<![CDATA[Rebecca Cook - The Writing Life]]>Fri, 22 Dec 2017 11:16:51 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[a longer time]]>Wed, 31 May 2017 11:39:53 GMThttp://godlikepoet.com/the-writing-life/a-longer-timei have begun to write by hand, pen to paper, as i did when i first began writing poems. writing anything.

i'm not sure what has spurred this. maybe a friend speaking of how much a morning list helps her. then reading about lists. then buying a Listography journal. and another journal. and another. and writing in them most every day.

and doing the daily office most every day.

maybe the feel of it, the touch.

i have the goal and romantic idea of making it out to cafes to write. by hand. lugging my laptop has always been so. just no.

pens and highlighters.

ah....it could be bible class.....i took notes by hand in a gorgeous journal.

yes it could be that.

<![CDATA[what goes on in the head]]>Mon, 22 Aug 2016 00:08:32 GMThttp://godlikepoet.com/the-writing-life/what-goes-on-in-the-headas it turns out, i am writing all the time, constantly, in my head. that thing that writers do. but i don't write things down. perhaps i'm afraid to fail to write down ugly things not willing to wait for good things to plow through to reach the end of the row. this is what i have become i have come undone if i cannot write things down then i am not a writer thinking of words does not make them so.

and here, too, i'm blubbering. boo. fucking. knock knock knock.

<![CDATA[the scrim]]>Wed, 10 Aug 2016 00:42:54 GMThttp://godlikepoet.com/the-writing-life/the-scrimPicture
lithium. it heals it pets the fur of the brain the ribbons and bows i am eight again no estrogen no fire no words

i write a poem and there is an excitement but from somehow far, far across the winter woods i can hear so clearly but muffled wrapped swaddled i am five again i have a fever again but the pain from my earache is hidden down in the bed coiled in the springs it is mine but also nothing but the orange light from the blanket controls.

as i write this, just now, i can tell that it is good, there's a flow to it i learned long ago to steer the car over the cliff the boat will rock me to shore and i will walk i long learned this the presence of the thing my mother is hollering us in to dinner i am awake i am awake but the river is dead calm

what happened to sailors at sea rather a storm we would rather i would welcome a bolt of lightning to char me purify please let me hear the words.

of course i've heard of writers who never get inspiration and i just do not know how they manage but like the tortoise they glide across sooner than a writer like me.


<![CDATA[working the poems]]>Sun, 10 Jul 2016 00:30:03 GMThttp://godlikepoet.com/the-writing-life/working-the-poemsPicture
and so it becomes natural again, working the poems, thinking in the terms of poetry, line breaks, images, metaphor dear god let's not be so overt dear god how many "oh's" are we allowed how many times can we laugh?

but yes, the book, if it's to be a book i so often think there's a book and then i peter. out. in any case the poems are coming together i just have to figure a way to make them hang together. i like an arc in a book of poems.

tomorrow morning i am presenting, doing a "book review" of Anne Sexton's The Awful Rowing Toward God. this is what Episcopalians do in the summer. i will make it a sort of lesson however. i cannot help myself the teacher will out i like things to be instructive. oh god i would be reading sermons around the fire if my eyesight weren't so weak.

some of the poems make we almost weep which means i would weep if i were in the raw space where weeping is allowed. Sexton's choices often startle me and sometimes i find them off-putting but upon further inspection, well, you know. a thing can grow on you or at least an appreciation can come. the trouble with me is i so often don't wait long enough don't give it a good go before i move on. i know i know i miss so much.

i have an idea about the novel, that it won't work in first person, that i am not able to make that work. perhaps there's fear to it, a bald head. sometimes i see a bald head, a man's bald head like an egg that may crack right this minute. third person stream of consciousness, switching it up first third second i feel so comfortable with all that wiggling space.

i was able to find poems stuck in files in Word, poems i'd mostly forgotten, poems that very much belong in the book, some of them all but finished. and i can see the other poems clearly because it's been so long since i wrote them. thank you, Emily. Ms. Bishop.


<![CDATA[like everything that was before]]>Thu, 07 Jul 2016 17:24:46 GMThttp://godlikepoet.com/the-writing-life/like-everything-that-was-beforebut then the writing comes back and it feels nothing like before but then like everything that was before it is also just like that. you will only know this if you are a writer who has not written for so long. no. who has not felt anything one has written in so long. time crawls. or else speeds away lodged somewhere in the chest, secreted, and until that little casket heaves upon the sea nothing will do there is nothing but the hollow sound of words so distant so far away. really. there is nothing without the music, the insistent sound.

for years, when i wrote, the words would smash into me and after i got them down i wanted nothing more than to share them for someone else to hear them to understand how otherworldly fantastic how they surely came winging in from the gods for years there was that but recently there is no one here to listen and it is a terrible sadness i don't allow myself to consider for what is worse than emptiness?

allow me to expound. 

