(Blogger’s Nota Bene: I’ve begun to index and annotate my posts on the page Annotated Table of Contents …)
Sleep, the gift of the Gods. I wake rested, with a window of opportunity– literally, as I can look out at the winter dawn from my writing corner. On my mind this morning– that I want the winter mares to have the benefit of the spring grass that will start pushing up in a month and a half or so. Doug is afraid that they will fall into the ditch on the south pasture. I believe in horse sense and I doubt that they would, if he turns them out before the grass is long so that they can check out the terrain. It’s not a deep ditch…
But remember, Jen, you can’t make that man do anything, I remind myself, hoping that I’ll be able to sweet-talk him into it…
On my mind: last night I toured a site run by an old friend from my Minnesota salad days who is now a literary agent in New York. Two women I know pop up under the H’s of the books she’s handled. One of the books suprised me: I hadn’t realized an old friend, Phebe Hansen, had brought out a collection of poetry, her first, at 75. I was happy for her and my former mentor and friend Patricia Hampl, whose memoir The Blue Arabesque was handled by this agency: then I felt myself descend into a little self-pity.
Making the bed, I thought: look. While you’ve been moping around for the last quarter of a century, dabbling in this and that, other people you knew kept writing and working hard. Live with your choices.
I hate it when I give myself a little tough love. But it’s true: people deserve the fruits of their labor.
In support of the indie publisher, I’d like to mention Red Dragonfly Press; of note, collections of poetry by Nancy and Joe Paddock, and Lyle Daggett, top notch writers. I go way back with Nancy and Joe, to canoe trips on the Kettle River in Northern Minnesota, and the plethora of parties we threw for each other against the deprivations of Minnesota winters.
Red Dragonfly Press is in Red Wing. Also hailing from Red Wing MN are the two women I went to Europe with– that trip being the subject of the memoir I am writing, that may or may not catch an agent’s attention: depends on how hard I try to make it good, and how hard I work to sell it.
My friends had and probably still have, a gorgeous family lodge on the Brule River in Northern Wisconsin. We, meaning the unlikely gaggle of street and academic writers who hung out together in those days, used to party there on weekends, staying over in cedar-perfumed bedrooms, reading our work to each other in front of the fire– and drinking a lot of wine.
My friends took good care of me; I was in pretty bad shape for many of those years. It’s hard to think about. I wasn’t fully fledged when I moved to Minnesota in 1971 with a boyfriend who had a fellowship in Asian Studies at the University of Minnesota. And how did I get better, more whole, anyway. Hard work, baby. Lots of hard work on me.
To my credit, after our inevitable split, I moved into St. Paul and lived in a series of vintage apartments on Summit Avenue. A mythical and beautiful place, tall and ancient trees, beautiful old mansions, so much history. I used to write in the bar at the Commodore Hotel, where F. Scott Fitzgerald hung out at one time. When I was there, the bartender who had known Fitzgerald and his wife was still there. Somehow Ralph became my muse, forever polishing the dark counters and the mirrors that hung throughout, telling a story or two when you bought him a drink.
I came back to Colorado in ’78 and never left. My heart and roots are here, and I am starting over in the here and now. Yet, writing about our trip to Europe in 73 brings many things back and breathes life into them again.
Yesterday I was out at “the place” I often refer to, where my animals and companion dwell. I was dusting and ran across lifelong friend Tom Wayman’s collection of poems, My Father’s Cup. This is a beautiful, eloquent, open-hearted series of poems about loss and love, a great read. Be prepared to cry. Tom is Canada’s leading poet; this collection was nominated for a Governor General’s award.
I also found an anthology of love poems he had edited, The Dominion of Love – An Anthology of Canadian Love Poems-, Harbour/Canada. I was captivated by one poem and realized it was one of his: The Kiss and the Cry.
Suddenly, I realized that in reading his work and via his reading and encouragement of mine over the years, we remain deeply connected to one another. It occured to me that it is art that connects all of us in ways that other things do not and cannot. I found myself in tears, whereupon my Golden Retriever Tess came over to me, in her way of putting her head on my knee and looking up into my eyes. I needed a good cry.
Then I wrote a poem, on one of the pages at the back of the anthology:
The Ruins We Live In
I should check in somewhere
get some help with grief
but why, this house
has always been filling with salt water.
It has always been dusk here
this silence of doomed love,
dangerous dreams, wide-mouthed,
devouring the heart.
Piece by piece, the place
has consumed us.
Feral cats lust in the window sills
We both let the small rose
in the broken pot
with one green stem
Well then, that’s a period
at the end of a sentence, at the end
of a story.
You are handsome
in your aphasia and ruin–
I am as beautiful as Lucia
at Covent Garden,
center stage in a torn peignoir.
(copyright 2010 Jenne’ Andrews)
Tom’s poem is about a cresting fear that a lover will leave even as they have just made love and are lying on the grass, looking up at the trees. The sorrows and fears of his poem spoke to mine. If you aren’t familiar with the opera Lucia di Lammermoor, wiki it…
Didn’t I just said I’m all about turning the page? Ah, well.
Sometimes the poems written through a veil of tears should just be put away. Perhaps I should have done that with this one–,
But perhaps not. Collective grief, knowing through reading each other that the human condition is a shared bewildering situation, is easier to bear.
What a gem of a poem in equal parts pain and delicate beauty! Thank you so much for sharing it and not storing it in a place where no one would see it. Every life is touched by sorrow and many of us have regrets, but, to coin a trite saying, where there’s hope there’s life. You can still put in the work to make your dreams come true, although these achievements may not take form as you envision it. There are so many options still open to you. Keep writing, keep sharing. You have a beautiful gift.
Thank you, Sweepy… thank you for reading this, and for the encouragement. xjen
Lyle Daggett said:
I also found, sometime back, the website of the woman from Minneapolis who is now a literary agent in New York. She and I never knew each other well, though were friendly acquaintances for a while when she was here.
I do find that I have moments of envy now and then, when I see news of a poet or writer I’ve known who has had publishing success, and it can take a conscious act of serenity not to let the envy grow large and begin to distort my perspective. Even having had some luck with publishing my own work, I’m apparently not immune to this.
Creative work is, or can be, hard, and one person’s way may or may not provide any useful road map for anyone else to find their way in. “To make something, where before there was nothing,” someone (I no longer remember who) said once, “this is not easy.”
On a more mundane and technical note, the link in your post to Red Dragonfly Press appears not to work — it goes to another page in your blog, with a message to the effect that there’s nothing there.
The link appears to have your own blog address inserted in front of the Red Dragonfly web address, which may be the source of the problem. Just passing this along.
And thank you, surely, for the kind mention. 🙂
Hi Lyle– thanks a million for the comment; I think I’ve fixed the links. Do stay in touch; we can always e-mail. For me right now it’s a pure victory– not the Pyrrhic kind I’m used to– to write every day. That’s ‘nuf for now…hope you’re staying warm despite getting up in Minnesota dark….brrrrrrr xj