January 25, 2009

Water Damage

This morning I woke at 3 am with terrible insomnia. Couldn't get back to sleep until way after 6. What you may not know about London is that £932 will get you a small, one-room studio flat. When I say small, I mean space for a "love seat" that rolls out into a double bed, a two-burner stove with miniature Easy-Bake oven, a dorm-sized fridge, and a toilet/shower disguised as a closet. On the other hand, we do have a flat-screen TV (with about 5 channels), free internet, free utilities, a towel warmer, free W/D (no coins!), and a patio (though we've yet to actually use it--it's cold outside!). Which leads to me to this: when one has insomnia in a studio flat, there's nowhere to go. One cannot go into the other room to watch TV, read a book, write bad poetry, or pace. One has to lie there in bed, try not to squirm, try not to wake up the lovely partner who is sleeping. I'm here in London, and I'm stuck. I can't think of a writing project, and though these things usually come about in some organic way, nothing seems to be coming. John Cage said that writing is having nothing to say and saying it. So, I should be in a perfect spot to get something done. But this lack of writing is starting to bother me. Generally speaking, I don't find myself worrying about such things. I just let writing come when it does, but this is the time for writing. A sabbatical. I'm supposed to produce. Perhaps I am putting too much pressure on myself.

I have no books. Okay, I have very few books with me. Books are a large part of my writing process. I like to read and steal and riff. Yesterday I went to the local library to get a library card, but they didn't have any, from what I could tell, contemporary hybrid writing. In retrospect, I should have checked out the selected poems of Sylvia Plath.

We live in West London. The closest stops are Baron's Court and West Kensington (Zone 2). I really wanted to live at the Hammersmith Tube stop. There are a lot of shops and a large Tesco and there was a small but charming studio flat that had a common room and a garden. We waited one day to think about it (the price was very high, and we hadn't expected to pay that much), and it was taken by the time we called at 9 am the next day. The same owners own the place we ended up letting. It is charming as well, but no common room (no place to go when one has insomnia) and no garden, but a lovely patio (see picture above taken by CP).

The other night I had a dream, and in the dream water was spilling on my writing. The water was damaging my words, the page, the writing. When I woke, I thought...that's a project. How can I replicate that? How can I use that? But now it seems like a sign of erasure or something. Language being washed out by the rain in London.

I'm a desert girl. I grew up in ABQ, NM, where the weather is sunny, where one's skin, even when one applies loads of Vaseline lotion with aloe, becomes dry and scaly. When I lived in Japan, my favorite show was called Iguana no Musume (My Daughter the Iguana). Is all this rain and grey and cloudy weather causing water damage? Shrinking up the writing? Drowning the process? Water-logging my brain?

Which leads me to this: do you have a writing assignment for me? What are you reading? Send me a pdf. Preferably some theory about water damage or some such. What are you thinking about? Do you have some constraint I could work within? A writing prompt? I need a little nudge toward something.

After thought: after posting this, it occurred to me in the shower that I miss the interaction of my students and my classes. There's something about that kind of engagement that assists me. Some folks call themselves writers who teach. They "teach to support their writing habit." But I have always considered myself a teacher who writes. I love the dialogue, the collaboration that occurs in the classroom, the energy that supports my writing.

photo taken by cp