Friday, December 31, 2010

December 31, 2010

The past few days my literary energies have poured into the writing of my screenplay, Pillar of Fire, and the details I like to record of my life have waited, some of them lost irretrievably in the meanwhile. I tell my students that you never forget anything you’re meant to remember.

Outstanding review in Journal of Singing (Vol 67, No.2) of Frank Ferko and my Cyclamen. After quite a thorough exegesis the reviewer concludes it is a “beautiful and meaningful text.” The reviewer’s analysis of the music is too technical for me to appreciate, but the overall impression is very favorable. I would love to work steadily with a composer. I would love to set my own poetry. I used to write quite a lot of music, before I was hanging out with so many musicians, and the gap between their understanding of the intricacies of it all and mine shamed me into silence.

Burn the lights of the Christmas tree every moment that it’s dark, such as now, when the last dawn of the year is still an hour off. I look up and down the street and it’s the only one I see. Almost all the Christmas cards one receives are photos of the family. One is happy to keep up, but everything begins to sink under a chirpy secularization. What are our sacred things now? I’m not sure I know. Maybe I’ll spend time in the new year working for the re-sanctification of– something.

Hit the town last night. Saw The King’s Speech at the Fine Arts, then stopped at Sazerac for a drink. Said Happy New Year to John C and Matthew. A line of old people sat behind me at the cinema, One of them was deaf. This meant that when she made comments during the movie– which she couldn’t stop herself from doing–it was at a volume which would be for a normal person near to shouting. It also meant that no response cold be made only once:
He said “bugger.” Now, you should stop talking.
He said “bugger.”
It also meant she couldn't hear herself digging in her popcorn bag like a shovel into broken glass all thrugh the film.

Excellent sessions at the Y recently. In Christmas photos with my nephews I was too much older and too much heavier.

