Interstitial Moment addendum:

Because I am basically computer illiterate and can’t fix or add to what is already published in my journal, here is an addedum:

Austin (see above) Hackney’s blog:  omniscrit.com

 

Interstitial Moment:

I have been writing a poem a day for three years. Sometimes I get a little help from my friends. My writers’ group has workshopped a number of my poems (the ones I consider salvageable, that is. You write that many poems in a year and unless you are Emily Dickinson, the majority of them are duds)

And sometimes I get help from unexpected places.

Many of my poems have been prompted by things that are in Terri Windling’s blog, once called “The Drawing Board” and now called “Myth and Moor.” Terri is a longtime friend, editor (of my book BRIAR ROSE, among other things), artist, author herself. She is a myth goddess, one of the originators of the Interstitial Arts movement.

Recently in one of her postings I wrote this:

Between

See the space between mountains,
the moment between drops of water,
the instant between bird foot touching sand
and the track it leaves behind.
Watch the hesitation between beats
of hummingbird’s wings,
the infinity between earthquake
and aftershock. See the space
between brush and painting,
between word and story,
between bullet and the beating heart.

And while several people on the blog liked it, I was troubled with a couple of lines. I addressed the problem after one fellow, Austin Hackney (assume nothing from his last name, he is smart and a good writer and a Commedia del Arts guy) wrote this to me: “Jane, your poem is a nugget. And that last line really packed a punch, jolting me out of meditation into awakening. Great stuff.

I answered him this way and a conversation about revision was born: “Thanks, Austin, I have three thoughts about this poem: first it’s a kind of antiphonal response to your piece yesterday. Second, I really have to figure out a way not to have “beats” and “beating” in the same poem. Awake quite a bit this night trying to decide if “timid heart” or “living heart” or some other adjective might serve the poem as well or even better. Third: isn’t it strange the way a poem you think is going in one direction suddenly veers off in another. This became a different creature when the last line leaked out of my fingertips onto the keys.”  We didn’t have to reference the Newtown tragedy. It was only a week old at the time.

He responded: “Jane,I have one or perhaps two thoughts in response to your three thoughts…If one of the beats has to beat it, then I’d make it the beat of the hummingbird’s wings and leave the beating heart. Much of the punch in the phrase comes through the resonance between its rational meaning and the punctuation the alliteration gives to the rhythm, if that makes sense.

I’m really no poet, no poet at all – but might tentatively suggest an alternative to the wing beat…’Watch the hesitation on the turn of a hummingbird’s wing.’ If there’s any hesitation in hummingbird flight then it is on that moment that barely exists on the turn of the wing – as they don’t properly beat but gyrate their wings in a figure of eight pattern.”

Wow, I immediately thanked him. I mean, it was lightbulb time. I’d known that about hummingbirds, but checked it out in one of my bird books just to be sure. Then I told him thanks, adding: “Haven’t workshopped this poem with my writers group since we won’t be meeting again until January. You have helped a LOT. (I had been considering doing something with hummingbird’s wing but hadn’t gotten as far along as you have led me. Thanks for being a spirit guide.”

And then I began to wrestle with the line. I didn’t want to do it exactly as he had suggested, but close. I went through iterations, including mentioning that a figure eight is also the scientific sign for infinity. Even tried using the word infinity but liked it better in the next line where it is the key between earthquake and aftershock. Then I realized I could get a sneaky backdraft from the word which scientists and birdlovers and poet fanciers could understand with an extra frisson of recognition. And in the end, the poem goes like this, with thanks to Austin. And as someone else noted on the blog, “Just realised the happy coincidence of your combined names.”

See the space between mountains,
the moment between drops of water,
the instant between bird foot touching sand
and the track it leaves behind.
Watch the stutter in the turn
of a hummingbird’s wings,
the infinity between earthquake
and aftershock. See the space
between brush and painting,
between word and story,
between bullet and the beating heart.

©2012 Jane Yolen, all rights reserved

 

Interstitial Moment:

I am currently mired in a revision of a novel and it is giving me the gip. Actually, as I recall, every revision of a novel does this. Only when I’mtruly and horrible in the mire, when I can feel the Peat Hag hanging onto my heels and pulling me under, do I know I;m having trouble with a book. I think this is related to childbirth. Once it is over and the gorgeous new miracle is in your arms, you forget all about the pain and blood and muck and mire. You coo at the infant and think about having another.

