Monday, April 27, 2009

I think Eloise taught me this.

Find a picture. Look at it and then close your eyes. Enter that world. Listen, smell, touch, taste, look around. Let the words come to you like a flash. Open your eyes. Write them down.

Small is relative.

I hope I feel this mischievous on my wedding day.

"Oh grandma, are you sure your legs aren't healed yet?"

This might turn out to be the happiest moment of both of their lives.

"Yea, put your fingers like so-- that makes the whole thing look really authentic."

If you lived here you'd be home now.


I really like yellow.


"Did she say meet her in the ultimate or the penultimate one on the left?"

the pictures are by the wonderful and amazing Peter Turnley from his take on "Family of Man." The link to the pictures are here. He is a good man and has photographed the estimable Codman Academy.

Monday, April 20, 2009

these modest facts

I wrote this 20 days ago but wasn't connected to the internet so then I forgot about it until today. Since I have been so remiss in posting here I'm scraping together even the ones I had forgotten.

John Updike wrote a poem called “Peggy Lutz, Fred Murth” on December 13th, 2008. He died shortly after Christmas, less than two weeks later. Several poems from his final months were published in a recent issue of the New Yorker and it took me several times with the issue before I got through more than a line or two of each. Poetry for me requires a very specific state of mind. Patience. Generosity. Curiosity. Patience again… And compassion, or a willingness to be open and sensitive. To let down the guard of my workhorse self and let the cogs in the machine in my head move about, float a bit, and maybe—hopefully—re-attach in some new and different, transformed way. I can’t be doing three or four things at once and I can’t be thinking about any other thing—at least not until moved to do so by the words on the page. Surprisingly, rare as it is in my day-to-day life—this mode, the state poetry is in-- is probably my favorite. Because, it is also the state where I can really feel. Really think. And really listen.
[I love Mach-4 (as in flight not razor) mode too, don’t get me wrong—and I love feeling fast, efficient, productive. But there’s a little something special about that dreamy other place—where the rules of punctuation and linearity fall away.

from the poem:
“I’ve written these before, these modest facts,

but their meaning has no bottom in my mind.
The fragments in their jiggled scope collide
To form more sacred windows. I had to move
To beautiful New England—its triple
Deckers, whited churches, unplowed streets—
To learn how dreary and deadly life can be.”

I really love this poem and this part of it. I grew up in a triple-decker on a hill in Dorchester that the plows often overlooked. Snowstorms meant going out into the world knowing that more than likely the trip home at the end would include a group effort push of the car up the hill.
In the past few months I have been filling out a lot of applications (fellowships, grants) and prepping for some interviews where questions like "tell us about yourself as an artist" laser at me with terrifying frequency. It was terrifying until I really organized my 'story' -- of truths of course-- but where the ordering and delivery can really shape a stranger's understanding. I lined up and made sense of my modest facts. And I am finding Updike's observation to hold true-- their meaning has a sort of infinite bottom.