Driving home from Atlanta in the snow I had a mind-storm that I’ve not known how to put into words until now, and perhaps my words will be inadequate still. The odd thing was that holiday reading of Tolkien helped me into it. Christopher Tolkien makes the observation in The Peoples of Middle Earth that when the elves became aware of Sauron’s ring, they hid the three elven rings and, to keep them safe, made the everlastingly consequential choice that they should make nothing new, but only protect what was already made. For however thousands of years that was, the elves did nothing bold, but fought a long retreat, hoping to save the remnant. By contrast the fiery hero Feanor had risked all to forge ahead in a manner whose outcomes were unknown, but certainly perilous. Perhaps the elves had chosen the one in response to the terrible consequences of the other. Celebrimbor balancing Feanor, and each choice fraught with unforeseeable consequence. Anyway, I was pondering all this, when I realized that the choice of Feanor is always my choice, to a degree that the conservativeness of the elven lords afterwards is almost incomprehensible to me, as if it were a principle of debate and not a real option in the world. But I know most of the world would disagree with me on this.
So, as I was driving, I must have been turning this over in my mind, for with a jolt I realized that herein lies an explanation of my life. Far back in my childhood, lying in bed vibrantly awake, eyes brimming years, exultant far beyond any vocabulary I had then–or now– to describe it, I dedicated my life to love, and to a single love that has never wavered, however frayed by fury and disappointment, never explained itself to the laity, never known quite what it was beyond beauty and joy. Danger or mockery mattered not at all. Consequence mattered not at all, because I had found what in my life to love. I loved the spirit that came down to me on those nights. Was he an angel? Was he Shelley’s BEAUTY? I am happy to call him God, though what I mean by that word any more I am not sure. I have always called him God in my heart, though it is too secret–and embarrassing– to speak aloud. He was my Maud Gonne, my Beatrice, except one became a crone and the other died, whereas the love of my life is swift brave and and radiant forever. I became one who has dedicated himself not only to love, but to a love that required a certain kind of life, lived in a certain way, and fidelity to that choice has informed all my days. If your lover is God, there are certain things you do not do, and certain things you must do, and if I was sloppy and awkward at all this, it was because there was no precedent known to me to work from. I was learning it as I went. Things which were not worthy of him must be tolerated, of course, but never adopted, never accepted inwardly. His rules are not the world’s rules, and when I was writing poetry or singing in a choir or wrestling with sweaty boys in a Dublin sauna, all was the same, all sanctified by his imponderable example. I was set apart by love, given a destiny by love which I did not see clearly but which I groped toward every hour of the day. I loved the music that I loved because it seemed to be the music that surrounded the Descent. I loved poetry because poetry came to me almost with the Being’s first touch. People thought I was above myself because I wanted to go to museums and concerts, and perhaps I was, but I was pulled there by someone I loved and in desire for him I wanted to be as close as possible at all moments. I knew which things were of this love, and which things were not, and I provoked and puzzled those around me in my obstinate fidelity. I beat my way into a life of art when I seemed destined for a desk in an office like my father, because art was the nearest thing I could do which was like to him. I loved men both unwisely and well, for that it what I received from him, a passion overshadowing, transcendent, holy, shattering. They added only a body. Days and years were predicated on the awesome boldness of whispering yes to the presence in the room, vowing to follow wherever he lead.
There were times when I think I was the happiest boy in the world, and I could never tell anybody why.
In practical terms, when you’re looking for a mortal lover to mirror that radiant spirit, he has to be as much as possible like Him. The pursuit of heroes for your lover is beautiful, epic, but one must not be that surprised when it turns out. . . well, when it doesn’t turn out. When you are creating, you must create only, leaving publication to the powers of the world. On one level, this was a terrible, pervading error that I will pay for till then end of my days. On another it was simply right; it was what he did. He offered the beautiful thing, and one took it or one did not. How many ceilings opened to his dark, enfolding arms, and how many times was he turned away out of fear or conflicting values or just plain dullness? I would do the same as he. I could be as prodigal as earth, and let flowers bloom in hidden citadels of stone. I would create like no one created before, and leave creation at the roadside for anyone to pick up. That no one picked it up should have wounded me less than it did.
In recent years it has gone bitterly wrong, as love affairs do, and I have accused him of deception and cruelty. He is guilty of deception and cruelty, and no tribunal but repentance can wipe that clean. On the other hand, I lost my nerve. In a life which asked or sought no certainty, I came to a certain age–this one-- and realized I had none, no certainty, no palpable achievement, no family, no spouse in the flesh, no comfort, no provision for the time to come, no life as most people think of it. I panicked. I began grasping for things I never wanted before, assurances and supports and acknowledgments which are not of him, and were not of me until I grew afraid. Yet as long as I fixed on turning back to what was–or plunging forward to the paradise I thought we were seeking from the first-- as long as I fixed on bringing it all to the consummation I felt was just or right, there would be nothing for me but wrath and misery. He is wild; that’s why I loved him. Fairness, even kindness, was never part of it. I shouldn’t have deceived myself. He did not change. I did. I simply lived too long.
Driving in the blizzard, for whatever reason (perhaps mortal fear) I suddenly let go. The love affair was over. I began to sob, trying to drive through blinding tears. But the remarkable thing is they were not tears of sorrow at all. As I veered and skidded I was crying thank you. . . thank you. . . thank you, for I had lived a life bolder and more strangely beautiful than I could have imagined. I had dedicated myself with a hero’s valor, with a lover’s passion, and that it came to nothing is, ultimately, not the point. A more glorious interlude can scarcely be imagined. For a time–a very long time, now that I think of it–I was the lover of the power that shouts upon the mountain, that sings between the waves of the deep, and, in the face of that, disappointment in any mortal thing seems trivial. Thank you, thank you, I said. I still say it. When I drove into the parking lot across the street on St. Stephen’s Day, I was for the first time in fifty years free. Divorced. Widowed. I don’t know what to do with myself now, but I’m trying this and that, as any person suddenly single would. It is all right. Thank you. Thank you. From the bottom of the heart that is within my heart, thank you. And goodbye.

Angry note from Ste. I don’t know why. Something in my Christmas letter provoked hm. He said he should never have cooked Indian for me. He accused me of making lousy cauliflower curry, which is true.

Resolutions? I have already forgiven God for being the ruination of my life. I think that’s enough for now.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 29, 2010

Rococo pink and powder blue sunset.

December 28, 2010

Half moon glittering through the frost on m study windows.

Moved my car, did errands even before the sun initiated thaw.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

December 27, 2010

Blowing snow and drifting snow in the dark outside the windows, like time lapse photos of some great white desert.

