Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ask Not What Big Brother Can Do for You

A friend of mine told me her father came up with the line: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. I always thought it was a great line until Jimmy commented that it sounds sort of totalitarian. Like some kind of pledge of allegiance to Big Brother.

Then I was reading an article in the New Yorker. The gist of it was--we are all waiting for Obama to save us. But things are so bad, we're going to have to save Obama.

As a writer and not a politician or an evangelist, I don't think I ever imagine I can save anyone. I don't think saving is part of a poet's mission. (Of course I've read poets who disagree with that.) No, I think of myself as one of the fiddlers on the deck of the Titanic. Someone who watches the icebergs sail towards her.


amberbromer said...

hi Nin, this is definitely an interesting way to view yourself. I like it!
And I'm sorry to go off subject here, but if you don't mind I have a question for you.
How do you usually get yourself out of writer's block? What do you find helps you?

Nin Andrews said...

I don't know. I think I usually talk to it. You know--Or imagine someone is looking back at me/it.
Like a therapist or a kid or a mother or a god or a fiction writer. Or make up a story about it.

"It was the writer's block that started it . . . The list of things she couldn't talk about such as . . . Or hear . . . Instead there was . . .

And sometimes, just when she was falling asleep at night . . .

In other words, I guess I play with it. Try to see what the story is -- the one that has no voice.

Or I read a lot. Or I pretend I'm someone else. Someone I love. And I write their poems. The ones they forgot to write.

Or I take things out of the garbage. I keep a large pile of papers I decide aren't good, arent' finished, arent' interesting, and then they go in THE BOX. Months later the box has things to offer.

But sometimes I just don't feel like writing. And the feeling passes. Like everything else. You know?

amberbromer said...

wow. those are all good ideas. i used to get inspired by reading other poets' work or i'd watch some old foreign films or listening to music, or try to get alone for a while and something would just happen. workshops help too. but these days it's humiliating to me just sitting in front of my laptop. all can think to myself is "who are you kidding? you're not a writer. you have no idea what you're doing. you're a joke. just a dumb hick" i walk away feeling like a failure when the magic doesn't happen. i'm impotent. so i've been avoiding my old friend, Mac. maybe it's a phase or maybe it's all the submitting i've been doing over the past year. rejection letters coming in the mail aren't exactly encouraging. it's no wonder i can't seem to "get it up". worrisome. but thanks for the ideas. i'll try anything at this point.

Nin Andrews said...

Well, if it's any comfort to you, I have all the same thoughts and get many rejection letters too.
And I think that's a good opening for a poem--

Who do you think you're kidding?
You're just a dumb hick,
but you know, be specific . . .
who else are you "just."
And from where
and doing what
and how
and when

And whoever that is that you just are, who knows--it's also your edge, probably . . . you know?

Rejections get us all down, and with the huge number of MFA students pouring their work out into envelopes, there have to be lots of them.
Journals flood, and sometimes can't even read the work before mailing it back.

I have a couple of friends who have published a fair amount who have told me they haven't had one thing taken in the last 12 months.

amberbromer said...

Thanks Nin. You've got good advice. I'm sure things will turn around. Every once in a while I get stuck in the dark place. I guess there are a lot of different ways of finding a flashlight.

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