I used to think of my poems as children and comforted myself about my total lack of maternal feelings with the idea that I was a rear-er of poems. I love and cherish my poems. When they’re bad, it’s only because I haven’t taught them right from wrong. When they’re ugly, it’s only because they’re pubescent and I haven’t found them the right diet pills and pimple cream. (Yeah, that’s the sort of mother I’d be.)
I’ve now realised how inane such a conception is. Poems are not people and people are not poems. And any sheltering one might do of one’s work is essentially a sheltering of one’s ego. Poems also don’t have feelings, although they may be born of or may evoke feelings. I was falling prey to a ridiculous sentimentality, a glorious self-indulgence; in short: a creator complex.
I find myself feeling more and more distant from work I’ve written a few months ago, let alone years ago. I don’t mean this in the way that Ted Kooser meant it: becoming a stranger to one’s work and being better able to see its flaws and correct them. I mean quite simply that I’m always most excited by my current projects. When I read old poems — leaving out the one’s that haven’t and never will work — I usually admire them in a condescending way. Look how nicely I’ve extended this metaphor. Look at these nice sonics. What nice word play. The word nice comes up rather often.
If am not admiring them in a condescending way, I am outright disdainful of them. How could I be so naïve? How could I so lack ambition? How could I think this was clever? How could I think clever was good?
I worry that I will be in a state of constant negativity towards my own writing. In a few months I will be sneering at what I’m writing now.
The above is not entirely a segue into this next section.
I have a poem up at qarrtsiluni, easily one of the coolest mags out there. It’s a tiny little smidge of a poem, but I rather like it. I am, however, embarrassed with the recording. You know, I’m perfectly capable of doing some exciting things with my reading. When no one is around. When I first started doing readings, I used to practice heavily. Get the pauses and intonation right and so on. I also love reading aloud and my voice is a little raw these days from reading Borges to my dead computer screen. But the minute I have an audience — and a microphone, however unobtrusive it looks, is an audience — I become shy and conservative.
Anyway, I’m happy I’ve gotten into sending things out again.
This year I started setting myself reading goals, which you can see in one of the widgets alongside. Much as I consider myself a lover of books, I read very few a month. Or I complete very few books a month. This is because, aside from distractions, I tend to read several books at once. I try desperately to be as linear as possible in my reading, but I’m always attracted by other possibilities, and I start something new. Starting a new book doesn’t mean the previous one was not enjoyed. It just means I’m way too curious and have no patience.
The other reason for reading several books at once is that I need a break from genres, especially poetry and any sort of non-fiction.
But yes, the setting of goals has helped. It’s a matter of pride now, how many books I read. I know I will never be like so many people I know, reading tens of books a month. (If you’re one of those people who reads tens of books a month, how do you do it? How do you do it and manage to hold up a job and have a noticeable social life? Because currently I am not working or studying and I am what a dear friend of mine calls ‘aggressively asocial’ and yet manage to read so little. ) But four or five satisfy me. This month I should hit six. Just a couple of essays and I’m done with Borges.
Please don’t remind me how all of the books I picked for May have been thin.
I am also experiencing something of an island scenario. You know, if you had to live on an island for the rest of your life and you could only take five books with you, what would they be? (Feel free to answer this.) Thing is, I should be moving soon. To a different country. This means what I can carry with me is limited.
My life is full of gah moments.
Gah. Just. Gah.
A very writerly thing happened to me recently.
My mother wasn’t feeling too well, so she went to the doctor. Our family doctor. A very nice man who for the longest time wore these mysterious leather gloves and then equally mysteriously, stopped wearing them. I kept checking for scars, tremors, an exposed bone. Nothing. It seems perfectly all right. Did I mention he has the most exquisite handwriting?
After prescribing something for my mother, he says to her, ‘Aditi is a writer, isn’t she? Give her this to read,’ and he hands her a manuscript.
This sort of thing happens to novelists all the time, according to a piece Neil Gaiman (I think) wrote a few years ago. I’m not sure why it happened to me. It hasn’t before. But it is extremely weird. I feel cold inside, while also feeling strangely proud of myself. Wow, I was identified as a writer. By my doctor.
