Tuesday, May 31, 2016

'Bits' journal (March-April excerpt)

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm obsessed with what poet and FSU professor David Kirby calls the 'bits' journal. The little observations one makes, the asides, the day-to-day activities one jots down, just because. I've begun posting excerpts of mine here. But what I really want to do is collect OTHER writers' 'bits' journals. Who's in?

April 1, 2016
Leo and I make quiche together. And yesterday as we stirred the bacon together with wooden kitchen spoons, he says, “It’s like a little hand touching the bacon.” Yes, a wooden “hand” held by an actual hand (that happens to be the world’s cutest hand).

March 22, 2016
On days I stay home with Leo, every minute of every hour someone wants to talk to me. And that’s what makes it so hard. It’s what makes going to work much easier. The moment you begin your journey towards work, someone stops talking to you, stops waiting for your reaction, stops asking you the same question over and over. Someone stops trying to seize every moment of your attention, every breath you take.

March 17, 2016
From one of Leo’s children’s books: “Where do months and years go when they’re gone?”

March 16, 2016
The African violet in the bathroom is blooming after a lengthy dormancy. Yay!
A train is-a comin….what does it mean to hear the trains on and off at any time of the day or night (I ask as a train moans in the not-so-distant distance)? Is there any connection to hearing the Long Island Railroad from my bedroom in Hicksville? I enjoy it. I imagine it tunneling through the brush by the Beltline. If that’s the train I am hearing. Hard to know how far sound carries.
A classmate has died. Someone who was in my Bennington MFA program. She had a son, too, and she once told me, “Little boys are so affectionate.” A chance remark that remained with me, a thought pinned to the wallpaper of my mind. I often think about it, and revel in the notion because it’s true. I just love lavishing affection on Leo and I think of her often when I do.
Darkness at 7 a.m. again – thank God! Or thank you, Daylight Savings.

March 15, 2016
I don’t care who Elena Ferrante is. (But some people really, really care). Mike brought home the Corriere della Sera from Switzerland and there it was, a front-page article about who Elena Ferrante might be.

I’ve never cared who Elena Ferrante is. I think I’ve submitted just as much as anyone to #FerranteFever. I read the entire quadrilogy, one book right after another in the original Italian. I’ve been inspired by Ferrante to seek out other Southern Italian female authors who I believe will have similar success.

I’ve read La Frantumaglia, I’ve begun following the output of her publishing company e/o (and its English arm Europa) very closely.

In other words, I’m a fan. I’m someone, I guess, who should care. And I simply don’t.

(Editor's note: the first stirrings of an essay for Asymptote Journal's blog. Read the full essay here.)

March 14, 2016
“At that age, all they have is their habits.” Liz, quoting a friend who’d gone to visit his elderly parents, and wound up living with them for three months.

March 10, 2016
Mr. Funny Pants (after some homemade calamari, courtesy of Mike and his surprisingly inexhaustible birthday wishes and gifts) wakes up and says, “What about a slinky made of squid?”
The Tabucchi essays I started? Unfortunately someone else has already signed up to translate them.

Feb 26, 2016
Parent helper today! Leo is so cute, even Anders’ DAD – a Dad, not a Mom – said he should be a model. 

In other news, he 's still on a regular milk strike. Quoting him, “I will never drink regular milk!”

That’s his new formulation: I-will-never. I will never wear pants! I will never go out on my bike!
From an interview with David Kirby, Florida State University poet and lover of Italy: "I make my students keep what I call a “bits journal” where they store up the hundred trivial things we see every day that are pregnant with potential. Save 'em up, students! The good ones will turn into poems before your very eyes."
Mike is back from Turkey. Pleased to find leftover pizza in the fridge. What to make for him so he can have a snack, post-flight? And the solution I land upon: go out somewhere for pizza and portare a casa qualche fettina.

Jhumpa – you know, Jhumpa, my Italian pal? – didn’t get great reviews from everyone. And as I tossed and turned after Leo woke up at 4 a.m. (flinging open his door, per his usual, whereupon the door bangs on the uscio when it swings back around a few seconds later), I think, well perhaps the problem is people are reading the work in English. It was not meant to be read in English. That’s why she wrote it in Italian.

The achievement here is this: she writes in Italian. And because she is writing in Italian, she is dispensing with every pretense of propriety or modesty or privacy. She is showing us that Italy makes her weak in the knees, like a schoolyard crush, a May-December romance, what have you. The joy in the narrative is her use of sensuous Italian words, of feeling around in this new language and finding friendly words that match the euphoria she feels.

This is what I know having read excerpts. The hardback – so satisfyingly solid and heavy – arrived here this week and I will begin to read it properly.


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