— Anne Carson, “Canicula di Anna” in Plainwater
I have been both looking forward to and dreading this day. A thousand days. A thousand days? How is this possible? And how do I commemorate a thousand days? What special, spectacular post will I write? What wisdom will I share? What enormous lesson have I learned? Can this please be over? Can this never be over?
I’ve been stressing about this for a couple of weeks, or maybe even a thousand days. How will it end?
But here’s what I learned: it doesn’t end. Not now anyway. Day 1000 is an important day, yes, but not more or less important than Day 1, Day 51 or Day 467. (OK, I hope there was a day 467 because my days got messed up somewhere. Though erring on the side of more, not less. There may well be two Day 467s!)
Yes, back to what I was saying. What I was writing.
This project has been about writing. Writing was the impetus—the endeavor to formally study this play with words—to move them around on a page, a field, a screen—with purpose and meaning. I am interested in the every day as much as I’m interested in the dramatic. Our Town was the perfect place to leap from. Ah, our extraordinary ordinary lives.
ALL that can happen in a thousand days. Volume. Abundance.
All THAT can happen in a thousand days. There’s something about possibility here.
All that CAN happen in a thousand days. Permission and opportunity.
All that can HAPPEN in a thousand days. The verb. The action. “Happen,” maybe is abstract in a way, but when I think about it, everything “happens”!
And A THOUSAND DAYS? Have I ever done anything for a thousand days in a row? Oh, sure, I’ve held jobs for that long, and enjoyed friendships and acquaintances that have last much, much longer. Let’s see: I’ve owned my car for about 3285 days, and I’ve lived in this apartment for nearly 3650 days. Next month I will celebrate the 18,615th day since my birth.
Extraordinary. And ordinary. Just like today.
And that’s the kind of writing I like, and the kind of writer I strive to be. I am a writer, yes, but a perpetual learner. I am a poet, yes—a poet in progress. And maybe I’ll never feel that I’ve arrived or that I’m complete, but that’s OK because I don’t want to stop.
And I have difficulty saying goodbye. I often cry. I don’t know why. More than likely I will say hello again at another time, in another place, but I still get sad/mad/frantic. I want to hold on, even if it doesn’t make all kinds of sense. Hold on to what? This moment? Moments don’t last. That one right there—gone. Good bye!
Hey, that’s good—I didn’t cry.
And just like clockwork, I’ve missed my deadline. My self-imposed halfheartedly adhered to deadline. See, I care more about the writing than I do about the clock. I care more about the poems, and the quotes, and what the image is (crap!) than I do the deadline. I care about now, the present. There will never be another one.
Poems. Rants. Essays. Lists. Longings. Diatribes. Plays. All this can happen—can be typed furiously on a keyboard or tapped into a phone—in the span of a thousand days. Maybe there’s a book in here, or maybe there’s not. My aim was expression, an accounting, a log—and then to to realize the title of the project. All that happened, yes, but it’s the journey—not the destination—I value even more.
And all this would only be me talking to myself (which in some cases is probably best) save for a small group of patient readers who cheered me on along the way. Thank you Adam, Carol, Claire, Eric, Ernie, Julie, Richard, Stephanie, Tracy—and any occasional visitors along the way—for going along for the ride.
So, what’s all that can happen in the next thousand days?
Floating Above Day 1001
I sleep very close to the edge
of the bed—room for cats
and other creatures. I sleep
without sleeping, eyes wide
behind lids. When I witness
my dream, I dream of you
as other people, of me as them,
too, though at times I am you.
I sleep very close to the edge
of profanity. No room for girls
in pink party crinoline or cups
of Kool-aid and atmosphere.
— Anne Carson (via katherinedecember)
I am sitting in a large auditorium with hundreds of other interested poets and non-poets alike. It is 8:40pm, ten minutes late, and the requisite administrators have taken the podium. Thanks to our sponsors, and to everyone attending, and to whoever is running the lights—can you lower them a bit? Thank you.
And Lucie Brock-Broido, with her cape of long, dramatic, straight silver hair, takes the stage.
“I have to be really funny,” she says, “because my poems are deadly.”
And she reads.
I am instantly transported back to 990 odd days ago, to Tishman Auditorium and the Bennington Campus. Wait, no, it was summer and the Carriage House, and an endless walk in the rain. With 125+ people I didn’t know. Who read that night?
Wow. I really can’t remember. I do remember I wasn’t sure what I was doing there. Was this grad school thing really a good idea? What if, at workshop the next day, my classmates—or worse, my teachers—hate my poems? Or thought they were immature, insipid drivel? What if I couldn’t hack this writing “camp” concept? What’s stopping from turning around and going home?
No wonder I don’t remember who read. I was too wrapped up in my self-defeating thoughts. Sometimes I’m glad I ignore myself.
And here I am. In Boston, not Vermont. In the Hynes Ballroom, a much (much) larger space than the Carriage House or Tishman, and much (much) less charming, too. But here I am—I belong here. And I know I do. All these people surrounding me, 99.9% of whom I do not know, have ambitions and interests and knowledge as I do. Sure, some have actually read The Iliad and The Odyssey (they’re on my list!), but how many have read all 17 of Anne Carson’s books? Of all of Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays?
I was sixteen for 20 years.
The answer—probably a lot. And that’s the point, too. There’s a heck of a lot of us Lucie Brock-Broido (confession: I’ve only one and a half of her books) and Anne Carson fans.
May the mother not blow her children out.