I also wonder how he knows. No one can remember mentioning anything to him. The last time I met him I had pseudo symptoms. I’m a strange mix of a hypochondriac and a person who hates doctors. I constantly think I’m dying of something, but I’m too scared to see a doctor. The last time I thought I was seriously ill, I was experiencing a weird feeling while swallowing. It’s that feeling you get when you’re going to cry, you know? That choking sensation. I noticed it was happening every time I read/saw something that moved or excited me. But I wasn’t crying. I didn’t tell him the bit about when I was getting those throat feelings. He thought it was stress and when I told him I was moving in a few months, he chalked it down to that. I don’t buy it.
I’m still getting those choking feelings. I’ve decided that I’m now exhibiting biological reactions to things that overwhelm me emotionally, intellectually and aesthetically.
Shut up, I like my theory.
Oh, also the manuscript. I don’t think he wants constructive criticism, which is a relief. It seems to be the story of his life, written for his daughter, which I think is so sweet and so moving. I caught the last line; it goes: ‘That’s how I became a doctor.’
I’ve had a similar experience with my father. He once sent me something he wrote under the pretext of needing someone to proofread it. I think he just wanted me to read what he wrote; I’m glad he sent it.
Since we’re on the subject of parents, I’ve recently discovered how absolutely wonderful it is shopping with my mother.
Like most people, my mother was the first person to shop for me and to take me shopping. And like most people, I started hating this when I hit my teens. I began shopping alone or with friends and any sudden trips my mother decided to make — generally to buy clothes for Christmas or a wedding — were torture. Now that I consider myself grown up, what used to be torture has changed into a fairly pleasant activity.
The thing about shopping with my mother is that I can get a second opinion, which I naturally don’t get when I’m alone, and when I’m with friends, it’s a bit dicey. My mother, however, is perfectly capable of telling me, ‘That makes you look fat.’
Also: she has a credit card and she’s more than willing to use it for me.
A while ago I wrote about starting a mood board and I finally did: Blotting paper’s mood board.
I posted a link to it on my FB page, but since not everyone who reads this space has me as their ‘friend’ on Facebook, I thought I’d mention it here as well.
It’s turning out to be quite an exciting project. It’s an online scrap book, but neat and orderly. Like an elaborate list, and you know I love lists.
So far, the list is fairly predictable. I’m being cautious and picking art objects and texts that have specific connections to the poems I’m writing, not simply things I love. Soon I might exhaust these specificities, exhaust the vault of museum objects that are impacting my writing, and I will have less formed things. Words, phrases, a particular time of day. I wonder what I’ll do when it comes to that.
The mood board also satisfies a certain desire I have to write the things I love to read. With the exception of the Bogan poem — I regret this — and the excerpt from the article on McQueen, I have typed all the texts myself, which means I get to go over the words with greater care.
I’ve also started a food blog, which is harder to maintain, but again, it is neat and organised. If you were ever one to browse my recipes page (above — it shall soon disappear), you’re better off bookmarking the new blog. It has everything and I’ve started posting my own recipes with some frequency.
Once of the major distractions that keep me from reading books (see rant above) is television. I am watching an inordinate amount of TV. Who needs a television anymore when you can get everything online? I decide my own reruns and my own prime time shows and my own serious drama. These are the shows I’m watching currently:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer — Season 1 (rerun)
Felicity — Season 1
Frasier — Season 6
Glee — Season 1
House MD — Season 6
How I Met Your Mother — Season 2 (rerun)
Law & Order – Season 3
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit — Season 6 (rerun)
The Big Bang Theory — Season 3
The Office (US) — Season 6
No reality TV. Waiting for So You Think You Can Dance and I wish Top Design would return to Bravo.
Some of these I’m watching simply because I’ve watched every episode of these shows and I want to see them through (House/Frasier/SVU/Your Mother/The Office). What I’m really enjoying is Glee, Law & Order, Buffy and Felicity. Glee and Law & Order I’ve mentioned before.
