Thursday, October 21, 2021

the reader

This morning I was thinking about books and time and the way we change as authors--not only in the style of our writing, the subject matter, our obsessions, but also how we approach the art form--the commerce (or lack-of)--the bizness of this thing called po. The poet who wrote the fever almanac, who compiled various versions, combined and recombined manuscripts.  Who sent it dutifully off to first book contests and handed over those shiny paypal funds. She wanted to gain some sort of entry so badly. Wanted legitimacy, whatever that meant. And doors opened,  not at all where she expected.  

But once inside (I say this as someone who probably only made it into the foyer of the poetry establishment, not the house proper.) things weren't all that different. Most people in her life barely new she wrote--let alone a book. She still went to work and cleaned the cat boxes and cried on buses  The poet who writes books now, wants something else, but something almost just as elusive--an audience.  Sometimes, those two things go hand in hand.  One leads to the other--and sometimes it flows both ways. Sometimes, you get stuck between. 

I like to write now, not with an eye to the editors, the gatekeepers, the people who will grant permission to various hallways and rooms, but my perfect reader.  I like to think she likes the same things I do.  The weird and spooky and heartbreakingly beautiful.   Maybe she's a poet, or maybe just some other creative soul in another discipline.  Her age doesn't really matter.  She's something between an old soul and a child of wonder. She lives mostly in her head, though sometimes, through reading, inside the heads of others. She wants everything and nothing, but mostly a lot of sleep. A cat (or several). Some coffee. She probably has a job--something bookish. Or arty.  A librarian or an English teacher.  She's seen a lot of bad relationships but also some good. She has a couple friends or many in a loose sort of way. Many would say she's quiet, but can be quite loud when she wants. 

As I think about my books, the ones I've written but have yet to publish.  The books I've yet to write that are no more than an idea.  A scent in the air. A change of wind.  I picture her, probably not in a bookstore, but opening an envelope in the foyer of her apartment building and slipping out a book--my book. grazing her finger along the spine. Because she probably reads a lot, she won't read it straightaway, but stack it neatly with others. 

I have never considered NOT writing poetry as much as I have in the time since the pandemic began--not since I was in my early 20's and still feeling my way out in the world. When I was 24, the key turned over and I hummed along for years.  But in the past year and a half, I've asked some serious questions.  What use is it?  What does it give me?  What can I gain?  What is the point? I've considered chucking it to write horror fiction. Grants for libraries. Social media content. To go to grad school and study horror films and cinema studies and forget this life as a writer. It's amazing how easily I could do it. Just stop, like one stops drinking or smoking. Cold-turkey mostly. 

But she's there in the lobby of her apartment building. Probably tired and a little sad. So I'll keep going if she will. 

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