Our internet was busted last night. It was kind of a relief, because I could go to bed on time, but also I wanted to post what I had been working on that day, and couldn’t and I got unreasonably frustrated. I sometimes get unreasonably frustrated, especially in late November. It is just so dark and lame. No more snow on the ground, just cold, freezing rain, and dark.
Today I’m working from home. That should be good, but it is actually kind of lame. Every other Tuesday I have a day at work that is mostly prep time for me. I am very lucky to have this day, and I understand that for many teachers “Prep” is a lot like saying “Fairytale Magic Land That I’ve Heard About but Never Visited”. But, today I’m working from home because I have a comp day for working Thanksgiving. All our comp days fall on during our prep time, and I have to say, that is a lousy policy. It makes me feel like I’m being punished for working holidays, which we do often, and willingly, but the reward is crumby. There are a lot of things I needed to be at school to accomplish today. Plus, here, I have a stack of bills next to my papers, a pile of laundry in the room next door, and a stack of dishes in the sink. So, my plan is to poem this from yesterday, grade like a mad woman, take a laundry break, write a poem for today (gotta be Ferguson, what else? Are you people paying attention to this?), grade some more, write some more letters of recommendation, dishes, more grading, dinner-making, more dishes, bills, and then reading for tomorrow’s lessons. I can do it. Today I’m Superwoman, but boring.
Yesterday I was feeling kind of down about this whole project. Who cares if I write 365 poems this year? They aren’t really getting any better. What does it all mean??? Why do it, if we are merely the smallest bits of foam on an dark ocean of cresting time? After working around something for awhile, I realized that is essential what nearly all the characters in To the Lighthouse feel. We’re reading that, my 12th graders and I, and yesterday I was reading Virginia’s “Letter to a Young Poet” from Death of The Moth, and Other Essays. In it she writes,
“The poet writes very well; he writes for the eye of a severe and intelligent public; but how much better he would have written had he written for no eye but his own! After all, the years from twenty to thirty are years (let me refer to your letter again) of emotional excitement. The rain drippping, a wing flashing, someone passing–the commonest sounds and sights have power to fling one, as I seem to remember from the heights of rapture to the depths of despair. And if the actual life is thus extreme, visionary life should be free to follow. Write then, now that you are young, nonsense by the ream. Be silly, be sentimental, imitate Shelley, imitate Samuel Smiles; give the reign to every impulse; commit every fault of style, grammar, taste, and syntax; pour out tumble over; loose anger, love, satire, in whatever words you can catch, coerce or create, in whatever metre, prose, poetry, or gibberish that comes to hand. Thus you will learn to write.”
This seems like good advice, and though I’m not nearly as young as the man to who V was writing, it seems like exactly the advice I need right now.
No Eye But Her Own
Never think yourself singular. Never think your case much harder than other people’s. I admit that the age we live in makes this difficult.
Looking up slowly, like a heavy-lashed picture star, she said, “I hope to die in November.”
“It is November now.”
“Not now, of course, but when it should come it should come in dark November.”
“Why dark November?”
“Because how could one tell the dark from the Dark, then? Death could slip over with such ease, then”.
“Whatever made you think of that just now?”
“That spider over there, near the corner with the plant. She is so dark and busy.”
“Would you like me to crush her?”
“Yes please, with the heel of my brown suede boot, the one with the fur around the ankle.”
–rhythm keeps up its perpetual beat. Sometimes it seems to die down to nothing; it lets you eat, sleep, talk like other people. Then again it swells and rises and attempts to sweep all the contents of your mind into one dominant dance. Tonight is such an occasion.
How like you to crush her, as though that were the answer to the topic that fills all the long seconds of November. Picking up my boot, you came to the rescue, saving, you thought, me from long hours of unpleasant thought on a topic you thought best avoided. How like me, to pretend I wanted rescue. How unfortunate for Her, legs busy in their computations. But how could you have known how it sounds tonight, the calling quietus, how the thoughts of sleep and silence don’t terrify you tonight, and how good that feels.
Hmm. Alright, Virgina Woolf. I spun a lot of nonsense. Reams and reams of it this year, for sure. GRADING. It hangs over me. Off to it. Happy Tuesday, poemfriends.