every artist lacks a license

Wade Lagoon in springtime may be one of my favorite places anywhere.
This photo drawn from a celebration of same at 

I am actively resisting the urge to apologize to the blog for being gone so long. I am failing. I am actively resisting the impulse to come up with something big and profound to write now, now that I am back. This should be easier!

Thank you to the guy behind the meat counter at Whole Foods who so discreetly yet so directly told me my fly was down. This is citizenship.

Last week I was in a spelling bee. We placed second. We went out on the word "makebate." (We guessed that the second syllable was "bait.") The Merriam-Webster definition of this obsolete word is "one that excites contention or quarrels," but I like this blog entry about its uses and origins better.

Sunday, I successfully executed a big event for work whilst ZandO played soccer in the (chilly) sunshine. (Particularly gratifying, as Z has been suffering from a bad case of tendonitis and sitting out for a few weeks. Good to see her taking names out there on the pitch. #sentencesineverimaginedwriting.) Yesterday, it felt like spring -- warm sun, trees glowing with the buds of new leaves, pink blossoms, a continuation of daffodils, lots of dead squirrels, poor squirrels.

A young man is in custody in Boston. We will try him like a citizen, as we should, not an enemy combatant. I have been obsessing about what it must feel like to commit an act of terrible violence. What is the point of no return, the last moment when one could choose not to do this thing? And what does it feel like after you have passed that point? These questions hurt to contemplate.

Life goes on.

Reading: In fiction, continuing with Possession. When I was in Massachusetts recently, I picked up three books at a lovely used book shop in Easthampton (I like books as travel souvenirs): A new 85th anniversary edition of The Art Spirit by Robert Henri (he was a painter and teacher, a good teacher apparently). The jacket copy says it is "Filled with valuable technical advice as well as wisdom about the place of art and the artist in American society." An interesting how-to book called Storyteller, Storyteacher by Marni Gillard. I have been interested in storytelling as a performance genre for a while, and this connects that to innovative classroom teaching. And an old Viking paperback copy of Lewis Mumford's The Story of Utopias, which is relevant to my endless ToT (Tome of Tomorrow, i.e., book in progress, for new fans).

Writing: Like the blog, the writing writing has suffered from the overwhelmence (#shouldbeaword) of stuff lately. Back in the saddle this morning, working on a scene my writers group suggests needs to be in scene rather than summarized as memory. And contemplating, as always, structure. I've been thinking a lot lately about how to be more direct with the storytelling. Simplify. As this is a big, complicated story, this feels sort of counterintuitive, but of course simplicity and directness probably matter even more with material that itself is big and complicated. I will tell you now. I hope to have a draft for my group to read by July 1. This is my new goal. You read it here first.

Also, thinking about how to be kinder to myself. Know any other artists who need to work on this? I really enjoy the book Fearless Creating by Eric Maisel - in bits and pieces, as needed, not as a continuous program. Last night, I was reading a passage about assessing how you work over time. (In preparation for returning to writing today.) I liked this bit:

"One answer is to continue working exactly as you are, irritable as a Beethoven, anxious as a Dostoyevsky, sad as a van Gogh, and white-knuckle life as you produce fine work. The house gets built but the carpenter crucifies himself in the process.
Or you can work to transform yourself. The artist transforms herself not only so that she can work better over time, but so that she can be as free as possible. Disabling anger, anxiety and sadness, a disabling worldview formed in the crucible on an unfair childhood, disabling behaviors and habits are all losses of freedom which she would prefer to jettison.
For the artist intent on transforming herself, working over time is a heartmending operation. Alone, she must perform her own surgery and provide her own nursing care."
Dinner: I've missed recording some good ones, alas. But I can tell you this, last night's Monday night pizza was red pizza with sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, and onions. This was inspired by some project O is working on at school to figure out how much different things would cost. He priced out this pizza and then asked that we make it at home. It was very good. (David did the actual pizza making.)

Soundtrack: Hmm. I have Bach Gavotte in D Maj. from Suzuki Book 3 rattling around in my head a lot, b/c that is what Z is working on for recital.

Random thing: Poem of the Day (for April Poetry Month)

An apt verse from Marge Piercy, grabbed from http://judithpordon.tripod.com/poetry/poems_about_writing.html

For the young who want to

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don't have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.'s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else's mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you're certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

Marge Piercy

Copyright 1980, Middlemarsh, Inc.
Alfred A. Knopf, New York 


  1. I like that part about creation as self transformation, and being one's own doctor and nurse.

  2. I'm just pleased as punch to know I'm not the only one who isn't keeping up on my blog and wants to apologize (To whom? Not sure.) and write something super special.

    Also (having just read the past few entries) Marge Piercy, Alicia Ostriker, and Sharon Olds are all favorites of mine. You know the Sharon Olds poem, "The Quest?" Rips my heart out, every time.

    Anyhow, tally ho and whatnot. Gonna get back in the saddle here too. Been finally getting the blogging itch back. Must be spring.


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