WordPlay, Scriv, and poems for Jill

Tonight‘s WordPlay reading at Papyri Books — actually at the Papyri Books annex, a long railcar of a space lined with exposed brick and festooned with Christmas lights — featured three writers from Scriv, Inkberry’s MCLA student writers’ group. It was a packed-house event — once all the chairs were full, people clustered in the back, sat in the floor on the aisles, and commandeered all of the step-stools from next door to use as extra seats.

The reading was a good chance to get a sense for some of what the Scriv students are up to. All three of the readers shared really interesting work. (I think my favorite piece was the third one, a delicious little piece of speculative fiction that seemed to be set in our own universe except for the part where it was possible to record a day of one’s life and to give to someone else.)

It was also Inkberry’s chance to say thank you to Jill, who’s been our executive director since August of 2006. Linda (the president of the board) and I both spoke — which was nicely symmetrical, since I worked closely with Jill when she first came on board and Linda worked closely with her during her E.D. tenure — and each of us read a poem in her honor.

Linda read W.S. Merwin‘s Berryman, which has one of the best endings of any poem I know:

I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can’t

you can’t you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don’t write

And I read Thomas’ Lux‘s “An Horatian Notion,” which is one of my very favorite poems about writing (and about creativity in general) — I’ve had it tacked up over my desk for years. I love the poem so much I’ll repost it here, beneath the extended-entry link — a few people asked for a copy, at the reading, so here ’tis.

A thousand thanks, again, to Jill, for doing an overwhelming and consuming job with so much passion and heart.

An Horatian Notion

The thing gets made, gets built, and you’re the slave
who rolls the log beneath the block, then another,
then pushes the block, then pulls a log
from the rear back to the front
again and then again it goes beneath the block,
and so on. It’s how a thing gets made—not
because you’re sensitive, or you get genetic-lucky,
or God says: Here’s a nice family,
seven children, let’s see: this one in charge
of the village dunghill, these two die of buboes, this one
Kierkegaard, this one a drooling

nincompoop, this one clerk, this one cooper.
You need to love the thing you do—birdhouse building,
painting tulips exclusively, whatever —and then
you do it
so consciously driven
by your unconscious
that the thing becomes a wedge
that splits a stone and between the halves
the wedge then grows, i.e., the thing
is solid but with a soul,
a life of its own. Inspiration, the donnée,

the gift, the bolt of fire
down the arm that makes the art?
Grow up! Give me, please, a break!
You make the thing because you love the thing
and you love the thing because someone else loved it
enough to make you love it.
And with that your heart like a tent peg pounded
toward the earth’s core.
And with that your heart on a beam burns
through the ionosphere.
And with that you go to work.

–Thomas Lux


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