After Christmas Eve service I skipped the parties and came home, staring at the lights of the tree until I was too sleepy to sit up. Rose and drove to Atlanta in the first outriders of what would become this monumental storm, listening to an audio books version of Moby Dick. Though written rather more lushly than modern taste, it’s clearly the great American book, still. Mapple’s sermon alone is excellent almost beyond imagination. Melville also funnier than I remembered. Had the honor of experiencing Atlanta’s first white Christmas in memory, which was in fact very beautiful. Beka did not return from Colorado, but Linda and the boys were well. The boys are inseparable, very handsome, very different. Both are wrestlers and therefore in breathtaking physical shape. They showed me their wrestling videos, which were impressive, but they pinned their opponents too quickly for there to be much to see. One white boy in a singlet looks much like another at distance, so I had to keep asking who was who. We ate incessantly. Jonathan drove us through the snow to see the latest Narnia movie, and then we played cards until midnight. I rose early and drove north. Deliberately did not listen for the weather report. Just above Atlanta the roads were a hair’s breadth from impassable. My tractionless little Prius slid and fishtailed if I went over 25, but on we soldiered. Cars had skidded into the grass on both sides of the road for twenty miles or so, and the air throbbed with the lights of cops and tow trucks. Several cars towing trailers had swerved around almost blocking the lanes. We inched gingerly past. I kept going, thinking, for some reason, that things would improve as I headed north into the mountains. But, in fact they did, and from north Georgia on the highway was dry, though snow fell ceaselessly and the roadsides and hills were a glory of pure white. You could see far into the roadside forests, and I looked deep for animals. Off the highway on the streets of Asheville, things were much worse. The streets were lined with bundled pedestrians, by which I knew everyone was afraid to use their cars. I couldn’t get into the alley, but parked at the apartments across the street, where the long-traveling Prius is now also trapped and useless. Don’t know if the pickup has any traction. Might test that out today. My ice driving skills did come back on I-85, and that gives me a certain confidence.

The only mark in the snow is my tracks from when I went out on the porch to fill the bird feeders.

The tree has not dropped even a single needle.

Circe startles when something surprises her, a leftover from her life on the streets of New Orleans, I guess. Then it’s a claws-out panic escape over anything that lies in the way. Last night–though what on earth could have startled her I don’t know–it was my face. I was asleep, and what came suddenly to my dream when it happened was a vivid close-up of thorny stalks of briar. I’m fascinated by this, by the way a physical sensation turned instantly into an image in dream time.

Blizzard conditions. High wind warning. The bushes outside my study window look like a snowman trying to peeping Tom.

Evening. The snow blanket made the nearby mountains wonderfully visible. I think you could have seen anything as big as a dog moving over the whiteness between the black slashes of the trees. When sunset came it made those same mountains the most radiant rosy gold I have ever seen. They seemed not to reflect but to originate the light.

Friday, December 24, 2010

December 24, 2010

Brilliant Christmas Eve. The Y was nearly empty this morning, the streets vacant. But the grocery stores are full to overflowing. Couples push carts with $200 worth of food in them while I stand behind them at the checkout with my sushi and cream soda.

Working steadily on my filmscript of The Pillar of Fire.

Sick to death of The Santaland Diaries.

Ste writes tender emails from Cambridgeshire. I answer them tenderly, I think, but I don’t know how anything sounds to anybody else anymore. Part of his delectable strangeness is an almost supernatural tenderness, a quality so extreme you think at first he’s mocking. But he’s not. I’m tender in my way, I suppose, but I’m also worldly and direct, and I don’t always know if I’ve mixed the recipe of my responses right. Yet somehow he blasted his life to smithereens. Somehow he got himself barred from half the pubs in his hometown, so when I was there we had to wander to find a place to tipple. What part of him is that? He can snarl and hiss. Sickened reaction to that in himself is part of his tenderness.

Muddy paw prints appeared on my back doorframe at about the height of my eyes. It seems pretty certain I was visited by a bear.

Christmas has defeated me every year since I was thirteen.

