1) In response to reader inquiry, the interview with Fran Ciotoli will be posted this weekend.
2) What a week! I generally work neat, but as I pause to look around my crowded desk, littered with empty coffee cups, school notices, constantly revised household and editorial “to do” lists, fragments of poems, etc., and remember it’s Friday, I’m stunned. Some weeks life is a speeding train. (Who am I kidding, every week is like that.)
I have a Friday ritual. I steal about fifteen minutes to read the reviews of opening films on rogerebert.com. I will probably never see 95 percent of the movies Roger Ebert critiques, and some of his personal views that come through in the reviews make me uncomfortable, but I love his writing. I love that he’s well-read and culturally thoughtful and I always look forward not only to what he has to say, but how darn well he says it.
If I do have the time and good fortune to see a movie that Ebert has reviewed I go back and reread the review to compare my response to what he’s written. And sometimes I haven’t ever seen the movie, but remember Ebert’s review and reread it entirely for the pleasure of the reading experience.
I think this has improved my own writing, particularly in this format, which must be timely, accessible yet encompassing, detailed yet efficient. Easier said than done, and Ebert—regardless of whether one likes what he has to say about film, or anything else for that matter—brings it to an art form.
3) I experienced considerable discomfort in making one of yesterday’s posts. “Ground Hog Day” marks the anniversary of my dad’s survival of open heart surgery the year Giants won the Superbowl. (I reread this piece yearly on February 2.) I worried that the subject matter was too serious for the blog, but have received feedback that sharing it here proved cathartic for others, which heartened me.
My other concern was the abstract quality of the writing. Notice that I haven’t called “Ground Hog Day” a poem. It isn’t. I would label it fragments of poetry collected and organized under a theme. I’ve learned that to call it a poem would require it to have some organizing verse principal, which it does not have. To call it a poem, I’d have to address that.
I have no fear of or abhorrence for abstractions in writing or in reading. I am sometimes drawn to it on both counts, and in this instance I felt, after tinkering with the language, that there was sufficient rhetorical coherence to share “Ground Hog Day” with readers. I knew that some lines would provide narrative and others generate impressions—of uneasiness, for instance, or relief. When I experiment with writing in this manner I am attempting to create an environment for the reader to explore the sensations the language elicits, the images it forms, and any impressions that may linger.
When I look at the photograph above I see pine needles and bits of ice. The icy snow has clearly been crushed underfoot and the pine needles blown down, perhaps by a harsh winter wind. I hear the wind howl and feel the brittle snow crunch and shiver. But part of what I also sense are tall pines and deep snowfall in whispering stillness. I don’t need, literally, to see these images to know they’re also part of how things are.