there's a special chaos inherent in grad course papers: a grab bag of half-chewed thoughts, skim-read quotes, all-you-can-eat buffet of theoretical referents smashed into a sound-bitey burger over the course of fifteen or so pages, written in a week's time (two, if you're proactive). there's a special joy in this chaos, too, of finding the occasional gem of a thought in the midst of filler sentences, of unearthing the kernel of an obsession in a quote, but mostly — i'm tired of writing this way! i'm tired of sprawling footnotes and nods and "why does this matter" conclusions for the sake of self-righteous insertion into issues of ethicality and meaning. i know i'm giving many well-meaning academics short shrift here, but right now, i think, i do not want the pitcher of epistemic cocktail that is academia, but water, still water, clear enough to see light dance through it.

what i mean to say is: i thought i'd get to spend slow evenings with texts, to think in specific terms about how literature is of the world, responds to the world, through a kind of slow and careful engagement with the many things that a word or line can mean. to close read, in other words. it's wishful thinking, for sure, in this day and age, but a part of me had thought grad school would, in some naive way, be protected from the currents of this day and age. that it hadn't been touched by broader gestures of grind culture, drama and bureaucracy, capitalism even. but of course it has. of course it has.

there hasn't been any immediate remedy or useful way to address this, so — as always — i return to realms of fiction and fantasy, spaces where i work through my own nostalgia for the kind of reading and writing i'd once describe as "immediate." i've been trying to write scenes in which C, the central character in my long poem, doesn't "do" anything. they sit, watch, observe, and reflect, but there's nothing in these scenes that necessarily moves the plot forward or adds to "character growth." i think i'm growing to appreciate this way of writing - not having to gesture towards dominant culture or big ideas, not having to make the poem feel relevant, but writing from a place as if i am sitting alongside a creek, watching stars dance, lithe and spritely, along the surface tension of the water.

i hope this isn't just a gesture of reticence, of retreat into some internal landscape of my own making, but rather a kind of localizing practice, a way for me to tend to the smaller-scale concerns and needs of the people and environments around me. or, to tend to the things within my capacity to tend. i just finished le guin's the wind's twelve quarters and i loved catching glimpses of the seeds of her longer work in these short stories, especially "Semley's Necklace" and "The Word of Unbinding." sometimes it's hard to see myself writing sustained work when i read polished and combed texts, but reading through these stories, i'm reminded of their lifespans, how far they can grow and stretch into new dimensions. they always start, simply, as ideas, or encounters (as le guin writes in her preface to "Darkness Box," a story inspired by her little kid showing her a box with "darkness" in it).

a bit unrelated, but i'm often struck by how le guin conceptualizes magic, as the thing that arises through names, called forth through language, never ephemeral and always rooted in the material fabric of every living and dead thing:

"The walls were gone. He was in the earth, rocks and veins of granite for bones, groundwater for blood, the roots of things for nerves. Like a blind worm he moved through the earth westward, slowly, darkness before and behind. Then all at once coolness flowed along his back and belly, a buoyant, unresisting, inexhaustible caress. With his sides he tasted the water, felt current-flow; and with lidless eyes he saw before him the deep brown pool between the great buttress-roots of an alder. He darted forward, silvery, into shadow. He had got free. He was home."

the way she writes the body into the earth, and the way she understands the self as not bounded but porous... that's something i want to move toward. not an indiscriminate kind of porous, but a firm and knowing passage from one state of being to the next. so... trying to find the time to think slowly, to think locally in terms of what lies behind and ahead. the steps of my front porch, the backlot of the art museum, the tiny libraries. birthday parties, late night chè, the place that makes really good lemongrass tofu. my bedside books. y's knitting needles. rest, and the like.