Reflection on One Year of Judy's Journals
That salutation, "Dear Reader" is steeped in tradition.
Instead of writing to myself in one of my three journals (October
2004), I am enjoying the challenge of writing these monthly
entries. It has been the most surprising benefit in having a
website. The journal keeps the writer in me alert all month,
as I search for an opening quotation, a strong lead, a story
that binds a topic together; it also produces a little constructive
anxiety (a.k.a. pressure) in keeping me on a deadline.
Why look back at the year's journals? When I was a classroom
teacher, my students kept a daily journal. On Fridays, I asked
them to go back and read all the previous pages. What did they
notice? What had they learned? What would they do differently
in the future? I have done the same with my archived journals,
and here is what I came up with:
September - Using the dictum: Write what you know, I
brainstormed eight topics that I knew I could write about. At
this point, I have managed to write about five of the topics.
I remember looking at September's list when I was in full panic
mode: it was mid-month and still no journal. It would probably
be a smart thing to brainstorm another list to get me through
the next year.
October - I am still keeping three journals: daybook,
art, and museum. Yesterday, in my daybook, I added this quotation
from Li-Young Lee [The Sun, August 2005] because it made me
understand an important, but contradictory part of being a poet:
I feel the real medium for poets is silence, so
I could write in any language. To inflect the inner silence,
to give it body; that's all we're doing. We use the voice to
make the silence more present. It's like in architecture, where
the medium is not really stone or metal, but the space they
enclose. We use materials - brick, glass, words - to inflect
space, both outer and inner. So, I would say the real medium
of poetry is inner space, the silence of our deepest interior."
When I find a quotation that speaks to me with such force, I
reach for my daybook.
November - This was my tribute to the Albright-Knox
Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. I wrote that their current
$10 entry fee was half of MoMA's in New York, but that I would
be paying that as soon as I could. When we visited New York
in June, my reaction to Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi's
renovation is linked to Li-Young Li's above comment. I believe
that Taniguchi got it right: he gave air and space to one of
the world's finest collections of modern and contemporary art.
No gallery seemed overcrowded or closed in. Seeing familiar
paintings and sculptures again was like seeing old friends:
"Piano Lesson" by Matisse, "The Persistence of
Memory" by Dalí, and "Man Pointing" by
Giacometti. I wrote in my museum journal: "There were pieces
I had never seen, such as Dalí's bust of a woman wearing
a hat made of bread, with ants all over her face." After
seven hours, we were leaving and told a guard how much we had
enjoyed ourselves. He said, "Come again. We change stuff
around here all the time."
December - This entry was devoted to making revisions
in writing and painting. The aqueduct painting I wrote about
is now ready to be painted over completely. I am ready to let
go of it. The point I made then about giving your work time
becomes even more important when I can recognize a painting
that is not worth keeping. I have become a stronger self-evaluator
in the last year, more confident in my own opinions of my work
and less reliant on others. However, I still appreciate and
need feedback on my work.
January - Reading "Museum Shoes" brought those
experiences back. It makes me appreciate once more how powerful
writing is as a tool for memory. I am ready to pack those shoes
again for a visit to the ancient city of Istanbul. I'll be removing
them to enter the mosques, wearing them to walk through the
churches, palaces and the new Istanbul Modern, which sits on
February - Reciprocity is still a manuscript, and not
yet a book. The search for a publisher continues
March and April - Rejection continues as a motif, as
does acceptance. As far as poetry is concerned, the six sets
I sent out in January yielded three acceptances: The Comstock
Review and Xanadu will be publishing my poems, and
another was a finalist in The GSU Review Writing Contest,
so it will be published in The GSU Review. It is part
of the cycle: do the work, send some out, hope, do the work,
send some out, hope...
May - The Amsterdam diary acrostic was fun to write,
but as I reread what I wrote about each location, it occurred
to me that I wrote it too soon after the experience. Not enough
simmer time for this soup.
June - My kinship with rocks continues: I now have seventeen
paintings featuring rocks. I had a dream last night that I was
in a large empty gallery, hanging these paintings. I think I
need to see them together and find out if they speak to each
July - One thing I neglected to write in "Fourteen
Tips on Selecting Work for Submission" was so obvious,
but needed saying: you need to have a substantial body of work
from which to choose. So, keep working.
August - I can add another piece of advice to the group
exhibitions journal entry: try not to work on four exhibits
at the same time. It can make you nuts.
Next month, I will be writing about an experience John Gaumond
and I had in July. It was the 100th birthday celebration for
Pulitzer Prize winning poet Stanley Kunitz, who was born in
Worcester, Massachusetts. We traveled to the Fine Arts Work
Center in Provincetown on Cape Cod for the occasion. Stanley
would be there and "might say a few words, and maybe read
one poem," promised the FAWC. It happened that we were
in for quite a treat.
If you have comments or suggestions for future topics having
to do with the creative process, please email me at email@example.com.