Recently, I’ve been exploring the use of a commonplace book for myself and for my students. My Inlandia Literary Journeys column for this morning appeared in The Press Enterprise, The Inland Valley Bulletin, and the San Bernardino Sun.
I just finished reading Margarita Engle’s Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir. Engle magically describes her childhood and early teen years as she travels between California and Cuba just before the Cuban Missile Crisis.
In light of the current attack on media, I was heartened by the closing lines of her poem “Secret Languages”:
“Right wing or left wing, tyrants always
try to control communication.
Charlotte Davidson’s March 2nd column in The Press Enterprise, “Get busy writing if you dislike today’s political situation,” also gave me courage to continue to write.
Whatever one’s perspective in these fast-moving tumultuous times, the opportunities to make or to record history present themselves daily. I need to write more. Thank you, Margarita and Charlotte, for reminding me of the pendulum swings of history and the importance of communication.
Conversations have converged on my desk.
In The Philosophy of Literary Form, Kenneth Burke metaphorically describes the exchange of ideas as a never ending parlor conversation to which we may contribute but never provide the last word because we must leave before the conversation ends.
I’ve been taking dips in Catherine Blyth’s The Art of Conversation since 2012. Her light blue book seems to submerge in my book stack and resurface annually. Constantly distracted by my life’s demands, I’ve yet to finish it, but yet I find it refreshing each time I return to it. Blyth says, “The irony of this communication age is that we communicate less meaningfully. Not despite but because of our dizzying means of being in touch. So many exchanges are conducted via electronic go-betweens that, what with the buzz, bleeps, and blinking lights, it is easy to overlook the super-responsive information technology that is live-action; up-close-and-personal; snap, crackle, and pop talk–one that has been in research and development for thousands of years.”
I keep a post card with Lucia Galloway’s poem “Conversation” on my desk (pictured above). I can’t get myself to part with it. I reread it at least once a week, savoring its first four stanzas of “Not” and its last four of “More like.”
Yesterday, I found three lines in a Cati Porter poem which brought me such pleasure that I copied them in my quote book.
Just the day before I had spent over an hour messaging with one of my grade-school classmates with whom I hadn’t talked in years and last night I talked on the phone for over an hour to my cousin.
Though nothing beats a face-to-face conversation, preferably over food, exchanging words with others in any way brings such a particular pleasure, as Galloway says, “like friends at the shore tossing a beach ball.”