To a Friend

“I need to return to it at a quieter time.” Lets have this understanding, though. Never give anything I send or link you to more than a moment of your time unless you really want to. And if you don’t even give it a moment I’ll never know, and it won’t matter! Just delete it and move on! You’re still my hero. (You don’t mind if I steer clear of “heroine,” do you?) I provide links as a courtesy, “just in case,” but I don’t expect you to read all the stuff, or any of it. With all the demands on your time? Good heavens. (Glad to hear about your IT work. Didn’t know you were still consulting.)

I know you don’t need to hear any of this, but I need to say it. I’m trying to be more enunciative and transparent in revealing my expectations (to students, notably) because I think I’ve often fallen short in that respect, instead expecting people to simply know what I think or want. How could they? Conversely, I spend too much time trying to guess why people are acting as they do. Why don’t I just ask? I think real communication becomes difficult (for me) when I think I might have feelings about how they respond. I’m aware at these workshops, when I’m thrown into crowds, how fiercely I keep people at arm’s length, including those I know. I’m polite to a fault, but…Keep your distance! I know I’m considered a snob, or worse. It’s an unconstructive reflex that gravitates against success in the material world.

Back to Just so you know: I probably have spent all of four minutes on the site. Sized it up, liked the look, skimmed a few things, and got back to my task, which was to find out a little more about “Flarf poetry.” Four minutes, mind you. Like you, I thought, I need to come back here, but not now. I’m finding it hard to consume much content (online at least) because I’m so preoccupied with creating it. And my consumption is still oriented toward books and magazines, which do absorb a lot of my time. It makes me remember a sardonic comment by a well-respected poet: “It’s easier to write poetry than to read it.” There’s so much truth there. You’re not alone in needing multiple exposures to poems. All serious readers do, including poets. I look for hints and advice all the time about how to read poems. I find it useful to resist the need to paraphrase a poem, and the subsequent tendency to beat myself (or the poem) up if I can’t. The poem already “means” what it says. (Supposedly. Let’s not forget there’s plenty of shall we say unrealized poetry out there! But which is realized and which isn’t? That’s the fascinating aspect of confronting the contemporary. It’s up to you and me to figure out where there’s value and to hone our faculties for that high calling.) I have to try to perceive it on its own level, which implies not vigilance but receptivity, a heightened attentiveness. I end with that outrageously pompous and obscure comment.

(Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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