That title is borrowed from a review of my bird by Kelsey Hoff recently published in Columbia Poetry Review, and I think I'd like to use it as the subheading for all of 2016. Pelican is nearly a tender year old, a fact I believe almost as little as the praise heaped on my little book that could. The first print run is nearly sold out, but you can still buy copies before the second printing here. Every time I sign a copy for someone, I want to warn them of how sad the poems are, how far away they are from how I feel now. I can't think of a better characterization for how I feel about this new year of writing than one from Hoff's review:
Even in her quest to become her best self, she must look to a nostalgic past for warm memories, though she feels a deathlike detachment from them.
Every time I return to Pelican or the manuscript for my follow-up to Pelican the poems feel more like dreams from some other life. How does the self end up so strange? The work this year is so much more about articulations of joy and strength, a practice in being gentle with myself. I am drafting and publishing and performing maybe more than I ever have, but I'm trying to be accountable only to my own expectations instead of worrying about the big "what's next?" question. In a month, I'll hear back from grad schools and potentially have to make a huge decision about uprooting myself and having a life in another city for at least a few years when Boston has come to feel so much like home. That single disruption to how I imagine my future as an artist has been the greatest disruption I've ever experienced.
Most of the people close to me think the pace I write at is terrifying and it certainly doesn't hurt to slow down, to measure my movements more carefully, to dig in for the winter and work more carefully while I'm still here. I recently did an interview with Your One Phone Call where I was asked to give my younger self advice and ended up with the following:
Be as patient with your own failings as you are with other people’s. Walk away the first time your gut tells you to, not the fifth. But if you do wait until the fifth time, you are not wrong to have stayed. You are not the things that have been done to you. You are not the things that have been done to you. Be gentle with yourself. Make time for quiet. Make time to recharge even when you think you don’t need it. You have permission to be in pain when you are in pain; do not wait for anyone to confirm this, just tend to what hurts how you need to. Don’t apologize for crying when you are overwhelmed. Survival isn’t something to feel guilty for. Growth isn’t something to feel guilty for. Leave when you need to. Come back when you need to. Set boundaries and let in only the people who respect those boundaries. Make whatever you need to out of everything that happens. Worry about what it means only when someone asks you, and if you can’t find an answer don’t be ashamed.
Even though I wrote it to my younger self, all of it applies now more than ever. Speaking of coming back when I need to, I have my first real New York reading next month at KGB Bar on 2/19 for the Free Water reading series, details here. If you're in or around the city, I'd love to see you there!