Postcards From the Margins: “Many Ways to Say It”



Landscape with Pollard Willows, Vincent Van Gogh, 1884
Landscape with Pollard Willows, Vincent Van Gogh, 1884

I’d like to share a poem by a wonderful poet, Eva Saulitis. “Sings The Self in All Her Chains” is from her collection, Many Ways to Say It (published in 2012 by Red Hen Press and used here with permission).  From Hilda Raz‘s review: “We can’t refuse to hear the poet’s ‘many ways of saying’ that life comes and comes and comes, no matter what the cost. A wonderful book.”

And a wonderful poem.  My favorite lines (entire poem is at the end of this post):

She’s seventy, would rather not consider so much the self.
She wishes to paint what’s larger, oneness, death. Frightened
to see the tree out there, separate from her body.
Wind passing through its branches.  And light.  Passing.

I’m not seventy, although I’m closer than I’d like to be. I would rather not consider so much the self, although (see “somewhat suspect desires”, below) I must admit to having a website, and this blog.  Since I started writing, in mid-life, some ten years ago, I have found it irritating to write (or read) anything that doesn’t wish to paint what’s larger: oneness, death, fear, wind, light, passing.  And yet, how much easier would it be to write about things far less sacred?  Choosing “what’s larger,” and in particular choosing to write about death, fear, wind, light, and passing, is by design a frightening undertaking.  My design, of course, but intimidating and daunting, nonetheless.

If we add in the always-somewhat-suspect desire to have one’s work better known, we’ve got a real conundrum, don’t we?  Experimenting, for example, with blogging and tweeting:  it’s engaging, brain-stretching, a little scary and a lot humbling. It gives me renewed empathy for teens and young adults, for anyone without the amalgam of life experience I can usually, at my age, bring to a task. Generally, my years lived bestow a certain confidence, presume faith in other people, more easily accept interdependence.  One way in which I’m not sorry to be on the way to seventy, but it’s all still a little nerve-racking.

Two people helping me overcome my fears are Anne R. Allen, who writes excellent posts on blogging, and Nina Badzin, who has instructions for Tweeting that start with “how-to” and proceed to “how to not make a fool of yourself.” Since I’m still mostly making a fool of myself on Twitter, I’ll return to Nina Badzin in a future post.  Today I’d like to try something I learned from an earlier Anne R. Allen post, “Social Media Secrets, III:  What Should an Author Blog About?”

One of the many things she suggests is that if your stories include x, you can blog about x from a variety of angles.  Much of my fiction deals with issues of faith, and I will continue to explore that topic.  But my work also includes a lot about illness and disability, reflecting my having been raised by two phenomenal parents who happened to have had significant physical disabilities, and my background as a physical therapist.  My short story collection-in-progress has the working title of Seizure, although I’m also fond of The Falling Sickness, one of the many euphemisms for seizure disorder (“epilepsy” included) that have made their way through the ages.  My current novel-in-progress deals with faith, and disability, and more:  Vincent Van Gogh, his paintings, his letters, southern France in the late 19th century, and the local wind that has dominated the weather in Provençe since time immemorial, aka the mistral.

Which is why, of course, I love Eva Saulitis’s poem: oneness, death, fear, wind, light, passing.  And let’s not forget painting, and poetry.

I feel like I’ve got my blogging work cut out for me, which is a wonderful place for any writer to be.  In upcoming posts, I’ll try to follow several other of Anne’s blogging suggestions as well.  From the more recent, “How to Write Blog Content:  9 Tips to Entice Readers to Your Author Blog,” these include putting my most important information in my first few words, using subheaders and lists and making what I’ve written scannable.

We’ll see how I do.  There are, after all, many ways to say it.

Here is “Sings the Self in All Her Chains,” by Eva Saulitis, in its entirety, for your absolute reading pleasure:

Squinting through black-framed glasses, she’s gluing
her dead mother’s frayed linen curtains to a canvas.
She’s mixing the titanium white, the alizarin crimson.
She’s regarding the jar of brushes, the bag of rags.
In the dense clump of trees out her window, there’s one
tree she calls her self.  The trunk dense with instinct
and claw-mark, she wants to paint that.

She’s seventy, would rather not consider so much the self.
She wishes to paint what’s larger, oneness, death.  Frightened
to see the tree out there, separate from her body.
Wind passing through its branches.  And light. Passing.
Meanwhile the body double in black, sensible shoes,
a blue ribbon holding her hair back, a gnarled hand
(is it hers, really?) reaches for a brush.

She paints in the others:  outside her studio, in her kitchen
daughters, husband.  Self as woman in labor, wife, mother.
Hidden she of a field where a dead lover’s ashes are scattered,
the one who sang summer into her ear.  Summer sings
now into all of her ears. Summer, the woods she wanders in,
summer, the death she paints not into but against.  She adds black.
The tree steps forward, and she meets it.  The art

of her self:  every anatomical feature:  trunk,
leaf, branch, bark, tree which goes not
gentle into that long winter night, which she loves,
also but secretly.  The husband who jabbers nonsense in her ear,
riddles, puns, limericks, gossip, critique, is asleep upstairs.
Outside her window, the tree–it is silent.  Inside, not so.
She paints herself in all her chains, to its green.











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