SoCS: JC’s Confessions #9

A retired US armed services person – I can’t remember if it was a general or admiral – has been making the point that it’s important to make your bed first thing every morning because that will set you up for making a string of good choices for your day.

I’m not so sure.

I think many of us suffer from decision fatigue. What to do first/next, what to wear, what to eat, what to say, on and on and on. It can be mind-numbing.

I’m also afraid that some seemingly uneventful choices have deeper meaning. For me, making my bed in the morning is a reminder that I will spend a large part of my day doing things that are important to other people that aren’t really important to me.

It can make all those small, uneventful choices take on a deeper meaning – one after another after another.

It’s exhausting. Maybe that is part of the cause of decision fatigue.

In case anyone needed more evidence about my being what some would call overly-serious.

Non SoC note. I had been thinking of doing a JC’s Confession post about this topic, so when I saw Linda’s prompt, this was what came to the top of my mind. I’ve decided to list this as both an SoCS post and a JC’s Confessions post. I thought I should include my standard Confessions intro, so here it is:

On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert does a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.
~ JC

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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is to write about “making small, uneventful choices.” Join us! Find out how here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/31/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-feb-1-2020/

SoCS: unresolved

While it is common for people to choose resolutions for the new year, it’s not something that I usually do.

I don’t find January first to be an especially salient day, coming, as it does, during a very busy and high stress time of the year.

If I do feel the need to make a change in my life, I prefer to just jump in and work on whatever-it-may-be at that moment.

Sometimes that works out, but often it doesn’t. So much of life is beyond personal control that my resolution would have to be extremely important not to let it be displaced by the needs of others.

I can hear the wheels turning with the old mantras of “you need to put yourself first” and “put on your oxygen mask before assisting other passengers” and the like.

But that doesn’t ring true to who I am. I usually think of others first.

That isn’t to say that I am neglectful of myself. In order to “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” you can’t be mean or dismissive of yourself.

I can, however, set priorities and I usually choose to help others over doing solo endeavors. That means that things I might like to do get set aside. Sometimes, I get back to them. Sometimes, I don’t.

But no regrets.

Be it resolved: I will make my own choices at whatever time suits the situation.
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “resolution.”  Join  us! find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/12/29/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-dec-30-17/

SoCS: US news

All or nothing tends to be the reaction to watching news coverage in the US these days.

Either people are glued to the breaking news and twists and turns of the current government or studiously avoiding the news.

One facebook friend was discussing this on her timeline this week. She is a “watcher.” She says it is like watching a train wreck; she can’t turn away.

Other friends, who used to watch the news on a regular basis, are taking a mental health break. They are avoiding the news because it is causing too much stress.

I am in the “watching” camp because I am trying to stay on top of developments so I can continue to write to elected officials on a variety of topics of concern. It is stressful, though, especially with the stresses of everyday life in addition.

Who knows? At some point, I may switch over to “nothing.”
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Join us for Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturdays! This week’s prompt was “all or nothing.” Details here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/05/19/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-may-2017/

 

Yes, still with the deflated footballs…

I just read this article in the New York Times saying that a federal judge has overturned the four game suspension given to New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady on the grounds that it violates the collective bargaining agreement between the players and the NFL.

I’ve written about this issue several times, most recently here, and I am glad that the judge has taken this action. I don’t think “general awareness” that others may have violated a rule is the proper standard for punishment.

And I also think that the real culprit is the lack of application of the Ideal Gas Law.

