298: “The Unexpected Word” (Max Ritvo)

                “I worry that as contemporary poets we have this pressure to always be moving forward. To always be elliptical and surge ahead, for every line to floor us with the unexpected word or image or turn.”
                -Max Ritvo, in a Divedapper interview

                Sometimes I feel that pressure to keep moving forward. I can feel that in my teaching: I need another lesson that’s perfectly balanced, that’s funny and accessible and community building and possibly has covid-safe cupcakes for covid-safe sharing. Through the zoom screen, I mean. Somehow. I can feel that way with my writing: there’s that story about the man carving beautiful, lifelike ducks because he takes a block of wood and then cuts away everything that’s not the duck, but then I feel like I better be paring away, all the time, at least a little, at least more, to get to that wooden duck that’s so perfect you’ll see it and think wow. What a duck.
                I think, for me, that pressure breathes fear. My fear of falling behind, of not living up to wherever I am. But lots of the poems I love, lots of the moments I love, don’t have anything to do with flooring me. The other day I lay on the floor, running my fingers across the carpet, feeling the texture of it. I listened to a leaf blow along the street. I sang the same silly song with a friend. Reading Ritvo, I’m not thinking about enjoying the little things. I’m thinking that some writing moves forward, and some brings us back home. And sometimes a moment, like a bell ringing slowly into silence, doesn’t move at all. It’s here. Or almost here. It’s changing, so quietly. I can’t tell where it’s going, or where it stops.

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