These last few weeks I’ve been spending a couple of hours on Sundays, and sometimes other days when I can manage it, letting Brad Listi’s “Other People” weekly podcasts—conversations with contemporary, working writers—run in the backdrop while I do various things around writing before I get started actually writing. I’ve wanted music to work for me this way, but it just doesn’t, so I was glad to stumble on these, and especially glad of it this morning when I saw this week’s guest was Claire Vaye Watkins.
Claire is a Nevada-grown writer whose debut short story collection, Battleborn, really just slammed into the literary marketplace like a freight train in ways that nobody expected. I won’t say she single-handedly re-ignited the short story as an art form, but it feels close to that. And it’s just one example of the caliber of writers that the state seems to be cultivating in the last couple of years. It’s a good, heady time to be a writer in Nevada.
To love life, to love it even when you have no stomach for it and everything you’ve held dear crumbles like burnt paper in your hands, your throat filled with the silt of it. When grief sits with you, its tropical heat thickening the air, heavy as water more fit for gills than lungs; when grief weights you like your own flesh only more of it, an obesity of grief, you think, How can a body withstand this? Then you hold life like a face between your palms, a plain face, no charming smile, no violet eyes, and you say, yes, I will take you I will love you, again.
“Running taught me valuable lessons. In cross-country competition, training counted more than intrinsic ability, and I could compensate for a lack of natural aptitude with diligence and discipline. I applied this in everything I did.”
“Our lives disconnect and reconnect, we move on, and later we may again touch one another, again bounce away. This is the felt shape of a human life, neither simply linear nor wholly disjunctive nor endlessly bifurcating, but rather this bouncey-castle sequence of bumpings-into and tumblings-apart.”
Salman Rushdie The Ground Beneath Her Feet (Henry Holt & Co., 1999)
YOU THINK YOU ARE SOMETHING LESS REAL THAN YOU ARE
You put on some new pants. I put on some sunlight. I put on a coyote. You put on a bigger coyote. You put on all of the coyotes! You put on the sand as it flies beneath your incredible little paws. I put on rain not reaching the desert. You put on how we feel sad after this. You put on the sadness. You put on methods for dealing with it. The sadness tries to put you on but you say No! You wrestle the sadness to the ground. You are big and need large wings. You put on the large wings. You are still a coyote. You put on the howling. You put on things that howl back. There is nothing you won’t put on. You put on the darkness. You put on some stars and even what is between them. You put on the moon. The moon that shines! You put on how we want to stay here! You put on how we forget where we were before. You put on the earth how it cracks. You put on its face when it sees us.
"As human beings, we’re wired to create, to take language and make these things with it. It behooves us to do some of this; it’s part of why we have a larynx, why we have an imagination, why we can make stuff with our hands.”
If you’re accessing this Tumblr from the main URL (teeiseminger.com), you’ll want to change your bookmark now to the Tumblr address: http://teeiseminger.tumblr.com. New site will be going up on the main domain later this week.
To compensate for this dull update (and the lack of them at all, recently), a poem by Fred Marchant:
NIGHT HERON MAYBE
I woke to more rain, and felt in the dark for how wet the sill was, then rolled back to my radio, and a midnight preacher in my earphone teaching about sin.
I learned that punishment would come like lightning that surprises an innocent shore. Thunder would follow me all my days, stern reminder and sharp rebuke.
The long, sleek, and pointed call that rose, as if in response, out of the estuary of night and storm, said it knew well what the given world gave, and wanted more.
“The magic of a marathon isn’t in the 26.2 miles on race day; it’s in the nearly 500 miles of training that happens in the months before. It’s in the countless feelings, frustrations, and fears I have worked through while running down those desolate, tree-lined roads. You see, I wasn’t supposed to be a runner. But I am. And my life is better because I chose to be one.”
“I am losing a sense of self to a marked degree and that is a pleasant thing. A couple of years ago I realized that I was not the material of which great artists are made and that I was rather glad I wasn’t. And since then I have been happier simply to do the work and to take the reward at the end of every day that is given for a day of honest work. I grow less complicated all the time and that is a joy to me.”