Friday, November 24, 2006

Almost Random Notes, Part 2

We had a good Thanksgiving and I am grateful for many things. The past week has been so busy that I haven't had an opportunity to keep the blog updated. I thought it might be easiest to make a few notes to bring things current.

1. My daughter Hannah is a Junior at Eugene Lang College in New York City. The College is a part (a small part; about 700 students) of The New School. It's been a good to see Hannah mature as a student (she has quite a brilliant intellect) and to see her writing talents emerge. She's taking a poetry class this term and has been working on a poem about my vision problems. The poem, "What Cannot Be Seen", is really a strong one; sad and wise and sentimental and hard-edged, too. I wish it were my privilege to publish the poem on this website, but I think the poem is strong enough (along with several others she's written) to be published in a good journal, and I think she should submit the poem somewhere.

I hope she keeps writing. I am encouraging her as much as I can, but am also trying not to run her life. Of course, she is so independent--and always has been--it isn't possible for me to run her life.

And if I published the poem on this website, no one would see it!

2. Last Monday I spent an hour on the phone with Enid Shomer, going over the title poem of my soon-to-be-publisher-bound manuscript, "Figured Dark." Enid (as I think I explained earlier) is the editor of the University of Arkansas Press Poetry Series. She had a lot of good ideas for "Figured Dark" and some real insight into the poem--things I simply hadn't seen. If you get the chance to work with her in a workshop--or any other setting--pay attention and be grateful.

I am working on revisions and hope to have the manuscript off to the Press in another week. I am also working on making contacts for blurbs, etc.

3. I read a number of blogs written by poets and writers. Once I have a track record (and an opportunity to read "Blogging for Dummies" so I know how this is supposed to work), I hope to link up with a few of them so that I can make this blog part of a larger writing community. Lord knows, trying to be a part of a local community of writers hasn't worked for me! Anyway, one blog I go to on a regular basis is "Awfully Serious" by Alison Stine. Recently Alison has featured on her masthead a quotation from L. M. Montgomery (author of Ann of Green Gables):

"My future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don't know what lies around the bend, but I am going to believe that the best does."

On my better days, (and honestly, I am not having that many bad days--only a few rough moments) that's how I am trying to think about my life right now. I can "see" my eyesight declining. Even over the past month, I can tell a difference in my vision. Colors are fading--sometimes the Michigan landscape looks like a cheap, overexposed biker movie from the early '70's--and it takes a while in the morning for my eyes to "snap on." My vision suggests a theater marquee in which sections of tiny lightbulbs are burnt out while others are fizzing away. A few of the missing lights seem to snap on each day, just before noon. In the afternoons, then, things are better. By 8 p.m., my eyes are exhausted.

I am trying to do a few things to make my life easier and (gulp) more organized. These are no small tasks. I am far more organizationally impaired than I am vision-impaired. Until now, disorganization has been a luxury, perhaps even an endearing character-defect. No longer.

I finally have all of my books in the house and on bookshelves. I finally have the internet at home. I've set up a wireless network in the house with an AirPort Express (that's pretty cool--for someone as technologically impaired as I am) and I figured out how to enlarge the print-size on my monitor. Thank God for Apple and OS X and for my new computers--all of this was easy to do and everything seems to have been designed to assist the vision-impaired. I understand that there is voice-recognition capability built into the OS X software, so I will be making work of finding where that is and figuring out how to use it.

I am also trying to become more technology-oriented at work, hoping to stave off the impact of my eye problems on my job performance.

4. I wish I remembered which blog I read referred me to "The Art of Finding," an essay by Linda Gregg which appears on the Academy of American Poets website. She writes:

"I am astonished in my teaching to find how many poets are nearly blind to the physical world. They have ideas, memories, and feelings, but when they write their poems they often see them as similes...[S]eeing is important, even vital to the poet, since it is crucial that a poet see when she or he is not looking just as she must write when she is not writing. To write just because the poet wants to write is natural, but to learn to see is a blessing. The art of finding in poetry is the art of marrying the sacred to the world, the invisible to the human."

5. I've also been reading "Bad Ideas" by the critic D.H. Tracy, which appears in the November, 2006 Poetry and which is also the featured essay this week on Poetry Daily. Tracy is trying to distinguish between "serious" poets and those who are not "serious." I am not sure I completely understand his distinctions, (they do not, for example, appear to be based upon a qualitative distinction between "good" and "bad" poets). Anyway, the essay is an interesting one. I think of myself as a "serious" poet, (who doesn't?) but am not sure that I measure up under Tracy's criteria.

Who does? Any serious poets out there?

6. Not all of the editing tools for Blogger popped up on my screen when I went to the "edit" function this afternoon. For example, no italics, no bold, etc. I looked into this and apparently not all of these tools are available in Apple's OS X. I've made all my previous entries on a PC.

Score one for Bill Gates, I guess.

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