Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Happiness of Being Nearly Finished

I've been working away this summer -- not so much with a steady, deliberate focus, but paying attention to when the moment and spirit seem right for writing. I seem to be cultivating a serious offhandedness. When I was trying to explain this to an audience who were asking questions about my working methods a couple of weeks ago, I found myself talking about not wanting to come at the poem too directly. That is, not wanting to approach the image that's triggering it or the core of feeling it contains as if I'm going to seize hold of it, but rather sort of sidling in, relaxing with it, maintaining a certain sense of the casual. I know perfectly well that's a sort of elaborate game; poems matter to me immensely, but sometimes the best way to bring them into being is to take some of the pressure off and work as if you're dashing off a note, or scribbling a line or two on the back of an envelope. To write without one hand knowing what the other's doing.

This feeling came to the fore while I was working on the bestiary I made with Darren Waterston. Because that lyric sequence had to be done in a very short time, I found myself writing in scraps and bits, not trying to fit anything together. I was just writing lines and notes to show to Darren, and increasingly I liked feeling that I wasn't doing my "real work" -- a liberating sense if ever there was one.

I took an early train from the city out to Amagansett a  couple of weeks ago. I slept for the first hour and a half, then woke with a lucid sort of energy and took out my laptop. I'd been carrying around three poems in various stages of revision; one nearly there, one with a couple of rough spots, and one that was barely a sentence stem. In the hour it took to make it to the small platform (which, in July, smells like mown grass and blooming privet) I finished all three of them. I can only remember a few times before like that -- once in a coffee shop in Hayes Valley, where I wrote three new poems in a morning. Once or twice before, years ago. That fountaining energy doesn't come with a manic edge,  though I've certainly known those states too. It's a kind of calm, continuous lift. Three poems, the train doors open, and that's the end of that.

I have three drafts yet to finish and then I'll be done with a new book, DEEP LANE. I love this feeling, this sense of something-about-to-be-whole. The book has the force of selfhood, by now; it is, I mean,  itself, its direction ineluctable. It's mine to be the craftsman and the witness, to help it come to light, polish it for presentation. The happiness of it lies underneath everything I'm doing. As if  I have a secret, a treasure. Later for doubt, I know, and for uncertainty. I'll only stay in this state a little while. But for now, pleasure.