Greetings! I am back at the computer -- the internet-connected computer, I should say -- after nearly a month being as away from email and online activities as I could possibly manage. I was fortunate to have been awarded a residency at the Millay Colony for the Arts in Austerlitz, NY, and I was determined to make the most of it. And that I did!
The Colony is located at Steepletop, Edna St. Vincent Millay's estate, where she lived primarily for the last 20 or more years of her life. It is a gorgeous, New England locale, mountainous (or very hilly, for those of you who take your measure from the Rockies or the like), green, and cool (even in the recent heatwave). Also buggy, but on the whole, who's complaining? I'd trade mosquito-bitten ankles for a month's free writing time again anytime. : ) My living quarters and my writing studio were located in the Barn, which was actually in use for the animals on her farm, back in the day, and was built from -- true story! -- a Sears kit! There is very little cell phone reception at the Colony, and no internet access in the Barn, but in exchange for "unplugging," I got a terrific cohort of fellow residents, whose scintillating conversation and willingness to share their works-in-progress meant that I never lacked for engaging interaction.
My three loose goals were: (1) to read a book of poetry every day; (2) to write a poem every day; and (3) to see if I could figure out enough about what's on my mind, aesthetically speaking, to get a sense of where my next book might take me. My firm goals were: to get exercise, be a bit more healthy with my eating than I had been of late, to do some novel-reading just for fun, and to not feel guilt about any goal-related activities. I think I can safely say that I achieved all of these goals, more or less, with particular reference to the final one, prohibiting guilt. It was a month well-spent.
For anyone who might be interested, here is an incomplete list of the poetry volumes I read or re-read (I'm going purely off of memory), in no particular order:
Discipline, by Dawn Lundy Martin (stunning; sneaks up on you over the course of the volume)
Nox, by Anne Carson (engrossing; recommended for those with an interest in the gaps between languages)
Snaps!, by Victor Hernandez Cruz (a time capsule from the late 1960s; made me feel like I was born too late)
Grave of Light, by Alice Notley (a thick selected; I spent 3 days on it and still didn't read every single poem, but it inspired a lot of my better poems during the month)
The Cloud Corporation, by Timothy Donnelly (lovely; a study in the intricacies of syntax)
The Dream Detective, by David Mills (playful, gritty, hard-hitting)
Elegguas, by Kamau Brathwaite (elegant elegies)
Address, by Elizabeth Willis (compelling, and often mysterious, some corner of a poem being just outside my reach)
The Blaze of the Pouii, by Mark McMorris (intimate and yet cautious; gorgeously crafted)
Macular Hole, by Cathy Wagner (one of my fabulous fellow residents! -- her book is daring and wonderfully unpredictable)
Collected Sonnets, by Edna St. Vincent Millay (just dabbled in it, in the spirit of gratitude, and fell in love again with her seemingly effortless work with meter and rhyme, her fearlessness at looking mortality in the face)
I know I'm forgetting some! Well, and I also spent two days reading (at long last) Susan Howe's awe-inspiring critical book My Emily Dickinson, along with a healthy selection of Dickinson's poems. And I took two days to read a fabulous fantasy novel, Book II of a trilogy-in-progress by Patrick Rothfuss, called The Wise Man's Fear. I believe I highly recommended Book I back around the holidays -- and Book II is just as good! I also read Karen Yamashita's I Hotel, which is a tour de force, a total triumph, a must-read, and a delight, despite its very serious themes. And I began a third novel by Zakes Mda called Cion, which I am finishing now.
I won't tax my brain any farther, but this gives you a sense of what my month was like, in terms of reading. And I still had time to write poems almost every day (though some of them were very very bad, as you might expect!), which is the joy of having such an uninterrupted block of time: you can soak things up and see what kinds of creations they inspire right away.
I packed so many more books I'd wanted to read than I actually got around to, despite all the free time, and I hope to squeeze some of them in during this last month of summer, though it's already packed with writing projects and fall semester course prep. So much to read; so little time. What have you read this summer???