Last night Jamie and I sat in on a reading and Q&A with Anne Carson and Peggy Shumaker at the Geffen Playhouse. Neither poet was miked, so their gorgeous, striking, playful poetry had to compete with the sound of my corduroy skirt moving when I crossed and uncrossed my legs, which I did a lot because I’m the most fidgety person on earth.
Peggy had a very quiet, polite reading style, and Anne had an “I don’t really care what you think” reading style. This was also the way they answered questions. People had more questions for Anne, who kind of brushed them off in a funny, stylish sort of way. I wanted them to ask Peggy more, since she seemed so eager to help, just the way you’d imagine someone named Peggy would be.
I didn’t ask either one a question, though, because when it comes to poetry, I just shut up and listen.
Both described themselves as voracious and sloppy readers. Anne reads Proust in French over breakfast, but she started on volume five.
I read Vanity Fair over breakfast. Not the book reviews or political articles, either. I read the articles about starlets, the ones that are 90 percent photo and 10 percent bullet point.
Lately I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a Serious Writer. Don’t worry, I don’t think it means abandoning the lowbrow. But I do think it means reading more and worrying less about finishing things (I am proving to be a very sloppy reader of Murakami, thank you very much), opening myself up to all sources of inspiration and finding bigger chunks of time to write.
Because I’ve been working hard at not working so hard (ahh, it’s good to be back in therapy), the latter goal cannot mean just beating myself up for needing more than three hours of sleep per night. It’s going to mean applying for fellowships and retreats.
There’s one with a May deadline I have my eye on. I’m determined to get there by asking myself “What would Anne Carson do?” Except during breakfast. That’s Cheryl time.