Poetry and Uncertainty

is the title of Jane Hirshfield’s essay in Nov/Dec issue of The American Poetry Review. It is, like most of Hirshfield’s essays, a compelling read. As I begin the dark crawl into the mindset of editing my second manuscript, I’ve found many parts of this essay useful/interesting/thought provoking. In particular, I was most drawn to an amazing quote from Dr. Michael Dickson about flies:

As for insects, they may not think but they certainly make lots of decisions. What we perceive as behavior is really just a seamless string of decisions: should I mate with you?, should I vomit here?, should I fly off this overcrowded rotting peach on the chance I’ll find a lovely uninhabited rotting peach? Flies make decisions forcefully, uninhibited by memory and nostalgia. Little six-legged Fortinbras. We like Hamlet better, because his uncertainty cuts so close to the source of our humanity. We cannot tabulate costs and benefits without being helplessly swayed by our memories and emotions. We get all bollixed up with uncertainty because we really don’t see things clearly. Our minds drift and we can’t quite manage to pull the trigger.

As for editing, I’m a blue-bottle fly–of course, this is also like awakening on the first warm day after a long, cold winter. I’m bumping into everything, and flying away with nothing.


…words are attractive on more than one level. Sometimes they express the familiar, the whiff of something, someone, somewhere that you know, or they captivate you in an unusual manner, hold you by the seat of your polyester pants, grab you by your thin belt loops and yank your pink underwear up the crack of your butt. Or, sometimes they just do this.


…I wrote one final, and tomorrow another, and in between I will write nothing of merit (sure, I think I get the meaning of the word now, sigh). By merit I mean writing something real to me (probably a poem), not factual, or non-fictional, but imaginative. Something from the dark cave of my released mind, (maybe cave art?). An escape from the primordial pain of the fingers (I’m faster typing on a keyboard anyway), a release from the spasmodic jag of writing cramps, both mentally and physically (which is happening right now). Although, I must confess, I’ll not be writing something of grace. (Because I’m passionate, dammit, not graceful (those who know me well understand the ungraceful part all too well)).


Are you dreaming of a vacation away from the tropical storms of life? Need a rest from the weary beaches of snow, the drift of monotony boring into the brain, the swell of a blizzard so great you run to the nearest airport and head for Cuba? Fly to the land of the mojito, cigars, beaches, and relaxation. No, I’m not giving away a free trip for two to the pristine palaces lingering on the shores, and no, I haven’t been offered a job as travel consultant, but I have been told by the wonderful storyteller Kevin MacKenzie about Nereida Herrera Samuels, one of Cuba’s finest professional Narradoras. Nereida is offering customized tours of Old Havana, complete with stories of the Revolution, stories about growing up in Cuba, stories about the people of Cuba, and stories about stories about stories. It sounds like an outstanding opportunity. For more information about the tours contact Kevin by phone toll free 1 (866) ALL PLAY, or by email: Kevin@storiesbykevin.com.

And speaking of Kevin, watch out for the Christmas Story Sled plowing through Regina this December. It’s organized by volunteers from the Regina Storytelling Circle. Keep an eye out for their next location, and for their reindeer. Contact Kevin for more info.


…is what I’m doing. Today I’ve been digging through my notes for finals. What most concerns me is the concept of merit/grace in my Contemporary American fiction. These two threads try to quilt their way through the notes. The designs are so intricate, I don’t know if I understand any more or any less their commonality or their theme in this patterned state than when I first started.

Merit: As an abstract quality.
1. a. Theol. The quality (in actions or persons) of being entitled to reward from God. (OED)

Grace: Favour, favourable or benignant regard or its manifestation (now only on the part of a superior); favour or goodwill, in contradistinction to right or obligation, as the ground of a concession. Somewhat arch. of grace: as a matter of favour and not of right. in grace of: in favour of, for the benefit of. (OED)

Besides being graced enough to read Grace Paley, I’m thinking about Robert Olen Butler and the postcards. The Earl story and 9/11. Bobbi Ann Mason refilled my head with 1984, Springsteen style, the onslaught of pop culture, and the words of grace and merit still needled. Vietnam re-enters my head sewing the past onto the present and the whole picture looks a little less hilly(the house on the hill concept). Or not. DeLillo, of course, messed with the structure of body and time so that now I’m contemplating my own lack of merit in understanding the concepts of fiction and grace.


…to do now that I’m no longer procrastinating. Sigh. Today I read some Jorie Graham–in-between pretending to work, although at my job, I don’t think I can pretend to work, fake it maybe, but not pretend. Ha! I’m partying tonight–whoopee! Oh, and I’ve been composing music on this (for the music composer click on Vc).

Two things

…I’m doing tonight. One: the essay I’ve so procrastinated on–its almost done, I have almost 11 pages of garbage to sort through. It’s due tomorrow. Two: surfing here and looking for a Russian poet–Svetlana something or other– mentioned by Patrick Friesen the other night at a reading. His poem about her death still holds me.


…I have done today instead of my essay: got dressed, made my bed, didn’t eat breakfast (I never do), but drank some coffee (I always do that), checked my email, replied, sent some new ones, went to work, did many haircuts, (actually all haircuts today), had lunch with a friend (portabello mushroom burger, messy but yum), did more haircuts, wrote a few notes on my essay but didn’t type them up, drove home, made supper, ate supper, cleaned up from supper, read my email again, answered, deleted, read an essay on procrastination, read some blogs, responded to some blogs, and wrote on my blog. And just for the record, I’m an Arousal Procrastinator.

And because this blog is too proper. (From Bookninja).