Monday, April 30, 2012

Last Chances, Journals, and the Comfort (?) of Nature

First of all, a gentle reminder:  if you haven't already entered, today is the last day to enter the 2012 Big Poetry Give-Away.  To enter, leave a comment at this post.  I'm giving away a copy of each of my chapbooks and a yet-to-be-determined Adrienne Rich book.

Today is a landmark day for those of us who have journalled/blogged obsessively and perhaps wondered if what we're writing might be publishable in a different form.  On this day in 1952, the journal of Anne Frank was first published in English.

The Writer's Almanac post for today gives us this quote from the journal:   "'As long as this exists,' I thought, 'and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts, I cannot be unhappy.' The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature, and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles."

We find it in the place of the poem that the website usually gives us.  Does it work as a prose poem?  Certainly Anne Frank didn't see herself as writing poetry when she wrote this chunk of text.   Should an editor make this decision?  For those of you teaching literature classes, these questions can lead to some fascinating conversations.  For a more modern example of a chunk of text that has functioned as journal piece, short fiction, and prose poem, you could include Carolyn Forche's "The Colonel."

It's the birthday of Annie Dillard, a different Anne, a different journaller who also encouraged us to find our true selves and purposes in nature.  I remember reading A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek after years of hearing people talk about how much they loved the book.  Reading that book reminded me of reading Thoreau's Walden:  I had such high hopes, and each book was not what I expected.  In short, I was bored. 

I read those books when I was much younger, an adolescent.  It would be interesting to revisit them as a reader at midlife.

As I'm looking at past blog posts with an eye to reshaping them into a memoir, I'm inspired by the idea that journals can indeed be shaped into great literature.

I'm also intrigued by thinking about these writers (Frank, Thoreau, and Dillard) and their love of nature.  I wonder how this idea of nature as solace and comfort will be changing as nature turns into a rapacious avenger.  I haven't seen this change in memoir/journal/observation books yet, but I don't claim to have searched aggressively--actually, not at all.

But if I needed to write a dissertation, that topic would intrigue me.

1 comment:

Hannah Stephenson said...

An excellent day indeed...I didn't know the significance.

That's exciting about your memoir plans...keep us posted!