Reflections from the Dark Time

Reflections from the Dark Time

December is the dark time, and it's easy to forget how to really be creative.

In Norway, this time of year is called the M?rketid, the dark time, and the Norwegians, who are used to it, light candles at four pm and have dinner early and snuggle into their warm houses. Or, if it?s snowed, they put on their skis and head to the lighted trails that exist all over the country and ski and ski and ski. They cheerfully get up in the dark at dawn and go to work. Their creativity in dealing with more than 12 hours of darkness is impressive.

When we lived in Oslo, I started a new teaching job at a public high school just after New Year?s. I was three months pregnant with L and terribly morning sick, and two days a week I had class at eight. So I rose at six in the pitch black and attempted not to vomit as I navigated the shower, some clothes, a cup of tea, and the Trikk, the streetcar that took me to Majorstuen, where I would hop on the subway for two stops. By the time I arrived at Berg Vidergaendeskole there was a gray light, but the sun didn?t really rise until the end of first period.

We humans can romanticize all kinds of things.

We?re in our own dark time in California, which is never sure how to be winter, but tries, and I?m still setting the alarm for six as many mornings as I can muster. It is a strange sort of push and pull, for I really do loathe getting up early, but ever since I learned that the poet Lucie Brock-Broido calls the morning being ?wet from the other side? I?ve been unable to shake the notion that this time, this liminal time between night and day, is when the creativity is awakening and the words best flow?or sputter, or crawl. (And, because life is so busy, sometimes it?s the only time of the day, anyway.) Sure enough, I?ve been getting at least a poem a morning, though which are any good, it?s hard to say.

But creativity is a funny thing. Earlier this fall, I took a poetry class and vowed to just write, to generate work, to make, for as long as it took. And I did, all fall. It was glorious. But now, mere weeks later, I feel a familiar antsyness as I start to worry, to push, to want to force that raw, unfinished work into something meaningful?a book, a record, a testimony to the world that I am not lazy, that I am not, uh, bad, that I EXIST. In September, when I read up in Portland with the poet Stephanie Adams-Santos (who taught me about Lucie Brock-Broido), she said that when she writes she tries to scratch some metaphorical itch, to find something inside herself that needs fulfilling and, well, fulfill it. (She actually said this much more clearly and beautifully than that!) In answer to the same question, I said that I turned to my readers to tell me if something was any good. And then I thought about what she said and wondered, what if I did that, too?

What if instead of seeking external validation, I just trusted in my belief that doing the work is the most important thing? Click To Tweet

So, I guess here I?ve answered my own personal logic puzzle: because I have taken a little break from reading from Little Prayers,?because I don?t have something else to publish NOW, because I always feel the glow from a published essay for about a month before it fades, I have been inhabiting this space, on and off here in the December dark, where I don?t feel like I?m any good. Hence the rush to publish something, to finish something, to frantically get out into the world a thing that isn?t even ready yet, just so I can prove something to?to whom? I don?t even know.

How stupid I am, sometimes.

I?m still learning to be a writer: to chase the joy and to find that balance between playful, creative inquiry and brass tacks. And I feel enormously comforted here at the end of this blog post, because somehow writing all of this down, I feel like I have permission to be in the playful inquiry stage a while longer. Brass tacks, be off with you. Glad we had that little chat.

So! In the meantime, while you (and I) are waiting for my second book of poetry (!), if you need a great little gift, you can buy my first, Little Prayers, and I?ll sign it for you. There are more good gift ideas for writers here and here.

And here?s to the beauty and the difficulty of this season. If you want to share what you love or loathe about December, I?d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Warmly and with my best wishes for happy holidays and a fruitful new year,

Susie


You might also like:

Is Writing an Act of Bravery?

What I Learned About Wisdom When I Had a Few Days Off

 

 

 

Gorgeous Summer Meals

Gorgeous Summer Meals

Ah, summer!

Loving the bounty of summer?fresh produce, late light, and the wherewithal to write for an hour at dawn every day.

