Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Open Letter to Dean B.


Why the fuck has my visit not made it into your blog yet? Jaysus.


Well, Dean, I'll admit that after our conversations on Friday regarding the dangers of posting my life blog-fashion on the internet, I've had occasion to pause.

What if, as you implied during one of our spirited chats, the creative juices are limited (sometimes severely so) and this blogging drains the well? What if I spend everything here and have nothing else to say, later, in a more publishable format? What if I write up your visit (which was hella hella fun) and a stunning, world class poem slips out of the database?

This weekend, one of my best friends called from Virginia, where she makes her home half the year (she spends the other half in South Africa, her country of origin). She's about to make the trip to the other side of the planet, so we have to make our phone conversation count. Somehow, the connection cut out in the middle of a sentence. I used the caller ID button on our crappy "second" phone (the one that is somehow radio controlled by the "first" phone in the kitchen) to try to get her VA number back. I put the 10 digits into my head, recited them once, twice, three times. Clicked back to TALK mode and tried to dial. After 8 or so unsuccessful tries, I lumbered up from my living room chair, stomped into the kitchen, and read her number off the sheet on the fridge. Finally, 5 minutes later, I got her back.

The moral of this story is that I can't even keep a 10 digit sequence in my head for the 3 seconds it takes to click from ID to TALK mode, so space up here is limited.

It's a very real danger, then, that I'm wasting my sweetness, my now fading blooms, on blogspace. I should be using all this lingering energy to write a volume of stunning, shocking, world altering poetry. Or some chick lit (money maker). Or a poignant memoir about the time we spent living in Mexico.

But I have so much FUN on blogspace. When I write a poem, no one has the chance to write back. To make pithy remarks. To laugh at my jokes, however lame. Here's the sad truth about my slim volume of poetry (available from Finishing Line Press or Amazon.com): I had to get 65 of my friends and relatives to buy copies of the book before it even went to print. That's right; I had to stand in front of my wooden wagon, hold up the promise of my poetry in one hand and huckster to the crowd with the other. It's a little too Wizard of Oz.

And, as you point out, writing this way leaves very little space for reflection or revision. True. I don't revise these posts. Much. I may backspace over sentences, move paragraphs around, delete sentences and words--mostly those pesky adverbs, cockroaches of literary spaces--but I don't have the time, energy or inclination to revise (re-see) much.

Problem: with poetry, I'm a compulsive reviser. I'm still revising "Consolation Prize" (once "In the Moon Palace with Daddy Roy" of the post mentioned below); every time I open the file to print and send it out, I revise. I'm in the midst of revising it now. (In fact, I should be revising it instead of typing this.) But
revising can be fatal. I've probably squeezed all the juice out of it.

And, yes, it's scary to think that you might, at this minute, be reading what I'm writing to you. I'm getting a bit queasy and I think on it. At A's, as we laughed and told stories on ourselves, and ate our meals, a worm of doubt wiggled into the back of my consciousness. I'd devoted an entire entry, titled "Green Eyed Monster," to your visit, I remembered. Shit. Was it unflattering?

One reader suggested, in response to some questions I had about the ethics of blogging other peoples' stories as part of my own, that we should not write anything in our blogs that we wouldn't say directly to the person-in- question's face. Would I say directly to your face what I said, not even knowing you, in the post? Hm.

Flushed with wine and the pleasure of your conversation--Damn, man, you are one good talker! And, shit, your writing is fucking excellent. It's impossible NOT to like you, and want the best for you, and want to spend more time talking with you, about writing, about family, about life, about whatever, despite your annoying success. So, flushed, stupid, I confessed that you were the subject of that post.

Then I went home and reread. Delete? You thought I might. I thought I might. My fingers poised, for a second, over the button.

But who looks bad here? Me. I mean, I'm writing about a writer who I don't even know yet. I'm revealing my wicked, petty, small minded bitch-writer ways. I think all the shit falls on me.

Okay, then. Am I opening myself up to all kinds of weird harm here? "I'm amazed," one of my friends will say, after each of my poetry readings, "that you can be so raw and honest about yourself. I could never do that." This friend has also counseled me to play my cards closer to the vest, worried that the political arena will take this information and use it against me, as if in a court of law.

This friend isn't blowing smoke up my ass--she's dead on about the ways in which our enemies (who we might think are friends) can twist our words against us. Turn friends and acquaintances against us. Spoil the very connection we're seeking to forge. So maybe I'm just laying in kindling for a really good fire...

What the hell. At least I'll be warm.


Dean, the students loved you. It's too bad they couldn't come to the dinner and get a chance to relax with us, ask you questions, hear your stories, tell their own. You might recognize elements of your younger self in them. (Yes, teaching is a narcissistic pleasure at times.) One said today, "God, I wish he'd brought a bunch of his books with him. I wanted to buy one right then and there. I had to read the story immediately."

I can't wait to read that next novel, Harmony. It's going to be good. I bet it's going to be better than Please Don't Come Back. Why? Because now you're an experienced novelist. When you wrote Please, you weren't a novelist yet. Now you are.

It's a good sign, in my humble opinion, when the writing comes hard. I have to say that labor--giving birth--kicked the crap out of me. It took way too long, and hurt way to much, and there were too many scary parts where I despaired, and got sick, and thought I would never make it through the ordeal to the other side. And yet I did, and Lizzie, if I do say so myself, is the best fucking thing that ever happened to me. Pure magical realism.

Giving birth is one pain. Raising the child is yet another. Lizzie was hard. At three, she was fucking hard. I thought I would knock her into the next century at one point. After turning her over my knee and spanking her one night, in a red haze that bloomed in front of my eyes and burned in my hand, I found myself in my office here, breathing heavy, buying 50.00 worth of books on commando parenting. I'd become my stepfather, the villain of all my stories. The world was turning inside out.

That's what real work, real love, real insight does. Isn't that the magic?

So I'm sure you'll come out the other side. And your daughter will be there, looking at you, the way she did when she woke up from that nap and gazed into your face. What's a little book in the face of that recognition?

Shit. Stop me before I sentimentalize again.

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