Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Everything is Starting

It seems I'm not alone in feeling trapped by winter's doldrums right now. So, for all the rest of you who are feeling like I am, here is another piece of lovely that I turn to in wintertime. Perhaps it's a little early to be posting this (given that we've just gotten our first snow here in New York), but here's a poem by the incomparable Eleanor Rand Wilner, who told me and a class of writing majors at Goucher in 2006 that she wrote this in response to a friend who called and said, on a bleak midwinter day, "I feel like everything is ending, and I need you to tell me that it's really starting":

Everything is Starting

The snow is filthy now; it has been
drinking oil and soot and car exhaust
for days, and dogs have marked it
with their special brand of brilliant
yellow piss;
for a week after it fell,
the snow stood in frozen horror
at the icy chill, and hardened
on the top, and then, today, the thaw:
now everything is starting
up again—
the traffic flows, the place
where dogs pause, and sniff, becomes,
once more, invisible to us, and in
the gutters of our streets, a minor Nile
floods from the old drifts into the gasping
drains; even the sewers are jubilant
in the rush that foretells spring; the rats

dance along the pipes;
on all the trees,
the buds push against the sealed bark,
as if against the tight containment
of the past,
while deep in the Florida Keys,
along some slow canal, the manatees roll
heavily in the dark stream, the way that sleepers
slowly turn in dream, and the cranes look
up, unrolling their long necks, possessed
by restlessness just before
they fly...
light-years away, beyond the veils
of the Milky Way, out at the red edge
of creation, where everything is
always starting: there—a memory
shifts and gathers itself once more:
a memory of the time (if time it can
be called) when all that is the matter,
or all that matter is, is drawn into
one place, as if into a single thought,
and (unimaginable) ignites,
shattering the ageless night in which
the cosmos only dreamed,
and in the oldest memory
(of which I think
we have a share)
it was an endlessly unfolding flower
of fire—the rose of light that Dante
saw, its afterimage in the soul.
And from that flower, the seeds
of all the galaxies were
now, in our own, the snow recedes,
the buds will shatter the end
of every twig—as everything is
starting up again—the crocus pokes
its purple, furled, above the thawing
and when the local ember
of that first fiery bloom, our sun, touches
its silk with light, it will unfurl,
in perfect silence—unlike us, jubilant

and noisy, who never were the point,
but still delight in being
the sole narrators, upstarts of the dawn.

Eleanor Rand Wilner has published six books of poetry, including Tourist in Hell (2010), The Girl with Bees in Her Hair (2004)*, and Reversing the Spell: New and Selected Poems (1998). In addition, her work appears in more than 30 anthologies, including The Norton Anthology of Poetry (Fourth Edition). Wilner’s awards and accolades include a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the Juniper Prize, two Pushcart Prizes, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.**

*"Everything is Starting" is the opening poem from The Girl with Bees in her Hair.

**Eff you, SOPA.***

***Seriously, though, buy Eleanor's books and support a ridiculously talented poet while giving yourself a present in the form of a really, really good example of how to do imagery and literary references right.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Getting Through the Winter Slump

I have a confession to make.

I hate January and February.

Winter before the holidays seems fresh, crisp, almost magical. Winter after the holidays seems gray and dead and endless. There are lots of awesome things about those months—not the least of which is the long list of fantastic new books that each January promises. At work I'm as charged as ever, excited to share what's new. But outside of work, with the sun already lost below the horizon, I find myself receding ever so slightly with it.

So if I've been quiet, forgive me. A little bit of winter's grayness has gotten into me. I'm drinking tea, reading and mulling over books and manuscripts, and reminding myself of all the things that bring color into my life, all the gifts I have to be grateful for.

Anyone else been hit by the wintertime blues? Here's a present, if so. I fell in love with a folk band by the name of Tanglefoot as a high schooler, and on occasion they still do a good job of reminding me of where I find joy—and, in the case of this song, to cherish what I have and let the other things go:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Looking Ahead: Goals for 2012!

