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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

To breathe . . .

Inspire: in + spirare = to breathe; to breathe into; to fill with breath; to animate.

I remember the night my daughter had trouble breathing. I drove down Rainier Avenue going 55 mph, then tried to park in the ER entrance way. When it occurred to me this area was reserved for ambulances (duh), I moved my car to the street and forgot to plug the meter. I ran w her into the hospital, and when they heard her wheezing they led me to a room, a bed. Nothing like the time I had to wait seven hours b/c I was only having a period like the Red Sea. For a little tot to be gasping for breath, this warranted immediate attention.

To breathe. To animate. 

(Luckily, it was nothing a shot of steroids couldn't fix. We were out the next morning, my car (by some miracle) not ticketed).

What makes your breath quicken? Makes you go ooh, I could write about that? Or even better, the first line (or two, or three)  coming to you unbidden? As if from somewhere other than your own self? Like when you have to write it down on a napkin or some other such scrap in your car (and you're trying to do this in traffic, hoping for a red light)?

Hugo had his triggering towns. Dickinson her funerals, her bees and flowers. What do you have? What is yours and (perhaps) yours only?

I have (and have had):

1. the names of sausages;
2. the names of Oklahoma towns;
3. the birth of a nephew (he's now 13);
4. a student thinking my last name was Saline;
5. my mother;
6. The Book of Surrealist Games;
7. my children.

I have been (but have not yet fully pursued):

1. tiny vs. big;
2. unusual phenomena;
3. Christian radio stations w late-night call-ins;
4. weird medical facts, such that the stethoscope was invented b/c some guy didn't feel right touching a woman's chest to find her heartbeat;
5. death;
6. what winds up littering our roadways;
7. space junk;
8. a parenting poem incorporating lines/situations from The House at Pooh Corner;
(many more, but my brain is running dry . . .)

I have an artist friend who gets all jazzed about empty birth control pill containers. He's always pointing out to me the stuff he finds so cool in his neighborhood: little fences around plants, the stray Starburst in an alleyway. It took me awhile to get how these things animated him, what about these wires and wrappers motivated him to go down to the darkroom. 

A good reading can greatly inspire. I have been known to scribble notes on programs. To write non-stop through a reading. Not taking notes about what they're saying (though I also do that sometimes), but actually writing a poem inspired by something they said. It is embarrassing to admit this, but when this happens I cannot stop myself. Embarrassing b/c it is so damn egotistical and self-involved, so like one of those beret-wearing Poets I despised in my 20s (when did I start wearing a beret?).

Also, on an entirely unrelated note, do you believe, as Li-Young Lee does, that one's own poems are prophetic? Jeezus god, I hope not--but do you have an example of a time you wrote about something in the hypothetical (an accident, a marriage ending) only to have this scenario come true? 

 Also, unrelated, I've been enjoying Rachel Dacus's blog, and Heidi Lynn Staples'. I've added them to my blogroll--they are Rocket Kids and mildred's umbrellas. Enjoy. 

Oh, and finally: Go, Kay Ryan, our newest Poet Laureate! (I bought a copy of Elephant Rocks for 75 cents at the UW Bookstore a few years ago. In hard cover, no less. Won't be finding that kind of bargain any time soon . . .). 

If you don't know her work, you will soon enough. 


Joannie said...

Wow, I remember ER nights and I'm glad that a shot helped and you didn't get a ticket. (The ER stories seem to be a rite of parenthood--unasked for, unwanted, and unfortunately unavoidable).

I'm haunted by places, or moments in places--the really mundane moments, like crossing a street after climbing up to the top of the Duomo--but I don't have any regularly recurring inspirations. (P.S. I thought you might mention sprinklers.)

As for prophetic, ever since reading a biography of Carson McCullers, I've been terrified that writing might be rophetic; it's why I cannot write fiction (everyone must be a good person and all the endings must be happy).

I hope your daughter continues to be well.

Martha Silano said...

Hi Joannie,

I didn't post the ER story to get sympathy, or for you to have to recall your own nightmare ER memories, but only to remind everyone how important breathing is in the metaphorical sense (but you probably *got* that part, too?).

I love that: how you would be inspired not by the Duomo, but by something down below, something just going on in the street. Yes! I know what you mean. I am NOT inspired at all by waterfalls, magestic peaks, etc. To me they are the antipathy of what makes my poet-brain tick and teeter-totter and spew. But give me a Goodwill book about chainsaws, and I am afoot.

And yes, dear daughter is fine, with full use of vocal chords, and much screaming to prove it.

Maggie May said...

the prophetic in writing- i worry about this! i don't even like to write about it here, because now i feel like i'm putting a big red arrow pointing at me from the Universe going 'HERE! HERE!' as you can see, i have a complex about how the big picture works.

inspirations -proper nouns, biographies, movies, miniatures, the human body, medicine, illness, psychology, encylopedias, illustrations in pen and ink, my family, and on and on.