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June postcard (17)

June postcard 17Bhanu Kapil’s The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers. Her use of colons and periods in writing I have read recently has protoshimmers here. “I should have seen my future then, in the way that woman carried what she loved along the length of her spine: her home/kept moving” (the slash is in the original, which is written in lines that go all the way across the page/prose; p. 16).

She does things I love with content and form and everything I have read from her is a reinvention. Some days more than others I lose patience with the default (which is to say, e.g., text on a left margin). I have only read this book and writing of hers online but I find her one of the most exciting writers and thinkers working now.

I read this roundtable discussion hosted by VIDA yesterday. What strikes me is how generous and intimate the discussion is. Yes outward-facing (the noun declines in the accusative). But tender.

The book I want to write which tells without telling being its object, Kapil has written. The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers is partly in-England/of-England. When I realize we are there I snap to and the world of the book is present not only in image or word but in memory. But that is my England/my book/my Kapil and not Bhanu Kapil herself/her book/her England (“If England is a test, then I have failed it”, p. 83). I traipse along after the poem(s) but get stuck in what I remember.

“Even this sentence is suspect: indefensible; potentially, already rewritten. It’s not even that. It’s the bloodiness of remembering everything. I am bored of memory. I am bored of description. (My brain is too exposed. Old jelly. Inedible.)” (p. 80).

I can think of several books that wanted to be this book but failed because they were coy; or flinching; or uncomplicated; or bound to narrative where narrative implies singularity; or myopic.

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June postcard (16)

Natalie Vestin's SHINE A LIGHT, THE LIGHT WON'T PASSSo hot and dry here. It rained a little little last night but otherwise, just hazy, hot, dry. I am doing an online ‘residency’ this week, with the aim of restarting my dormant writing. It worked this morning. As you can see, my postcards to you fell by the wayside as I adapted to working last week. But now the university work is mostly over (just advising MA/BA papers this summer) and I feel the rhythm of Dickinson House work more clearly, and I am writing to you again. Maybe the missing postcards are the burnt ones that Derrida writes about. Or that could be an excuse to stand in for I Forgot.

Pistachio ice cream. Reading work sent in for the MIEL reading period. Editing and design work for MIEL. Longterm plan-making for MIEL. Planning for [redacted] in the fall, including getting to buy books (and read them) and make reading lists, which is a great game. Design work for another press. Garden. Sitting outside with the peegs and watching them enjoy the clover. Piep the cat miaaaaowing outside at 2 a.m., then purrrrrrrrrrrrrring all night. Today two girls on bikes rang our bell, lost on their way to Deinze, and I was able to give them reassurance and directions in Dutch, which felt very good. I am happy and I like my life. Dear N., if you are reading this, I miss you and everyone here, even the people who don’t know you, misses you too!

PS, who knew? I long ago made a category called ‘Derrida’.

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late June at Dickinson House

late June at Dickinson House

The month has been unseasonably warm and dry up until yesterday (when it rained pretty much 12 hours straight). After the rain, everything springs into full leaf-and-flower mode. The meadows are suddenly ankle- or shin-high.

late June at Dickinson House

And we have residents. The house is being used. People understand how to use it and what it’s for. They see our work and we see theirs. (The residency space, it turns out, is a space of witness for all kinds of usually-invisible work: cleaning, cooking, all kinds of care labor, and writing.) There is so much work to do here but it feels good. I am learning how to modulate; not my strong suit. I had a migraine on Friday that I’m pretty sure was caused by trying to hold everything together. Jonathan is an excellent help with all this. And having people for interesting conversation at dinnertimes is a gift.

late June at Dickinson House

In the very background, a large (for me) painting I made this winter. It is strange but nice that these rooms are being used. I haven’t done a lot of writing over the past two weeks, but I think that is mostly because the term is finishing and there is grading/other schoolwork to do. Next week that is pretty much wrapped up, and I am aiming to read some books and work on my own writing. Although this work constrains me (insofar as I don’t have any six- to ten-hour, uninterrupted writing periods) I think I will be able to work within the constraint as soon as I get used to the feeling that writing is what I need to be doing. That was the magical thing about being in Vermont and it’s the thing I hope to create or hold space for for residents here.

