While purging my closet full of journals yesterday, I ran into this quote from Stephen King. It struck me because for the first time in a long time I’ve been reading a lot. And not young adult novels for teaching. Real literature written for real adult people and recommended by The New York Times Book Review. That kind of reading.
I’m finding the center.
I had no idea I was so far off center. It showed up in many ways — mostly in the fact that I would feel totally dry in finding something to write about on this blog. Now I can feel the wheels have been greased, and it is because of reading.
This should not be a surprise to me. I recently took up guitar lessons again, temporarily setting aside the mandolin. I did it because I knew that one would inform the other — I knew that before my teacher even said it — and yet, I let myself try to write week after week without doing much to fill the well.
None of this is news. However, what happened next is.
Yesterday I began a book called The Given World, the first novel by Marian Palaia. When I began to read chapter two, a poem found me. What I mean is this. I’ve been writing some “found” poetry lately — where I pick a song or a text of any sort and find a poem of my own within the words.
But this was different. This time I was simply reading and the poem in the words was presenting itself. This went over several pages. I marked them with sticky notes. I could see the first and last lines of each section of the poem –looks like it will be three in all. I will be getting it on paper a little later today. As I read, this weird kind of joy spread through my body, as if the poem was calling out to me. I sure hope the finished product does justice to that feeling.
I had only experienced this phenomenon one other time and that was just a paragraph in Connie Mae Fowler’s beautiful novel Before Women Had Wings. I remember stopping and making the paragraph into a poem right then. Soon afterward, I was in an audience at our local Reading Festival with Fowler as the speaker, and I told her that I found her work very poetic. She looked surprised and then admitted that her MFA is in poetry, but that she had set it aside for novel writing. Well, not so much, I guess! Her advice to me was to have my students write a lot of poetry.
That I do!
Finding my center is both wonderful and nerve-wracking. I want to pack a lot of reading and writing into this summer, and feel almost a panic sometimes I won’t get it all done. But then, of course, I will get done the most important things. I will treasure this time and let it inform the rest of my life, particularly when school starts again. Keep the reading. Keep greasing the wheels, filling the well, whatever metaphor works.
Mostly I want to keep my center. There is no true writing without it.