The Order of Words
The reason for my move to this seaside town is that my name was pulled out of a hat, real or metaphorical, as one of two recipients for three-year residencies courtesy of The Fine Arts Work Center, providing affordable housing for artists and writers. I’m told only four people applied for the two spots, which gave me a 50% chance, but in any case, more ex-Fellows ought to apply because the place is quite nice.
To be honest, I must plan everything a bit more here because there is no plan, except the large ones. Teaching had always provided me a structure to my days, as well as the constant interaction with reasonably bright and intelligent young students. Now I find I miss the way my days were ordered, although I could, say, follow my old schedule for class: write instead of teach for an hour and a quarter, have a fifteen minute break and stretch, and continue on until lunch. Then I all would have to do was get through the two o’clock to four o’clock afternoon–always a rather dreaded abyss of time for me, but once it was four o’clock, ease returned. Now, that abyss has gone, along with the strong sunlight of that time in the West, but then so has the 300 hundred days of sun, the mountains, my sangha. Now I wonder, what exactly am I doing here? Writing yes. I find myself taking jaunts to town where I introduce myself as newcomer to shop owners. A gentleman proprietor told me, seeing right through my apparent interest in beautiful things, that the hard work would be the work, and told me he wanted to see a novel completed in a year’s time, and a Pulitzer.
Today I read some of Edward Hirsch’s forward to The Everyman Library edition of Keats poems and letters (Edward Hirsch forward to John Keats) and felt exhilarated and connected to a world of words. This is how it happens. We read words and get ready to write. We remember Annie Dillard and look to lay out a string of words. We untangle knots, smooth out the lines, discard the hopeless, attend the Muse.