Welcome To This Planet
+ it's my birthday
Welcome To This Planet When I part my hair after a shower, I log this as only one of my meridians. The others may be mapped more darkly or may move about so freely I have yet to discern them with eye or implement. I understand the gravity of the situation of being alive and cannot help but laugh at the way an apple drops from a branch midday on a Thursday and bops the head of a bird who was only attempting to drink in a little shade before gathering more scraps of my hair for her nest. Hilarious this planet and the helmets we wear to survive its storms. I have been known to protect myself by attaching the end of a cut radish to my forehead with a bit of spit. You see: I prefer to explore this territory with my compost firmly attached to my face like a horn. It suits me to appear so unsuitable for my earthly mission but be not mistaken: I have been training in love since the day I was dropped on to this land.
This is the opening poem from my manuscript, Honeymeadow, which will exist as a physical book of poetry someday (not sure when that day will be, but I believe). It seems like the right poem to share since today is my birthday, aka the anniversary of “the day I was dropped on to this land.” (Yes, I just quoted myself.)
What I’m Reading:
1. Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to Be an Ally by Emily Ladau: I am only a few chapters in, but what I’ve read so far has been so valuable and well-presented that I can’t wait to buy a copy of this book after I return it to the library. There are so many ways that I can be a better ally—from how I manage my business, to how I am aware of my biases, to how I spend my dollars, to how I situate furniture and lighting in my workplace…but language, for me, is always a place to begin. Often, by learning how to speak about each other, we begin to learn how to care for each other.
2. The Essential Ruth Stone (poems) edited by Bianca Stone (her granddaughter): Ruth Stone, Grace Paley, Cora Brooks: a trifecta of (sadly, dead) Vermont poet ladies who guide me in my quest to live in this place and love it, write great poems, get old in public, and give fewer fucks.
3. Ilya’s words on the war in Ukraine: this poem, this essay, even his tweets (and that’s saying something because I do not generally Twitter). (Ilya = Ilya Kaminsky, a poet from Ukraine who I can actually refer to by his first name since we know each other.) I moved 3,000 miles to learn poetry from Ilya for three years, and I do not regret it. From Ilya we got a lot of translated poetry from around the world and poems about war and an ongoing assignment to copy down every single line we loved from every poem we read into one huge document and then write our own version of it—to inhabit it, to make it our own, to step into the shoes of an instance of minor greatness. There was no frivolity in class, no time for poems that weren’t staring straight into the truth of a thing. Now that his country is at war, I am grateful to have Ilya to translate it for us—as a poet, as someone whose family fled Odessa so many years ago, as someone who has never fully stopped living through the war in Ukraine.
What I Just Read:
1. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressman. This got on my wavelength thanks to the Poog ladies who mentioned it a few times. And now my two non-profit coworkers are reading it as well, aka impromptu book club (that’s cute!). This book was both fortifying, and fast. Steven (Steve?) offers extremely straightforward advice (the chapters are often less than a page) but then will also steadfastly assert the reality of angels and the muse. My main takeaway from this book is the concept of resistance: that which you resist most is that which you must most urgently complete. This can apply to so many areas of life, not just creative pursuits, and has inspired me to do my most dreaded thing first. For this reason and more, I recommend this book. You can probably buy it used online for $3. It will take you less than one week to read it! And who knows—it might change your LIFE! (Rilke: “You must change your life.”)
2. Remember the book Sitting Pretty that I read and loved last month? The author, Rebekah Taussig, had a recent article in Time that I appreciated, about learning to live in a “tangle of joy and pain” during this pandemic.
Postscripts & Shoutouts:
I don’t currently link to books that I mention, but I generally recommend that you go search for the title at your library first or, if you’re feeling committal, at alibris.com or through your local bookstore—or mine! I love Bear Pond Books so much. They have a tortoise named Veruca in the children’s section! (Also, equally as important, a really good poetry section.)
Shoutout to February for not being nearly as shitty or slooow as January.
Big shoutout to my mom for giving birth to me today in 1986.
Enjoy this newsletter? Support my practice of giving literary journals and presses between $3 and $30 a pop to read my poems by buying me a cup of coffee. Thank you for bolstering me on this quest. <3