by Jeff Oaks
Part of me wants to vegetate for days, but of course I can’t really. There are still student papers in my bag, and they must be read and returned. I was smart to have all my poets hand in midterm folders and meet with me for conferences this past week, so I know that I’ve done my work for them. It’s their job now to revise or write new poems.
Still, as I said to Michael this morning, I had that old dream of hibernation: if I just close my eyes and go back to sleep, maybe I will wake up in a sunlit world full of tender shoots and warm breezes. The warmth of the bed was so rich I fell back to sleep for at least a minute before waking myself up with a snore. Still, the singingof sparrows is growing richer every morning now.
The winter has been, despite the deadly cold, fairly affirming in some ways: a new essay (or very very long prose poem, depending on your definition of those terms) will be coming out of the Kenyon Review Online soon, three poems accepted in other places. One of my posts from last year will appear in an Norton anthology of short pieces. I received word that I’d be teaching writing in Scotland for June through Pitt’s Study Abroad program.
This week to come, says the weatherman, is supposed to be in the 40s and 50s. For those of us who’ve been so frost-burnt in heart and mind by the months of trudging, slipping, bundling up and unbundling, the surprises of big leaks in the roof or the bursting of basement pipes (with their subsequent calls to contractors and insurance men), not to mention all the other, smaller discomforts of a hard winter, we are grateful for any ceasefire, any easing of tensions.
I gave my poor students a number of writing exercises over the winter, some designed to help them to see or speak of the effect of winter on the imagine, some to help them project forward into the spring, into the years ahead of them, but by far the one they loved was the one I gave them for the last ten minutes of class: Write a love letter to the spirit-animal for having gotten them this far.
They laughed, most of them, at the thought of it, but then they took to it with all their considerable energy. As I walked around a bit at the end, stealthily trying to get a sense of who has been writing enough by the number of pages still left in their journals, I was touched at how many of them had taken the love letter part to heart and signed, Your Friend, and then their name.
We so-called adults might do the same now that the sunlight is returning.
If that’s too new-agey for you, you might consider writing for ten minutes to each of Bhanu Kapil’s questions in her book The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers. Here’s one Of those questions, appropriate maybe for the beginning of March, with my own response:
Where did you come from/how did you arrive?
By stork, by story, by drinking too much punch. There was a rumor about the old milkman delivering more than bottles on his rounds. By dawn, I was ready, which means probably I began kicking or wanting to breathe late the night before, maybe around midnight. I arrived as soup, I grew like bread. I was wrapped in blankets like a loaf. I arrived via butter and cinnamon sugar. I lived off cream of mushrooms. Hold open the gate; I was the late arrival, the last egg to hatch, the last come to make it back, to stand up and bawl, to cross the road. Who knows why?