Friday, April 24, 2009

Finding Traces of Myself

Last night, I picked up Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It's one of my books to read this year, and it's the next book my school's book club is discussing.

Before I picked it out of the bookshelves last night, I'd have sworn that I hadn't read it since high school in 1981 or 1982. But there, on page 120, was a Miami Metrorail transfer dated April 3, 2001. So, I'm thinking I must have started re-reading it then, when I was commuting to the University of Miami, but not finished, since the marker was only about 1/3 of the way through the book.

And now that I've found that evidence that I'd been to the book before, I have vague glimmers of a memory of re-reading it then. But do I really? Or am I creating those memories in response to a transfer ticket? And why did I decide to stop reading it?

It bothers me that I've forgotten this re-reading attempt, which happened fairly recently. I've grown resigned to memory lapses and forgetting earlier times--when I search the Facebook people for graduates of the high schools I went to, around the time I was there, I don't recognize most of those people--not their names, not their faces. How scary is that? I have yet to dig out my high school yearbooks to see if that helps. No, I expected to remember them, but I'm not freaked out that I don't. It's getting to be awhile ago, and I haven't kept in touch with people from that time period very well.

But I expect to remember books I've read, poems I've written--but I don't. Sometimes, when I've decided a poem is done, I leaf through the pages of the rough drafts that surround it--and I don't remember writing some of those poems. Some of them aren't very good and some are just fragments. But I've come across some gems.

I used to type up poems right away, immediately after I wrote them, and I would send them out to journals. Now they percolate in my purple poetry legal pad. Perhaps I'm letting them sit and stew for far too long. Of course, if I can't remember writing the poem, it does make approaching it with fresh eyes fairly easy. I'm reading it as a stranger would, which I would tell my students would make the revision process easier.

But does it? Only some times. Other times, I still look at a poem that needs work, and I don't have the slightest idea what to do. Happily, I have plenty of other poems percolating, and I move on to those.


Unknown said...

Take heart; you are given an opportunity to re-live all this without being bogged down by memories of how it was the first time.
This is always a good thing. It is like discovering oneself again and how fascinating is that?

Kristin Berkey-Abbott said...

What a great way of looking at it--thanks Shefali!

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