So cold in my studio that the paint won’t dry. My peacoat has a green stripe from where I backed into a piece that should have been dry last weekend. Driving back, I was almost wiped out by a garbage truck. Afterwards I thought that if I had died then, my last words would have been, “Logan! Merry Christmas!” That would have been all right.
December 23, 2010

Tiny snow, like salt, carried by the wind.

Harpist Grace Cloutier joined us for the Britten Ceremony of Carols, and at Avenue M for drinks afterwards. She is reinforcement for my judgment that, among professional artists, musicians tend to be the least temperamental, the least diva-ish. Her last and next gig are at Saint John the Divine, so our class quotient soars. To continue the thought above, musicians (along with, maybe, film-makers) have the greatest tendency to equate artistry with the fixing of mistakes. One really has very little to do with the other.

I think I need a rest from the things that annoy me. I probably annoy them just as much, and they need a rest from me.

Massive windstorm, during which only one bulb was torn from the spruce tree outside. I will take that as a sign.
December 21, 2010

Terry came to the studio yesterday and decided to give me a show at Avenue M. This means a new task ahead of me, for the most part a joyful one, of preparing and touching up and selecting and filling in gaps. I had misunderstood her purpose, actually, and wasn’t ready for the offer of a show.

Decorated the spruce and the magnolia in the backyard with red bulbs. They’re shocking in the universal brownish-gray of this dull day.

Appropriate gloom for the Solstice.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December 20, 2010

Bright moon setting far to the north. Did my Saint Nicholas gig at church yesterday, the time I think I have enjoyed it most. People remember me for doing this far more than I remember doing it–which is only when Thomas asks me to at the opening of Advent. They shout “Saint Nicholas!” across the street to me, and I have to stop and think what they mean. A little girl in one of the houses I looked at was beaming at me the whole time, and her father said, “She is proud to have Saint Nicholas in her house.” I bought balsa airplanes and balloons for the kids. This seemed to have the same temporary effect as very expensive gifts.

Putting up DJ’s Christmas tree. The stand would not unfold, and he handed it to me. I said, “I’m not really very mechanical.” He said, “You always seem to have your way.”

Haven’t been following the issue closely, but L seems to have written something in a Mountain Xpress review which provoked people to cry politics. Some of the same people defending her attacked me on the very same principle for my blog, and attacked SS for daring to give The Beautiful Johanna the review it deserved. Politics called for a hatchet job, and because he didn’t succumb, it was assumed he was indebted to me in some way. The most cravenly political are the first to cry politics. Now that L is tied to the Magnetic Field, dishonest people will assume dishonesty. Any review not glowing will be read by the offended party as meant to profit herself and the venue in some way. L bravely defends herself. I was so shocked that I laid low. Her defenders are vocal. I assumed I had none. But perhaps I’m being too careful on L’s account and mine. The sort of people who respond anonymously to reviews in the papers usually do not have an actual point of view, but merely vehemence of reaction. Maybe more people understand this than we realize.

Dream last night that I had insulted a judge or a magistrate or someone and was sentenced to a week in jail. Everyone shrugged and said “it’s only a week,” but I was devastated, and vowed to fast until the week was over. I think I’d watched too many episodes of CSI before bedtime. Curious thought about that: I adore the people on all the versions of CSI, which I watch whenever I can– yet viewed from the point of view of the public they’re supposed to serve, they’re arrogant, reckless, self gratifying assholes. Katherine in Los Vegas is a Nazified bitch, just as happy to destroy reputations as find the truth. Most of them are mightily pleased with themselves and smirkingly amused by their own abuses of power. When I’m in the fictional moment, I think it’s amusing too. When I put myself in the place of the public, I think they’re vaguely horrific; I feel that one must think twice to decide whether the protection they provide is worth the abuse they dole out. The more true to life this is, the more disturbing.

I know the solutions to two major problems of contemporary American society. The economy: legalize marijuana and tax it. This has the added benefit of getting a quarter million harmless people out of jail. Law Enforcement: change from the American paradigm of putting bad guys into jail to the Irish paradigm of keeping the peace. In a glimmer goes the whole brutal, wastefully expensive, asinine conception of law as a cock fight between prosecutors and defenders, wherein the truth is, by and large, irrelevant. The only argument against that is that people who get rich off the suffering of others would lose access to the sources of their wealth.

