Sunflower Druid Time
Hi everyone! It’s February now, which is not exactly my favorite month. I’m a lover of warm weather, a sun worshipper really, so the confluence of frigidity & darkness lays me low. There’s a clinical name for this, Seasonal Affective Disorder, which nets that tidy acronym SAD, a word that, typed up in all caps, takes on a comedic solemnity for me. For some reason I picture a big frown-y yellow emoticon sun rising over the word, wrought from rock & set out in a field, ala Stonehenge. In the freezing air one can hear the mock pity of those phantom violins people play when they mean to parody someone’s allegedly trivial dismay. As Salinger wrote “Poets are always taking the weather so personally. They’re always sticking their emotions in things that have no emotions.” But also, in this little imaginary zone, one can hear a corrective to the sarcasm, faintly at first, then growing ever louder, wait...aren't those the opening bars of Will Smith's "Summertime," famed Druid anthem, convecting a mystical heat around our crestfallen sundial, singing in sympathy for those who, detained by the cold, have been kept from their bliss & their glee for too long?
Of course bliss & glee can, & often do, deport themselves as tyrants in our culture, & anyway it's wrong to suggest there's a mutual exclusion. The world of winter can take on intensities of pleasure & desolation both, yielding extraordinary things. Still, that Salinger quote? I am so totally one of those poets. But really, what human escapes Salinger's distemper? As someone who unfolded an epic irritation to fuse it to a fractured yet astonishing empathy (& thus contrive a worldview) I think wow, he would have been great on the Internet you know? All that hateration, all that tenderness, pity party string section playing an arrangement of "Summertime" scored by an agoraphobic druid. An Internet-y affect like that in my mind. One that I relate to on a lot of winter days. Irl. Or zoned by my device(s).
But wait. Why am I saying all this? Rambling on about weather & Salinger, Internet & self, writing some vapor, lolling on? Because I’m getting started with something, & whenever I don’t know where to begin I just start saying lots stuff about the weather. It’s reliably common, & while my ruminations on the topic are often tedious, even to me (I can’t imagine how YOU'RE feeling right now), they give a kind of wandering momentum I can use to set off toward more focused meditations. “Well Dana,” you might ask, “if such strategies are oh so transparent to you, why not spare us the dreadful task of sitting through their windy presentations.” My answer would be two-fold; an apology, first (& a sincere one), & then, a contestation, arrived at by way of a treasured meandering that holds in its store a bitter hatred of time as conscripted by the drive toward a monetized fabrication of "product."
Perhaps I’ve come this point because, real talk & as you may know, I’m getting paid to write these posts. I feel remarkably lucky to have been given this opportunity, but also a kind of resentment, an ordinary general resentment, not that my life & my love of poetry are being monetized (in the practical sense I hold that today as good fortune. I need some new tires. I was sliding all over in the snow yesterday & when there's a 2 yr old in the car yo that shit is terrifying.) but that life as such is economized, & thus drawn into a hideous & false web of equivalence that measures all existence against an ugly mean. As the wage form touches me here in my work of composing I think my drive to bullshit on meandering & weather has also been a form of avoiding the backdrop (which is really just an aspect of the foreground) against which my writing here is set. So here's the word SAD again, no acronym now but a monolith still, of quicksilver indemnities, labors, & profits that regiment existence for the sake of so few, & more extensively & finally, for nothing.
But February has some good medicine too; the lengthening light in the evening & the sugar-rush excess of Valentine’s Day. I think the latter's a good way to think about what I'm going to get up to here; a festival of love launched within the cold world’s logic that provides an occasion, unbowed, for real cherishing, lavishing blush-colored plastic Floribunda on that which, for me, exceeds its conscription by way of a genuine burn to the heart & mind dyad that's really no dyad at all but the sensuous & rigorous conjunction through which embrace & dissent meet to organize fevers whose severity will torch my acclimated sense of things, & give the impossible a body. So these posts will be Valentines to that & the artworks that generate such astonishments. They will gush, & so doing, take up (I hope) the complexities & troubles that augured such affection in the first place.
Our neighbor’s sunflowers, high warm weather things, are extravagantly dead out there this morning. It's weird--although its freezing they look charred. I guess sunflowers, torches in their way, should look somehow extinguished when they've died but wow, this is rough, like someone took a blowtorch to those big coronas. It gives me a little ache to see them, peering over the privacy fence, lanky alien corpses from the fire. Honestly I kind of relate to them in winter, set up as I am in the house, peering out, not quiet so droopy, but feeling the same implicit longing for warmth embedded in those big spent things. But the sunflowers come to life otherwise for me, & make me think of the opening line of a poem & of the winter when I first encountered it, right after Vivian was born, when I had her in my arms all the time, & my phone there beside me, PennSound playing through its little speaker. The poem, one of my dearest favorites, begins “Her territory sunflower..”
Isn't that an awesome first line? I'll pick up from there the next time. See you soon.
Poet Dana Ward is the author of a number of chapbooks: New Couriers (2006), Goodnight Voice (2008), The Drought (2009), Typing ‘Wild Speech’ (2010), and the full-length This Can’t Be Life (2012). Influenced by the work of Alice Notley, Jack Kerouac, and others, Ward’s poetry is densely patterned and highly...