Friday, March 21, 2008

.place matters.

"It's 8:54 a.m. in Brooklyn it's the 28th of July and
it's probably 8:54 in Manhattan but I'm
in Brooklyn I'm eating English muffins and drinking
pepsi an I'm thinking of how Brooklyn is New
York city too how odd I usually think of it as
something all its own like Bellows Falls like Little
Chute like Uijongbu"

Ted Berrigan, Sonnet XXXVI

It's 8:09 p.m. and I'm in Seattle and it's the 21th of March (I think), but it's 11:09 p.m. in Florida where I grew up, and 11:09 p.m. in New York where my college friends now live, which doesn't change the fact that even though it's spring on the West Coast I haven't seen the sun in over a week, and as I drink my 2 calorie lemonade infused Cascade Ice drink, I miss the ocean even more. After almost 2 years in Seattle, my eyes still haven't adjusted to seeing so much green and grey and wet.

In a month or so it will be 3 p.m. and I will have to defend my thesis to my committee. I am worried though. I am worried that the curse of insomnia will come back. During the first year in the MFA program I slept on an average of 15 hrs/wk. There are 3 reasons for this. #1 I lived in a house of 5-7 people (who I did or didn't know at times) which produced various zoo-like sounds at all hours of the night, #2 I slept on a futon that resembled some sort of foreign torture machine, and #3 I had nightmares. Poetry nightmares. I'd start out with the normal erotic dream, then before my subconscious knew it, my graduate professors were walking in on me bare naked and on my back ready to critique my poems! Sometimes I'd wake up from anxiety because there was this essay I hadn't read, or this term I didn't know. I can only imagine what med-students go through.

This brings me back (or not so much) to the thesis. 49 pages of poetry and I worry that my Northwest eye has been blinded by many sleepless nights in this city. There are more palm trees than Cascades, more seagulls than hummingbirds, more Florida Keys than lost keys, and more neon lights than darkness in my poems. Is it possible that my intense desire to get out of Florida has turned into an intense desire to miss it? I lived in Rome two summers ago and I still can't write a word about it. The Atlantic seems to eat every experience I've had since I moved 3,000 miles away.

I think Berrigan had it right though. He talks about how Brooklyn seems separate from New York city. Like Bellow Falls, Vermont, Little Chute, Wisconsin, and Uijongbu, South Korea... these places are "something all its own." Seattle is a place like that for me. So separate I can barely see myself in it, but so in it that I can barely separate myself from it. As far as my thesis goes, I don't don't have defend my poems in terms of place. But place has become so much of the writing process that I can't deny the fact that Seattle has made its way into my poetry.

No matter if I am 5 miles from the ocean or 50 miles from Mt. Ranier, I would still be drinking this poor substitute for a Coke, watching Law and Order, worrying about my thesis, etc. But everything would undoubtedly smell differently. Not like this, like all the watery eyes in the world have poured themselves in Puget Sound. Like I'm floating in that sappy salt, and it matters.

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