Ah, Hemingway…

10153666_10152020746881776_8049968211621102789_nI cuddled with a statue of Hemingway when I was in Cuba, and I have a fondness for polydactylic cats, but other than that, I’ve got to say, I get a bit tired of him being held up as all that and a bag of chips every time someone talks writing.

What of the wonderful other writers, those that used long sentences, those that write of non-manly, non-war-related things. Women. You know, them.

Does it ever seem to you that, of the entire panoply of female writers, only Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath get any press time? With maybe the occasional Maya Angelou and Margaret Atwood tossed in “from afar” as my mother in law used to say about currants in unsatisfactory Christmas cakes?

It’s gotta stop.  So now and again, I’m going to hunt out famous female writers (some of whom not so famous, cos, as we know, there’s that publication bias out there) and put their writing quotes in this blog. Just for fun.

Here’s the first, from Goodreads! Yay! From one of my favourite writers, too, and so true.

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”
― Madeleine L’Engle

Going to ground

Time is creeping on….

I’ve made a vow to myself to tie myself into writing for the next several months, stay focused, try to avoid distractions. I’ve signed up for a high intensity writing course and I want to devote the amount of effort needed to get good results and not waste my or my mentor’s time. Which means cutting some ties, removing myself from some activities, stopping myself from my involuntary volunteering.

Ah, the volunteering. You see, it’s a problem I have. I’m not sure if it’s because of my Roman Catholic inoculation of guilt, or the inner knowledge that I am not the person I want to be, but I find myself endlessly wanting to throw myself into things to help out, to atone, to serve. Maybe I just need to go to Confession.

I’m not sure wanting to help is necessarily a BAD thing, but it means I tend to overcommit and get confused. And waste time, and exhaust myself. All foolishness I should have learned to give up when I developed MS. But I struggle on, silly me.

Detaching from people is difficult, too. It is hard not to give offence when you are really setting boundaries, especially when your boundaries have been too flexible in the past. Poor judgement, the need to be liked, the desire to be loved and wanted – well, they all play in to wavery boundaries and the loss of goals and focus. I’ve always been slightly scornful of those who are able to set firm boundaries with their time – how uncaring! How selfish! How cold!

How accomplished they are now.

And there is a part of me that says I have a gift, sometimes, with my words. I can touch people, I can tell a good story, I have something I want to do with my writing. When I allow myself to immerse myself in it, I can make some headway. But I consistently shortchange myself.

So I’m going to go to ground this time. I’ve allotted myself time for ukulele, as it gives my soul wings. I will continue with my rug hooking, as the fibres and colours speak to my heart. I’ve booked in time for exercise as my MS won’t stop moving unless I fight against it every day. My family always has first dibs on my time – as the woman said in the coffee shop, “Ah birthed ‘em”, so I’m always going to be there for them.

There are my dear friends, MB, H, B, P, L, T and W. Always a space in my life for them, though the times may be shorter than in the past. I hope they’ll understand. 

And then there’s Mr. PH. He I can’t put off, ever. For one thing, he’s my conscience, quite able to nag as needed. For another, I’m too fond of his dear phlegmatic British self.

Finally, Mr. Bendicks, my furry friend. I can’t put him off, either, but that’s primarily because if I do he stands all over my dasjbbdfgl;hf.

The course runs until late fall this year. Wish me luck with focusing. It’s with Humber College, and I encourage writers to explore it. Task for today, continue reading the recommended text, Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction: A guide to Narrative Craft.

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Four Ways to Organize Your Notebooks

Four Ways to Organize Your Notebooks.

As someone who still hasn’t got the hang of Evernote, I like the simple tips in this article. I already like the different notebooks for different things one – I had one for Sarah Selecky’s excellent course, Story is a State of Mind, and have a fresh new one for my Humber times. I have DA’s little grumpy book for my personal rants and etceteras…

But I need to start colour-coding and leaving space between entries…and a table of contents is good, too.

 

The utter joy of a secondhand bookstore

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The other day I found a treasure at a used bookstore. It is this book, selected Prose and Poetry of Poe, with the introduction by W.H.Auden.
Now, I haven’t started on the Poe part yet, but I am suffused with joy at the introduction. Must say, the more I know Auden, the more I put him at my imaginary dinner table in heaven. I’d like to spend just an hour or so in his company, if he’d let me.
His gentle yet critical view of Poe’s work is filled with a shared amazement at how Poe persisted, his gaps, his utter failures bounded by spectacularly odd successes.
Poe’s development as a critic “never ..to his potential full stature” is compared to Baudelaire’s –

Think of the subjecs that Beaudelaire was granted – Delacroix, Constantin Guys, Wagner- and hen he kind of books Poe was asked to review:
Mephistopheles in England , or the Confessions of a Prime Minister
The Christian Florist…
Dashes at Life with a Free Pencil …

One is astounded that he managed to remain a rational critic at all, let alone such a good one.>

In terms of Poe’s character, which was described as romantically doomed, Auden points out that this is not the case, “it turns out he was only the kid of fellow whom one hesitates to invite to a party because after two drinks he is apt to become tiresome, an unmanly sort of man whose love life seems to have been largely confined to crying in laps and playing house, that his weaknesses were of the unromantic kind for which our age has the least tolerance, perhaps because they are typical of ourselves.”

On second thought, I might be afraid to have Auden at my dinner table. I would be terrified to bore him, to hear this damning with faint praise I’ve dreaded all my life.

On the other hand, he makes me want to read Poe, not the usual Raven or Casks, but Gordon Pym , Ligeia and The Man of the Crowdand his other poetry, in ever knew of the existence of these stories, poor ignorant me. I know I will be richer for the experience of reading them.

So glad I found this book, and so many others, in a serendipitous way. Second hand bookstores are mystical treasure troves, and I hope they never ever cease to be.

Aubade, by Philip Larkin

Love Larkin’s poetry. This one, an aubade, or a dawn song, usually apparently written by a departing lover looking at a sleeping woman, I’m posting for two reasons – first, to remind me I want to try my hand at this format, which deals with separation, distance, longing; and second; because it is both beautiful and sad. I love the line: “Death is not different whined at than withstood.”

Aubade
BY PHILIP LARKIN
I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
—The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

 

Philip Larkin, “Aubade” from Collected Poems. Used by permission of The Society of Authors as the Literary Representative of the Estate of Philip Larkin.

Source: Collected Poems (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2001)