Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Holiday Stupid

So here I am, entering the back half of nearly two weeks to myself, with more than 60 hours of vacation time that I had to use or lose by the 31st ... and I have had no urge to write. None whatsoever.

The Holiday Stupor (which really means "stupid") descended, clogging my brain with obscene amounts of food and work-stress and several visits to The Mall. I blame the mall for the current case of writer's block. Not because I really feel that those few trips truly caused my brain-freeze, but because I prefer to blame malls for everything. My younger sister earned my eternal admiration this year by fulfilling an ambition I have stated for five years but have not yet achieved: she accomplished every bit of her Christmas shopping online, thus avoiding completely the insane crush into too few parking spaces, the plowing through mass-produced merchandise that's been pawed over by hundreds of people, the perfume snipers in the department stores, the aggressive kiosk sellers in the halls with their assortment of The Extremely Random (warm, lavender-scented paraffin wax to dip your feet in? Toasters that only toast hot dog buns and simultaneously steam a weenie? Really?)

I'm trying to rejuvenate with lots of reading. I can't remember the last time when I read three novels in a week, but I'll manage it this time. Already finished Roger Rosenblatt's Beet (hilarious; probably the best academic satire I've read since Russo's Straight Man) and Margot Livesey's The House on Fortune Street, which I found very moving and tried to learn from structurally.

I also read Billy Collins' latest book straight through this morning. I don't mind Billy Collins; I know there's a whole school of Collins-haters out there. I've never fully understood the vitriol about him. But I do have to admit to feeling that once you've read one good Billy Collins poem, you've read them all. He varies his subjects a bit, but his technique and mannerisms seem to stay so much the same that it's like eating a savory-yet-predictable dish over and over. I found nothing in the new collection to correct that opinion. (If you missed David Orr's review of Collins' last book, The Trouble with Poetry, go read it now. It's not only a clever review but an impressive piece of ventriloquism; I thought that it was fair to Collins in reporting his strengths and weaknesses as a poet, but the accuracy with which Orr managed to get the Collins voice seemed the most stinging aspect of the review. Reading it is a bit like watching someone stand behind a gifted magician and do the exact same routine, but very slowly so that you can see the moment when the rabbit's pulled from his back pocket.)

Anyway, I'm hoping to get the brain back in gear soon. It's incredibly frustrating to have a period of time for writing and no urge/inspiration to do it.

In the meantime, Beltway's new issue is out, a fascinating collection of poems on the theme of museums. I'm honored to have a piece in it.

Happy new year to all and if you've been similarly afflicted by the season, may your own holiday stupid soon pass over.


JeFF Stumpo said...

If it makes you feel better, I've long felt that once you've read one poem by Gertrude Stein, you've read them all. There, between the two of us we've managed to piss off everybody who reads and everybody who reads Silliman's blog :-)

Verification word: uvires. An infection of that thing that hangs down in the back of your mouth.

Vicki said...

Ha! Our friends received that EXACT same hotdog cooker for Xmas/Hanukkah, and they LOVE it! Couldn't wait to show it to us. Cooks Tofu Pups/Smart Dogs perfectly! ;-)

Sandra said...

I'm very sympathetic--there's nothing worse for a writer than having a big chunk of time and watching it, seemingly helpless, get frittered away in small errands and (in my case) mediocre cable television. I lost one whole weekend just to recovering from time spent with my family. Don't even get me started on the breakdowns in my diet!

But, at least give yourself credit for reading. You are doing what you can. Those are seeds planted now, harvested later.

M. C. Allan said...

Jeff - yes, I agree with you about Stein. In fact, I enjoy reading Collins more than Stein. I always feel like reading essays about Stein and her theory are much more engaging than reading actual Stein. I feel like I must be missing something!

Vicki! Thanks for dropping in. I'm not sure if you're Vicki S or F or some unknown Vicki, but if you're Vicki S, the hot dog toaster actually reminded me of your Christmas card, which was maybe the coolest thing I've ever seen. But you're right: one man's crap is another man's treasure. I just know I'd have to eat a LOT of tofu pups to make it worthwhile to take up kitchen space with that thingy!

Sandra ... thanks for the consolation. I've gotten to the point where I trust the writing urge to come back at some point, but I've felt totally tapped out these past few weeks, and it is INCREDIBLY frustrating, since Monday morning, the grind starts all over again. Hope you've had a more prolific break, post-holiday insanity? (And I wish that mediocre cable television planted similar seeds. If it did, I would have a bumper crop of poems sprouting about now.)

Anonymous said...

a hefty friend of mine once came up with a diet idea called 'eliminate the middleman.' it entailed throwing food directly into the toilet instead of eating it first. i hope one day to write a poem called 'eliminate the middleman,' but for now i'm stuck.
-- mouse

Pris said...

I just came from Sam's blog (of the ten thousand things). Was curious about the term 'anxiety of influence' as compared to 'was influenced by'. Thought I'd come straight to the horses mouth and ask:-) You have an interesting blog.

M. C. Allan said...

Hey Pris: Thanks for dropping by. I stole that line from Harold Bloom :) He wrote a book about it back in the 70s; Wikipedia sums up the thesis:

I used it lightly, but it's a bit different with the Gregg/Gilbert connection, since I think it's obviously less a case of "anxiety" induced by an earlier poetry, but of influence due to their own close relationship. Maybe I'm imagining it, though -- take a look at some of the Gregg/Gilbert ouevre and see what you think?

Maggie May said...

Happy New Year!

Mary said...

I came across your blog because I was looking for 'good' 'doggerel' and I like the ironic turn of your title and tag line.

I clicked through to the Evolution poem, and want to say that it is really nice, I shared the link with another poet friend of mine.

I'll keep an eye out for more of your poems.

I'm doing a bit of conceptual art and surrealist practice, myself.

M. C. Allan said...

Thank you so much, Mary! I really appreciate it.

I think the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History is probably one of the most poem-inspiring public edifices in the U.S. :)

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