MWD38 - On (not)writing

Or getting unblocked through a serious fool's errand

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All year, or most of it anyway, writers have been sharing how this world of anxiety and uncertainty has crippled their writing. And all year, or most of it anyway, I’ve been immune. I’ve been able to write — reviews, freelance work, interviews, papers for graduate school, letters . . . what I’m saying is, there have been a lot of words.

But now?

I'm stuck. I haven’t written much of anything for weeks now. I did publish an interview with Charlotte McConaghy, author of Migrations (one of my favorite books of the year), and that was such a gift!

But nothing else.


Well, that’s not exactly true.

I’ve been writing a poem.

Let me explain:

In 1963 and 1964, A. R. Ammons wrote an amazing book-length poem, “Tape for the Turn of the Year.” Like a diary, it was written a bit at a time, a section each day, starting December 6 and ending January 10. Oh, and it was written on a roll of adding machine tape. Each day, Ammons would add to the poem, intending to write until the tape ran out. I’ve had it for years, but finally remembered to pull this book off the unread shelf at the beginning of the month, planning to read each piece on the day they were written. So Sunday, I sat by the tree and started this long poem.

And as I sat, I had an idea: why not write my own long poem, and why not write it and publish it all at once, and why not write this poem on twitter? Whyever not, I say.

So that’s what I’m doing. It is - as Ammons described his poem - a foolish thing, a “serious novelty,” and I am enjoying immensely.

The limitations of a tweet mimic the limitations Ammons was working with, and for reasons I don’t fully understand, it has instantly and completely captivated me. Each morning, I read that day’s portion of Ammon’s poem; later that day, I reread that section and write my own. There’s at least one typo that I can’t correct (because Twitter), and there are spots I would revise if I had the chance, but I am loving the immediacy of it, errors and all. It’s called “Thread for the Turn of the Year,” and if you’d like to read it (and follow along into January), you can find it by clicking here:

Thanks as always for reading and thinking with me. Have comments, suggestions, or questions? Reply to this email, and I promise a response.