For the first time since I finished grad school (i.e., about eight years), I participated in a writing workshop. On Wednesday night I met up with a couple colleagues, as well as a couple writing students, and proceeded to sit around a coffee shop, reading and critiquing each other’s work. Does that sound unbelievably nerdy and boring to the majority of you? Of course it does. I mean, for you writing or English majors out there who went on to find real jobs post-college, that sounds nightmarishly familiar. And for those of you who were forced against your will to participate in workshops during your college career, that sounds even worse. But for you literary nerds — you people who, like me, love to pick poems apart and engage in heated arguments over the placement of a single comma — well, it was downright exciting.
I’ve always known how much I loved academia — workshops, in particular. They were my favorite part of college and grad school. And even though I had my feelings hurt occassionally, or even found myself yelling at particular instructors who acted like outright assholes (I’m looking at you, Bill Knott), there was nothing more fun and informative and enlivening and interesting as those workshops. With that, thanks to my colleague, J., for putting that together.
So maybe I was inspired by Wednesday’s workshop, or maybe it ws once again realizing what a lazy curmudgeon I am. Either way, I got to thinking about that fact that, well, I’m just not all that ambitious. That is, I want things out of life, and there of course things I’d like to do. But I’m simply not one of those people who feels as though he has to accomplish every and anything before he dies in order to feel “successful.” Frankly, I’m too damn lazy and exhausted to think that way. That alone is stressful! In any event, I got to writing this brand new piece just today, and what I realized is that it’s not just a poem about my laziness, but an ars poetica of sorts. (That is, a form of rhetoric. In this case, writing on writing.) Anyway, whatever gets me writing is a blessing in my eyes, so thanks for reading.
Before I die
there are not a million things to do
as most people would have you believe.
I’d wager 200, maybe 250 tops.
No way we all of us are foolishly
keen on hiking the Appalachian Trail, or
really seeing just how miniscule the Mona Lisa,
or secretly etching our initials
into the Great Wall of China
like some kind of clandestine operation
circa the first World War. Nah.
That’s all the stuff of bad movies and,
worse, bad imagination. Because, really,
when tasked with doing anything
outside my usual orbit, it is, in fact,
work. It is the promise of stress
and exhaustion. It is the extra cup
of burnt coffee after midnight
to knock out that last hour of cramming,
that bonus problem set, that one more crack
at writing and rewriting the stanza
that will never see its way out
from my hard drive, that will sidle up
to the other unfinished docs
in my graveyard of parboiled work,
and it, too, will be dated and named “Poem,”
and it, along with the others, will be
forever burned onto my flittering screen
like a ghost begging for exorcism.