Accelerate: who me?

I search for time. Not the gap of fifteen minutes between boiling pasta and serving dinner, but time like a safari, two or three hours tracing my steps in the jungle of ideas. Such time, others have said, may be secured in the middle of the night, or the first hour before sunrise. I know I’m not the only one grasping at hours. Time’s required for my creative work.

When 2024 begins in a few weeks, James Gleick’s excellent book, Faster: the Acceleration of Just About Everything, will mark 25 years since publication. It’s been a long time, he points out, since “clocks replaced the natural rhythms of light and dark.” And it feels like I  and others sometimes see our  1,440 minutes of the day rush into the next. Has it always been this way? Gleck’s books suggests not. For me, his book reads as relevantly now as when it first appeared.

Peter Meinke refers to this same quest about time in his book, The Shape of Poetry as he advises other poets to seek employment that allows for spare time to write. Sheree Greer, too, writes in a post of Kitchen Table Literary Arts that we have to prioritize what’s important, which for me and others, means pushing away the instinct to tidy up my desk or pay bills on the internet and instead, first sit down to read or write

When I sit on a bench in the park, my dogs at my feet, the time I spend noticing birds circling the lake is time well-spent. Their fluid motion, the frame of sky, wind in the pines, all contribute to that library of thought and feeling that eventually transfers into the words, sentences, paragraphs I produce. So, if I’m feeling busy, I shouldn’t hurry.  I have to trust the practice of mindfulness, alert attention to the moment, will allow everything I need to rises to the surface and becomes usable. It’s a tough discipline.

I’m writing a poem about war, its costs, its potential aftermath, an unavoidable topic taken from each night’s media transmission of news in Gaza and the Ukraine. To write this poem, I’ve chosen the pantoum, a Malayan verse form with interesting restrictions. The poem builds on successive quatrains. The second and fourth line of the first stanza are repeated at the first and third line of the next verse. The chain continues. The pattern suggests a chant, which suggests further what one might hear or speak at a demonstration.

This choice relates to my perception of time. If in revision I change one line, the entire structure needs readjustment. I need to consider the potential that each line carries before I make such a move. The final version I intend, should carry the reader swiftly and easily through the poem’s assertions. That will take time.

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