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Okay, so it’s been – what – over a month? since my last post.  I could open a new tab and find out for certain, but I’m trying something out here … just writing for the sake of writing.

Or it might be more accurate to say I’m writing for the sake of letting anyone out there who only knows me through this blog know that I am indeed still alive.  Just very, very busy.

These two months – September and October – are the Run For Your Life Non-Stop months at my job.  I find this time exhilarating, challenging, breath-taking and exhausting. And my classes this term are dynamic, fun and  well-balanced.  It’s actually a very good term on the whole.

But, as you might have guessed from my last post, I’ve been thinking a lot about personal expression.  This includes a lot of different things for me — everything from individual style to creative outlets to one’s writing voice.  I’ve had some great conversations about this with various people this semester, giving me plenty of food for thought.

From an art student friend, I’m learning about using the influence of the great masters in your craft as a process toward finding your own voice.  I had always been frustrated by all the influences on me, feeling that I would never know what *I* wanted to say, because I have so many other writers buried in my sub-conscious.  But this friend has pointed out to me something rather obvious — that these influences blend together and form a mosaic that becomes a part of your voice.  That those masters had mosaics of their own, going back farther than we can see.

From a kindred spirit with a love of words, I’m rediscovering the subtle power of poetry.   My study of poetry has been  varied but rather lazy up till now.  I’ve always shied around the science of poetry, never really delving into the mechanics too much for fear of tarnishing the enchantment of poems with the nuts and bolts.  But this friend has shown me and reminded me that, linguistically, the careful and deliberate construction of poetry is key to its power.

So with all this in mind, I plan to steal away some time for myself to revisit some familiar and unfamiliar masters, unlock some favorite and foreign poems, and allow this mosaic I’m sitting on to show itself bit by bit.

I’ve been working (slowly…) on a couple papers for classes, one of which led me on a brief and surprising goose chase through my bookshelf. Along with the article I was originally looking for, I also found a collection of poems I translated for a poetry class back in the dark ages of 2003. Reading back over them today, I was surprised that these were the poems I had chosen, and I wonder what exactly they meant to me then, compared to what they mean to me now:

Der Phönix
— Gotthold Lessing

Nach vielen Jahrhunderten gefiel es dem Phönix, sich wieder einmal
sehen zu lassen. Er erschien, und alle Tiere und Vögel versammelten
sich um ihn. Sie gafften, sie staunten, sie bewunderten und brachen
in entzückendes Lob aus.

Bald aber verwandten die besten und geselligsten mitleidsvoll ihre
Blicke und seufzten: “Der unglückliche Phönix! Ihm ward das harte Los,
weder Geliebte noch Freunde zu haben; denn er ist der einzige seiner
Art!

The Phoenix
by Gotthold Lessing (tr. Sara Q. Thompson)

After several centuries in repose,
the Phoenix decided to be seen once more.
When he appeared, every beast
and bird gathered around him.
They gaped, they marveled, they flattered
and erupted in enthusiastic applause.

But soon, those most sympathetic and compassionate
looked away and sighed: “Poor Phoenix…
he is the most unfortunate,
having neither love nor friend —
cursed to be the one and only.”

and this one, from one of my favorite poets:

Soneto XLIV

— Pablo Neruda

Sabrás que no te amo y que te amo
puesto que de dos modos es la vida,
la palabra es un ala del silencio,
el fuego tiene una mitad de frío.

Yo te amo para comenzar a amarte,
para recomenzar el infinito
y para no dejar de amarte nunca:
por eso no te amo todavía.

Te amo y no te amo como si tuviera
en mis manos las llaves de la dicha
y un incierto destino desdichado.

Mi amor tiene dos vidas para armarte.
Por eso te amo cuando no te amo
y por eso te amo cuando te amo.

Sonnet 44

by Pablo Neruda (tr. Sara Q. Thompson)

Know that I do not love you and that I love you,
given that life is of two minds,
word is a wing of silence,
and fire is one-half cold.

I love you in order to begin loving you,
in order to renew infinity
so that I’ll never stop loving you:
therefore, I don’t love you yet.

I love and don’t love you as though I’m holding
in my hands the keys to happiness
and to a doubtful desolate destiny.

My love has two lives just to love you.
That’s why I love you when I do not
and why I love you when I do.

from the Writer’s Almanac of May 17th:

SF

by David Lehman

SF stood for Sigmund Freud, or serious folly,
for science fiction in San Francisco, or fear
in the south of France. The system failed.
The siblings fought. So far, such fury,
as if a funereal sequence of sharps and flats
set free a flamboyant signature, sinful, fanatic,
the fire sermon of a secular fundamentalist,
a singular fellow’s Symphonie Fantastique.

Students forget the state’s favorite son’s face.
Sorry, friends, for the screws of fate.
Stage fright seduces the faithful for the subway fare
as slobs fake sobs, suckers flee, salesmen fade.
Sad the fops. Sudden the flip side of fame.
So find the segue. Finish the speculative frame.

“SF” by David Lehman from When a Woman Loves a Man © Scribner, 2005.

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