Sunday, May 28, 2017

Short notes.

Dear "May is my writing month,"

I find it so touching now, this declaration, which I based upon analytics that were (a) too literal minded, and (b) just wrong.

As I write the above, I can hear my friend Kim say, "writing is not typing." And she is correct. Today, for instance, I looked into my notes, and I spent some time thinking about a new poem I think I'm writing. For now, the "writing" means "looking into my notes" and "looking up etymologies" and "chasing down medical details" and "conjuring up connections that may or may not be 'real'" and so forth.

Also: fetching and eating snacks, and doing the laundry, and contemplating a nap which I did not, ultimately, take.

So, okay, "May is my writing month," I guess May is my writing month.




Dear flaky buttermilk biscuit recipe,

I get it. You're super exacting, and you have "data" about how important buttermilk is, and your technique, of folding the dough into thirds like a letter, and doing that a second time, and letting the dough rest, etcetera and so forth and what not, is, like, science.

So when I skipped that part about letting the dough sit in the refrigerator before I began the folding and the thirds and the ins and outs and what have yous, I should have known. I should have known that you would turn into super buttery hockey puck-shaped baked items, and would not rise to the heavenly heights of my previous flaky buttermilk biscuits. So it's on me. I own that. I own it real hard.

Still, would it have killed you to just rise already, into the afore-mentioned heavenly heights? I feel like you were just being super literal-minded.

It's shaking my baking confidence, is all,



Dear even more flowers,

So, I know I have just finished planting the last of the previous more flowers, all hundreds of dollars' worth. And the splendor of these previous more flowers is not lost on me. I like going out and admiring them in the first of the morning cool, and in the late morning light, and even in the mid-afternoon. Evening also.

However, the fact remains that somehow my evening primroses and pincushion flowers of yesteryear have disappeared, perhaps displaced by some especially aggressive lemon balm. And no garden of mine is going to scrape by without evening primrose and pincushion flower, as God is my witness.

Also, I needed to buy all the basil. And one pineapple mint.

Also, just two little creeping thymes, and I swear that is it,



Dear productivity,

What are you, anyway?

Here's what I accomplished today:

  • clean sheets on the bed
  • read the entire New York Times except for the sports and the business section
  • made a lovely soup and some subpar biscuits (which were, to be exact, architecturally subpar, but aced the flavor bracket)
  • made a good breakfast
  • talked to my daughter in Scotland
  • fretted over the state of the republic
  • gave the historian some helpful feedback on the revision of an essay he's working on
  • sat in front of some notes and thought about a poem and so forth
  • etcetera
That is nine bullets. I'm calling that productive, I don't care what you say.

I mean it: I just don't care,


Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Writing Life, update number one billion.

Is 'one billion' an exaggeration? It feels real.

This weekend I managed to set aside some time in a private place to look at the writing I have done over the past couple of years to see what's there. I know that I am very lucky that I can do this: that I could secure that private place for a couple of days and nights, that the people I love support me in this.

I printed out several swaths of poems--for the last year, I've written a poem a day for several months--five different months--and of course, there's April (the cruelest month) and the poem a day I've written with Dr. Write. All of this. I printed it all. Trees quaked at the prospect.

I read through all these poems. All of them. I made notes on the poems themselves and I made notes about what I saw--what connected the poem, what threads and strands there were. I had had some intuitions prior to this retreat, and I tested them, to see if those ideas of what an arrangement of these poems might add up to were borne out by what I had.

I thought about big revisions, and smaller ones. I identified what poems were close to being finished (a handful) and which ones needed work (most) and which ones would require architectural overhaul (another handful).

And then I assembled an order.

All of this is a draft.

Now, I can work through this draft manuscript poem by poem. And then I will see what I have when I'm through.

I'm optimistic that I might be able to work through what I have, poem by poem, by mid-summer. And then I'm hoping to look at the sequence I've made again.

This process felt, and feels, entirely methodical to me. Procedural, even. Although there's a part of putting something like this together that feels alchemical and intuitive, there's another part that is compositional and even rhetorical. Thinking about how the terms of an argument--made by poetic means, but an argument--work themselves out over a sequence of texts. Thinking about sequencing. Thinking about balance. Thinking about emphasis and transitions. This is why the quiet was so important to me--why I needed to be undistracted. I don't like thinking about how easily I feel distracted by the ordinary components of my life. That's something I'd like to work on. Maybe I'll get it right when I'm dead.

I love the moments, when I write, when I can feel something coming together in a way that feels magical--when I feel the small thrill of gathering the threads of metaphor and image and they add up, they do something more. This is, in fact, not the biggest part of writing for me, at least not usually. Obviously, I love it when it happens. But I also love this methodical part. I love the thinking part and the considering part. It is deeply satisfying to me, even when I know--as I know now--that there's nothing whatsoever final about this stage of the work. That this is, in fact, an entirely provisional moment in the composition of what I hope will be, sometime, a new book.

A couple of days ago, I reminded myself that I don't need to be in a panic about this. That I can take my time. This idea--that I have time, that I can take my time--comes in and out of focus. Because, really, no one knows how much time she really has. (We're all going to die.) But I'd like to do everything--everything!--in less of a panic than I have been doing things as of late. Because doing everything in a panic is a terrible way to live. To make art, to make dinner, to visit one's family, to work, to write: panic is a terrible atmosphere for any of this.

Panic, I renounce you. Get thee behind me, panic.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Breaking news.

1. I made that new header more than two weeks ago in a fit of optimism.

2. Today, I came to my office to start sifting through a hundred poems to see what's there, but first I stopped at Target, obviously, to buy ibuprofen and a teacup with pansies on it and glitter markers and ginger tea and a thing of yogurt and three little pouches to organize my purse. Also, fyi, there are four flavors of Tim Tams currently on the shelves at Target, in case that's a thing you are interested in.

3. My youngest son steered me to Carrie & Lowell Live, which is pretty amazing. Of course Carrie & Lowell, the studio recording, was pretty much the best thing ever, so.

4. What of the republic?

5. Twitter has me by the throat.

6. I recently said to my older son that my loathing of Mitch McConnell was unChristlike. And yet, I persist.

7. Roses are about to bloom their heads off in our yard.

8. In short order, we have installed a new refrigerator, which, through various ins, outs, and what have yous, resulted in a small but steady leak, which resulted in some of the ceiling in our basement falling, sodden, to the floor, which resulted in a plumber coming to do a whole bunch of other stuff, including fixing the leak, and currently there are giant heating devices beaming heat at the location of the fallen ceiling. In other words: disaster! But also: new refrigerator, which actually keeps food cold!

9. I had a lovely mother's day, thank you, including one of my favorite compliments of all time, from grandson William, who said that I thought I was "pretty as a deer." He explained that he didn't think I looked like a deer, more like Lily Potter's patronus, a doe. I am seizing on all of that. All of it.

10. Okay, onward: I have made the first cull of poems, and now I need to start theorizing the potential intimate dialogue that the remaining poems may have with each other.

Or not. Maybe nothing means anything and everything is stupid. Just spitballing.

A post shared by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on

A post shared by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on

A post shared by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on

A post shared by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on


Related Posts with Thumbnails