My writing life in terms of W.S. Merwin’s “It Is March”
By A.E. Weisgerber
Black dust falls out of the books.
I don’t like to talk about myself, so I’ve devised this framework so that I can pretend to talk about the poetry of W.S. Merwin, who is a bit of a hippie drifter, but he once stopped me cold with his use of the word agape. That’s me, in a nutshell: smitten with the language. Always was. In second grade, I was moved up a grade for being precocious, and soon learned (for self-preservation reasons) to pretend that I could not read. Publicly, I would stumble over the word ocean: privately, never. Either way, it’s no tragedy.
The tall spirit who lodged here has left already
I am continually remaking myself, and all my life I’ve been anxious to get to the next thing. I’m interested in where I am to a point, but then want to take things further. I’ve been blessed to be pulled along. I call it trapezing. Just as I need the baton to appear in my hand, it does, and I sail to the next platform across the tent. It might be a Catholic thing. I’m in a race to be a dryad, a courtier, a ‘votress of Christ’s and Mary’s at some big picnic in the afterlife. I do believe in spirits. Who said it? Asimov? That when science approaches its final frontier, it will crest the mountain and see religion on the other side? I like a faith that is inclusive. I am troubled by the politicization of spiritual beliefs today, and that includes my own Pope Francis.
When you look back there is always the past, even when it has vanished
A driving force for me as a writer is my own autobiography. Coming from a heavily pruned and wind-shorn family tree (reverberations of divorce, abandonment, greed) I find it better to make up stories about my people than to actually seek them out. So much of my writing appears hybrid, because I think that way. The lives I imagine for my relatives are, in many ways, the only view I have of them. I create ways to like them that preserve my dislike. I have a melodrama detector. It’s a corduroy bag full of pine needles that sits near my desk. It helps me remember that all those missing people from my life still must earn my emotions. No free pass.
The fist is coming out of the egg
Writing is also a driver for me. I get itchy if I’m not writing. I’ve always had a career as a writer. From my originally self-published works (which, back in the day entailed felt, glue, and scissors) to my current post as fiction editor at Indianola Review, and writer of literary fiction. I had a hiatus, of about 20 years, when I worked in the business world. I wrote, managed creative agencies, ran a telemarketing center, traveled the world, won national sales awards, got an MBA. Never made many work friends all those years. It was decent money (still not earning now what I did at age 28), but my humanity hated it. I had a spectacular love affair with the man who is my husband, and bore him three sons. I became a teacher, and rereading classics brought me full circle back to the strayed-from path. I began writing non-fiction. I’ve interviewed Kissinger. I won awards. I got tired of journalism. I cannot deny that I am a certain kind of writer. I am becoming the precise maverick my seven-year-old self portended.
Whatever I have to do I have not yet begun
Well, this is where I kiss, left-right-left, Merwin adieu. I turned 50, and for me, that was my imaginary Annie Proulx line. She did not start writing till later in life, but she did start writing after 50. She had been writing all along, but not with the intention of writing great work. I too am coming to the craft late in life, but I come to it as part of a natural, life-long pathway. I was hibernating. I’m awake now. My novel is finally underway; I’m fiction editing, freshly published, and have found, after denying it all these years, that the love of my life, the English language, has waited for me, and blushes for me, and welcomes me with open arms to some kingdom I was sworn existed when I was very small.