Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Dog Days of Summer: Puppies & Pages

"I don't ask myself what I'm looking for. I didn't come for answers to a place like this"
--Philip Levine

Two momentous things have happened since I last came here to talk: 1. I finished a rough draft of my first novel 2. We got a puppy.

Now, the momentous things that happen seem a little less momentous and a little more in the moment. I take care of this little beast. And, as I do I'm starting the giant rewrite of the book. It's like nothing I've ever done before. The fiction journey is entirely different than the poetry journey. It's so much more about endurance and strength as opposed to hot bursts of wild exhilaration. Oh there is a great deal of exhilaration with the novel work too, but it's prolonged and measured and meaty. A life in chapters instead of lines. The weeeeeeee of writing to the end of the page. The weeeeee of life in the long form.

I never liked pugs. Or rather, I never thought I'd have one. I liked big dogs with big personalties. But we travel a lot. And Lucas loves them. So, we brought home this little girl. That same week, my wonderful friend, Nadia sent me this awesome shirt. (It says Pugs Not Drugs. It does not say Jugs Not Drugs, though I just realized it could possibly look that way.) Now, I've gone from a New York City girl with no pets and a lot of high heels, to this strange and laughing barefoot person. Ah well, I'll embrace the change. I'll love that weird funny animal of life.

Twilight in the Bluegrass with Lily Bean Kudzu reaching out into the abyss of the now. In my best friend, Trish Harnetiaux's play, Straight On Till Morning, she has a cat named, "The Now." I always loved that, "Meow, The Now!" I suppose this pup is saying, "Wow, The Now."

Lucas in the wild flowers with the wild pug. My family has grown. We've adopted a dog baby and a novel baby. I hope I can do right by both of them. Joy sure comes with a lot of pressure to keep it.

In other news, Phil Levine, my favorite teacher, and one of my favorite poets, was just named the new Poet Laureate of the United States (The President of Poetry). He taught me a lot of what I know. And I think he's wonderful. With all the despair in the news, it's nice to get a good word from poetry.

Here's one of my favorite poems of his:

Philip Levine

The new grass rising in the hills,
the cows loitering in the morning chill,
a dozen or more old browns hidden
in the shadows of the cottonwoods
beside the streambed. I go higher
to where the road gives up and there's
only a faint path strewn with lupine
between the mountain oaks. I don't
ask myself what I'm looking for.
I didn't come for answers
to a place like this, I came to walk
on the earth, still cold, still silent.
Still ungiving, I've said to myself,
although it greets me with last year's
dead thistles and this year's
hard spines, early blooming
wild onions, the curling remains
of spider's cloth. What did I bring
to the dance? In my back pocket
a crushed letter from a woman
I've never met bearing bad news
I can do nothing about. So I wander
these woods half sightless while
a west wind picks up in the trees
clustered above. The pines make
a music like no other, rising and
falling like a distant surf at night
that calms the darkness before
first light. "Soughing" we call it, from
Old English, no less. How weightless
words are when nothing will do.