This is part of a DIY education project I’ve undertaken called The 1000-Day MFA that I learned about from writer Shaunta Grimes. You can read more about how I’m engaging with it here. By the way, there is no rhyme or reason to how I choose the poems, essays, and short stories. I’m just throwing my net out to the world, and reading whatever I catch.
Poem: Ok, can I just talk about Louise Glück and how I feel about her work?
Essay: “Once More to the Lake,” by E. B. White
Short Story: “Girl,” by Jamaica Kincaid
For some reason, I own a massive book of Louise Glück poetry. Must have heard an interview on NPR and loved what I heard. But everything in this book is so ugly and mean and without reprieve, I closed the book and started looking for another poet.
And then I caught myself. “Hey, didn’t you just say you were going to cultivate a different attitude about stuff you don’t jive with right away?” So I dove back in.
My commitment is to read one poem every day. I couldn’t find any I wanted to represent from this book. But I kept turning the pages, reading the next one and the next until way too much time passed. Exposing myself to poem after poem in this way showed me her incredible mastery of imagery.
In Hesitate to Call, for instance, “Lived to see you throwing / Me aside. That fought / Like netted fish inside me.”
In Early December in Croton-on-Hudson, “…I hear the bone dice / of blown gravel clicking. Bone- / pale, the recent snow / Fastens like fur to the river.
I’m perplexed about the weird capitalizations. But I'm learning to sit with that, along with the unending dark of her message. It's just a question now. I'm less worried about answering it, or finding the answer. This is progress.
This reading/writing practice is fast becoming a profound way to look in the mirror and learn from it.
Once More to the Lake was too sweetly positive for me to stick with it. I was impatient. “Where’s the story? Nothing’s happening here. Just descriptions. I get it already. Climax, please.” And the practice here was to say thank you for sharing and settling down into the words. Read. Taste. I mean, taste. Good practice.
Girl was my dessert today, so that’s kind of cheating. (No! It isn’t. It’s the heart of why we read!) I loved the rhythm of it, the underbelly of it, the matter-of-fact, mean practicality of it. More Jamaica Kincaid please.