On Sabbatical Number 2 and the Big Genre Change

I haven’t regularly blogged here for many years, despite the posts about publications and other things, but now is as good a time as any to begin again.  Or maybe it’s more accurate to say begin again again because I know there’s already a post in here that talks about beginning again.  I wrote it the last time I went on sabbatical seven years ago.  This is one of the two reasons why I want to blog more regularly.  I’ve started another sabbatical.  The second reasons is this.  I’ve shifted from writing poetry to writing fiction.  Specifically, I’m working on a novel.

If this shift seems sudden, it isn’t.  I’ve always written fiction even if mostly for my own pleasure.  In some ways, I don’t see the writing of prose any differently than I see the writing of poetry.  Still, I think we write as a way of listening to ourselves, to others and to the world.  But what I’m listening for and to has changed a little.  Maybe this is a consequence of middle-age, but fiction seems to me the better vehicle to listen to part of human consciousness I’ve more or less ignored, and that is, the past.  For me, poetry has always been about the present, and when it’s really good, about the future.  But I’ve never been comfortable writing poems about the past.  Poetry is a digging tool, sure.  But prose fiction seems a tool better suited to discovering what was and, therefore, why what is, well, is.

I probably never should’ve stopped working on fiction in the first place.  I know gradschool and a particular workshop instructor (not the one mentioned below) are the reasons I made the arbitrary choice between the two genres.  In the process, I abandoned a novel-in-progress I’m sure now I wasn’t ready to write.  So I don’t know if I was pressured to choose between poetry and fiction from without or within or both, but I made the choice.  But like I said, I never stopped writing fiction.  I just stopped working on it.  Instead, I worked on poetry.  I identified as a poet.  I wrote about poetry, seeking some understanding of how it all worked, like poets do, should do.  The work was fruitful for me, which means it was necessary.  Then something changed.  Actually, a lot of things changed.

It’s hard to say what changed first.  I know my life is different.  I also know it will be more different still these next couple of years.  And these changes contributed to my decision to shift my focus as a writer.  But there were other factors, too, like reading Marc McGurl’s book, especially the sections that deal with the lower-middle-class modernists and shame.  It was after reading that book that I understood what had happened to me in gradschool, what had been happening to me ever since I took my first workshop at the Rocky Point High School extension center of Suffolk County Community College and my workshop instructor told me never to use the word soul in a poem and that it was should’ve not should of.  I began writing fiction again as a means of shedding the consequences of that shame.  I began writing fiction to reclaim my voice.  I don’t yet know the connection between the past and voice, but I’m confident that this isn’t the last time I’ll muse about it.

And I’m sure I’ll talk more about all this stuff over the course of the next 7 or 9 months, so I’ll begin to end this here.  I’m not sure how frequently I’m going to post.  Nor do I know what the nature of those post will be.  They will be different.  I know that.  Especially if this is any indication.  The blogging platform used to feel very natural to me.  Not so much right now.  Maybe I’m just rusty.  I guess we’ll see because, however awkward this seems to me right now, I know the uses of keeping a blog.  When I look back at the posts I’ve written in that past, I still recognize the man who wrote them.  That’s an accomplishment.  He knew more than he thought he did.  He knew nothing.

Finally, I wanted to say I’m off to a good start.  This was the first week that I really worked.  I’ve made a schedule, to which I’m mostly keeping.  I completed reading a novel I started before the holiday madness, which was useful and interesting.  I’m on to another book, this time a book of essays, criticism.  And I wrote approximately 20 pages of good writing.  Perhaps most important of all, though, is that I know where I am in the writing process.  Shannon’s got a puzzle going on the coffee table right now, where only the vague outline of the whole can be seen.  Yes, that sounds about right.

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1 Response to On Sabbatical Number 2 and the Big Genre Change

  1. Gene Penna says:

    Can we say….BRAVO?? We are looking forward to reading ALL of your work!!

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