Incipient blossoms on the witch hazel.
December 19, 2010

Buttery dawn. Yesterday all but annihilated by lethargy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

December 18, 2010

Russell and his friend Zach joined DJ and Kyle and me for Russell’s birthday dinner. It was sweet. The boys had such a wonderful time in their choruses and glee clubs at ETSU that this was their central topic of conversation. Money came from somewhere so that they could tour most of Europe. I tried to think of what was quite so monumental in my life. If there had been something of the like, I would not have spoken of it. Three of the five people at the table were professional musicians and the other two of us vehement amateurs, so music pervaded. We even barbershop harmonized for a few moments. Not surprisingly, barbershop seems to come naturally to the American ear. It was good to see such steadfastness between friends, and amazing to witness the unabashed qualities of Russell’s affections. His wife should have been present to drink in his praise of her. I sort of wished I were him. With a better job. J and L arrived later. J was drunk and toasted the chandelier.
December 17, 2010

The Cantaria concert was better than we could have expected, by virtue, I think, of contact with a live audience. If audience reaction is used as the measure, it was the best show ever. A couple from Wilmington stopped by the studio as I was painting. I invited them to the concert, and they came. I didn’t make progress in painting as far as personal development, but I finished two big pieces on plywood that I’m going to offer to Terry at Avenue M for her bare walls.

Blue and gray ski cap bought from a street vendor on lower Manhattan for five dollars, now practically my favorite possession.

Friday, December 17, 2010

December 16, 2010

Spent the dark of morning sending Christmas greetings and listening to Handel’s Trio Sonatas. When I left the house yesterday morning, the Ohio boy kicked in and, though it was 8 degrees, the cold stop agonizing me as it had the first days of its reign. Through Tom I met Jack the vacuum salesman, and I decided that I needed a straight, red-necky, gym-rat, door-to-door appliance salesman in my life, so I arranged to meet him for a zumba class at the Y. Our communications crossed, and I ended up in a pilates class, without Jack, the only man, which strain I feel to the extreme right now, Less, though, than I had feared. Tom persuaded me to buy a Kangen water machine a few weeks ago, and I attribute every advance in health, or every failure of disability, to the magic waters. Who knows? The pilates instructor whispered in my direction, “it’s all right to cheat.” Believe me, I was cheating like mad. Jack ran into the locker room looking for me, having figured out the snafu. I helped him look in his gear for a comb, for he wouldn’t go into the weight room without combed hair. I decided not to tell him I don’t own a comb.

My sister has been sending photos of our family–that is to say, grandparents, great aunts and the like–from back in the day. Both of us were amazed how many of them I knew, even to houses and dates and names of dogs. I’d always seized onto details of family heritage, seeking something fuller, deeper than the shallow experience that was ours in the present. I knew that somewhere back in the mists our people must have been passionate, lyrical, interesting. There were photos of our bungalow on Goodview Avenue being built, a hole in the ground, the old brick houses of Malaysia Street visible behind over the bare ground, then dad standing proudly at the back door, opening it for the first time. I was there, in the photos, though of course I don’t remember it. I do remember my consciousness waking standing at that same back door, looking into a haze of summer flowers. What annihilates are the images of my mother and father. My mother was wildly beautiful. I thought so as kid, but kids think that of their mothers generally. The photos confirm it. In the early pictures my parents were so unbelievably happy, beaming, dewy, almost silly with love and confidence. Then at one moment, almost locatable on a calendar, that ceases. Whatever happened to them happened to me, for in the photos at the beginning I’m a grinning, carefree little elf, but at one point–I can point to it in the images– I become withdrawn, furtive, resentful of the camera, shying away from it, as though there were some terrible truth I wanted to gnaw on in secret. The images that have come into my mind when I try to search back for that moment seem cause insufficient for the effect, so I think I have not found it. Something about me? My mother’s incessant illness? Father tapping into his cruelty for the first time? Something else? Though the social quality of my life has prevented this from manifesting too much, I have always wished to be invisible in public, unless that visibility were formalized in some way–if I were on stage, or in a class, for instance. I remembering Harry’s off-hand but blistering observation, “you deflect friendship.” He was right. But it’s because I don’t believe it. I have always believed that no one would be much interested in me unless I were–well– showing off in some way. Nor is the “always” in that previous sentence true. I remember when I was not that way. Something happened. The photos show everything but precisely that. Mostly one looks at the shapes on the screen and murmurs, lost, lost, lost. They are images with syllables attached. Too many doors were shut against our knowing them.

