New Year, Old Resolutions
Every year I make the same resolutions: read all of Finnegans Wake, and read all of Shakespeare. Sometimes I get through the first hundred pages of Finnegan. With Shakespeare I’m lucky if I have time to watch some movie adaptation. I reason that if I wasn’t a mom to a three-year-old I’d get more done, but I really can’t blame the kid.
Things happen; Joyce and Shakespeare sit on the shelf. This year there’s a twist in the plot. I have grand plans but on a reasonable scale.
Through the autumn, I taught a private workshop called “The Poet’s Notebook.” There were six students and we met in Queens every week to show off our cool pens, cool notebooks, and cool writing ideas. We made our own list of notebook experiment ideas after looking at Bernadette Mayer's writing experiments (and journal ideas) lists. We spent a week writing about rooms (real and imagined); we wrote about creepy things for Halloween and got some good sestinas out of it. There were sonnets called “Everything I Did Today,” and right-handed versus left-handed automatic writing experiments. Just before Christmas we all picked a corner of my apartment and spent an hour writing a “report” about the light and shadows of two square feet of the floor (in honor of Leonardo Da Vinci).
Report writing stuck with me over the holidays. I started to organize my notebook entries into a series of reports: reports on dreams, reports on finances, reports on emotional states. Then I thought of all the things I want to study this year and started to plan another writing workshop. Why not continue with the theme of the poet’s notebook and streamline it? My idea is this: the course will meet for twelve weeks and there will be six themes: architecture, language, food, world affairs, meteorology, and astronomy. We’ll all spend a couple weeks at a time writing “as if” we were experts in these various fields. When we meet for class, we’ll talk about the discoveries and observations we’ve made in our notebooks. The notebooks will be obsessive. We'll be totally devoted to our imagined fields. In the language section I hope to write entirely in Spanish, which I don’t know (yet). What will come of all of this? A few unusual poems I hope. A chance to transform the poet’s notebook into the astronomer’s notebook. An excuse to go to a fancy restaurant and scribble notes like a food critic. Maybe even a chance to tackle some of those pesky resolutions.
Lisa Jarnot was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1967. After studying with the poet Robert Creeley at the University of Buffalo, she earned her MFA from Brown University. Her poetry is known for its startling yet inviting aesthetic. Jarnot has commented, “I think poems are always collage on some...