“I loved them (the muses) in the way that one loves at any age, if it’s real at all. Obsessively, painfully, with wild exaltation, with guilt, with conflict. I wrote poems to and about them. I put them into novels, disguised, of course. I brooded upon why they were as they were, so often maddening. I wrote them ridiculous letters. I lived with their faces. I knew their every gesture by heart. I stalked them like wild animals. I studied them as if they were maps of the world and, in a way, I suppose they were. Love opens the doors into everything as far as I can see, including, and perhaps, most of all, the door into one’s own, secret, and often terrible and frightening, real self.”
- May Sarton, from MRS. STEVENS HEARS THE MERMAIDS SINGING.
I discovered May Sarton in the fall of 2009 while working part time as a paraprofessional in Salem. The teacher I worked with was taking a graduate writing course and we swapped stories of our successes and struggles with the craft in the brief moments here and there that we had to talk about non-classroom topics. When she shared May Sarton's "Recovering: A Journal" with me, I knew I had found a kindred spirit and mentor in May. Her sensitivity, articulation of the nuances of emotion and the creative process, and the way she worked as a writer all reverberated deep within me.
I picked up a copy of "Plant Dreaming Deep" at a bookstore in Cambridge somewhere. Which one in particular escapes me now. This memoir centers on her life in Nelson, NH when she purchased her first house. In this piece, she grapples with isolation, home ownership, and the craft of writing close to the bone. I've been curled up in my reading chair and felt her near by, as if she were telling me her story in a soft voice, as Chloe lays curled up at our feet. What greater characteristic of good writing is there than to make a reader feel as if the piece is written for him/her personally? As if you were her chosen confidante? To be such a writer: that's what I truly want.
"I can tell you that solitude
Is not all exaltation, inner space
Where the soul breathes and work can be done.
Solitude exposes the nerve,
Raises up ghosts.
The past, never at rest, flows through it."
I'm about halfway through "Plant Dreaming Deep" and cannot wait to write about it, and to write. May has taken me by the hand and reminded me to get back to it.
"For any writer who wants to keep a journal, be alive to everything, not just to what you're feeling, but also to your pets, to flowers, to what you're reading."
Speaking of which, what are you reading?