the people in my life who know me and my work no longer can listen as they once did. now there is the critical, as though they've forgotten their simple praise-full responses of the past. and it's not that i so much even want or need the praise now. it's just that i want their ears to hear to hear myself listening for them. and to the words from my mouth.

for instance, i just called my friend to read her a couple of the new poems. i told her i wanted no critique. and i received none. and still felt worse than i did before i called her. until i discovered a poem i'd forgotten i'd written. i read it to her and i didn't much care what she thought because i knew it was fantastic. so i must needs want approval. approbation.

but this poem. oh forget this stupid darkness the swamp grass has been shorn away for at some point i wrote a poem a really good poem and did not realize it was so good such is the brain turned in on itself very blind very stupid as though senseless for she cannot listen when she cannot hear.

so this book of God, the gods of the words the poems the poking the bread sponge of the universe to set it rising on the windowsill it's so hot outside ninety- four degrees will raise it to heaven. i must finish this thing. this is what i do what i've done why tarry forever?

summer is surely not helping. heat. i burn and my brain melts into rivers pooling at God's feet. and he laughs at me.

<![CDATA[because i have written]]>Tue, 05 Jul 2016 17:47:57 GMThttp://godlikepoet.com/the-writing-life/because-i-have-writtenmy head is swarming. my world is stretching too tightly across my face. i will smother with these sorrows. i will drive this car over the cliff i will fly out of it i will roll across the carpet of trees the pines the cedars i am touched you see i am burning blue. i am quickened. ]]><![CDATA[and a fig bar in there, too]]>Sat, 14 May 2016 23:11:47 GMThttp://godlikepoet.com/the-writing-life/and-a-fig-bar-in-there-tooThe thing about not writing. The thing about not hearing anything to write. The thing about almost not being concerned about your not writing, until you are concerned but not yet desperate. And of course you know you will write again when you get desperate enough. Or depressed enough. Or high enough. Of course you believe you hope you know you will write again when the words come again when you are ready when you are more desperate than you are today.

I’m fifty-one. I thought by now I’d have many books, published, read, admired. I thought I’d make a lot of money, a least some money, at least enough to buy a house and maybe another house and very nice shoes. I thought I would have arrived and yet I have not. Except that I have arrived just not where I thought I’d get to.

I have published a novel and a book of poems. I have an agent. I have a book being shopped round by my agent. I have many very much highly-respected publications. I’ve taught creative writing at the university and I have been to fucking Bread Loaf. I have done everything. And I wasn’t really serious about the money. The money is the ridiculous dream and I knew better all along and that most likely I’d be dead before any of that, of course I knew that. I have done everything.

And yet.

I am not now what I thought I’d be then. When upon a twelve year old girl who began to write poems. That girl. And how very long it took to call myself a writer. A real writer. How very long and then a great long roll of glory until now. Until today. When I am not writing. Except for this.

And the insistent babbling the whining the on and on the just shut up and write something down already. But the voices are too quiet, distant. Not insistent enough to make me desperate enough to write again. Until, when?

And the whining. The blow by blow daily blah blah just live another life already.

I am afraid that it is the estrogen. That went away. I started writing when it came and now?

Please some unknown some character some unrealized dream come speak to me tonight and wake me up and keep me up and irritate me. Infest the girl with the rhythm. The swing I am swinging so high the chains are looping, looping. The impossible fear realized but also how free. There must be floating involved. And falling. Through orange. There’s a creamsicle in there somewhere. And something else that rhymes with air.


<![CDATA[you are not now what you were looking for]]>Fri, 25 Sep 2015 20:07:10 GMThttp://godlikepoet.com/the-writing-life/you-are-not-now-what-you-were-looking-forPicture
With each success you realize it wasn’t the success you were looking for waiting standing at the mantel unnesting the successful dolls very quiet you are holding your breath.

With each accomplishment you place it atop all the others you walk into your kitchen smooth your apron you have outstripped your mother’s expectations of you happy mother of two a most excellent wife.

You wonder now after the books the almost-entirely-unread books and the promise please please of another book maybe a bit of cash maybe two hundred copies will sell you realize that you have to unpeel yourself bits and pieces so thin her skin is fifty years old plus the year in water you will always be older than what you are you are not the writer you were looking for.

Because you have not given up your life for art.

I read Annie Dillard’s Holy the Firm Wednesday night. I have always hated Annie Dillard, her impossible smugness such assurance. But when I read her I am taken fooled tricked I do begrudgingly love her writing. In spite of her. I can’t explain it. Almost as though a parent you dislike gives you a pony you’re fifty and he gives you a pony and in spite of his inattention throughout your life…..no that’s not it.

She’s like a lover who is always right and you are drawn in by her arrogance and sureness that she will always lay you back in bed but you’d rather not you’d rather leave but you always lie back her brain will always push you down.

I love her writing in spite of her. In spite of her ENORMOUS person. In spite of her ENORMOUS righteousness.

Holy the Firm is outstanding. It is a prayer with islands and planes and moths and an orange cat. A girl with her face, her “slaughtered” face. And the self-righteous prick of woman moving effortlessly between them.