Dinner party here tomorrow night in honor of Russell’s birthday. Russell has taken to joining us for drinks after choir, and he is a tonic. We grimy sophisticates sit around the table watching his guileless, confiding wholesomeness, agape with wonder and, in my case anyway, a sense of loss. The people we could have been, and turned aside for–what?

Rotting snow compacted by rain. A good day to do what I’m doing.
December 14, 2010

I foresee days of nothing more than commenting on the weather. The motion sensor thinks the snow is a body and keeps the garage light on all the time. Left the house only reluctantly yesterday. With the stiff wind it is most remarkably inclement. But I did get a number of manuscripts into the mail, and carved a short story out of the ruins of an old version of Night, Sleep.
December 13, 2010

Deep howl of wind outside. Gliding snow and blowing snow.

Monday, December 13, 2010

December 12, 2010

Woke to that strange glow outside that one identified finally as a blanket of snow reflecting the city lights. When I looked out the window, a black-and-white cat sat at the head of my stairs, surveying the night as though he were Lord of the Midnights Snows. I pulled on my shoes and coat and took a walk in the cool, snow-filled darkness. Met four girls–two of them neighbors down the street, two of them sleep-overs-- who were doing the same, though they seemed to be fueled by a night’s worth of alcohol. They took pictures of me on their cell phones. We were the only people abroad. I had been on another route, but turned so I could play with the kids for a while. Only two cars the whole way, one of them, with Indiana plates, shimmying into a turn. I stopped once or twice to see my lonely, surprisingly splay-footed tracks trailing behind me in the otherwise unmarked pre-dawn ivory. “There must be a story there” the writer in me couldn’t prevent himself from saying.

Set up my Christmas tree on Friday afternoon. Bought it where I always do, from the guy at Stoney Knob. I go there every year because I remember some kindness from him long ago, though I no longer remember what the kindness was. I think it’s been two years since I had a tree. The last one I bought in a panic, because Conrad was dying, and I thought he might like one last Christmas tree.

Sang for Thomas Murphy’s ordination. What an excellent priest he is going to be. Wiley came from W Va for it, and we caught up a little. Wiley is the sort of activist professor I stepped back from being almost immediately, regretting it a tiny bit now. But it suits him. He is still young enough for indignation unchecked by irony. He gives Jeff and me credit for his professional life, which I accept, writhing in a mixture of delight and mortification. He is among the best students I ever had. Top ten anyway. He was beautiful as a kid, but now has that handsomeness one ascribes to the fulfilled man.

Final Cantaria rehearsal before dress, which I will miss. C, standing next to me this time (there’s usually a buffer) sings wrong most of the time, then sings wrong sotto voce during my solos. “What the hell was that?” Says I. “Oh, I thought I’d just sing along. You’re singing the wrong notes.” He’s such a jackass that I lose perspective on the whole of it. Maybe that was his intention.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

December 10, 2010

Poetry in Prime Number, the zen pieces I wrote at the outdoor table in Times Square.

Friday, December 10, 2010

December 9, 2010

No pretending winter is not yet upon us. Word is for the next week it will just get colder. Global warming? I say, bring it on. If asked “What do you hate most in the world,” I’d say, “being cold.”

The Christmas cactus which Paul gave me at least two years ago is finally blooming the pinkest pink in the world.

Rehearsed with the Reynolds Band “A Bell of Anya.” Dr. Bryant is a remarkable presence in the classroom, full of high expectation that the kids fall over themselves to fulfill, organized just short of the military, able to reduce large adolescent forces to order with little more than a glance. Whenever I hear the call to eliminate “superfluous” arts instruction from the classroom, I think of the Reynolds music program and wonder where a student would get more varied lessons about more varied things in all their school experience. Math and science classes are insular and isolated in comparison. How many students are really going to find logarithms more useful in their life than the clarinet or the ability to read music?

I can’t explain why the piece, which is bubbling foot-thick cheese–is nevertheless very moving. I can hardly get through it without choking up.

It finally dawned on me who Minehaha, my blog-mocker, is. My question now is what it always was, why bother?

