales from the MFA
“We carry so many people and places and experiences inside us I’m always amazed we can keep moving forward. Our minds are so full of so much, and inside there everything is so vivid, so alive, so meaningful. I suppose, in some fashion, this is a question many philosophers have dealt with for many centuries, along with the Surrealists at the beginning of the 20th century. When someone speaks in your mind, it sometimes feels like everyone can hear.”
“I believe that books will never disappear. It is impossible that that will happen. Among the many inventions of man, the book without a doubt is the most astounding: all the others are extensions of our bodies. The telephone, for example, is the extension of our voice; the telescope and the microscope are extensions of our sight; the sword and the plow are extensions of our arms. Only the book is an extension of our imagination and memory.”
There was a spell of two weeks where I got an insider’s perspective of me in 40 years. An example might include me walking to a cabinet across the room and by the time I had reached it, had absolutely forgotten the important thing I needed to fetch. Mix in a bout of indecision and you get no action.
I need to get going and begin reading tonight. After leaving the residency, I feel as though I have taken on the form of a roadrunner. Since Sunday I have read selected poems by Lorca, Jimenez and Araceli Girmay. Poetry of light meets that of desire.Tonight I sniffed out three translations of two Borges poems to tackle and see how the translators negotiate the prose poetics with meanings and words. My mentor this semester is none other than Ilya Kaminsky. He is the right person for me to be shaped after this semester. One reason resides in his poetry that is so full of a humanity that sees all and yet finds something beautiful even in the hardest circumstance. His poems touch me profoundly as does his zest for life and the way he gets me to re-evaluate a situation. I can’t tell him how “Author’s Prayer” makes me cry every time I read it. His humility wraps around this amazing thirst for poetry and reading. He is a great teacher already and I am ready to learn and dive down.
Walking along patches of snow, my boots clomp into its forgiving mass. The silence is immense and I welcome its cheerful observance of my virgin boots stamping California steps onto New England land. Land- once splendid in its coat of many colors, now shorn to reveal just two. Just enough. White amidst charcoal accents. Charcoal muddying white. And me in my bright burnt orange coat fanning the campus paths like a slow-moving firefly make an occasional third.
2008 is winking at me in a mischevous man-at-the-bar-who’s-not-taking-himself-too-seriously sort of way. I am on the verge of ending my year-long fast of animal-given protein. As I mull what will be in 2008 (going dairy-free, purifying), I reflect in brief on classic moments of a self-imposed vegetarianism:
— Hello beans and legumes! Hey, we were just getting acquainted and who’s to say it ends here?
— I watched crabbers pulling in a very angry and headstrong dungeness at Crissy Field last week feeling equal parts bad that his demise was coming this way and then remembering the buttery sweetness reminiscent of the dungeness.
— My cleanse enabled me to address head-on a love affair with sugar in a whole new way- dancing anyone?
— Give me an hour at the San Rafael Farmer’s Market and I will give you a dish of seasonal yum.
Tonight I was up in my room peacefully reading more poetry by a Puerto Rican wordsmith. A friend came into my doorway saying she was the bearer of bad news. She looked stricken and held in her hand a sliver of a piece of green paper. It says:
I feel like smoking, long drags on an ever dwindling cigarette. And the thing is I don’t smoke- except for that one time at Dana’s house lying on her roof with several classmates during junior high…but that’s a story for another time as I can see my Mom pursing her lips in that “Annelies!” way she has perfected over the years.
oh spanakopita, you look niceta
next to vegetarian moussaka
the night is young, let me danceta
next to hot men in tight pantseta…
Tonight, my good intentions of homework were thwarted by a line that’s been stuck in my head ever since it planted itself firmly into the sodden turf at work yesterday. it was not moving and told me placidly that it was here to stay until i reckoned with what it had to tell me.
If you find me slow to respond over the next oh six months, I have posted exhibit A below as evidence for my whereabouts. One book is still missing from the flock and while in New York I will attempt to hunt down Yona Wallach’s shepherd press contribution. This semester finds me exploring poetry: of the lyrical narrative persuasion, of ecstasy, of witness and of the leaping variety. Should be fun and the midnight oil tins have been readied.fall-2007-reads.jpg
My mentor made a comment to me over lunch during the residency, nicely sandwiched in between bites of strawberries doused by whipping cream. She has this way about her that penetrates and asks the questions around which others might lollygag. But not her. Its importance is not attached to being said between bites. I sat back, mouth open and really let the words come in. Let her speak into me and know the task at hand is not insurmountable, but might take the rest of my life.