My only complaint is that the opening the heartrending ceiling ripping language is never picked up again. Not quite.

This is a lesson to me of course. She makes her writing accessible. And she has no drop of desperation in her, none that she would ever eke out to you. Or me. She comes in and drops flowers fragrances rainy apples onto the floor at your feet and slips out before you can say hello because she doesn’t give a shit about you or what you think of her.

Could I ever be this person this sort of writer? I tell my students, it’s the work that counts. Not what you want for the work. The work is more important than you. Horrible advice of course but if only. Then I could be Annie Dillard and hate myself and then I would stop hating myself and hang out and read books by candlelight and make stunning observations about islands.

No. This does not indicate my bitterness.

Please read Holy the Firm. Also, For The Time Being. I haven’t read her other books yet.

Of course, I used to love her because of Mrs. Eberly. But then I didn’t.

I hate “Eclipse” and “Living Like Weasels.” Swill. Well-written, yes. Of course. But I’d rather not.

She’d rather write outward. I would rather write inward. I love inward writers. Mostly I love my own inwardness. Hence, the inaccessibility of my work. Hence, what might be read will fester inside books. No. Inside my brain inside my belly button singing.


I think too much. Just go read the book and love the book. And if you are a student of mine go read and love her books and David Sedaris too, whom I loathe. He, also, is so ENORMOUS I cannot hear him.

No doubt their fault is mine also, yes. Generally, I despise that which is most like myself.

My own ENORMOUSNESS. Myself writ LARGE.

Piss off.


<![CDATA[westward ho.]]>Sat, 12 Sep 2015 12:19:05 GMThttp://godlikepoet.com/the-writing-life/westward-hoPicture
The book is finished. It’s in the hand’s of my agent now. And I have had the wisdom and forethought to ask her not to contact me until she has a deal, or has given up. Because if I know the daily ins and outs of it, I fear madness. So I’m pushing it off to the right somewhere, into the back woods the hard woods soon to be multicolored woods under foot.

The thing now, of course, is to write another book, the novel. I have a tiny bit of it, but writing it…it’s like unwinding a ribbon in such bright light you can’t see anything for the glare. Or dreaming of egg yolks, doubled. Or trying to catch up with a poem as it dips below the horizon. Maybe slipping into a Burberry I’ve always wanted one.

Certainly the foundation is there, underwire. Lace. Brassiere and panty set stockings thigh high yes. It will not be about me, at all. It is a made up girl who I think has blonde hair. Definitely a red coat a child’s coat she crinkles her nose the East River smells.

Clearly the thing is waiting. And the other thing. And of course, the poems that need tending and the stories so long tucked away their greasy hair and dirty nails so thin paper thin I’ve not fed them in so long.


<![CDATA[now just go gingerly along]]>Wed, 02 Sep 2015 13:25:49 GMThttp://godlikepoet.com/the-writing-life/now-just-go-gingerly-alongThings are real, have become, real, are really real. Really.

I will spiff up the book and get it to my agent, how I love her, how I love her, by next Friday. Of course I will get to her sooner. Then she will send it out the week of the 14th. Today, she will get back to me about the title. We narrowed it down to two, with a couple of almosts.

I got the endorsements I needed. The door is cracked. I would say “open” but I believe in jinxing.

And I know now what to reasonably except. The book is not going to be a bestseller. It is not that kind of book. I already knew this but the thought of that happening was terrifying me so much that I discussed it with my agent. If we hit things just right toss it to just the right editor, we may get a good advance. Then hope that, if it gets published, it gets nominated for literary awards. It is that kind of book.

This comes as a great relief to me. I’ve always dreamed of having a bestselling book, but the thought of that actually happening is mortifying. I just want to go crawl into an old black boot, a very Godot boot, and turn in my consciousness for a big blackness that never stops. Which would maybe feel a little like being dead. Forever breathing dank leather. Okay, maybe not. Maybe rather an old steel-toed Sears & Roebuck boot from ninety-seventy-two. My daddy is slipping it onto his left foot. He stands up, Mama hands him his lunch box and thermos, and he’s out the door. I’ll crawl into the daddy boot instead. And put my hands over my ears.

So now that that’s taken care of, now that I can quit hoping/dreading the big time best-case scenario, I feel clean and clear. I have a good feeling about this. Not the please please please please please feeling I had waiting on New England Review to get back to me with a yes, but a, dare I speak it it so stinks so horrible, a GROWN-UP mature sense of yes, I’ve worked hard. No, I am not twenty-five. Or thirty-five. Or forty-five. But I am good. I’m not the best, but I am very very good. And it took me years to get here.

So the next few days I will polish the thing, and do it gingerly. If I let myself tweak too much I will push the prose too far into verse. That is the danger.

Then I will turn it over to the agent.

And try not to think about it.

Perhaps a wee word into God’s ear whom I am sure doesn’t care one witty shitty shit about my book even though he is included in it all over the place.

But then again, he does like me very much.