Friday, June 24, 2005

Sit down, write

I've been feeling singularly uninspired most of this week and sat down at my computer this morning determined to write something, no matter how uninspired. (It *is* Friday, I thought, and I *do* have all those new pics of my cats...) I thought back to COLLIN'S SAGE ADVICE and considered just listing some things I've obsessed over this week (NBA finals, Siamese cats, dark chocolate M&Ms . . .).

Then I turned to the blog of probably the most consistent and prolific blogger on my blogroll, Ron Silliman. (Back when I was planning to do a PhD in American Lit, I thought I would do a diss on "Language" poetry--Ron Silliman is one of the leaders of that movement, school, coalition, trend, what have you. His anthology In the American Tree is one of the classics of non-mainstream poetry in postwar America--or maybe we could just say of postmodern American poetry. So when I found he had a blog--even though now my reading of poetry comes only in intermittent fitful bursts--I was very excited.)

At any rate, today Silliman was writing about one of his favorite poets, Steve Benson:

So far as I can tell, it was Benson who really pioneered the idea of “the sitting” – as in “write for five minutes” – as a unit for poetry. No doubt that is what many poets – think O’Hara, think Whalen, think Blackburn – have done for decades if not centuries. But it was Steve who really got it & was thus able to raise it up to the level of visibility, that any poet might be able to make use of the form. For Benson, for whom being present in the moment is so much what his writing is about, it’s a perfect fit, particularly as no two moments will ever be identical, yet they will always be sharing the same timeless truth: this is now.

Although a blog isn't a poem, it could be. And this at least in part was what I was thinking when I wanted to make an analogy between poems and blogs a few months back. (But then never did because I decided to overthink my motivation for wanting to do metablogging: overthinking, yes, a curse.) Poems are short, compact, and the best poems are ones whose words have a strong gravitational pull, so that meanings pull toward them. And then meanings manage to get out of the orbit and hurl themselves out into space. That's good, too.

But, really, what I want to record is how much I like that idea: sit down, write for 5 minutes. That's writing. Peter Elbow will get you there, too, no doubt. Does it change if you call it poetry rather than freewriting?

Another interesting thing about that quote I took from Silliman is that last bit: "the same timeless truth: this is now." At first I thought, how banal. And how odd for Silliman to say something so banal. But how can "this is now," which is really a statement about a moment in time, be "timeless"? Well, if there is no time. . . Eh? Another connection.

And, you know, it isn't as if anything I've written here is new or startling. But to get back to what I like about blogging: it forces you to write, it forces you to make connections, no matter how small or apparently uninspired. Keep doing it, and eventually some of your blogging will get more inspired. (And I think it was a poet, years ago, who first gave me that advice for the writing of poetry. If you write only when you're inspired, well, you aren't going to write much. Nor are you going to be inspired much.)

My pep talk to myself.


Becky Howard said...

DARK CHOCOLATE M&MS???????!!!!!!!

Donna said...

Oh, yes. They're a limited edtion tie-in, alas, for the latest installment of Star Wars (turn to the Dark Side--ha!) and are increasingly hard to find. I picked some up at a gas station somewhere while traveling last month and have been slightly obsessed with finding more. Found a big ol bag, at last, at my local Target.

Marcia said...

In the MWP this summer, we've read quotes from Elbow's "Everyone Can Write," and Kathleen O'Shaughnessy's, "Everything I Know About Teaching Language Arts, I Learned at the Office Supply Store," where she talks about all of the ways she uses post-it notes with her students during the writing process. I think writing regularly helps build up a writing practice so it's easier to string words together for whatever purpose, but as you say, blogging does help one make connections. I think the connections we make among ideas, and the social connections we make with each other are both important.