And then you realize over a period of time, sometimes a long time, sometimes an embarrassingly long time, that those are just excuses dressed up in fancy rationales?
So you have to get serious about it? And then you make yourself a long list of things that you need to do first, before you can do what needs doing, because now that you’ve acknowledged the need, the only thing standing between you and Doing It, is a list? And you’re really relieved that you excel at list-making, because then you can delay starting focus on the groundwork?
And so you set your starting date? [In this case, April 2010.] And then you wait, in anticipation, yes, but also in hopes that Something Will Happen and you will be FORCED to delay? But then nothing happens and you must move ahead? So…you start? And all you can think about is that you should never have waited so long?
And not because you are excited about everything that lies ahead? But because all you can think about is that it hurts to climb stairs (whether up or down), it hurts to bend at the knee, it hurts to just bloody sit, and, it even hurts a little to breathe?
Yah. I’ve played that one out countless times, but fortunately getting my poetry reading muscles back in shape has been a much more pleasant situation.
I did procrastinate mercilessly; I borrowed Carolyn Smart’s collection, Hooked, well in advance, and I usually do read the books that I’m planning to mention here in advance of the date on which I’ve pencilled them in, but I was nervous, and set aside my paragraphs reluctantly, after having waited until the last minute.
But all that worry for naught: in a single work (the one on Elizabeth Smart, which wasn’t the first in the collection, but which I couldn’t not resist, having so enjoyed a burst of ElizabethSmartness earlier this year) I remembered everything that I loved about reading poetry. It was pretty instantaneous, the proverbial finger-snap. (Now if only that applied to sit-ups and push-ups.)
But here’s the thing: my earlier poetry reading days were structured around a work schedule that afforded a lazier morning start (being there for 11am), so it’s no longer a question of just reestablishing my morning poetry habit. I’ve already squeezed everything that I can into my mornings, and I want to limit my daily book lug to a single volume, so the idea of slipping a second book, even a skinny-minny poetry book in my bag along with all the other Buried In Print paraphernalia that I lug on daily commutes is overwhelming, literally and metaphorically. So how to make time and room for poetry in an unpoetic workday?
Does it count as getting back in shape if you’ve only managed to squeeze the new habit into a single day? Every other day I’ve raised the bookbag a couple of times and left with only the bare essentials, leaving the poetic addition behind. But oh, how exhilarating it was, for just that single day, that sudden and striking reminder of how amazing verse can be.
So I’m still in training, which inspired me to pull off a book that was a gift from a poet friend, Ruth Padel‘s 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem. If your first allegiance is to prose but you want to explore poetry, Padel’s book is a wonderful resource. Her commentary is intelligent but not inaccessible, in depth without obfuscating, lyric-soaked but with generously sized prose bits in between.
Let’s see if I can make more room for poetry in my routine throughout the coming week…