Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Writer's Almanac

Every morning, for I don't remember how many years now, I get the Writer's Almanac in my email inbox.

I don't always read them, sometimes I am just too busy, and other times I've stuck my straw into the eternal spring of hope again, sipping, sipping, and thought that some better, more relaxed time would arrive to me where I could open the little missal and read it in luxury – quietly, while drinking tea, retaining all there was to know, growing inspired by a line of the poem or the life noted within to go off and write my own ditty that would be published somewhere fabulous and – well, gosh, why not – picked up by the Writer's Almanac.

I keep these unread messages and do open some on occasion. But there are many I haven't gotten to. April 18, March 5 and May 2 of this year, for example, as well as a trove of other unreads that go back a ways: December 26, 2011 and October 13, 2011. And I know there are many many more. Maybe someday I will open December 1, 2010 and see whose birthday it was, learn something.

Reading the Writer's Almanac you get a sense of a life made tidy by an intern or two, reported in that plodding Midwestern voice of Garrison Keillor. No matter what cruelty, insanity or banality the author might have been subject to as a child or dished out as a young adult or witnessed in old age, everything sounds perfectly natural and under control. The years dodging alcoholic parents, the three arrests, the ultimate decision to become a chicken farmer, take up a mere line and a half. Facts are facts and life's most treacherous turnings are spun into now plain and logical-sounding phrases that begin with “so.”

So, he spent the next 17 years traveling in South America.
So, she quit school at age 9.

And, of course,
So, he decided to become a writer.

You have to appreciate a format in which writers are made to sound sane and whole, where all of the drama and heartbreak of life is woven into a synopsis one can chew like a sweet digestive all because it's someone's birthday. They were here once. Maybe they still are. They wrote a book. How much richer we all are for it.


jaykaym said...

I cannot stand Garrison Keillor. The soft treacly voice, the holier-than-thou attitude, the whole mid-west god, mother and apple pie attitude just annoys the hell out of me. But I did love this poem on the Writer's Almanac - it aired back in 2008 ( - and I read it often. I share it with you as one mother to another.

After Our Daughter's Wedding
by Ellen Bass

While the remnants of cake
and half-empty champagne glasses
lay on the lawn like sunbathers lingering
in the slanting light, we left the house guests
and drove to Antonelli's pond.
On a log by the bank I sat in my flowered dress and cried.
A lone fisherman drifted by, casting his ribbon of light.
"Do you feel like you've given her away?" you asked.
But no, it was that she made it
to here, that she didn't
drown in a well or die
of pneumonia or take the pills.
She wasn't crushed
under the mammoth wheels of a semi
on highway 17, wasn't found
lying in the alley
that night after rehearsal
when I got the time wrong.
It's animal. The egg
not eaten by a weasel. Turtles
crossing the beach, exposed
in the moonlight. And we
have so few to start with.
And that long gestation—
like carrying your soul out in front of you.
All those years of feeding
and watching. The vulnerable hollow
at the back of the neck. Never knowing
what could pick them off—a seagull
swooping down for a clam.
Our most basic imperative:
for them to survive.
And there's never been a moment
we could count on it.

Kitty said...

Ha! Yes, I know what you mean. I most often read it rather than listen. I do love the life write ups which I'm quite sure some underpaid intern researches and crafts. Thanks for the poem! I took a poetry critique workshop with Ellen for a few years and I remember this poem. It is one of those that truly hits the mark.

Susannah said...

And I wonder if that is why we write, to help us digest, integrate, become one with all that has been a chaotic messy ride of sorts... the scream on the roller coaster that turns terror into fun, maybe.

I have really enjoyed reading your last few blogs, and I am so glad you are finding some time to write here. Sorry I haven't yet left comments on each one, but I mean to, I really do.

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