Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Times, temperatures

I steal the title from the lovely Banno's blog. (Somewhere by an abandoned swimming pool, Andrew Scott screams, "That is what people DO, Sherlock!" Writers, maybe; poets, certainly.)

Times, temperatures. I want the days to slow down so they can last and last. You'd think I'd be mediating the whole experience, camera held to my face all the time, wouldn't you? But no. Instead, I sit on the bench by the river, notebook, book and a clutch of pens and stare at the sky and the water. People have been to the Draco Farm for a dose of repraried Mid-West but for me, this is all the rural I need.

Time to read (or, indeed, write) has to be wrested from the day. Our calendars arrive in our mailboxes and under our doors every Sunday and we lurch from meeting to reading to salon to screening. It's all good, but I've read one book since I arrived. Before I left, I was averaging one book every other day.

I have JJ: Some Jottings on interlibrary loan from Chicago. I feel like crowing at the possibility of this; the ability to request something from my room, walk over to pick it up, and all the while some complicated journey has brought this book that is now out of print in India, to me.

And the best part? I get to participate in this semi-academic life without any of the responsibilities that come with it. This is the addiction of residencies: the temporary leave of absence from adulthood, in order to create in as child-like a state as is commensurate with an independent life.

This is why it is completely unsurprising that at the same time as we sit on this same bench talking about whether we have hierarchical notions about what poetry is (the questions remain variations of what they have always been. It is the answers that shift like water), someone is arranging to have cars driven by ex-Writers Workshop writers, take us on a grocery run.

The bench now. It is like a book cover. No, that's not a gratuitous simile like the one in the previous paragraph. Wait. See for yourself.

So: JJ and Red Doc>. It makes for a strange switch of...temperatures? Emotional registers. I have introduced my friend Patricia, from Portugal (why is this still necessary to say? We seem to flaunt our global diversity as if it was its own kind of passport, though to what I'm not yet sure) to Carson. I'd like, equally, to introduce her - and others - to Su Raa, only that kind of transfer seems to happen with less ease.

Kofi Awoonor died in the Nairobi mall seige (what was it? Seige? Shootout? Attack?). I didn't know him or his poetry, but the IWP mentioned that he was at Iowa at some point. It seemed somewhat outrageous that as writers, we - some of us - had a sense of loss when Heaney died but felt nothing about the death of Awoonor. Any man's death diminishes me, but we keep defining 'man' and 'human' and 'woman' in such exclusive terms. At the fiction discussion yesterday (that I butted into, not uninvited, I hasten to add), this led to some minor kerfuffle of opinions.

I am struggling with two things: how to continue to interact outside my comfort zone of hanging out with people with whom I have a lot in common; and how to deal with the frustration of being surrounded by people who know nearly nothing about the writing from my part of the world without becoming an Ancient Mariner about it. (At the same time, I don't demand that other writers give me a synopsis of their literatures; and it's not as if I've read very much - if anything - from some of these countries. Maybe they feel a similar frustration at my apparent lack of curiosity.)

What this amounts to is a state of mind in which I feel off balance a lot of the time. Things appear to run along familiar lines of debate and discussion and then suddenly they don't. Then there's a lot of think about. Every writer's reading and introduction of themselves and their work in class has been a revelation. Who are all these talented people? How did I get to be put ina  hotel with them for 10 weeks?

This is why, when I feel off-balance - as I frequently do - I find myself on the bench. Bench time we call it. We is the smokers, though I don't smoke. But this is where they gather and I, like Clinton, don't inhale; but we sit, we talk, gossip. We're lizards in the mild sunshine. (Yes, km, I'm sorry. I said lizards. This is what happens when you don't answer your phone).

It's time for breakfast, followed by bench time. Later, I will have to gather myself enough in order to finish a paper I've been putting off for the last five days. Today. Absolutely, today. Because Sunday, we leave for New Orleans and I must create the vacuum that can contain those other stories.


km said...

You will be happy to know my brain now just skips over the sight of the word "lizard" like a rock over the surface of a pond.

New Orleans?! I envy anyone going there for the first time.

And yeah, ain't the inter-library loan thing a beaut?

(It's been crazy busy last few weeks, which is why I missed your call. Will try again!)

Aditya said...

But, JJ:Some Jottings translated by A.R.Venkatachalapathy and published by Katha is available on most of the online stores in India. I bought my copy not more than six months ago.

Here's a link:

And we are in for a SuRaa revival of sorts with Tamarind History(Oru Puliamarathin Kathai) to be published soon by Penguin.

So almost all of SuRaa's important work is available in English translation. That itself calls for a celebration.

In case you are referring to some older edition, then I'm not sure, but, this one is very much available.There may be fewer copies, though.

??! said...

"Who are all these talented people? How did I get to be put ina hotel with them for 10 weeks?"
Questions I'm sure they're asking too, when they meet you.

Writing about writers discussing writing - loving the meta-ness of it all :)

N Kalyan Raman said...

I wonder if you've come across "Mole!" by Ashokamitran (Orient Blackswan, 2004), a novel based on his experience of participating in the International Writing Programme exactly 40 years ago.

I thought you might find it interesting.

Space Bar said...

km: Being able to borrow all these books is the most amazing thing, it truly is.

Aditya: I had no idea the book was still in print - yes, I did mean the Katha transaltion. I have the Katha version of Waves, as well as, of course, Children, Women, Men, which I reviewed recently.


??!: :D indeed.

Kalyan Raman: I have heard of it, of course, but I had never actually found a copy. I should look for it in Hyd when I return.