Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lasting Impressions

The writing prompt “…that’s the last time I…” sent me on an exploration of lasts. I’ll leave out the shoemaker’s tool for now and concentrate on the more common usages. Last is one of those odd words in English that is its own opposite. It can mean continuing onward and also final, i.e. the memory of that concert will last long after its last note is played. Last can also mean most recent as in the last time I traveled to Italy. I very much hope that last is not final!
Certain disappointments or failures can cause me to say, “That’s the last time I’ll ...roll out my own pie crust, drive the length of the Garden State on a Friday in summer, try to meet a man on the internet, take Riley to the groomer who smokes." Of course, circumstances could change, and I could find myself trying a new method for pie crust or stuck in New Jersey traffic, but the intention is that this is a final time.

Other times, the lasts are really final. Sometimes it is a sad occasion as in the last time I visited with my cousin Evelyn, but other times it’s a celebration. That’s the last time I’ll stay up all night doing grades. Sometimes it's said in hope that it is final, as in that's my last cancer treatment.

Tonight I will go to church for Holy Thursday services, marking the “Last Supper,” the last meal Jesus shared with his disciples. Though that meal was their last together, here we are over 2000 years later remembering it—a moment that has lasted. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Writing is a combination of intangible creative
fantasy and appallingly hard work.
Anthony Powell

Most mornings include Garrison Keillor's "Writer's Almanac" where today I learn that it was on April 10, 1925, that F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby was published. I am amused and encouraged to learn that even after finally sending his masterpiece off to Scribner's to be published, he wanted to change the title, but Maxwell Perkins told him it was too late, so The Great Gatsby it remained. Later, when sales were poor, he believed it was the title that was to blame.

I cannot think of anything I have written that came perfectly gift wrapped from the muse. Even when there is a rare flash of inspiration that flows quickly onto the page, there are edits and re-edits, doubts about word choice, questions about structure, metaphors that need to be unmixed. Right now I would go back and fix the earlier flash/flow problem, but I'm leaving it in just to illustrate the point. So I am encouraged that even the great Fitzgerald was never totally satisfied. 

When the metaphors mesh, and the rhythm moves with the meaning, and the images illustrate exactly, there is joy in the creation, but nearly always there is a niggling doubt that it could be better, so we revise and re-envision, and finally, either when we can see nothing else to "fix" or when we can't stand looking at it any more, we call it "finished," but it's never quite finished, even if it's gone to press.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Remembering Daffodils

In case you haven't figured it out yet, I am a person of varied--sometimes extremely varied--interests. Today is the birthday of one of my favorite poets--William Wordsworth. I am remembering "Intimations of Immortality," and his verse celebrating nature, as well as my visit to Dove Cottage in the Lake District of England where he lived with his sister Dorothy--one of those women too often forgotten who inspired the more famous men in their lives--and where they entertained many of the famous Romantic poets of the period. I recall gardens, parks, the old Swan Hotel, and the gingerbread. And I recall Bullwinkle.
(See, I told you so.)

I guess the world really is too much with me, but I have always been a fan of that lovable moose and his pal, the flying squirrel--Rocky. But why do I connect Bullwinkle with Wordsworth? Bullwinkle, for those of you too young to remember or have forgotten, was a lover of poetry and would, from time to time, recite a poem, actually a version of a poem. As in the case of his recitation of Wordsworth's "Daffodils," he is interrupted, and the poem goes off in a humorous direction.

Just as Bugs Bunny cartoons used classical music to illustrate themes, lest their viewers remain Liszt-less, (Sorry, couldn't resist) so Jay Ward brought poetry into the story-lines of Bullwinkle. I was 14 when Rocky and His Friends first appeared after American Bandstand. Although a lover of poetry since my early years, I doubt I had read any of Wordsworth at the time. So, thanks to the two most famous citizens of Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, I first heard the verse of Wordsworth, albeit twisted into a plot with Boris Badenov--yet another humorous allusion.