So here I am, up to my knees in a peat bog and sinking fast. And the trouble is the editor’s notes and what she sees as problem places. The first go round through, I have treated each of her points with care, fixing this, shoring up that, giving a character who has had too little to do/say a bit more business.

But as I work this way, the entire world shifts. I mean the entire world of the book does a 90 degree or more turn off its axis. That’s because as I tend to her notes, I have forgotten gravity or some other important law of the book’s universe. I have forgotten that every change changes everything.

So now I am in the next iteration of the novel and I am seeing how offkilter the whole thing is, and I despair. I do the hand on brow, falling on the fainting couch, head in the oven thing. Nothing goes together any longer. There are no interstices. There are too many holes. The whole is holey when I want it to be holy. It is a mess. I am not a writer, I am a messenger of doom, gloom, badness, madness and. . .

You get the picture. I am in the middle of a muddle.

Yes,, yes, I have said it before. I even said similar things in the birthing room or whatever we called it back in the Eocene. “How did I get in this blankety-blank mess?” EVen though I know how and now who to blame.

So I shut the computer off. Watch Cake Boss and the Bourne Legacy. Fiddle with some poetry. Play Boggle. The usual distractions. I even (gasp) went grocery shopping. And cleaned the kitchen. (You can always tell a writer is eschewing the revision process when her kitchen is clean!)

And now it’s time for bed. “Ah well,” I say to my best friend, Scarlett, “I’ll think about that revision tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day”

 

October 19-December 17, 2012

Okay, this is the longest I have gone without posting in this journal for well over ten years. I have many excuses–work, play, fear, happiness/unhappiness, travel, overwhelming numbers of Things To Do. But I could have found the time. And when I did I rationalized myself out of writing in this journal. So no excuses.

 

Awards, Prizes Or Oh-What A Life I Lead:

Really, not that many. The biggest thing was flying off to Scotland to give the Andrew Lang lecture at St Andrews University. The lecture series had started back in 1927 and had included such luminaries as J.R.R. Tolkien and John Buchan. There have been 22 lectures in all  (I was the 22nd) , and I WAS THE FIRST WOMAN TO EVER GIVE ONE! So it was a big deal. They had put out fifty chairs, the number of people they normally get at free college-wide lectures. Then had to scramble to set out about 70 more! I was interviewed twice by the BBC, had my photo in the Scotsman. The speech itself will be seen in part in the Horn Book next year and in whole as part of the conference proceedings whenever they come out.

As big a deal was my actually getting there, a saga I won’t repeat here. But I was to leave the weekend before the huge Storm of the Century. I was booked for SundayHartford-Newark-Edinburgh and of course everything got canceled that morning. I finally talked my way onto an Air Canada plane from Hartford to Toronto and from there to London and managed to get up to Edinburgh only three hours later than I would have if my scheduled planes had been running. Whew.

Other Travels:

Minnesota to give a major talk about religion in children’s book, a signing in Minneapolis, a visit with Adam and family. Many bookstore events in South Hadley, Florence MA. Rochester Book Fair. Ashfield MA poetry and song performance with Lui Collins, Stamford CT book fair, New Canaan Ct Library. South Carolina to visit Jason and family and an impromptu overnight in NYC when five (5!!!) planes were cancelled that I was on for the trip home, AND they lost my suitcase (though it showed up the next day.)

 

Writing:

Plus a whole lot of writing, which included totally reworking my book of adult poems about the writing life, organizing and sending off my book of adult poems about politics, revising CENTAURFIELD, writing a poem a day (and occasionally two), revising the first chapter of the new Seelie Wars Trilogy, revising the story “Dog Boy” and sending it off, doing several interviews by email, rewriting and sending off the picture book THE STRANDED WHALE. Doing three more of the pieces for the National Geographic book that the kids and I are working on.

 

Books and Stories and Poems, Oh My!:

And I sold a number of things: Poems: one to Asimov’s, several to Weird Tales, one to Goblin Fruit, several to Silver Blade. Two essays to Horn Book. The Stranded Whale picture book to Candlewick. The picture book Song of Seasons to Creative Editions. Books on several Best of the Year lists: Last Laughs, Bug Off, Curse of the Thirteenth Fey.

 

And my guy was re-elected president. My health is pretty good for my age, (Could always be better.) My kids and grandkids are reasonably healthy and doing wonderfully well in school.

 

And I will try to do better with this journal, but no hard-and-fast promises.

 

Happy holidays all.

 

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