In the spirit of making goals rather than resolutions, I'm hoping to do the following in 2012:

  • Learn to eat more healthily, and try to cook more.
  • Find reasons to be excited about living in New York City, and come up with several places and events that I can share with people who are new to the city.
  • Learn Spanish at least well enough to communicate on a basic level with my many, many Spanish-speaking neighbors in New York.
  • Make time for a vacation with my three best friends.
  • Go to at least five places I've never been to.
  • Look for the joy in everything, and truly investigate my reasoning for doing the things I do (Why? Because, as Cheryl Klein reminded me that Friedrich Nietzsche said, "He who has a why can endure any how."). Along with that, drop activities that I can't justify and stop wasting time on things that don't bring me joy.

  • Set time aside each month to set and evaluate realistic goals for my own professional development.
  • Get an even firmer grasp on my new position, and begin volunteering for projects outside of my regular job description that interest me or that will develop my skills.
  • Make networking on a day-to-day basis as much of a priority as I've made it when I've actively been job-searching.

Hold me to them, reader friends!

What are your goals for 2012?

Monday, January 2, 2012

On Breaking New Years Resolutions and Meeting Lifelong Goals

I made exactly two resolutions at the beginning of 2011: to rock the knee-high argyle socks off my job, and to read fifty books—five in each of ten categories I wanted to read more frequently. And, well… I didn’t do either of them.

I didn't do them, but in reality I did so much more. Rather than rocking the job that I had at the beginning of 2011, I came to accept that it wasn’t helping me get where I wanted to be, and I made the difficult decision to leave it for a much riskier but much more fulfilling position at Bancroft Press. And while I didn’t read all fifty of the books I set out to read at the beginning of the year, I read sixty-three books in total, including several manuscripts I provided editorial feedback for and a whole herd of books I read either to prepare for interviews or as a part of the new jobs I took in 2011.

In truth, 2011 was a year of accomplishments. I took a risk on a contract job in children’s books that taught me an immense amount and renewed my passion for the field, and from there I stepped up into an even better position in children’s books as the Assistant Marketing Manager at Bloomsbury & Walker Books for Young Readers. I not only survived the first two years out of college (someone once told me those would be the hardest two years of my life, and boy were they right), but I came out of them with flying colors. I moved to New York City, was tough as nails throughout a difficult apartment search and lease negotiation, and befriended roommates who truly make the city feel like home for the first time. I majorly increased the traffic to this blog and (in my opinion) upped the quality of its content, which has spurred enlightening conversations with wonderfully insightful readers all over the internet. And in less than five months at Bloomsbury, I’ve quadrupled the group’s followers on Twitter and helped brainstorm several innovative, exciting marketing programs and promotions for the company’s books, including a really exciting one for Fracture which I can’t wait to share.

2011 plucked me off every path I tried to walk down and plopped me onto new roads I never quite expected to take. It was a year that made me struggle to get a glimpse at my own future. It was often frightening or frustrating, and I was always aware that I should be controlling my own future and yet unable to do anything but hold my breath and leap or stumble forward. And yet, by its end 2011 saw the fulfillment of the goal I set for myself, however spectrally, in 2001—a goal I’ve been actively working towards since 2009.

I realized this late last November, when I stumbled across and reread my personal journal from 2009, the year I graduated from college. 2009 was a difficult year, as anyone who entered (or tried to enter) the workforce at the height of the financial recession can tell you. It dealt my self-confidence blow after blow, and I spent most of it struggling not just to heal my suffering self-esteem and decide what to do with my life, but also to feed and house myself in a city I couldn’t afford or bring myself to like. I remember it as a year of incredible downs, but I was surprised to find in my journal several moments of powerful hope. And, most poignantly of all, I found this moment of self-reflection from a week before I graduated from college and began that difficult journey:

I can remember back to when I was trying to choose a college, and I learned about Phi Beta Kappa and about Goucher's college literary arts magazine, and I told myself that I wanted to make it into Phi Beta Kappa and I wanted to be the editor-in-chief of the lit mag by senior year… I didn't think either of those things would happen… I can't explain how accomplished I feel, having fulfilled to two huge goals I set for myself a very long time ago, when I was a very different person, but just as driven. And I think that I will never stop being driven like that, and since I want to be in publishing so badly, I will never stop trying until I'm in.

And, what do you know, I am in.

It hasn’t been easy at all. A lot of times it’s been terrifyingly uncertain or incredibly painful. But everything I’ve done since graduating college has led me right to where I am now—happy, and doing the work I’ve always wanted to do. And whatever resolutions I’ve broken along the way, I’ve at least proven to myself, once again, that when I set goals I meet them. With flying colors.