The other day in the car we listened to this Robot or Not podcast about whether it’s better to have changing seasons or nice weather all the time. The New Englander in me immediately said “seasons,” though if I’m honest, I haven’t terribly missed those frigid Februaries and wet Marches too much since I moved West. (Fall colors, on the other hand? My tragic lost love.) I think the thing about living in a place like northern California, where the temperature changes maybe 25 degrees max, all year, is to be super in tune with the small changes: the few fall colors we get? Oh how I appreciate them. That chill in winter, when it’s below 40 in the morning? I’ll take it. And what passes for summer, and me having had the wherewithal to get up at six a.m. to write for an hour in that clear morning light FOR THREE WEEKS STRAIGHT NOW?

Yes, yes, yes.

Right now, in early June, we’ve got the warmest weather we’ll see all year?until late September, that is, when we get a second stretch of heat. In the middle? Fog. So when we have these warm summer days, it’s important to seize them:?the late light, the abundance of flowers, and mostly, the many fruits in our amazing garden.

The plums have come in, on the tail end of the oranges... Click To Tweet

We get at least three strawberries a day…

This morning, a handful of tart blackberries…

Artichokes for dinner twice a week…

And in the stores, already, blueberries and peaches and nectarines and basil like you wouldn’t believe.

So I have to admit that while?I was all about meal planning and being organized and cooking ahead?and while overall this has been such a smart move?lately I’m into the easiest and loveliest of summer meals: a salad, an artichoke, a protein, a pile of rice. I’m stocking my kitchen with summer’s bounty, tons of which comes from my very own garden, and then I’m seeing what happens next.

It’s kind of like writing a poem. A summer one.

Speaking of which: I’ve got a mini book tour going! I read in Santa Barbara last week, and I’ll be in Davis, California, tonight. Next week, I’ll feature at the Voz sin Tinta reading series in San Francisco. Over the summer I’ll hit Portland, Maine, and I’m hoping for the other Portland in the fall. You can stay up to date on my comings-and-goings on my new Little Prayers Book Tour page.??

And if you wanted a copy of my book and haven’t yet gotten one, The Bookmobile is coming! I’ll be signing and sending books in the month of June. Drop me a line via my contact page for details.

And wherever you are, enjoy a gorgeous summer meal. (Unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, I suppose.)


You might also enjoy:

What the Fork is for Dinner?

Gluten-Free Cranberry Thumbprint Cookies

Domestic Bliss?

I’m Back in Action. With a New Poetry Book.

I’m Back in Action. With a New Poetry Book.

Friends!

Well, I’m over the moon. Sometime last October, I disconnected the JetPack plugin from my WordPress site, trying to figure out why my site was loading so slowly. Then all hell broke loose?when I reconnected the plugin, no one could see my blog posts. No emails went out. Radio silence. I’ve been emailing the JetPack people every week for four months, feeling totally frustrated, and saying a thousand little prayers that I’d be able to communicate with my readers again. I wrote this blog post, about activism, which maybe none of you saw, and then I gave up. So then today some dude named Jeremy casually emailed to say he’d poked around a bit, updated a few things, and wham?my “Test” post (which you can obviously ignore) went out successfully.

I’m back in action.

And I have so much to say: it’s already spring in California, which is both lovely and deeply unsettling. I’m having a creative explosion in my forties, apparently, because I’ve been playing music (live! Out! In bars!) and writing and feeling good. The Olympics are rocking my world (my husband and I love to watch the snowboarding while inserting our own commentary, full of pot jokes). And, best of all, I have a book out, my first full-length poetry collection. It’s called Little Prayers, and it was published last month by the wonderful San Francisco?based publisher Blue Light Press.

Announcing Little Prayers, the debut poetry collection by Susie Meserve (Blue Light Press, 2018).

This book was a long time in coming, testimony to the fact that writers sometimes suffer through multiple rejections, and even a 15-year hiatus, before a thing gets published. Here’s a teaser:

A BIRD, A GOD

I?ve been holding something

in my hard fat belly for days

and in the night I wake from dark dreams.