As Brock-Broido finishes up, and we all applaud, two older women behind me quip about how challenging she is to understand. Seems to me I got these tonight, their fracture and beautifully strange, inordinary imagery. If they think that about Brick-Broido, what will they think of Carson? She can be downright odd.
As Anne Carson is introduced, and lauded for her “linguistic invention,” I find myself back in that first workshop, going around the room: who is your most influencing port, and what books have you read recently? Without hesitation I named Carson as an important influence, and rattled off several of her books, as well as work by Jenny Boully and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha and others interrogating form (though I doubt I had the phrase “interrogating form” in my lexicon. My first grad school teacher helped me with that!)
Who would you be if you knew the answer?
Carson begins reading “The Life of Towns”—”a still unresolved [struggle] with punctuation,” she says—from the very first Carson book I’d ever read: Plainwater.
Town of the Sound of a Twig Breaking
On the inside covers of my copy of Plainwater, there’s a poem scratched in pencil, written when my colleague and friend Ray’s dad died, not long after my mother died from lung cancer. The poem is about waiting, as I was, for Ray and his family to return home from picking up his sister at the airport. It explored the need to wait to publicly mourn until family and friends can assemble, fly in from out of town. It was completely and utterly inspired by a line in the poem “The Anthropology of Water”: “True, I often mistake stones for bread. Pilgrims’ hunger is a curious thing.” I was bringing a basket of bread and cheese and accoutrements to the family. Food as empathy. Food as care.
Yes, Carson is a featured performer in my final paper/lecture—her inclusion of foodstuff in her poems is vast and invaluable, and I dug deep and found what I need. For a time, I was subsisting on Carson’s poems.
“New stuff,” she says, simply, and goes on to mention that she is working on a collaborative with a painter—poetry, essays, AND fiction all rolled into a book about sleep!! And now I can’t wait for next new Carson book to be revealed. I haven’t purchased the current new one (the line tonight was ridiculously long), but I plan when I see her again on Monday night.
One only loves that which one does not entirely possess.
And yes, it was 999 days ago, and some days within thecearly part of that span, that I still wasn’t sure, still wasn’t convinced. What is a poet? Am I one? For real, or only 79%? But all the days and months and years and monthly packets and papers and poems and revisions later, I can say it, loud, clear.
I am a writer. I am a poet.
This thing called literature is a key element of my identity. Bring me sonnets. Bring me form. Bring me to shape and shift and dabble with and mold.
What’s all that can happen in a thousand days? I can—and did—revise my form and renew. I grew up. I’m not longer 16 or 23 or 32. I am 50 years old. I have an advanced degree, which to me means i made the time for dedicated study. More importantly, I am a poet. And I belong here, sitting alone among hundreds of people. I am a witness to the art underway, and because of this powerful experience, I am a writer with something (still rough but) important to say.
Town of My Farewell to You
by Anne Carson
Look what a thousand blue thousand white.
Thousand blue thousand white thousand.
Blue thousand white thousand blue thousand.
White thousand blue wind today and two arms.
Blowing down the road.
One of the video essays was about ruin, about the effect of things left behind, about buildings and their remnants after. All the while, line drawings were building themselves as we watched. In the end, we see a pair of illustrated hands. I’ll have to find the name of the piece and the author. It was beautiful.
It has been a little over a 1000 days since I’ve seen Eric. It was in Greenwich Village in late May. A lovely farm-to-table dinner with him and his wife. And then we went to see Our Town and I cried. And several days later, the blog was born.
A lot can happen in a thousand days. It can. It did.
Over dinner, we caught up on immediate things—how is the conference going for you? Did the snow delay your flight? What did you think of keynote last night? (Turns out he went to the ballet instead, for what sounds like an astonishing performance. I may try to go.) We conversed between pita bread swipes of babaganoush and swigs of mediocre wine. And then we walked around the corner to a Boylston Street bar, where the video essay “reading” (viewing/showing?) was being held. We met up with a couple of Eric’s colleagues/friends, drank free wine (just a little more for me) and proceeded to watch a series of films.
I was inspired. Eric’s piece was lovely. The “ruin” piece was beautiful. A piece about a man experiencing a heart incident at the ER, and how he said, “I’m sorry,” to his wife.
“Don’t be,” His wife had responded, and I was moved to (polite, discreet) tears.
Here is the power of visual. Here is the power of words. Here is the power of sight that melds the two together, and layers with that sound—the voice, possibly augmented with music. An experience.
In a thousand days I have investigated layers. I have changed my form and revised my content. What results is something of a ruin. What remains is something like essence, distillation, a seeded core.
A definitive element of these video essays is the speaker of each piece. Loud, soft, smooth, textured, breathy, fast or slow. The voice becomes the character, the words the foundation. And with this aural string, the visual punch, which runs the gamut from real life to gestural to impressionistic.
I am inspired. I think. I am daunted, too. In the same breath I talk of being excited and also tentative. I’m not the quickest study. The learning curve is steep. But once the training wheels fall away, I enjoy the rush, the crash, the permanent scar in my knee. The getting back up.
So much can happen in a thousand days. Even more in eight years, since that very first poetry class with a patient and forgiving teacher. Since then, I have been playing with form, with voice, with sound, only to learn—again and again—that construction means destruction. That beauty is less about perfection—it’s fracture, it’s juxtaposition. It’s complex simplicity and slanted truth.
Now I think I’m ready to revisit and reinvest in my writing, my book, my poems. I’m ready—yes—it’s time to chisel away. Reveal.