Buffy is an old favourite of mine. This is a show I grew up watching. I wanted to be Buffy. She was so cool and strong and sassy. A link someone sent me (which I will post soon) had me nostalgic, so I’ve decided to rewatch the entire series.
I found Felicity by accident and it’s become my new Gilmore Girls, though it’s not as quirky or as intelligent or as witty. But you know, I kind of watched all of GG and it’s too early to rewatch. I would’ve watched Felicity on actual TV when I was a kid, but the show never came here as far as I know. I don’t want to read any of the Wiki or IMBD information because I hate spoilers, but from what I can tell, it was pretty popular when it came out in 1998.
The show begins with Felicity (played by Keri Russell, who is so pretty) graduating from high school. She’s an only child, rather reserved and studious. Her parents have planned her life out for her. She is to go to Stanford and be a pre-med student. The university is close by and she will live at home. Her father is also a doctor and he’s worked very hard so that Felicity can go to college without the burden of student loans and part-time work. But on graduation day, things go awry.
Through high school, Felicity has had a crush on Mr Popular Ben Covington (Scott Speedman) but has never spoken to him. But it’s graduation day and she works up the courage to ask him to write in her year book. He writes a long passage about how he’s always admired her from a distance. She reads it and she’s ecstatic. She asks him where he’s going to college and he says New York. She frantically applies for late admission to the (fictional?) University of New York and gets in. They are reunited, only she finds out he’s not really interested in her. She’s basically gone thousands of miles away from home to a university she never planned on attending because of a crush on a boy who isn’t at all romantically interested in her.
It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? The message is just wrong to me and reeks of male writers (JJ Abrams and Matt Reeves). Here is a smart, attractive, for the most part self-assured girl, who randomly follows a boy. On the other hand, by the end of the episode, they establish that Felicity’s parents are rather overbearing and it’s possible she’s been brainwashed into thinking medicine is the career for her. There is a hint that she’s a bit of an artist and that maybe she will switch streams. Also: even though her conscious reason was ‘I want cute boy’, maybe she was unconsciously trying to escape her parents and figure things out for herself. I’m still only watching early episodes and so I’m not sure how bizarrely women are envisioned in this TV show.
There’s this thing I find so funny: how Americans romanticise college and New York so much — and this show has both. It’s all about discovering yourself, as is it’s a treasure hunt and oh so exotic and there is this ONE thing you are that you will discover after so many years of making mistakes and sleeping around. This isn’t really a criticism, just something I find amusing. There are lots of things I did in college I never imagined I would do when I was in high school, lots of changes in opinion and lots of generally new things I learnt. But I never thought, ‘I am going to college and I will discover all these things about myself.’
The other thing I don’t like about the show is the endlessness of unrequited love. Felicity likes Ben, but Ben likes Felicity’s new friend Julie (Amy Jo Johnson). Julie likes Ben back, but doesn’t want to hurt Felicity, so she refuses to go out with him. Meanwhile, a sophomore, who is the resident advisor at Felicity’s dorm, Noel (Scott Foley), has a crush on Felicity, but Felicity only thinks of him as a friend. One day he kisses her in a very adorable spontaneous fashion, after which she begins to sort of like him. At this point, Noel reveals to her that he actually already has a girlfriend, who is in Chicago or Boston or someplace, and he should never have kissed her. So even that relationship goes down the drain. It is also revealed that Felicity’s lab partner, Elena (Tangi Miller), likes Noel, but Noel is not reciprocating, naturally. And a third guy is introduced for Amy. Does this all not make your head want to explode?!
Despite of all these annoyances, I like the show. I’m trying to explain it to myself but all I can come up with Felcity/Keri Russell is charming and adorable and why wouldn’t you want to be her? I also rather like the device they use to show what Felicity is thinking: she makes tapes talking about her life which she sends to her confidante, an ex-French teacher of hers. And the teacher, struggling with the death of her fiancé, sends tapes back.
I’m going to keep watching and try to figure things out.