late June at Dickinson House

My delphinium made four stalks this year. I put ashes on its roots when it started sprouting, which was advice I read somewhere, and whether that helped or not it was very vigorous. It’s coming to the end of its blooming now. Surrounding it are volunteer asters, a color combination that was unintentional but which I like. We have neglected this little garden a bit—last year we seeded it quite early—but I have some seeds started in pots in the back yard, and when they get a bit bigger I will put some annuals out. We are having tons and tons of aphids, so I hesitate to put very young plants out (although maybe the presence of lots of nasturtiums will help deter the aphids attacking other plants?).

late June at Dickinson House

One of the back vegetable beds. Chinese broccoli, bok choi, parsley, red lettuce, calendula, sunflowers, kohlrabi, butternut squash to trail out into the yard (eventually), sweetcorn, and beans. We are so close to eating from the garden at two meals a day. As it is we are getting way more lettuce than we can manage (need to work on timing), rocket, herbs, red-veined dock (small new leaves as garnish on salads), garlic scapes, currants, and now raspberries too. Potatoes almost ready.

late June at Dickinson House

Working on breathing again. I miss going to Tuesday-night yoga with Jeanette in Beeston. Not really that different from church (which I also miss), just an hour or 90 minutes of sitting and letting-be. One thing this past year taught me, which I am now struggling to unlearn, is the bad habit of always feeling behind, always feeling I ‘ought’ to be doing more (or other) work. This is not my natural way of being. I don’t like it, don’t like its effect on my body, and don’t like where it comes from (capital! Produce! Work! Faster! More!).

late June at Dickinson House

Next year, we decided, we will not till the meadows. We’ll thresh them in November, spade them under, and let what happens happen. (With a little zinnia seed added.)

late June at Dickinson House

For sour-cherry ice cream.

late June at Dickinson House

For themselves (and the future).

late June at Dickinson House

For plum cake, and to remember plum trees in England (it’s a Victoria).

late June at Dickinson House

For dinners and lunches and because they are pretty. And for cake and (savory) fritters.

late June at Dickinson House

For sauce, roasting, and eating as they are. I am greedy about tomatoes and don’t feel there can be too many. Remind me of that in August when we have our canning/drying days. And thinking of things that happen in large metal pots, I still want to get my hands on indigo. Best option seems like this. I made some loose, elastic-ankled trousers out of a fine cotton and I want to dye them alongside all the older clothes than need a refresh. For September maybe, or maybe I will feel freer sooner than that.

late June at Dickinson House

Another resident is due to arrive in 45 minutes. New books are edited and galleys are with the writers. The MIEL shop is updated. I have list on list on list, but sometimes I forget the lists and just get on with my life. I feel happy and I worry about forgetting or neglecting duties. I would like to draw some wild birds’ eggs. I would like to make a book of chapels. I want all the writers and artists whose work I care about to be here with us for a week. I am not not thinking about all the things I do not mention here.

late June at Dickinson House

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June postcard (15)

June postcard 15Marking all day and wanting to do other things. Yesterday I did not succeed at marking; I felt ill all day and had a hard time breathing. Half of this was probably anxiety. But now I am done with all but one paper and I will do that after dinner. And then tomorrow and Thursday I will do other things, but I will begin by trying to make spaces where I can work more efficiently. It’s not ideal (for me, or I am not an ideal worker) when some things are in one place, some in another, and some are packed away. I would like to find a way to have space to sew (and prepare fabrics), draw, and write all in the area that is mine. Anyway, the beginning is: clean my desk now. This is my pretty rag used to clean my brush, test colors, and pick up extra paint. It does remind me of what kinds of work I most want to do.