“What a year” has become so cliché that no one is saying it much anymore; we merely give one another that look and move on. We all know where we’ve been, at least to some degree. No need to belabor the point.
Like many creative sorts I’ve spoken to over these many months, I’ve run into a rough patch. I’m envious as hell of those who’ve experienced little negative impact on their work, or who’ve actually increased their output. Well done, you! But that’s not me.
This fallowness, for want of a better word, began well before the onset of COVID, back around the time I sent in the final final manuscript for ELEPHANT SPEAK. I chalked it up to exhaustion. I’d been working steadily on the book for almost six years without a break: writing, researching, crafting, editing, more researching, and many wonderful telephone calls with Roger Henneous. Once the book was in the hands of Ooligan Press (all hail Ooligan Press!), it’s no wonder I felt the desire–nay, the need–to kick back and relax a bit, let the old creative batteries recharge. I’d been writing (and lucidly dreaming) of nothing but elephants for so long, it seemed impossible that state of affairs wasn’t going to continue. But, of course, it didn’t. The book was done, the elephants celebrated, Roger introduced to the world. Then COVID hit, and not quite a year later, Roger was gone.
After a couple of weeks, I felt eager and ready to begin my next project. And that’s when the trouble started. Kurt Vonnegut said one should write from one’s areas of deepest passion. I agree. The problem was, I felt passionate about nothing. Old snippets and ideas of stories lay before me like seeds dead in the ground. I couldn’t seem to jump-start anything.
I did have a bit of reprieve last fall/winter. From October 2020 to this past spring I had a steady run of poems pouring out the ends of my fingers. Some of them were even good (although most weren’t). Then even those passed and I was left with…well, pick your metaphor: the sound of sand blowing across an open courtyard; silence that echoes loud as a cathedral bell; the open vistas of a dead planet.
Really, it kinda sucks.
I’ve even tried to make the words come, although that’s patently ridiculous. So I’ve now given myself permission to back away from the computer and all those old ideas. Maybe if I clear the way of ancient stuff, something new and wonderful will appear. (If the universe is listening, I’d love to do another elephant book, maybe one about the elephants in captivity, before they’re gone and we no longer know their stories, a coffee table book with lovely pictures.)
That’s not to say wonderful things haven’t happened. To whit:
I just returned from a short visit back to Connecticut during which I connected with some much-loved and much-missed friends, and presented a talk on ELEPHANT SPEAK hosted by the wonderful Bill Library in Ledyard, CT:
And I’ve recently been contacted by the folks at the Estacada Library in Estacada, Oregon to do a Zoom presentation for their Adult Winter Reading Program in which they “offer the most engaging programming.” I’m honored to be asked, to have accepted, and I look forward to working with them.
Last year, just after Thanksgiving, my nephew Lucas Perkins lost his battle with Cystic Fibrosis. In the weeks that followed, a poem emerged which I subsequently posted to Facebook. (I say emerged, but it was more like the work was generated through me by the hands of another, maybe Luke himself.) Singer/Songwriter Ray Agnew read it and asked if he could put it to music. The result of our collaboration, “Heaven’s Highway” will be available for purchase on Ray’s website, http://www.rayagnewsongs.com/, beginning November 1. (You can also find out about it on his Facebook page, Ray Agnew – Singer/Songwriter.)
Thanks for being there.