Not much to report except to say I am finding comfort in routine. My wonderful writing group The Writers has started up again, and my Wednesdays are all about writing, my writing friends, and hearing and critiquing new work. So far Sharon Fiffer and Goldie Goldbloom have moderated.
You may know Sharon Fiffer from her mystery books (the Jane Wheel series), the anthologies she worked on with her husband Steve Fiffer, or from their Evanston writing workshops. Also, she’s let me share one of her blog posts (“Losing and Finding”) here. When she came to The Writers a week ago she was excited because she just heard an essay of hers would run that night in Private Lives, part of the Opinionator blog of The New York Times. Then she learned it was also published in the paper; here is the link to“Breaking my A.L.S. Promise.” I challenge you to read it.
Goldie Goldbloom is probably best known for her book The Paperbark Shoe. She’s also written Toads’ Museum of Freaks and Wonders and You Lose These. Plus she’s had work in many literary magazines and recently she received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. This summer she was in Menerbes, France as the recipient of the Dora Maar House Fellowship. She had a great experience there; I’ve got to say it sounds pretty terrific. Oui. Oui.
Recently announced were the poetry books and nonfiction books nominated for the National Book Awards–what do you think? If we had Ladbrokes running a betting pool, I would bet the poetry award will go to Ed Hirsch for his book Gabriel: A Poem, which he wrote after the death of his son. My heart goes out to anyone who has lost a child. For nonfiction books, Roz Chast is nominated for her memoir Can We Talk About Something More Pleasant? I have not read it entirely but I know I was enraptured with her feature in The New Yorker–you can see it here.
Speaking of The New Yorker, a poem that is making news appears in a recent issue. The poem “Japanese Maple” by Clive James who is terminally ill. It begins: “Your death, near now, is of an easy sort. /So slow a fading out brings no real pain.”
Read the whole poem here. This led me to thinking about the poem I would write about my own death, that is, if I had the chance. Would I face it with grace or would it be one long lamentation? I felt these lines of Clive James’s: “When did you ever see / So much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls /On that small tree /And saturates your brick back garden walls, So many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?” What about you — what would you write if you knew you were dying?
Oh and one more thing. I just received the literary magazine Grist. In it is a most instructive essay by Maura Stanton “How to Be Subtle in Fiction by Being Bold.” She explains what the term “value” means in visual art, studies it in a Vermeer painting and notes, “There’s subtle meaning conveyed in those contrasting values” and then wonders: “Could I find values at work in art made out of words as well as art made out of paint.” She examines a haiku, a novella from 1926, a contemporary fiction piece. Now that I’m writing about it, I want to read it again; maybe more of it will soak in.
So that’s everything I could think of to share. Hope you are thinking great thoughts, reading great stuff.
Peace, love, and solace