Thursday, October 12, 2006

Blogs as Literature: Sonnet, "Worry"

I gave my reasons for blogging some time back. I can’t make heads or tails of site stats, why people read or don’t read it, and I try not to pay attention, though it’s fun to find a hit from Turkey or Malaysia. I write for an audience I can’t define. There is no Nielsen box above this screen.

The tremendous advantage of a blog for a writer is instant feedback. I can’t pop into the middle of a John Irving novel and say, “Mr. Irving, I like the way you weave wrestling and bears into nearly every book,” or, “I think The Cider House Rules boring and tawdry and here’s why.”

Instant feedback benefits both the writer and the reader, as the former can improve his writing and the latter can feel as if he’s having an impact on the outcome of the thing he’s reading. It’s participatory literature.

I often think of Annie Hall when I make this point, where Diane Keaton and Woody Allen are standing in line at a movie while a self-important blowhard behind them holds forth on Marshall Mcluhan. Disgusted, Woody Allen leaves the scene and comes back with the real Marshall Mcluhan, who says to the man: “You understand nothing about my work.” A blog makes this scenario possible. The writer makes himself vulnerable to immediate comment and the readers can talk to the author at will. For poetry this is wonderful, as in the way Coral recently helped me clean up the meter in a couple of sonnets.

I don’t claim the blog is the literature of the future, though one would think with 55 million blogs some might be worth preserving. But the blog as literature is a new category, in the best hands going beyond autobiography and journaling to an art form (though I’m still looking for that blog). It has given voice to many frustrated writers, to people in other professions who long to be writers, and to idiots who just want to see their name on a page in the ether. Yet it’s not far from a tradition of literary journaling, as in Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy or Samuel Pepys’ Diary. One thing that makes these books worth reading is that they include the customs, fashions, and prejudices of their time, not to mention the quirks of their authors. In my own blog I have leaned toward Burton at times, writing to distract myself from melancholy. (As for Pepys, I don’t do Puritanism.)

Today’s sonnet I wrote for Kathleen, who like my mother tends to be a bit of a worrier. I’m convinced a large part of Kathleen’s anxiety comes from her deafness; if you are a deaf lip reader in the world of the hearing, as opposed to a deaf signer in the world of the deaf, there’s always the fear that you’re missing something, that you’re being left out. Even in reading my lips she gets at best 85%, sometimes 90% of my words, filling in the rest with logic and imagination. This doesn’t mean if she weren’t deaf she wouldn’t be anxious, as anxiety is no respecter of persons. But imagine not hearing someone creep up behind you and extrapolate from there.


Worry dresses in gray for dignity
When it should only wear blood red.
Gray camouflages its ubiquity--
The mad banker living in every head
Counting and recounting all the things
We can’t control as if we really could.
This madness is unique to human beings.
You won’t find it in the meadow or wood
Where animals know only a moment’s fear
And act accordingly: fight or flight!
No exigencies of the coming year
Disturb them; they don’t know wrong from right,
While we dissect the “maybes” with “ifs” and “buts”
And die the anxious death of a thousand cuts.

(I need a better title.)

Rodent neutral,


1 comment:

  1. I like this sonnet CE -- Worry dresses in gray for dignity; the mad banker, counting and recounting; madness not found in the meadow or wood. I like your word choice throughout.

    The last two lines are perfect, and are lines that make me wish I had written them:

    While we dissect the “maybes” with “ifs” and “buts”
    And die the anxious death of a thousand cuts.

    I agree with you about the title. Thanks for the post.


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