This is the sort of thing that would usually have me stymied and not writing a blog post… I have a lot to say and I’m not really sure how to focus it all. It feels like three different blog posts at once. So instead of just giving up on how to organize everything, I’m going to throw it all out there. And maybe they’re related after all? You can decide.
It’s been a while since I’ve read the Transcendentalists. Brian and I had a very Transcendental wedding, though. And part of the charm of Little Women when I was growing up was imagining myself a Louisa Alcott, hanging out at Emerson’s house, just down the road from Hawthorne and Thoreau. Ice skating at Christmas on Walden Pond. Lately I have been mostly reading romance novels for the escapism. But I am teaching the Transcendentalist the next several weeks, and so I am reading them again, and falling in love again. Things I had long forgotten about (Rappuccini’s Daughter; Self-Reliance, Song of Myself) are coming to the forefront.
There are two kinds of great writers for me. The first kind makes me despair of writing anything – they have already done it and it is more beautiful than I could ever make it. Why even try? The second make me feel the love of words and story coming through, and I long to join them, to participate in the art, to contribute. The Transcendentalists are the second kind for me.
This is good for two reasons. The first is that I’m participating in Nanowrimo this year with a new book, hoping to write 50,000 words. So any inspiration is needed. But the second is because I have been getting a lot of solace from these writers. I have been binging on Whitman the last few days, and his message that all people are united in the same song, whatever your personal tragedies, has been like a bandage for my soul. The song I hear America singing isn’t the same one Whitman heard, but it is still a song of sameness. I needed that, this election week. And his seasons, and his leaves spreading out with the wind.
With Transcendentalism at school this week have been some amazing conversations with students about the curriculum. Author’s Purpose was a big lesson for them, and one of my students wanted to talk about a poet’s purpose and why they may choose to write in certain forms or with certain rhymes. We talked through several reasons, but I could hear a lightbulb go off when it occurred to the student that it was also kinda fun to pick your form and see if you could stick to it. Like a challenge.
I used to write sonnets. Not good ones. That was the point: to write something so silly in such a revered artform. They were fun, and they made good gifts, but it has been probably eight years since I wrote the last one for my final in Creative Writing. We had run out of time for our poetry unit, and so the teacher let us know that if we wrote our final as a poem, she would give us extra credit. That was back when I was still getting my BA. It was silly, and comprised of whatever I could pull from the unit stories we read.
But here I was, thinking deeply about sonnets while reading Whitman and pondering our political situation (and our Covid situation, and our holiday situation…). And out came a sonnet this morning instead of the grocery list. I’ll take it. I’ll also put it below so you can take it, and hopefully it will do for you what the Transcendentalists always do for me – get you longing to join in the fun.