Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Up and Down the Down Staircase

This blog began with adventures in Mexico, segued to adventures in manic-depression, and has since oscillated between literature, especially poetry, and my mood disorder.

When my mood disorder raises its protean head, my interest in other things is effectively eclipsed, as I have no interest in them nor passion for them. This does not mean I quit acting, as in the long string of formal poetry I composed last winter as a mental exercise while depressed. I know most of those poems are forgettable, a few worth keeping, but it's the work that matters.

Since hearing back from Mellen Press that they are willing to look at my ms. on Eliot, I have been laboring daily to bring it to a higher level. Today I finished the revision of the first chapter, "Eliot: The Early Poems," and am mentally exhausted. Next I take on the revision of "The Waste Land," no small task.

Monday, when I lapsed back into depression, I began the process of re-reading the ms., but because I was depressed I thought it was irremediable. After my proper dose of medication Monday and Tuesday, I had hope on Tuesday. My editor, Kathleen, had meanwhile weighed in with, "You're wrong. It's good. What, you don't trust your editor anymore?" There's a reality check, but in depression you can't accept the judgment of others, especially when it's in your favor. Still, yesterday the tome looked more promising.

Today I am thinking less of the book, but my mood is also more tenuous. I have also been avoiding the gym for a week, a lapse in discipline. My routine presently consists of two cookies for breakfast, two or three hours work on the ms., a sandwich, physical activity in the form of gardening or housework, and then the blessed return of Kathleen from work, after which the schedule is open. Sometimes I cook dinner.

I went to my men's group for the first time in over a month last night. I was the only member we didn't have time to hear from personally. I thought it was probably for the best as my summary of the recent past and my current mood would have gone on longer than I wished. Still, it seemed no one noticed that I did not have a chance to speak about myself. Small wonder given man's self-centeredness.

In revising the first chapter of my Eliot book I trimmed almost 700 words, always a good sign, and did some fact-checking as well as running down sources for certain quotes. When I do so on Google, I am overwhelmed by the wealth of opinion and documentation on Eliot, and fear, as an amateur, I am in no way qualified to write about him. Still, I think many of my insights are new, and therein lies the value of the piece. But it also makes it a bit of a liability for an academic press, especially since I purposely avoid footnotes for the sake of readability.

What matters is that I have work to do.

I do identify with Eliot's early alienation from reality, both social and physical. I was very slow to mature to semi-adulthood, lost in my own head just like J. Alfred Prufrock.

Kenyon, btw, is doing much better, perhaps because I found a steel-reinforced splint for his left front lower leg. Two months ago he would not come up the stairs; now he goes up and down them three times a day. Amazing how his condition has improved. It may also be in part due to his daily dose of Previcox, a cyto-oxidase II inhibitor like Celebrex, which helps peripheral, especially arthritic, pain. Try it on your old dog and see what you think.

I mentioned the formal poems I wrote during the winter of my depression. Here's one I revised before I became an ex-poet:


You feel it in your stomach when you wake,
Almost like hunger but not quite the same,
As if you’re being hurried by a flame
Forward and forward and forward until you break
Or want to break—anxiety won’t allow
A total breakdown, it would lose its grip
On your dry tongue and almost trembling lip;
It lets you live in any time but now.
Time future runs ahead, you eat its dust;
Time past is pure regret, paralysis;
And your hard labor of self-analysis
Will never birth in you a basic trust.
You wonder if as an infant it was better—
Not if your mother raised you by the letter.

I am beset by fears, by fears of poverty and old age, feelings of inadequacy that I have no more savings and no longer own a house, guilt about not having "a regular job" and all the rest of my shortcomings. When my chemicals improve my fears will improve, not that that constitutes an excuse to ignore the reality of their challenge.

"Challenge." What a better term than "fear!"

Fools will always be in the care of God, though I have not as yet needed to depend on the kindness of strangers.

My sister-in-law has forwarded a small selection of my poems to Jane Hirschfield, whose horse she also rides. I expect at best a polite response to my imposition, the certain death knell for my former hope of being a poet.

At 2 Kilorats,



  1. My best with the work on the Eliot ms, CE.

    As for being qualified, based on comments you've made in abundance and your own writings, you are connected to Eliot's work. In my mind, that connection is the heart of being qualified. Stay with it.

  2. Sam, you are, as usual, too kind.

    If only all editors were like you!

  3. I follow your progress, and for what it's worth, am always rooting for you.

  4. Anonymous9:23 PM PDT

    what happened to the photozzZZZZ dear heart?.... sigh... LA-vender and all... as you can see, I'm all three'd out with the dottering, though given my true lack of biopolar that could change at anytime and something new might be incarsurated into the systems of though and processes ... and such

    .. ah well -- those tales of the banana slugg and the salAmander were precious
    truly sumthin out of charlottes web...

  5. I added photos of Satan for you. Not as frightening as the banana slug, surely, but something visual. Thanks for keeping faith with me.


Please share your opinion!

Unexpected Light

Unexpected Light
Selected Poems and Love Poems 1998-2008 ON SALE NOW!