Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I Get By...With a Little Help from My Friends

37º ~ the whole day gone gray with overcast, across the alley a troop of roofers punctuate the otherwise quiet air, one bright red sweatshirt catches and distracts the eye as it hovers in high branches

Well, as the lapse in posting on this blog over the past six months can attest, I've been struggling. Struggling to maintain a focus on my own work amidst the work of my paying job and the work of being spouse, family-member, and friend. I know the fallow period that follows completing a big project, such as having two books come out in close proximity (one out and one on the way out, in any case); however, this time has felt a bit bleaker, and things recently reached a breaking point.

If you are on Facebook, you know that a few days ago, I posted a call for help. True to form, my friends turned out in all their glory and offered support and concrete advice. This morning, I returned to the desk with new determination and plucked one such piece of advice from my FB thread and BEGAN.

This bit of advice was offered by more than one person: transcribe a poem by that you love (written by someone else, of course) into your journal.

Duh! (Head slap) This is one of the prompts I offer my students because it has helped me so many times. I happened to have Lucie Brock-Broido's The Master Letters beside me, so I opened to "Rome Beauty." Really, I could have used almost any poem in the book, but this one seemed "do-able" for a new beginning.

*While I've been struggling with poetry, I've also been struggling with some stress-management issues. I recently revisited Thich Nhat Hanh's audiobook The Art of Mindful Living to try and get myself back to living in the now and being present.

As I transcribed the poem, I kept the mindfulness lessons at the surface. I did not rush. I read and absorbed Brock-Broido's words, a phrase at a time, and I copied them into my journal with an attempt to keep my handwriting legible, my lines steady. This was, after all, not the rush of drafting, but the return to finding joy in language and in poetic lines.

After I completed the transcriptions, I felt calm, centered. However, my coffee had grown cold. So, I left the desk and hit the microwave in the kitchen. And here, perhaps I offer too much information. Often as I wait for my coffee to reheat, I stretch, twirl, dance, etc. on the old linoleum floor (yet another instance where the cats look at my like I'm crazy). Today, I pivoted on one foot with the other touching the cardinal points of the compass. I did so unconsciously, but almost immediately, lines sprang into my head.

I, too, am a bit Obsessed
with my own wind-tossed turning

on the compass wheel. ...

Boom. I was at the desk and scribbling madly in my journal, now throwing any semblance of good handwriting out the window.  The draft is unfinished as yet, but 12 lines made it onto the computer, which is a fabulous start. Also, this strange thing happened, the poem is filled, I mean FILLED, with rhymes.  Frost, exhausts, lost; so, no, show, slow; in, limbs; dismissed, wrist. Rhymes, but not in any standardized pattern. Just there, singing beneath the surface.

And so, I say "thank you" to everyone who commented on Facebook, sent me a private message, or has simply listened to me whine and moan for the last bit of life. I owe you all...Big Time!


Anonymous said...

I love Lucy Brock Broido's poetry! In her most recent book she writes poems to lines of poetry she found in other sources, like Cesar Vallejo. She then puts his line as the title to her poem. I love this concept. I'm always finding lines of prose, snippets and phrases, that I jot down and try to work into a poem later. Glad you are writing. I too have not written much in the last two months, mostly because I've been grading. So your post is inspirational, as was your earlier call for advice.

drew said...


I like the idea of copying poems as a way to get back to the rhythm of language. I'm going to try it today.
Thanks Sandy.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks for the support, Christine & Drew. And as for inspiration, the thanks goes out to the universe of friends!

Karen Skolfield said...

Yet another great post - and yes, how we (writers all) struggle locally with writing - and how to see it as normal but then to rise above the funk. Thank you!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Ah, Karen, thanks for adding to the support and camaraderie.