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THAT WHICH I SHOULD HAVE DONE I DID NOT DO

By Olena Kalytiak Davis

“already i missed not working and felt the death loneliness that comes at the end of everyday that is wasted in your life…”


that’s hemingway. something i transcribed onto a scrap of paper years ago–a scrap that always turns up–and almost always turns up true.
what we have/had here in anchorage, alaska was/is a very very very snowy weekend without kids. still, to figure out from where to work–what a difficult thing. i wanted to write a bauhaus poem, but i did not. i wanted to write an adding machine. i wanted to flip a lightswitch. i wanted to write a poem in my winter coat after several years away. what i did do was re-paint an old dresser chanting about a thousand times: “take from the dresser of deal, the one lacking three glass knobs…” and listened to the new-ish will oldham and thought about how he and bill callahan sometimes say the plainest dumbest truest things (like american europeans!) which i squirm at and love, thinking, maybe i will NEVER say again. (my mouth was open, but i could not…)
now please go read something else. something good. as i was telling my girlfriend this weekend, the thing i love most about everyone and anyone i know is the hours they have spent alone reading. it’s usually the sexiest thing about them.
or, at least, go listen to nick drake’s dig, lazarus, dig!!!!– track six, i think–”we call upon the author to explain”. seems so blog (better than blog) to me. mr drake sings of berryman writing “like wet paper mache’” and going “the hemingway”. it really is, weston, if not difficult, so what–brilliant, with “my friend doug” coming into the song thru a window and the “prolix, prolix, it’s nothing a pair of scissors won’t fix” coming round again and again, between great lengths of stanza.
(weston’s “sexy snarl” is my new favorite phrase.)
i/we all want both. the very very very difficult and the very very very graspable. that’s why i love who i love. (that, and all the books they’ve read)
prolixity has never been my problem; that’s why, becca, though i really prefer/aspire to the poetry of a tolstoy or a flaubert (whatever) more than that of a rilke or an elliot (yeah yeah), i’m still sitting here trying to write poems. my, um, individual talent is short-winded. i also, however, love heightened language. that desperation and that complexity, too. and even though i am/was very recently obsessed with philip roth, working in response to his work was/is very difficult (look at the sprinkling of the “difficult”!) for me: there is, at the level of language, letters!, very little histrionics or theatrics and i find that i miss them.
and/but, somehow, i don’t want to think of the choice as between poetry and prose. i want to think more (way more) like ROBERT IRWIN who moved outside his preandproscribed canvas out of necessity. his focus just went past the corners. i don’t want to craft jewels or even jewel boxes anymore. and i have already tried showing/shown my tools. now i guess i really am again asking: why build?
robert irwin sat there for a very long time.
that’s why (i hope) i am NOT writing, mr. knott, not because there is anything lacking in the project/process of poetry for me–or it’s paucity of prizers or prizes (i mean, really, who the fuck cares after a while?) i really (hope i) am WAITING for a new form.
p.s.
DSCN6144.jpg
knock, knock.
who’s there?
b-rocolli.
brocolli who?
barackolli obama!
(my daughter and i made that up this summer.)
now go out into that snowstorm.

Comments (5)

  • On December 1, 2008 at 11:05 am Leslie wrote:

    A thousand pardons for public correction but methinks thou meanest Nick Cave the delicious dark one, not Nick Drake delicious also but perhaps more like cake? I heart Nick Cave. A friend burned for me a selection years ago and it is still high on my ipod rotation.

  • On December 1, 2008 at 2:09 pm bill caperton wrote:

    Ms. Davis.
    I keep stealing your epigrams. Or what-ever-they should be called. IE, that hemmingway quote.
    And, I must say, having stumbled upon your ramblings here courtesy of harriet, I find myself looking for your books, here in MPLS.
    Keep em coming. . . .

  • On December 1, 2008 at 6:51 pm OLENA wrote:

    YES! CAVE! JESUS!

  • On March 20, 2009 at 11:46 am Marion Lawless wrote:

    My Dear Ms. Davis: 1st, congrats onthe new house….you think kids take your time….just wait—a house is like having another baby. But, well, worth it. Except for plumbing issues….
    2nd: We (the mad, sad, bad rad poetryeating bloody masses) need your poetry. It is chocolate and redvelvet cupcakes and freshbasil in spaghetti and freshgarlic on frenchbread. I am hungry, nay, starving for MORE,MORE,MORE of your prose/poetry what-the-fuck ever anybody wants to call it because it feeds my weary, dreary soul in this F’d up melting world. You are ab-SOUL-lutely gifted and truly one of a kind. O, no, I am not a stalker, just another world-weary pilgrim with a “late flowering 5 chambered heart”. (Just so you’ll know I really do own your books. Tee-Hee.) “The Panic of Birds” tears my freaking heart out and I read it often. It’s good to find a poet who can do that. Trust me, YOU are one of a VERYFEW!!!!
    Respectfully yours, from a fellow poet
    Marion
    A Southern Girl Drunk on Words, Books, Poetry, Creating (My blog at blogspot)

  • On April 21, 2009 at 12:17 am Joe wrote:

    All that stuff about finding a new form seems like bullshit to me. I don’t mean that I think you are bullshiting us, or that the quest for variety is anything but admirable, but the whole idea of form seems like a figment to me. Form isn’t a birth, it is an autopsy, and if you try too hard to you’ll just end up with a dirty magnifying glass and a stack of blank pages.

    With all due respect to Hemingway, life is an experience not an action. The people who try the hardest to choke out every last opportunity that life has to offer are usually the ones that look back and realize that they have wasted the most. Writing is the same way. I think that every creative writer begins writing just because it makes him/her feel good. That can get lost along the way somewhere. Especially after some success, because then writing can mean respect and validity and money, which are all good things to have but not good reasons for writing anything. No, the only good reason for writing is because doing it makes you feel good. At the end of the day we are nothing but glorified junkies. It’s pretty great though if you think about it. Someone who’s good at being a smack addict has nothing to look forward to but bad teeth, interventions, and the shakes. But a good writer might just be able to spin it into a little respect, a little sex, and maybe even a little money. Perhaps not very much, but the pay is pretty good considering it’s something you would do for free. All things considered, we’re lucky, as far as addictions go. Readers are addicts to. Only they can’t grow their own drugs, so they need us. We need them to I guess, so we feel like we’re doing something positive for the world and not just masturbating with vowels.

    I guess this is just a long way of saying don’t worry about form (there will be plenty of critics to worry about form after you’ve written something) and don’t worry about life it will take care of itself. Just write. Write whatever makes you feel good, and fuck the rest. We’re all addicts. And you don’t need to try and capture the wind in your hands when you begin a new project, you just have to take another hit and keep hitting untill you cop them buzz that made you become a writer in the first place. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to go your whole life without sobering up, and when you die someone will find you slumped over in an armchair, with a half finished manuscript strewn across the floor and an empty pen still protruding from one arm.


Posted in Uncategorized on Sunday, November 30th, 2008 by Olena Kalytiak Davis.