Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Dara Wier : Typical Writing Day

everyday I wake up waiting to get to where I write, which is sometimes at the kitchen table and sometimes at a desk I keep in a backroom where most of my books are, where all my poetry books are, where there’s protection, where books surround me with their elegant patience

every day to write is what I live to do, though no days turn out to be all that typical in particular if I write something that it seems to me impossible to believe I could have written it

when I’m lost in what I’m writing, I’m lost in there, everything becomes strange and wonderful

life has been understood by me—as little as I understand it—my life has been understood by me as always on edge, an accident about to announce itself, an incident getting going to be undergone, a disaster in waiting, waiting to happen, as if always there is a trap set near by, in 3D dimensional space or ordinary time—a trap waiting for me into which I am doomed to go, unbidden, undone

to live in a life always dangerously close to being over comes close to the way it can feel sometimes when one is ending a poem

this life on the edge may come from an early life living with farm animals whose existence is precarious, whose well-being is always endangered,

or tending to crops about to be spoiled by too little or too much water, insects, consequential acts of humans or extra-terrestrial beings—

the river will flood, the sun will relentlessly absorb all water and wilt everything with roots, a plague will descend, some one will catch hoof and mouth disease, someone will step on a rusty nail, someone will put a foot or fingers right where poisonous snakes take their stands, it’s always been touch and go

there is a water moccasin waiting under that plank bridge, there is a rooster who wants to take out your eyes, there are the meanest boy cousins on the planet waiting to torture you, there are parasites and worms, fleas, and ticks and mosquitos, wasps and more snakes, a mink can look as if it wants to eat your face off, some cows want to kick you in the chest, some cats scratch, there’s an uncle who can’t get through a day without tormenting you, karen crows are always high up there taking their time cruising on thermals, there is always a river both beautiful and dangerous barely out of reach of your doorstep

that’s the ordinary background before which I write

whenever writing begins to happen—it’s changed over the years—where and when, what’s typical shifts, transforms, meta-morphs, takes dead ends, takes round-about routes, goes off-road, and usually prefers to be near some kind of water—in one way living by the river taught me everything I needed to know—

over the years I’ve written on paper scraps, on brown paper bags, in pencil, on schoolroom lined pages, with fountain pens, in blank page notebooks, only on the right hand page, keeping the left hand page free for later additions, on a 1940s Royal table model my father rescued for me from a school depository, on a black & blue IBM Selectric my husband gave me, and now on this laptop

I wake up every day waiting to get to writing, my way is to always, which is never always—it can’t be—always to be if not writing, thinking about writing, or just about to write, keeping those magnets and channels and receivers in working condition, practicing

paying attention to how thoughts come into being, how thoughts beget more thinking, how words love to be used, how words love how they sound as much as how they seem or what they mean, how words love the nervous systems of syntax, and the long history of rhetoric, and how strings of words are weaving for us so many things we didn’t know to know before

before I had kids I wrote whenever I wanted to, except when I was doing whatever it was I needed to be doing to make a living, to buy myself time and circumstances so writing could keep on happening

once my daughter and my son came into this world, I wrote whenever I could, except when I was doing whatever it was I needed to be doing to take good care of my children

shirts with pockets in them were necessary, to be a place for whatever folded up page I’d started, whatever it was I wanted to think about writing that day

whether I took it out of my pocket to look at it or not, it was there, where else, right nearby, close by my heart 

they grew up, I went back to being able to write whenever I wanted to write, for over twenty years I wrote in my study at my husband’s house; we wrote in adjacent rooms from around 2pm until we’d finish for the day, this could have been at 5 at 6 at 7 at 8, depending; we could always hear one another’s loud bass-toned Selectrics humming along

he didn’t like it when I switched to a laptop, too quiet, he couldn’t tell what I was doing,  I might be doing nothing

he missed the bursts of  Selectric jack-hammering

but I could take a little laptop with me anywhere I went, so I had to make that switch

he and I agreed it’s best not to face a window when one is writing, too many distractions

he and I agreed the best thing that happens is you begin and end a poem on the same day 

we shared a habit of reading something,  just about anything, typically something nonfiction and rarely poetry, as a bridge between not writing and writing, keeping something going nearby

I keep a dictionary, unabridged Merriam Webster, nearby open on a stand, but not so near I don’t have to get up to go looking around in it

I may aim for one word in particular though my real mission is to run into words along the way

I think my all time favorite pre-writing zone up to now was reading all of Van Gogh’s letters to his brother Theodor over a period of maybe 7 months—that’s when I wrote the book I guess I confess has to be my favorite one, Reverse Rapture

Dara Wier was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her 13 books include in the still of the night (2017), YOU GOOD THING (2014), REMNANTS OF HANNAH (2006), REVERSE RAPTURE (2005), HAT ON A POND (2002) and VOYAGES IN ENGLISH (2001).  Awards include the American Poetry Review’s Jerome Shestack Prize, The Poetry Center Book Award, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artists Award.  Her poems are included the Pushcart Prize and Best Americann Poetry anthologies.  A limited edition, (X IN FIX) (2003) is #10 in RainTaxi’s brainstorm series. With James Tate, she rescued THE LOST EPIC OF ARTHUR DAVIDSON FICKE, THE AUTHOR’S ANNOTATIONS, COMMENTARY, AND NOTES OF REFERENCE FOR A MILLENNIUM’S TEARDROP (1999). Poems can be found in Granta, BigBig Wednesday, The Nation, American Poetry Review, Conduit, Volt, Denver Quarterly, Octopus, Gulf Coast and so on. She's been poet-in-residence at the University of Montana, University of Texas Austin, Emory University and the University of Utah; she was the 2005 Louis Rubin chair at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.  She is a member of the poetry faculty of the mfa program for poets and writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  She co-founded the Juniper Initiative for literary arts and action at the University of Massachusetts, the Juniper Summer Writing Institute and Workshops, and is currently serving as publisher and editor of the poetry and found prose and images journal jubilat.

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