Thursday, July 5, 2018

Basma Kavanagh : My Writing Day

Is every day a writing day? (Every day is a writing day).

Am I paying attention? What does the world want to teach me? Have I read something devastating? Can I write something devastating? What did I dream last night? What are the snails doing? What is happening with the leaf-buds, the light, the other poets? What’s happening in theoretical physics? The so-called Middle East? My body’s gurgling pipes?

What is a day? My writing day might be ten minutes long, a universe in ten minutes, the condensed experience of a lifetime of watching, listening, word-wrangling. Or it might be ten hours. Which parts are writing? Which parts are not-writing? I am always receiving. Even writing is receiving. Receiving is reciprocal; it takes two, or two thousand, to do the writing tango.

I have two desks. One desk supports my laptop, a lamp, piles of notes, to-do lists, a stack of books, pens and pencils, a seam-ripper. Notes fan onto a stool next to the desk. If I keep enough sheets in the pile, I can make a bridge of paper. Asian lady beetles and western conifer seed bugs walk across my writing day. The second desk has notebooks, sketchbooks, a cutting mat, knives, a bone folder, an abandoned wasp’s nest, some half-finished collages, photographs, weights, coloured pencils, thread, scissors, an owl feather, a bowl of crumpled bits of mulberry paper, a vacant Cecropia moth cocoon. Everything is entangled with everything else: which parts are not-writing? My writing day ecology, inseparable from my body, the world, others, the writing of others. It’s always unfolding. Sometimes there is a pen and paper, sometimes not.

Lately, I am writing and thinking about light. The sky becomes my desk, my notebook. My eyes take copious notes. I study light’s behaviour. I am sitting on the toilet when I realize the not-quite-shut bathroom door is performing a diffraction experiment.  Eureka! Sometimes my writing day occurs in the bath. Sometimes there are several writing days within a day.

What is it for? I’m not sure. I wander outdoors, I write a flowerbed, a row of greens, some dandelion rosettes. The dandelions write me. The greens and I collaborate on my next thought, my next book. This morning, the gold-finches are delivering a lecture on the Doppler Effect. If I miss it, there will be another one tomorrow. Meanwhile, the light is writing so much, so fast, I can hardly keep up. I read as much as I can, carefully, and respond.

Basma Kavanagh is a poet, visual artist, and letterpress printer who lives and works in Nova Scotia, in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People. She produces artist's books under the imprint Rabbit Square Books. She has published two collections of poetry, Distillō (Gaspereau, 2012), and Niche (Frontenac, 2015), which won the 2016 Lansdowne Prize for Poetry. Her long poem, Ruba’iyat for the Time of Apricots, is forthcoming from Frontenac House.

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