Q & A on the poetry workshop

In response to my post about the writing workshop opportunity I am contemplating, my friend, artist and poet Lorrie Lane, sent a series of clarifying questions to me via Facebook. Here are her questions and my answers:
1. Why are you writing poems? It can’t be for the money – hahaha.
I write poems because I have something to say. A large part of the turn to poetry for me was losing my will/venue/capability to write church music, coupled with an extraordinary opportunity to study “Women Who Run With the Wolves” with Yvonne Lucia and a wonderful group of women.
2. What are you trying to say that can’t be said in an essay?
Essays are lovely, but some ideas and images live much better in poetic form. I love the concentration of language and meaning in poems. I also love the greater room for the reader/listener to enter the poem. Essays tend to report or expound on the views of the author, I often try to leave some mystery in my poems – to give space for the reader to bring their own thoughts and experiences to the poem, although I am finding that some readers and editors do not like this approach.
3. Are you trying to talk to others, yourself, or both?
I write both for myself and for others, sometimes at the same time and sometimes not. There are some poems I write that will probably never be shared, although a couple of poems that started out that way have been seen by at least a few others.
4. How much risk are you willing to take? Will you risk exposing your flaws, your weakness, your guilty pleasures, your loves, your infidelities, your hatreds, your selfishness, your gullibility, your foolishness, your vulnerabilities? and by ‘you’ I certainly mean ‘y’all.
While I am not by nature a risktaker, I am willing to take a calculated risk as long as the threat of harm isn’t dire. The things most at risk would be my pride and my sense of competence, but I think I am mature enough now to shake it off if things go badly. In the second question, there are some of those attributes that I would risk writing about my/y’all’s experience, but some that I would choose not to. For example, I don’t think I could write credibly about infidelities, possibly not about hatred or selfishness, either. It’s hard for me to write about things I don’t understand well and I think it would show if I tried.
5.  Are you more interested in manipulating words or manipulating ideas?
I don’t think I am interested in manipulating at all. I use words to evoke ideas, but I am not wedded to others’ ideas being identical to mine.
6.  What inspires you? Would going to a workshop be inspirational or kind of boring?
I draw inspiration from random everyday encounters and from personal history that can take a long time to distill into a poem. I think that the setting of this workshop is one of the things that draws me to it. It is in a familiar place with ties to personal and family history, but it has been transformed into this arts community. Interestingly, I have a first draft of a poem that I wrote about the work of a particular artist when we visited MASS MoCA a couple of years ago. I think that the combination of the art and the place and my personal connection to it could produce some really interesting poems that would be cohesive enough to eventually become a chapbook.
7.  Would it be better for your poems to go off for a week by yourself? Because other people’s voices could confuse yours…
I don’t think I would be able to go off on my own and write for a week without some kind of interaction. I’ve learned through the Binghamton Poetry Project and my critique/workshopping group that it is incredibly helpful to have other voices to point out parts of the poem that are not concise enough or redundant or confusing. I’m still developing judgement on taking advice and on revision – and learning that what one editor likes, another won’t. I have a feeling that, even over years of writing, the balance between my voice and the critical voice of others will be difficult to achieve. At the moment, I feel that the other voices are helping to make my work stronger so that a bit of it can get out to the public in some way.  I do consider myself a general audience sort of poet, rather than a more erudite “poet’s poet.” That being said, there needs to be a certain level of craft to get work published and I need others’ help to achieve that.
8.  Think of the most ridiculous and long poetry project you can–say, a blank verse epic about some obscure historical event–and write the first page. (That’s not a question, is it? Well, do they make you do these kind of exercises in poetry workshops and why don’t they?)
Some workshops do give prompts or assignments, often around poem exemplars. Usually though, they give several prompts from which you can choose one to work on. I have some experience writing from prompts from Binghamton Poetry Project, which is how I actually attempted a slam poem – not my natural bent! I don’t think that this workshop will be set up like that, though, as it seems that the expectation is that some people may be generating new work while others may be revising individual poems or collections.
9.   Are you, a polite person, willing to write a rude poem? then do it or why not?
If I were writing from a prompt, I could write a rude poem, perhaps even a profane poem. I would probably than tear it up and throw it away. I write to express myself and would only share work that I felt conveyed what I wanted to say in the manner in which I wanted to say it.
10.  If you read all the literary journals published in 2014, would you ever be able to do anything else for the rest of your life?
There are a zillion literary journals – and they come and go all the time. I would not attempt to read a year’s worth of journals, because, yes, it would take a lifetime. I do read a variety of contemporary poetry, but snatched from here and there. And, yes, I do understand that my journal publications will reach relatively few and rarefied readers, but it seems to be part of the way things work. Enough journal publications – and some of the “right” ones, eventually – are needed to get a small press to consider a chapbook. Or people self-publish, but I don’t think I am cut out for that.
11.  Can you learn anything other than technique at a workshop? This applies to painting workshops, and my answer has been ‘no.’ Technique is essential but secondary.
I think that one can learn things other than technique at a workshop, but first I have to consider the subject of technique. Whereas you studied both English and art at the collegiate level, the last time I had formal instruction in poetry, I was an 8th grader in Monroe Bridge. One of the things I enjoy about Binghamton Poetry Project and Sappho’s Circle is the opportunity to learn more technical aspects and craft of poetry. Other things I can learn are some of the ins and outs of the editorial and publishing processes, at which I am a novice, at best. I also think that I could learn a lot about my by-then 55-year-old self, as I will be walking into an unknown territory, interacting with a group of new people which is daunting for someone who has become more and more of an introvert over time, facing the possibility that I could be totally out of my depth, and perhaps spectacularly failing in front of an award-winning poet and publisher. But, probably not. I hope.

