The act of writing, like the act of reading, is often done in solitude. I am not sure if it is for this reason that both writing and reading can bring the comfort of a lover who knows where I begin and end as well as an anxiety that paralyzes. I do not think the latter is necessarily a bad thing — it is an ache waiting to be soothed, but an ache that we, readers and writers alike, may sometimes need. Humans must overcome obstacles; that is part of the process.
The second poem in Mandy Kahn’s new book, Glenn Gould’s Chair, contains the following lines: “We tend to favor / our most difficult projects, those painful loves, / so much of ourselves have been left / on their knife-blades and cutting boards.” We do do that. We all have a desire for the jouissance of life — if we are able to overcome its difficulties (again). Often, it is the works of others who share our sensibility, who share the experience of creative expression, that assuage the moments that produce nothing. Kahn’s new book furnishes us with a community of fellow creators. Their lives, through her poems, encourage us to breathe and let the mind wander or linger when we lose an expected sense of direction.
Truncated lives, unnecessary limits. There’s only one thing to do next. Look at the girls Modersohn-Becker painted, with their slim arms, their strong heads set against the sky. As Darrieussecq puts it: “It is not about what these young girls are dreaming, but what they are thinking … These girls are saying: ‘Leave us alone!’”
“Mythologiser” is one of the insults Sophia repeatedly flings at her sister, but from this author it’s high praise; Smith is engaged in an extended process of mythologising the present state of Britain, and Winter is at its most luminously beautiful when the news fades and merges with recent and ancient history, a reminder that everything is cyclical. There is forgiveness here, and song, and comic resolution of sorts, but the abiding image is of the tenacity of nature and light.