Someone just messaged me on facebook chat to confirm that my students are reading at his event on Friday. I responded, apologizing for not getting back to him sooner, then I glanced at my facebook profile and realized that I’d spent the past hour playing Words With Friends.
My cellphone has been losing battery all day. I have two voicemails I’ve tried to listen to, but each time I entered the passcode, it died in my hands. I came home and opened Gmail to realize I haven’t checked my email since Saturday, and I’ve had an unopened email from Eileen Myles just sitting there for at least a day.
What is wrong with me?
I am a mess. It feels like a long time since I really got to focus on myself–it’s something you can’t miss, don’t even notice, until it’s gone. The good news is, I’m not completely wasting it with Zenga-induced dream states. For example, we just got the proof of The Desperate Reader today, and I’m almost done doing the final editorial tweaks. The question is, how is it that I never seem to be able to find the time to do everything yet still waste so much of my time?
This weekend I finally said enough with obligations and spent almost the entirety sitting in my room, working on a single poem. This is unheard of for me. Although I work on my writing often, I rarely produce new work, and when I do, it’s in short bursts; something I return to when I have the time. I think I have what the textbooks call “a breakthrough.” The problem is, it doesn’t seem to matter. Today, reading my poems coming out in The Desperate Reader, I felt incredibly dissatisfied with myself, and coming home to the large amount of correspondences that need immediately attention only made me feel more useless.
The life of a poet is one of complete masochism. The stereotype is that we’re complete fuck-ups; we’re nerds, we’re suicidally depressed, we’re alcoholics or drug addicts, or we’re just weirdos who can’t seem to get their life straight and get a real job. Realistically, a real poet never feels satisfied with their own work. Elizabeth Bishop, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot all spent decades working on single poems. Nowadays, it’s not unusual for a poet to look back on work they prided themselves on a year ago and completely hate it (which is exactly what happened to me today).
I often feel like Sisyphus, only I’m chain-smoking and just trying to get some sleep while rolling the fucking boulder up the hill. Not to mention there are tons of distractions. Hey, stop messing with that impossible boulder and book shows for famous poets you’ve never even met. Pay them with money you don’t have! Also, start this small press and start working 40 hours a week on the opposite side of the city. By the way, what are taxes and how do they work?
I don’t feel like my life has made sense in a while. At the same time, there is this undeniable joy I get from being this way. Being a poet is all I ever wanted since I was 14. It may not be the hardest gig in the world to get, and it may not pay the rent, but I’m doing it. If nothing else, I can say I’m living out my dream, which is not something everyone can say.
I just keep telling myself that one of these days, it will settle down. I’ll be able to read all the good books I’ve been meaning to read. I’ll write a poem every day. I might even delete my facebook, if I can get into the habit of checking my email and charging my cellphone. But for now, let’s just hope that the other side is glorious, because it’s the only lie that keeps me feeding.