Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Found time (found poems, found stories)

If I'm careful on my class prep/writing days, I can just fit in a run between the time when I get too stiff to sit at the computer any longer and the time I need to pick my son up from school. (If I'm overwhelmed or disorganized, I end up working up to the last possible minute, skating in to retrieve a reproachful looking child--not quite the last one in the breezeway, but nearly.) I do a certain amount of lecture preparation and article revision in my head while running. Of course, I also soak up the sun or, more often, wave to the other zealots trudging through the steady northwest rain. Today I made it, class notes and run, on a perfect, sunny spring day, with the tulips just overheating into saucers and the sawdust path almost dry in places.

Two years ago, my aunt and uncle sent us one of Mimi Williams' wonderful linoleum prints for our anniversary. [check out some of her work here] Titled "Stolen Moments," it's perfect for us: a woman reading a book, one hip leaning against the counter, her back to a pile of dishes in the sink. The print hangs proudly above our fireplace, the woman's eyes permanently averted from our kitchen clutter as well as hers. It welcomes me home, directing my attention to where it properly belongs (reading, art, family).

But I want to think of those moments (hours?!) spent running or reading--and writing, and translating--as found, not stolen.   Alicia Yánez Cossío has talked in numerous interviews about writing at night, after her five children were in bed and her other obligations for the day concluded. Writing time then becomes escape time, treat time (though there's still the question of fatigue).

One of my daughter's assignments this week was to create found poems from the dialogue in the novel they're studying in school. I think of a found poem as more serendipitous--wow! look at that irresistible collection of words out of the blue!--but it's an intriguing thought, to come at the book from another angle, to see the words on the page as somewhat arbitrarily arrayed, and thus open to rearrangement.

My "found" poem for the week? The student who came up after a class on César Vallejo, bubbling over in her eagerness to show me and my teaching assistant the tattoo on her back dedicated to the Peruvian poet. A genuine fan, no revision required.

There's always a story waiting somewhere.


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  2. Amalia, I love the image of your picture, Stolen Moments, averting eyes from the drudgery and focusing on what's important.

    The post is a lovely reminder in so many ways to look beyond and be amazed at what we find. Thanks!

  3. Thanks, Lisa. One of the things I love in Mimi Williams' print is the reminder to look beyond, as you say, and also look in (to the book).

  4. Amalia, this is poetic, wise and lovely, a reminder of the many ways we juggle our complicated lives and the need to stay focused on what we really value. Thank you! --Kathleen

  5. Thanks, Kathleen. It seems to me one piece is knowing what we really value, another is staying focused. Which is one reason I love having that print on the wall to remind me!

  6. Amalia - I enjoyed your blog and the reference to Stolen Moments. I agree about found - running and writing. I am quite eloquent during my long walks with the dogs - but, it is often "lost in translation" by the time I get back to the computer. Mary Gentry