the poems of summer

The Muse has been fickle of lateRT is continuing onward with his writing/reworking of his mother’s childhood memoir, A Daughter’s Song and Dance, which has been making surprisingly good progress of late, subject to the odd bad signal or two on his emotional railway. But then, a couple of days ago, one of RT’s friends demanded to know how Gilgamesh is coming. Then someone else asked the same thing a little while later. Well, RT doesn’t receive too many requests for status reports on his years-long project to turn the ancient story into English verse, so he allowed as how he was honored by the questions. But the report itself was rather brief: no progress in the last several months, mainly as a result of the memoir showing signs of falling together into a coherent story. 

Where does the strength come from to finish the race? This quote, from Chariots of Fire, RT believes, has haunted him over the years of his struggle with absent-mindedness, and now he has to admit that he has been feeling nostalgia for the decades of his 20s and 30s. The past is with us always, but we can never return to it. Songs that were once brand new on the radio are now being covered as classics by emerging artists, all of them born after RT’s graduation from college, in hopes of attracting more attention to the current hip generation.

I could talk about the unbearable lightness of being, but that would only make matters worse. And seriously considering why RT never became a mega-phenom like, say, Don Henley, is only going to poison his pen. In the midst of this bluesy moment, maybe better help is available from another old classic, the novel Dune. RT has borne with him these unmentionably numerous decades the image of holding back your hand, waiting for the right moment to reach out and grasp the long-desired object. Mastering this art, the art of using time wisely, is one of the chief signs of adulthood. Life isn’t about success; it’s about getting what you need.

Some things are leaving; some are waiting patiently. Knowing where they are and when to engage them is a part of what makes a person greathearted. We’re still in the game.   RT


Photo: Don Henley. Author: Steve Alexander. WikiCmns; CC 2.0 attribution/share alike.


  1. June 25, 2014 at 8:23 am

    There are different ways of ‘working’. Some people demand adherence to persistence and graft, practice til perfect, honing the ‘craft’. Me, I’m more of an angler than anything else, just watching for the signs and creative nibbles then reeling in what is dangling there out of sight. I have many rods and many lines. Some seem more productive than others, some are almost forgotten about. I’m not sure effort and creativity are, anyway, compatible. Their juxtaposition may simply be illusion. Things tend to happen best when one is tired of ‘trying’. Maybe a matter of which parts of the brain are receptive and ‘in charge’ at any one time. So, as long as one project is going well, stick with it! When the Gilgamesh leviathan rises from its depths once more, I’m sure you will hook it again! (Musings of a lazy old man).

    • June 29, 2014 at 4:48 am

      shl: sorry for this delayed response. wasn’t it li po who said that to be good, a poet must be lazy? i’ve thought for a long time that the best poems arrive in the form of an invitation to visit a house you’ve always wanted to go inside. you’ve wondered how beautiful it is, and now you know. of course, the muses are in control of their invitation lists, and have many names to consider…being as passionate as we are, poets all need time off to remember what passion is, …RT

      • June 30, 2014 at 9:15 pm

        I wonder if ‘lazy’ is the best translation? That quality of ‘doing nothing’ (wang wei) was Classically seen as a virtue of the Emperor, adhering to the way of heaven. Doing nothing and laziness ( thus idleness, good-for-nothing, skiver etc.) play nicely into the rat race scenario of the Protestant work ethic, probably contrasted historically with those bastard lazy Catholics… Seeming to be busy has acquired more merit than skilful economy and patience…. But then I would say that…

  2. July 1, 2014 at 3:49 am

    shl: should it be lazy, or just having fun? either way, you need extra energy to pursue the poem…and li po was just over the top..hauled dead drunk into the emperor’s presence to compose a poem (and apparently he composed one of the greatest)…there is something subversive about the calling, that smashes expectations and opens up new vistas, that ends up turning failed poets like du fu into the greatest of the great (after his death)…it takes courage…no poet, by the way, is ever an old man… RT

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