25 December 2006

The weight of butter, and of a mess

He lives all the way over in Wolfville, but Lance La Rocque has been an excellent friend. We don't talk as much as we used to, but we do often have a game of e-chess going (he's won about 15; I've won 2). When he and Lisa lived in Toronto, we used to meet at the Second Cup at Charles and Yonge all the time and play chess. I would beat him more often then. But Lance takes time to think, and I don't.

His poems, too, are intricate and thoughtful, the words loaded. Just have a look at his section of Surreal Estate, or the chapbook of his that I published, The Gross Metaphysics of Meat. He's a quiet and serious poet, like Nelson Ball. Like Nelson, he also doesn't do readings. And I get the feeling he could care less about the politics and the social scenes and the idiotic battles of poetry. I also get the feeling he could care less about audience; I think he's pleased when someone likes his poetry, but that's not what it's about for him. It's about writing poems that please him.

I admire that, and I envy it.

Anyway, in answer to my pleas for research materials on matters pertaining to the psyche and precariousness of existence, Lance has been sending me books that have been really helpful. Most recently, he mailed me his copy of Irvin D. Yalom's Existential Psychotherapy, a very accessible textbook published in 1980. Yalom was a Freudian who turned to an existential bent under the influence of Rollo May.

Like Lance, and most good poets, he writes about serious stuff, but can be really funny, too. Here Yalom paraphrases a story he attributes to Viktor Frankl (author of Man's Search for Meaning):

Two neighbours were involved in a bitter dispute. One claimed that the other's cat had eaten his butter and, accordingly, demanded compensation. Unable to resolve the problem, the two, carrying the accused cat, sought out the village wise man for a judgment. The wise man asked the accuser, "How much butter did the cat eat?" "Ten pounds" was the response. The wise man placed the cat on the scale. Lo and behold! it weighed exactly ten pounds. "Mirable dictu!" he proclaimed. "Here we have the butter. But where is the cat?"

Dana and I have been obsessively watching the first season of 24 (starring Ben Walker lookalike Kiefer Sutherland) over these holidays. And when I'm at home, I've been doing some editing work, maybe a bit of writing, but also working on the endless task of making some sense of my apartment. Its weight is overwhelming. I feel like the cat that disappeared amid the weight of the butter. I sometimes wonder if my overpacked bookshelves are going to one day simply vanish through the floor and land in the apartment of my neighbour, in whose class I was in Grade 2. He used to yell, "Chicken noodle soup!" and everyone laughed. He's very different now.

Oh, there are the books, and then there are the papers. Manuscripts, leaflets, posters, notebooks, letters, invoices, tax crap, cryptic crosswords torn out of the Saturday Globe, five-month-old arts sections from the NYT, manuscripts, and so on.

I've decided to make excavation of my home a steady part-time job. Maybe it will never end. But the act of striving for clarity is worthwhile.

My friend Sandra is also striving for clarity, through her new blog at blissfultimes.ca. Sandra is striving to make sense of much bigger issues. It's an interesting blog. A sort of research blog.

That's what she's doing.

Me, I'm going on and on and on about myself.

Over and out.


At December 27, 2006 2:49 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

going on about yourself is better than getting off on yourself. rage on stu...


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