Friday Open Thread (with Finished Things)
On Monday, I paid my taxes; on Friday, I turned in the last of the grade books. Three courses taught, the work of some 200 students all marked, and term is officially over, very nearly flush with the Cruellest Month's end. I won't teach again until September at the earliest.
I cannot – or, let's be honest, would prefer not to – remember the last time I could stare down a full four months of time during which I would not have to do any work but write. It feels like an inflection point – a cusp, an open door. Months, and a summer coming on, and the beginnings of a path to walk through it, some milestones already set for me to meet.
These last few days I've felt a kind of simmering, a mix of anxiety and anticipation accompanied by a very clear-headed knowledge of how much work needed doing and how and when it was going to get done. Finishing it has felt like a series of small miracles, grace after grace, days that had more than one thing in them. I found myself thinking, Thursday and Friday, "I did all the things on my list," and hearing Wendy Cope's "The Orange" in my head, and then tearing up because I always do when I think of that poem and its last few lines.
(There's a symmetry there, too, which I only just realized, writing this: "The Orange" is the poem I open my introductory poetry courses with. To think of it at the closing feels good, feels right.)
Is there a poem that makes you choke up when you try to read it out loud?
I keep thinking of what I did this week that made me feel so peaceful, so complete. I marked exams, yes, but I also read books, and took my friends' dog for walks, and helped them build a fence, and baked bread, and went for runs, and watched very small colourful birds near the river: ruby-crowned kinglet, golden-winged warbler, black-and-white warbler, pine siskin. These things feel like treasure, and not just because the birds have jewels in their names.
I bought myself a Parrish Relics piece a couple of weeks ago, the words "oak" and "summer" in its title. It arrived in the post today with all the weight of a talisman: a reward for work completed and a signpost towards what I want to do next. I want to be seen in these colours again; I want to be outdoors again. I want to be in summer, touch trees and people. I want to write under the auspices of this good and beautiful art.
Wishing you a safe and lovely weekend, and an easy route into May,
- This Helen Rosner interview with John Darnielle is one of the most beautiful conversations I've ever read. Like poetry, I keep it among the troves of things that I want to read out loud and cry through.
- Speaking of crying, Helena Fitzgerald's griefbacon is 30% off until Monday, so now's an especially great time to subscribe to one of my favourite newsletters. To insufferably quote myself else-internet, subscribe "if you want to cry on a semi-regular basis about music, seasons, cities, & the never finished work of growing up." (Also Helena has an essay in the just-released THE LONELY STORIES: 22 Celebrated Writers on the Joys & Struggles of Being Alone, which looks frankly amazing, so you can also hold her writing between your hands without clutching your phone if you wish.)
- Speaking of the never finished work of growing up – did you know that literally anyone can recommend a book to be considered for the inaugural Le Guin Prize for Fiction? The nomination period closes at midnight PDT on April 30, which, as aforementioned, is extremely soon (...today?!). I'd just really love them to receive an outpouring of recommendations from people who want to honour Le Guin's work and legacy, so encourage you to read the eligibility requirements and recommend something you admire.