The easy part.

- October 21, 2018 -

Poetry comes to me much more easily than prose does these days.

Generally speaking, this is a new development, but it has quite often been true during the periods in my life when I’ve had a lot going on. Or, rather, when I’ve had to do a lot of shuffling-without-pause between places, tasks, ideas. For me, poetry works well in that environment: I can jot down a line or two on my phone as I’m walking from one place to the next, can enter briefly into that mindset without having to set everything else aside in order to do so. Those lines aren’t always great, of course, the lines that come to me in that liminal frame of mind, but they do enough — they give me enough — that I can then come back to them later, at a time when I’m more properly at my desk, to finish the work of assembling the poem.

I haven’t, I don’t think, spoken to you very often of my poetry-writing, but perhaps that will change now that I’m living here, now that I’m more actively committed to both the study and the pursuit of poetry as a profession.

. . .

Eileen Myles was recently in town, and I had the great good fortune to be able to attend one of their talks. I love that that’s something I get to say now, love that this is now my life, love living in a city that poets come to, love being able to go see them while they’re here.

They made this wonderful comment — not at the talk itself, but in an interview I later watched online — about moving to New York, and the way in which it simultaneously was and wasn’t a momentous event, that both immediately struck me and has remained top-of-mind ever since:

“[I] made a series of decisions and got to New York. By the time I got to New York, I realized … it was over. I was stuck. Whatever this was, this was my life. I had made my decision. There was no going back to Boston. I wasn’t there anymore. … If this poetry thing was a good idea, if it was a bad idea… it was the only idea I had. It was the only bus there was. I had taken it. I had gotten off. I had landed. You know? And so, there was just this immense feeling of risk, and also… I had already taken the risk. So now it was easy.”

The way they described it resonated so much with my own experience of moving to Montreal. I’ve had so many incredibly kind people (friends, family members, peers, colleagues), both those back home in Saskatchewan and those living abroad, checking in to see whether I’m okay, whether it’s been difficult for me to be living here, whether I like the city, whether I’m happy. But what they often fail to realize, I think, is precisely what Myles has articulated: that this is now the easy part.

This is now the fun part, the exciting part, the part where I finally get to step off of the unending hamster wheel of stress and anxiety by which the 18 or so months prior to my arrival had been marked. This is the part where I get to be living and working in an abundantly beautiful city, a city that I have chosen — a city that has, by now, been an integral part of my personal history for some seven or eight years — and the city in which I can confidently say that I want to be building a life for myself.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that it’s always easy, nor does it mean that my days aren’t long, nor does it mean that there aren’t things I would change. But it does mean that there is already more than enough here to ensure that, in the grand scheme of things, those lesser concerns don’t matter.

With feeling,
– J


This piece comes from Jana M. Perkins’ newsletter, The Sunday Letters. You can sign up to receive future editions below.