It’s Paul Auster’s Birthday

Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac shows up in my email every day with a fat smile on its face, a provocative poem, and news of the writing world. News, as in birthdays and deathdays of the writers and thinkers of the world. Today, I am happy to report, is my all-time favorite writer’s birthday. And without Writer’s Almanac, I would not know this. And neither would you. So if your soul longs to know when momentous events like Chekhov’s birthday are upon us, get thee to Writer’s Almanac and subscribe.

But for now, let us celebrate Paul Auster, who said:

“Becoming a writer is not a ‘career decision’ like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don’t choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you’re not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.”

And

“I don’t know why I do what I do. If I did know, I probably wouldn’t feel the need to do it. … Surely it is an odd way to spend your life — sitting alone in a room with a pen in your hand, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, struggling to put words on pieces of paper in order to give birth to what does not exist — except in your head. Why on earth would anyone want to do such a thing? The only answer I have ever been able to come up with is: because you have to, because you have no choice.”

I think he’s trying to get us NOT to want to be writers, but his words just inspire me to sit down and write. And write. And write some more.

Although my craft at its highest will not, can not, touch the wizardry of City of Glass. No matter how many times I read it, I am at a loss for how words on the page create a world and then a world within that world, and then, well, no one really knows what else. Because at the end of the book you realize that you know NOTHING. Not who the character is, not where he is, or what he is, or if he is. Oh my. If you haven’t read City of Glass, horray for you. A great adventure awaits. Want a little champagne to go with that? Get the unbelievable graphic novel by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli. It was the first graphic novel I ever read and no graphic novel has touched it since. The two together are perfection in word and image.

All right, all you writers. And writer wanna-bes. A toast is in order to the master. Happy Birthday, Paul.


Raymond Carver and his last perfect sentence

Raymond Carver's last poems

Raymond Carver's last poems

It is Raymond Carver’s birthday today. I just learned that from the May 25th edition of Writer’s Almanac, published daily by American Public Media.

I love email. I love the daily surprises and messages it delivers both from friends and deep soul writers who want to talk about Writing Down Your Soul, and from newsletters I signed up to receive. Most of the latter go away after a bit, however. Only a few continue to be welcome, day in and day out, in my little blue mailbox. (Ok, so it’s not blue and it’s not a mailbox, but I like to pretend it is.) Neale Donald Walsch’s “I believe God wants you to know” is a keeper. TUT, Messages from the Universe is a keeper. The Daily Om is a keeper. Love them all. But the one I’ve read the longest and the one I will continue to read until Garrison Keiller no longer has a voice, is Writer’s Almanac.

Every day, we Writer’s Almanac recipients are blessed with a poem and then, a bit of the literary news of the day. On this day in history, Garrison tells us, so ‘n so died, or was born, or published his or her book. It is amazing to me, but there are no days bereft of great and important writing news. Somehow that makes starting my day a little sweeter. We writers, sitting alone in our back bedrooms, need a little reminder that we are a part of a great history, a great river of words, and our little skiff, floating along gathering and contributing what it can, matters.

Well, today, Garrison told me, is Raymond Carver’s birthday. Say the name, Raymond Carver, and the exquisite book with the simply perfect title, “What We
Talk about When We Talk about Love
,” comes instantly to mind. And I love it. But my favorite is, “A New Path to the Waterfall,” because the last poem, on the last page; the last words he managed to push onto his typewriter are so beautiful they hurt:

Late Fragment

Late Fragment by Kariann Burleson of http://www.dailypoetics.com

Late Fragment by Kariann Burleson of http://www.dailypoetics.com


And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

May we all be so blessed, as we step out of our skin, to wave back and say: “Thank you for giving me the experience to call myself beloved on this earth.” But the big aha for me and for many is that the state of feeling “beloved” isn’t dependent on the perfect soulmate-type romantic relationship. Raymond Carver had that with his beloved Tess Gallagher, but many of us have not had, or have not been able to hold onto, that ideal. So will we exit “unbeloved?” No, a thousand times no. Because every time we pick up a pen and speak with our Beloved, we get a wee taste of that deep loving connection. We are all Beloved by The Beloved.

Raymond Carver gave us the perfect sentence, the perfect expression for this day, which Americans call Memorial Day. It began as a day to remember those who served our country in the armed forces, but isn’t it true that in some way we all serve? We are here to serve one another.

In memoriam then, I bless you, Raymond Carver, and thank you for your last, late, glorious fragment. It is a blessing and a beacon to all of us.

Do you have a poem or saying that is your beacon? I’d love to hear it.