Issue 39, Matins by Louise Glück
You want to know how I spend my time?
Summer is officially here in the UK. Being prone to impatience I went to Italy to catch it a little sooner, and perched myself on a small island shaped like a butterfly in southern Italy, practising forced stillness. So used to the chaos and stresses from daily life, my anxiety began looping endless catastrophes when it found nothing else to worry about. It took the better part of two weeks to start letting myself rest, by which time I was on my way home.
I recently quit my job, due to its impact on my health, and am summoning all my willpower to keep saying no to all other variations of jobs that no longer work for me. Having spent a long time looking for signs, for some courage to imagine a different life (more on this below) I was ultimately forced to make the decision by my body. It always knows better.
Today I want to share with you a poem by Louise Glück that is helping me chart a course ahead in these uncertain weeks. Louise is perhaps one of the most decorated poets, having received both a Nobel and a Pulitzer for her work. After a difficult childhood, Louise spent time studying poetry outside of the institutional structure that she knew didn’t suit her. At this moment I couldn’t think of a better poem, or poet, to explicate the need to follow your intuition forwards, even without a sign to point the way.
by Louise Glück
You want to know how I spend my time?
I walk the front lawn, pretending
to be weeding. You ought to know
I'm never weeding, on my knees, pulling
clumps of clover from the flower beds: in fact
I'm looking for courage, for some evidence
my life will change, though
it takes forever, checking
each clump for the symbolic
leaf, and soon the summer is ending, already
the leaves turning, always the sick trees
going first, the dying turning
brilliant yellow, while a few dark birds perform
their curfew of music. You want to see my hands?
As empty now as at the first note.
Or was the point always
to continue without a sign?
I found a screenshot of this tweet from 2018 quite abruptly in my Google photos and was immediately reminded of a conversation I had with a friend where I said pretty much these exact words – “I can’t afford to be an artist/poet” - ultimately just reinforcing the idea that art or poetry didn’t have value to give me, the value I needed to go on. Now when I question what is really essential for me, I find the answer almost always to be the things I thought I couldn’t afford.
If you’ve ever been to southern Italy, you’ll notice the abundance of Oleanders of all colours. I found this one particularly delightful - bent over with the weight of flowering, more abundance than it knows what to do with.
Having spent the last couple of years largely indoors, I am trying to take every moment to appreciate and connect with the abundance of nature – something artfully considered in this blog post by Kristin, who also writes a newsletter about poetry:
“I want to be with and in and among the morning, I want to be the morning. I want to be with every living thing by simply being. I want living to be this simple.”
This is how I want to spend my time - how about you?
If what you’re after is some more inspiration yourself, I recommend The Sample, a newsletter that curates a new type of newsletter to your inbox every time, or check out some books from my curated Bookshop.org list.
"Or was the point always
to continue without a sign?"
so poignant. thank you for sharing this poem, i felt it. sending some courage your way as you navigate the transition in this liminal space. Also, enjoy the sun and travels!
This poem. This oleander and intention! I live! Your writing and heart give me life!