Not an exaltation but a narrowing

September 3, 2007

It’s getting on towards my new bedtime–which is more of an ambition than a reality already, even though the semester is young–and I am finding myself with not quite enough oomph to get back to the desk and try to commit a poem I’ve been wrestling all weekend to some kind of revisable form for tomorrow morning. That means, I’ll get up tomorrow morning and force myself to put the revisable form on paper and lack one revision that I could have made before I email it out to the workshop tomorrow. I’m not too bothered by this, because I feel like I’ve used my writing time productively this weekend despite not having a full new poem in word document form yet. So, instead, I’ll just mention a note that caught my eye as I was glancing over last year’s notebook. It was from the lecture given by Rosmarie Waldrop while she was visiting writer last spring. Whatever she said, I paraphrased it as “language is not an exaltation but a narrowing, an exchange of possible for actual.” Each chosen word implies a multitude of unchosen words, possibilities, spaces of imagination. I was feeling that today, as the hours passed and I still couldn’t pick which of the at least three or four possible poems that the poem in progress could turn into to commit to.  I thought a similar sentiment could be applied to time, at least time in the unit of a lived day. In the morning, when you wake up, you have nothing but choices to make and you don’t really have to face up to the fact that only a fraction of them will be made and carried out. Most days, I spread my choices out wide. A little time to write, a little time to imagine being a doctor, a little time in library-basd reality, a little time with a longneck of Corona or Lamar Street Pale Ale in my hands. I often get a lot of different things done, but I’m not at all sure that I get enough of any one thing done to be happy. Refusing the narrowing does not always help matters. What is the best way to spend our time–limbo or exclusion? There’s no question what’s more productive–in most cases, people with a single-minded focus tend to accomplish a lot in a single field of endeavor. On the other hand, those of us who live by “and” and “I don’t know yet” have exciting resumes and endless topics of party conversation, and possibly fewer ulcers. So. That’s what I’m wondering about, on the waning edge of Labor Day, with as few answers as I usually have and fortunately a little less anxiety too.

And just for the record, the announcer on the FSU v. Clemson game that D is watching just felt the need to point out that what the FSU defensive linebacker who just got his first ever A minus (as in, the rest were A’s, and the A minus was in O Chem) aspires to be is a R-h-o-d-e-s scholar, not a r-o-a-d-s scholar.


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