Reading at Pulp last night. It was a sweet and relaxed occasion, in a venue previously unknown to me. I read well to an attentive crowd, saw many old friends, and was rushed at the door by a lad named Caleb, a graduate of WCU, who said he had always been a fan of my poetry and how great it was to meet me. If someone paid him to say that, then it was exactly the right Christmas present. Caleb read a long poem about poetry which was really quite wonderful. Everyone was good. The one exception was the slam poet, though she was very beautiful. The Slam apparently still thinks that hysterical self-assertion and self-glorification legitimizes bad poetry. I have missed the poetry scene. It is less insane than many of the orbits I turn in, and the poets, by and large, mean each other well.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

December 8, 2010

Purple in the east. Choosing poems to read at Pulp tonight, a process harder than I remember it being in the past. Attended the festive opening of The Magnetic Field last night. I think back on the venues and institutions I was there for the openings of. Dear Lord, sic transit, and all that. The Magnetic Field has an urban feel to it, as though it were something nestled among the skyscrapers Uptown in New York. It’s not what one expects in this part of the world, and that adds to its boldness. The kitchen looks serious. The crowd was a slice of old theatrical Asheville, and not what I expected, but comforting to be amid again. The opening show was a piece–apparently an episode to an annual event– called the Bernstein Family Christmas. Technical glitches were to be expected in what was, because of the snow, a dress rehearsal, and the overall effect was uneven, but when it hit–as in the Tom Waits rendition of the dreidel song–it was transcendent. It was the first sketch comedy I have seen locally that was real theater, genuinely funny, with no need for the Asheville phenomenon of the pity guffaw. I admired the actors. I can do a comic role on stage, but I think if I were like that, like they were on stage always at the far edge of plausibility, I would be terrified.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 6, 2010

The heat registers whistle comfortingly. Outside is the first deep cold of winter. Rags of snow catch and tear across the landscape. Spent the day revising The Falls of the Wyona. Freakishly good workout at the Y.

Monday, December 6, 2010

December 5, 2010

Squally snow out of a yellow morning sky. Much digging, much planting, much plotting for what I want yet to plant. Above all, much writing. They have been full days without being happy ones, and I must investigate this phenomenon. Far too much singing. Two days of Cantaria rehearsals (this afternoon will make it three) to claw our way to adequacy. Our most rah-rah members sneak away from rehearsal to have a massage. Lessons and Carols at All Souls last night. I think it was probably lovely; I was too exhausted and grumpy to notice. But drinks with Nancy and DJ and Russell at Avenue M afterward, and that mellowed me before sleep. It’s right to be dedicated to art, but wrong to be dedicated to too much art, which is not dedication at all, but necessarily a kind of dilettantism. I’m lucky not to be accused of dilettantism, that I know of. I’m not a dilettante, but I can sure look like one. I feel like one at Christmas, when I try to fend off everything I can do in order to have a little peace. Anyway, I am grateful the trees and shrubs I got into the ground before the coming of the snows. I am grateful that my invention and my energy do not flag, though one of them wavers a little under the onslaught.

It is almost midnight. A few moments ago I wrote the last sentence of Night, Sleep, and the Dreams of Lovers.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

December 1, 2010

A productive morning drew me within one chapter of finishing Night, Sleep, and the Dreams of Lovers. Making sure to get to the Y in the morning is, once again, the savior of my days.

Made a foray to Jesse Israel’s and acquired a laburnum, a golden magnolia, and a red witch hazel. Planted the witch hazel between my living room window and Kelley’s porch, because of her fear for her privacy when the hemlocks came down. The laburnum had no evident roots, and fell right out of the pot when I was planting it. I went ahead with it, muttering growth spells and watering like mad.

Poetry in Voices of Israel. Short story in Blue Lake. Ordered a Toshiba laptop and received an HP. Guy spends a heap of dollars on a study to prove that cussing makes you feel better. Had a serious cold one night, bought all the necessary medicines for the next night; the cold was gone. I suppose a cure is a cure.

Yesterday’s rain flooded my studio. SS wrote and article for Mountain Xpress in which he gave me the epithet “much lauded.” I would have thought myself, if anything, notoriously under-lauded. . . . .