Saturday, January 14, 2012

Poets at Midlife

I love NPR for many reasons, but chief amongst them:  their commitment to poetry.  On their main page, I found this article which purports to talk about poetry volumes coming out in 2012, books being written by newer poets, poets who aren't your parents' poets, poets in their 30's, 40's, and 50's.  You can have fun making your own list.  I need more time to think.  I was a bit annoyed, as I always am, to find mention of poets who are already famous, poets who probably don't need this boost.  Much as I love Lucille Clifton and mourn her loss, in so many ways, she is my mom's poet in terms of her birth year and topics covered.  And can anyone truly not have heard of Jorie Graham? 

Let me stop here to admit that most people probably have not heard of Jorie Graham, especially readers who aren't part of the poetry world.  But the poets on this list, by and large, seem firmly established in terms of reputation. 

My complaint is minor.  Overall, I'm happy to see such a fine group of poets with books coming out in 2012. 

I've been thinking about the overall process of growing older, the strange part of the passage which is midlife.  Two weeks ago, at my grandmother's funeral, I saw third cousins whom I hadn't seen since I was in my teens.  How did we all get so much older?

One cousin--the child of my mother's cousin, which makes him my 3rd cousin, I think--I remember for having an Atari set.  Atari--how cool!  What a huge leap beyond Pong, which had been the only video game I had ever seen, until the Thanksgiving when my third cousin and I spent huge swaths of time playing Space Invaders (or was it Asteroids?).  That same cousin later had a Honda Prelude, which we thought was the sportiest car possible, and I vaguely recall that he let me little sister drive it--my little sister, who hadn't had her driver's license very long.

And now these third cousins, frozen in adolescence forever in my brain, have children who are adolescents.  How did this happen?

Ah, it happened the way it always happens, right?  People get older and have children and those children get older and soon they're zooming away in fast cars, off to college or parenthood or jobs or jail.  Of course, hopefully not jail, but I felt I had to throw that possibility in because if you look at any extended family, you'll see at least one or two members making stupid decisions and spending some time in jail.

I also have midlife on the brain because last night a group of us from work went to a local happy hour to celebrate the completion of a doctoral degree of our colleague.  I spent the evening looking at the swarms of people and being intrigued by the diversity of the group.  Plenty of midlife folks coming by for a drink after work.  That guy with the dog with a bandana--local dude coming to a local bar or a poser?  Lots of women in glitzy clothes--single women looking for action or women who work in a glitzier environment than mine?  Lots of men talking with each other--a gay subscene or men waiting for women or courage?

I found myself interested in the bar itself, a bar that once was a wreck of a building in an abandoned cityscape across from a grim hospital.  Now the hospital has had a lovely facelift (yes, it's the same hospital that has my lovely tiny gym attached to a wellness center).  One of the abandoned factories has been transformed into an urban farm.  And now, a bar that promotes "beer, bourbon, and burgers," and we all flock there, as if we've never tasted bourbon or burgers or beer before.

That experience made me feel young again, while at the same time making me feel unbearably old.  It made me consider being an urban homesteader, which doesn't appeal to me as much as heading off to the country to reclaim an orchard.  It made me wish I had investment capital so that I could transform a stretch of paved-over bleakness.

I remind myself that it would be a lot of work.  What I really want:  more time for writing projects.

I woke this morning with an expansive sense of well-being that comes with a three day week-end.  What will I do with that extra day?  Working on a writing project of some type, to be sure.  Catching up with laundry, yes.  Making a pot of broccoli cheddar cheese soup.  Spending some time with friends.  Maybe something different than usual, like collaging.  Some time with a book or two.  Insert sigh of contentment here.

Such are the joys of midlife.


Kathleen said...

"Where are the snows of yesteryear?
When did that double chin appear?"

--I Do! I Do! (a musical comedy)

Such are the joys of midlife if you grew up on musical comedy.

Kristin said...

Great lyric! Thanks for sharing it.

Justin Evans said...


I felt much the same as you did when reading this list. Yes, make my own list.