So yesterday, I moved out of my office at Cornell, took down my printed placard with Mulder and Scully on it, returned half of my library books, and divested the office space of the Cajun and Acadian flags. It’s been a hard back-and-forth for the last two years, driving from Newark, New Jersey to Ithaca, always forgetting what I have to bring, leave behind, what I’m supposed to be doing. In 2008, I began my MFA there, I wrote, and I tried to learn new things. This was the time to do so. Like Cavafy writes, “I hoped the journey to be a long one.”
And it’s over.
But now it’s summer. It’s hot out, and I don’t have to worry about long winters, lack of food options, or the weird competition of a community of writers anymore. In fact, I haven’t had to do those things really since I moved away. But the art of letting go has always been something that lingers for me. I’ll probably visit Ithaca again once more before the summer is over since now I have no pressure to do so. But I also have the next three months to create and train and live.
And though I’ll miss it (and I will miss it, no matter how much I complained about grading or students not understanding why dialogue doesn’t usually need adverbs or why vague poems about “the passage of time” suck or why all confessions are necessarily artificial), I have a new syllabus to look forward to. One filled with my plan of how to truly break in to the world as an artist and with watching supernatural television shows and professional wrestling and reading pop culture criticism.
I checked out a book about the science of The X-Files yesterday, another about fantasy and science fiction novelists responding to Buffy. I bought All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison. I’m watching Lost, Mad Men, and Dollhouse. I learned how to use Spotify. I’m reading poetry by Patricia Lockwood and David St. John. I’m listening to Ben Gleib’s podcast. I’m keeping up with whatever Felicia Day is doing. I have Twitter buddies who are inspiring me with self-publishing and MAKING THINGS HAPPEN. I have a screen press and gouache paints and just bought a new computer. I have all day to train at Yee’s Hung Ga.
Because I’ve extended my childhood for another five years by starting a PhD program, I have this time to create, and for the first time since I’ve finished my MFA, I feel like I can do it.
Last week’s republishing thing was my essay about wrestling. Retweet and share this. Especially to celebrities. And follow me on Twitter. Next time, I’ll write about my new religion of Jean Grey and what that has to do with poetry.
PS. Here’s Cavafy’s “Ithaka,” sent to me by an amazing poet on the last day Cornell paid me (which was two weeks ago):
As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.