May: some notes

by Jeff Oaks

May is the first free month of my summer, but it always takes a little settling into. There are book lists I’ve been compiling since last September. There are poems written that need to be read and rewritten. There are household things to do. Where to start? How to arrange my life into a workable schedule?

This summer I’m working on a book of autobiographical prose, most of which has been written, but two majors pieces of which haven’t. One I’m tentatively calling How I Escaped and has to do with the influences that opened up the world to me. The second is tentatively named Dispatches from Fifty. I’m just trying to write them without thinking much beyond those titles and some rules for composition I use to keep me awake: How I Escaped uses paragraphs in which every letter of the alphabet appears at least once. Fifty will, I think, play with forms of punctuation.

I have no idea whether anyone will be interested in reading these pieces. I’m writing them at the moment for myself, for the sheer play of it and to assess where I stand, where I’ve come from. When I get through the first drafts, I’ll hand them off to friends I trust, and then will begin the work of editing. At last count, I have approximately 150 pages toward a collection. These last two should provide another 50.

By the ides of May, yesterday, I think I’ve found my schedule:

7-8:30: dog walking
9-12: writing in the coffeehouse
12:30-4: gym/office/reading somewhere
4-6: dog again
Evening: tv/reading/dinner/parties/social

Or something like that. On the weekends, there may be more or less time devoted to writing or abandoned altogether so I can go kayaking. The idea is fairly simple: get something written every day. A page, a paragraph, a table of contents, an outline, some research notes, whatever. I do proceed by a kind of faith: that things will add up to a larger thing. At this point, it’s a dream.

Once upon a time not long ago, this month was a dream. Now it unfolds its greenery around us, vivid and unreal. Next month I’ll be fifty. That too seemed like a dream not so long ago. That I’d live this long. That still I haven’t lived enough.