“Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.”

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Here’s the thing about writing: it’s hard.

Here’s the thing about life: it’s really hard.

Here’s the thing about life and writing: sometimes it’s hard to keep writing, especially when life is really hard.

I’ve been living in those three sentences for a while now, struggling with those nouns and verbs and trying to find some way out of them or at least around them. It’s taken me a long while, but I think I’m finally back — or, at least, on my way back — to the right place (it was terribly difficult to avoid an awful pun on “write” right there, but I did, just to show that I am serious).

IMG_6439I’ve also finally found my way to sending out submissions, and so it’s extra-awesome for me to share the awesome news that my poem, “After Auden,” was a finalist for The Tishman Review‘s Edna St. Vincent Millay Poetry Prize, which feels especially appropriate, as I always turn to Millay when I’m struggling to find some way out of or around life’s terrible nouns and verbs (“Over these things I could not see; / These were the things that bounded me”). Of course, the poem draws on other inspirations, namely this poem by W. H. Auden:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crépe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song,
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong

The stars are not wanted now, put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

— W.H. Auden (this is the 1938 version of the poem)

This poem has a starring role in one of my father’s favorite movies, which is one of my favorites as well. You know this, of course — the poem-in-the-favored-movie thing — but it’s so good that I have to post a link:

My poem can’t really even approach any of that, but I’m grateful to it all the same. You can read the poem in The Tishman Review by downloading a copy of the issue here; you’ll also find links for purchasing a hard copy.

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One thought on ““Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.”

  1. Two things I don’t do when life is especially hard: eat and write. Both vital, both abandoned. I can’t stomach food or my own mind, so I numb out. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone in the tendency to lay low, and for reminding me to try to struggle through and write anyway.

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