I love Eireann's words, and I love that I can connect with her quietly on her blog sometimes. I wish I could pull England closer to here, a long rope across the pond. Today she posted a quote which has resonated with me, and I wanted to share a bit of it with you:
You may not have perfect taste; there is no perfect taste; but you'll have taste and it will be yours, not somebody else's, but your very own; and you may not be able to lecture on it any better than I can, but you will have a feel for the painter's art, which is a fine art.
From The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens: Volume I: A Boy on Horseback and Seeing New York First. Harcourt, Brace: 1951. p 130.
You see, I'm in the midst of a hefty independent study, which has me reading these books that could build cottages in the woods, heavy stones of books, thick and collapsing. I'm reading Emily Dickinson, and there are moments when her words shine right off the page, but there are others where I feel I'm slogging through a sing-songy mess, and what has begun to frighten me (and has always frightened me) as a reader and editor of poetry is that I might not recognize a good poem--what if I rejected one of Dickinson's poems? What if I don't understand why they are so celebrated? (I do, in some ways, and in some ways, not as much.)
And perhaps I want to be the kind of reader and editor that can celebrate a myriad of poetry, just as I want to celebrate a full life, but maybe I need to also recognize that trusting myself is important too. It's OK to vary in my aesthetic, to allow my tastes to change, and to think something is good when others don't (and vice versa). It's OK to develop my own canon.
I've been feeling the pressure of the semester this past week, and I'm in a place where I need to pull back, to not take on more until less is pulled off the top. What I want more than anything is to have quiet, both inside and out.
While I was on the MFA retreat, one of my cabin mates, Brian Laidlaw, would wake to yoga practice, would line his mat up to the picture window and breathe and move and breathe.
Denise, a fellow blogger and former MFA, wrote a post that begins with an image from a train in Chicago. I want to get onto a train, with nothing by way of obligation, with a small knapsack that contains: my bedroom pillow, a writing notebook (maybe a brand new one, even), a volume of poetry that requires no essays or reviews or interviews at the end of it, some knitting (preferably in earth tones, preferably natural fibers and bamboo needles), my camera with a blank card in it. I wouldn't have any medication with me or student essays or submissions to dislocate or any other literary magazine. I would have pencils to sketch with. I would have music.
I want to start a new garden.
I want to clean windows.
I want to make things with my hands. Bake oatmeal cookies in the afternoon. Celebrate the feel of autumn sun on my skin.
Breathe and breathe and steady and breathe.
Yesterday morning, when I was a bit late (the morning rain made the commute harrowing) for a meeting with the professor I'm doing my independent study with, I was so off-kilter, my body soaked from the cold rain, my car parked in an unfamiliar place, I had to steady myself, and he had to tell me to take a moment. He may not have known it, but I was on the verge of bursting into tears, nearly as embarrassing as when I did cry, unstopping, in the doctor's office several years ago, revealing what I already knew about myself (oh, anxiety disorder).
I cannot let myself go back to that.