Happy December. The air in the Bay Area is finally crisping up after a long, hot year. We've turned our heater on. I've stopped drinking sparkling water, and rotate between pairs of slipper socks.
That's what signifies a different season, I suppose. While it doesn't really get Winter Winter in Oakland, a change of any sort in this timeless year feels like movement. Who cares if it's just a matter of wearing a different thickness of socks? I'll take it.
Today I was listening to Alice Oswald talk about her new book, Nobody, on Between the Covers. It's a sort of re-imagining of Homer's "The Odyssey", a consideration of the epic in a way I've been thinking a good deal about myself for the last year or so, since the collection of poems I'm working on right now is similar.
"I love how thoughts are talked about as goddesses on their long road home," she said through my speakers. I was driving at sunrise on CA 1, watching the ocean turn pink and gold. The ocean was spotted with surfers, who looked, in their stillness, like seals awaiting an emerging sea giant.
Later, she said, something to the effect of "I like to interrupt considerations, before they get too smug."
What is an epic, this eponymous narrative told in lyric (mostly), when we cannot leave home to begin with? What is an epic if we are both the heroes and the antagonists of our own stories?
I've found myself wondering a good deal this year about the State of Future Art. Which is to say-- will we see a novel Baby Boom as the result of Sheltering in Place? Will we see an emergence of heroes' tales? All around us, our systems for curating and monetizing art are in jeopardy-- museums closed, publishing houses acquiring one another. All around me, people I know who know better are saying, 'forgot the industry, just make the art.' As if it's that simple. As if they're so easily taxonomized.
When I was in college and studying Botany, I remember a Plant taxonomy professor holding up a bisected ginko leaf. "In ten years, maybe less," she'd said, "the way we teach plant taxonomy will be obsolete. DNA testing will allow us to capture a cell sample, and then compare the DNA through a computer. The DNA of anything living-- from a ginko leaf to a whale."
A woman, I remember thinking, staring at her own obsolescence.
I don't have answers. If thoughts are goddess coming home, maybe non-answers are Cyclopean creatures of another sort, doing whatever it is monsters do.
Sending warmth and thick socks,
Starting in January 2021, I'll be teaching a four week Intro to Poetry course. This is an expansion of my most popular offering, "Imposter Monster", and will be a series of small lectures, free writes, and craft discussions that are all geared towards people who identify as Beginner Poetry students.
Dates: Four Mondays, 4-5:30 PST (January 4th, 11th, 18th, and 25th).
Interested? This is a Pay-What-You Can class. Just respond to this Tiny Letter for details. No one turned away for lack of funds.