Week Three: Space and Time

Even if I didn't have a 10 month old, making the time and space to write is a challenge. I wrote "making" instead of "finding" space and time because this residency for me asks that I reimagine what already exists behind me, and in front of me, and most importantly, that which is already here. It asks that I envision motherhood and writing not in conflict with each other but side by side.

Time is relentless regardless. For my birthday last week, my husband thoughtfully helped me arrange the room where I write and where M can also play so that it is more inviting and conducive for both. As Virigina Woolfe famously wrote, "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” I'll just change the last word of her famous line to poetry. For the most part, I write in solitude, and while I can do other things with M present, such as perhaps edit, perhaps read a little, perhaps send a poem out, writing really is something that I need my own time and space for.

Space, however, can be reconfigured, redesigned, renewed - and that is what I have recently done with the help of my husband. Now M can literally play by my side safely and is well entertained for some stretches of time. I am still working on making this space my own. We bought a futon to read or watch M on, some lamps, a new rug, and slowly but surely, this is one of my favorite spaces in the house and certainly one where I can write, do yoga, etc.

M enjoying her new play space.

Using the space as a writing studio as M naps.

M in a rocker that has been in her family for over 100 years.

It is good timing as well. This space is shaping up right at about the same time as M's first real inklings of separation anxiety, which manifests as "Mamamamamama...," more night wakings, more whimpers for not paying attention to her, or for not taking her with me on my hip into the next room, etc, especially if I leave without announcing it to her. (I think M understands nearly everything, but I'm her mother so of course I think this.) She and I have both found something to be glad for with this new arrangement.  Also, while I'm not practicing neglectful parenting by any stretch, I am coming around to the idea that not paying full attention to your child sometimes is a good thing. It is not harmful if she learns to self-soothe or entertain herself in the long run, and I, in turn, learn to be more tolerant of another's discomfort, especially one that I cannot always control. (Enter M's kindergarten years and beyond).

Have you ever noticed the women sitting on bleachers in the background of this famous Edgar Degas painting, "The Dance"?  They are the mothers!  At some point in my life, I will bringing a notebook and poems to watch M do ballet or play soccer or whatever delights her just as these women were probably reading or sewing or doing something to keep them occupied.

Edgar Degas "The Dance" 1874, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

M entertaining herself in her ball pit.
In terms of my own work, I wrote one new poem, a birthday haibun, which I have never written before and I am not quite sure how I feel about it yet which is a sign for me to let it sit and walk away perhaps for a few years as some poems need that time to gestate.  The form of the haibun is described in detail here, but it is essentially a prose poem followed by haiku. The form allows for both expansion and compression of time and space so I'm not surprised that this past week I was drawn to experimenting with that form.  I also attempted to rework a poem into a sestina - which is also something I haven't attempted since my MFA class in forms several years ago. 

Maybe I am drawn to forms at the moment because they take some of the guess work out of writing poems. Although they are harder for me to write well, I'm not holding myself to the same standard previously where I might have not even attempted a form, because I was more concerned with the product than the process. Now my emphasis is more on the process than the product, because I am just satisfied with writing at all. I certainly am less concerned with perfection. This is something motherhood is teaching me and whether or not the poem is of any merit is less of a concern than the actual writing at least for right now.

I may also be applying some advice from a mother-poet who told me at Bread Loaf that the most important thing I can do as a young mother-writer is to "stay in the language." She suggested creating projects and assigning myself the project of writing a sestina, for example, fits her suggestion. Namely, she suggested this because it is true, there is a lot less time to wonder about what to write. When I get to my desk, I just have to start - where I end up is not the point.


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