Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Tonight I am reading Snow Falling on Cedars, that foggy cover so haunting and gorgeous. I think of that mysterious west coast, that border between Washington state and Canada, about the ocean and all its details: the eelgrass, the salmonberries, the ferns and the sea salt, the fishing culture. (Oh, to have a dog-less cabin there, a week or two, holed up, long walks, writing words in the sand, writing better words in my notebook, an escape, again.)
The past forty eight hours have been spent here, learning the culture of this patch of earth. The familiar: the screen door's easing, the buzz of bees from beneath the concrete porch, the pant-pant-pant of four happy dogs, the soggy tennis ball rolling away in the night. The rotation of dog food, of accepting one lick as appreciation, one nudge as irritation, the bells on the door as notification. (After knocking over a lamp--but no, not breaking it--the dogs have finally settled in, some are even snoring, for the night.)
I have spent much of my time either outdoors in the sun, throwing the same tennis ball again and again, until it gets lost in the woods, or camped out on the sofa, folded up in blankets, reading one novel or another. My thesis? Yes, I ought to finish that up, tie a ribbon on it, send it off.
But for now, I'm thinking about the way adjectives and adverbs are described as chaperones--how we ought to be brave about our nouns. Take this section, for example: "A few wind-whipped and decrepit Victorian mansions, remnants of a lost era of seagoing optimism, loomed out of the snowfall on the town's sporadic hills. Beyond them, cedars wove a steep mat of still green. The snow blurred from vision the clean contours of these cedar hills. The sea wind drove snowflakes steadily inland, hurling them against the fragrant trees, and the snow began to settle on the highest branches with gentle implacability."
You see? Some of this could be beautiful imagery, and it does smooth out. Of course, repetition that probably was not intentional ("The snow, the sea, the snow") does not aid in the clunkiness. This is something perhaps a poet who is guilty of this offense herself could only be acutely aware of (and ending sentences on prepositions, which I tend to accidentally wend my way into doing).
I've also been turning this over in my head: blogs are simply a series of first drafts, flawed. We worry poems into new shapes, sometimes gloriously new, sometimes overly new. But here, the writing is in the raw, there are a great many errors, sometimes painfully, painfully bad writing. I suppose part of me wanted to say Thanks for still reading, despite all the writing gaffs, but also just to say it, to point it out. It's like apologizing for your poem before workshop--of course it's rough, otherwise you wouldn't bring it to the table, but you still feel compelled to apologize somehow, and promise (because you hope it is true, and you secretly hope what you've got is still good anyway, but--): I can do better.