Should I apply for this poetry workshop or not?

Yesterday, this link appeared in my inbox https://tupelopress.wordpress.com/tupelo-press-writing-conferences/the-studios-at-mass-moca/ announcing a one-week poetry residency/workshop at MASS MoCA, offered by Tupelo Press of North Adams MA.

And I am totally freaking out about it.

I have never done anything even remotely like this and the prospect is simultaneously exciting and terrifying.

And I feel that I need to decide quickly as it is limited to eight participants.

Update:  To read more about my deliberations, click here.

This is where I should present an orderly list of pros and cons. Instead, there will be a tangle of pros and cons, sorted by topic.

Place:  My hometown is twenty miles from North Adams and it is the home of the high school where I met my spouse. It was also the home of my grandparents, the place we went shopping, and the area is still home to some family and friends.  Although the city has undergone a transformation from the time I was growing up, because we have visited frequently over the years, I am still comfortable there.

On the other hand, I have only been to MASS MoCA once, on a visit a couple of years ago. I am not at all knowledgeable about visual art, but we loved our visit. If I do go, most of the exhibits will be different than the ones we saw. Unlike most museums, MASS MoCA does not have a predominantly permanent collection. I am nervous about how inspirational the current exhibits will be for me in terms of writing new poetry. But, if it is, it could form the basis for a chapbook, which would be a good growth opportunity for me.

Time:  That week in November is fairly easy to re-arrange for me. Fortunately, our University Chorus concert is not until early December this year and we are doing Carmina Burana, which I know well. The sad thing is that my husband’s birthday is that week, although he has said that he is okay with my being away.

Readiness:  I have never done anything remotely this intensive with poetry – or, come to think of it, anything else. I haven’t concentrated on poetry or been in the company of poets for more than a few hours at a time. Am I ready to spend a week alternately interacting and living with poets and spending time alone writing and revising? Would I ever feel ready or is it just something one jumps into, ready or not?

There is some comfort in that the registration screen has several categories with which to describe one’s publication history, beginning with novice and ending with publishing one or more books. I at least get to claim the “one or two journal acceptances” category. Bonus:  I have some anthology credits and online credits from Silver Birch Press, even though I only have one actual journal credit. Enrollment is limited to eight participants, but I could easily find myself surrounded by much more experienced and formally educated poets, which could be intimidating, depending on personalities. Fortunately, I have had good experiences with the local established poets, who have helped me so much.  On the other hand, I could find myself being in a group of predominantly novice poets, which I am used to from Binghamton Poetry Project, although it would be strange to be the experienced one in the group for the week. Or we could have a range of experiences among the group, which would probably be most comfortable.

Perhaps “Readiness” is not the proper name for this category. It’s more how much uneasiness/fear I can face. Although we have to submit sample poems, it does not seem that Tupelo is looking to cull applicants. They seem willing to work with whomever wants to be there – and can pay them, which leads to…

Money:  It’s not that I can’t afford to do this. It’s that I don’t generally spend much on poetry because it is unlikely I will ever recoup costs through publication.  But I do think I would learn a lot and get more insights into what publishers are looking for, which would be really valuable as one of my goals is to publish a chapbook someday. There. I actually admitted that publicly.

Okay. Time to stop hashing and publish this. Any and all are welcome to weigh in in comments or by email/FB for those who have those addresses. I need to decide quickly, as I would hate to delay, decide to do it, and find out that I waited too long and it was full.

Do I try to do this or not?

The US Supreme Court

Question; Which will better stand the test of time – Justice Kagan’s references to Spiderman in the majority patent case decision or Justice Scalia’s use of the word “jiggery-pokery” in the dissent from the health care subsidy case?

Please weigh in the comments!

(Bonus question:  Can you tell how punchy I am right now?)