But no one, nothing, is there.

A bird, a God, what was it you saw last?

Was it this?

I?ve forgotten how to read, what language

to pluck from the ears of strangers.

I salute the sun facing a dead blue wall.

I look into the earth.

Were you a tree cutter? Is that how you knew,

by looking into the mouths of trees?

? Susie Meserve, 2018

Local friends, I’d love to see you at my March 10 book launch at Octopus Literary Salon in Oakland, where I’ll be reading with the talented Kate Folk. I’ll also read at the San Francisco Writers Conference this Friday night at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco (free and open to the public! Lots of great poets). And stay tuned for more readings and events this spring and summer.

Warmly, warmly, warmly,

Susie

 

Susie Meserve 2.0: Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes (and no, I’m not talking Brexit)

Susie Meserve 2.0: Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes (and no, I’m not talking Brexit)

Hi friends!

If you’re reading this, you might have noticed that things look a little different over here at susiemeserve.com. I’m delighted that my month-long project to overhaul my website is officially complete (though the experts tell me I will continue to tinker for weeks and months to come). I’m really happy with how things look and feel on this new-and-improved site.?I’d love for you to take a look around, see what’s new, and read some of my published work?(all neatly organized, now, on the “Writing” page).

Things to note:

  • My blog is now called More Than a Mother. As you’ll recall from my last post, “Writing Motherhood,” I’ve decided to embrace writing about my experiences parenting L (and, uh, more). You should still see these posts in your WordPress reader or in your inbox if you’re a follower. As ever, thanks for reading, sharing, “liking,” etc.
  • If you’d still like to get my posts the easy way, do nothing at all. If, however, you’re not yet a follower and you’d like to become one?or if you’d prefer to receive emails from me about new blog posts AND other happenings (I’ve just had an essay out in a new anthology; I’ll be doing a reading in Oslo, Norway, this summer), then please sign up using the form that pops up when you read or on the one that?appears in the sidebar on the Blog page (just to your right). I promise to keep email to a minimum! I know none of us has as much free time as we’d like.
  • I’ve got a new Facebook author page! If you like what’s going on here, please “Like” me over there as well.
  • Thanks, as ever, for all of your support.

Back next week with more news and tales of being More Than a Mother.

?Susie

Ghazals for Foley, Workshops, Anthologies, and More!

Hi friends,

Ghazals for Foley, ed. Yago S. Cura, 2016 Hinchas Press

Ghazals for Foley, ed. Yago S. Cura, 2016 Hinchas Press

Yesterday I received my copy of Ghazals for Foley, a book of poems written to commemorate the life of writer and slain journalist Jim Foley, who was a classmate of mine at UMass Amherst. I have a poem in the collection, along with poems by?Martin Espada, CS Carrier, Shauna Seliy, my buddy and writing partner?Mike Dockins, and many more. There is also a short story by Jim that was previously published by Hinchas Press.

I hope you’ll pick up a copy here and spread the word.?Ghazals for Foley is?a beautiful tribute to a beautiful person, and I’m grateful to Yago Cura and Hinchas Press for including me in the project.

ALSO: I’m reading this Friday night at the?Madness?Radio?Book Launch! Feb 26, 2016?w/ Bonfire Madigan, Will Hall, Jacks McNamara, Mandala Project, Susie Meserve, book contributors and more…1017 Ashmount St?7pm?Oakland California?(make sure to park carefully and leave room on street). The essay I’ll be reading, called “A Little Crazy,” is forthcoming in an anthology by In Fact Books called Show Me All Your Scars: True Stories of Overcoming Mental Illness.?

I would love to see you there, if you’re local!

Finally, mark your calendars! My friend Sandra Stringer and I will be teaching a three-hour?writing and movement workshop called “Releasing Your Body, Revealing Your Story” at Flying Studios in Oakland on Saturday, March 19, from 1:00-3:45 p.m. Cost: $75. If you know of anyone who might be interested, please spread the word. I’ll post again about it here, closer, of course.

All done with shameless self-promotion, now.

xo

Susie