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Damn, April 25

Yesterday I went to work on my sonnets and they looked horrible; changes I had made the day before that I thought then would complete everything were not as good as they’d looked; in fact, they were awful, and had been better before the changes. Go on? No, I was stuck where I was. In a cloud of impeding self doubt, I walked back from the East River where I’d been working and did the laundry. On the way up East 9th Street on the way to the laundromat I saw all the Damns postered and took a photograph: a visual facsimile of what I was feeling. I was kind of depressed, that “who the hell do you think you are kidding? you’re not a writer, you’re a piece of shit” state of mind I can get in. I am a fan of beginning to work in the morning shortly after getting up before the day can get you down and make you doubt. Doing the laundry was a productive activity, not creative perhaps, but it was getting things done and making the future more open and available for better things. This morning after coffee and during as well, I looked over the sonnets again and in them saw clearly meters and images and directions that might work, and even have brilliance. Yesterday was a failure and today a success—can one have one without the other? I used to work summers teaching ESL at Wuhan University in Wuhan, China—a great university with a beautiful campus. It’s like Standford or MIT with very motivated competitive students on their way to being doctors, mathematicians and scientists. One summer while I was there a student committed suicide, which is common enough in the USA, but in China, off of campus, I was told it was pretty uncommon, the Chinese just don’t kill themselves because of the Confucian notion that a bad day is often followed by a good one. “Light a candle instead of cursing the darkness,” said Eleanor Roosevelt, but of course she was rich and could afford a candle. I guess “Don’t curse the darkness if you’re broke, but wait for the promised dawn. It will come.” Not every day is going to be an epiphany; some days might be just one foot before the other, but doing it will get you closer to what you are bound to see once you get there. Today I forgot my head phones for the gym. I need music to enjoy exercise, but I exercised anyway, I sweated and endured without Bo Didley singing Mona getting me through the abs. That comes from discipline; something learned; it’s not just a matter of faith. It is all so obvious but I must tell myself over and over again. Doing it (anything) is getting there.


  1. I so liked this posting. I, like you, have those days when I think I should have been a welder, not a poet. I tell myself I’m a fake, useless, no prizes, no “papers” that say I am a writer. Those are the DAMN days. But then, there is red wine and soft cheese and buttery bread and olives. So…

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