Revivifying Vectors of Valentine Verse
Dr. Andy reflects on the function of poetry on Valentine's Day (and how we all need a creative outlet)
Valentine’s Day is a time for poets to shine.
Recently I taught a series of online poetry workshops for members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, with the objective of each participant writing a love poem to share with a lucky recipient. In an age where the internet is flooded with advertisements for inexpensive consumer goods, a personalized gift of creativity – one thinks of a piece of art, a video message or montage, or a poem – finds its value in its uniqueness, and often in its transience: nobody has to make room in a closet or a garage for a poem.
Many people are exploring their creative sides because they finally have some time to do so. One can binge only so much Netflix or like so many Facebook posts before one feels called out to create, to connect, or to experience something momentous or magical. With so many connections or experiences remaining inadvisable for the unvaccinated, we are left to create. One of my journalism students submitted an article last month for which she interviewed three different musicians who had created new albums in 2020 (as Paul McCartney did) because of the absence of typical occupations and interruptions. I love to imagine people all over the world starting new creative habits. Albert Einstein once said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
When I asked a friend about how she was handling the personal isolation, she responded that meeting “on zoom is a great connection style for me. I may even prefer it to in-person meetings. It’s easier for me to manage energies somehow...whatever that means!” I agree, finding sanctuary in the stillness of my home – the French bulldog in my lap, the grove of trees out our western windows, my headphones resonating with the playlist my daughter made for me – a collection of tiny comforts that await me mere seconds after I close the Zoom window. The long interruption of our former busyness gives us all an opportunity to reflect on how we manage and use our energies.
Even on a day like this past Wednesday when I ticked eight zoom meetings off my to-do list, I still found time to dine on a gourmet tofu egg scramble courtesy of my wife Kate, take a long walk with Jukie, and work on a love poem. Arthur Koestler says that “Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.” With that in mind, we writing teachers often respond to our own assignments, and so it was for me this Valentine’s Day, when I presented this to my beloved:
Valentine’s Day Morning with Kate
Breaking-morning gifts, your eyes, your meals, take me back, and aback,
Elongating the languor of our morning off, aromatic Eierspeisen synesthesia
Meandering through our tilting home like the ghost of an unforgotten cat
Yearning for the someone who answers every question with love, whether it be
Valentine love, maternal love, or spousal love: the sparks that conclude with confetti.
Amorous arms entangle me entrancingly, with skin as soft as an alpine chamois,
Long legs, saucer eyes, and slender waist: you are my elegance encyclopedia,
Effervescent center of our family, the centripetal domestic magnet, our hub,
Never more exquisite than when producing breakfasts for Geneva, Truman, and Jukie,
The chef for our every catered meal, and every fancy coffee drink’s barista.
I couldn’t imagine raising our nutty, joy-filled family with anyone but you,
Nor could I imagine another who could sustain my lifetime of grateful amazement.
Every day, my Valentine, I am nourished by your kiss, a pinpoint of your beauty.
I live in a family full of writers. Each of us but Jukie is working on a significant writing project or two, so we sometimes have conversations that one might expect to hear around an MFA workshop table than around a typical dinner table. Such was the case last night when Kate overheard the kids and me discussing the fact that this near-sonnet I wrote is a “double-acrostic.” Mishearing that Geneva had called the poem was “caustic,” Kate quickly corrected her, saying that it is a sweet love poem, and that it isn’t caustic at all.
At least she didn’t think we were using the word “xenodiagnostic.” As you may already know, because likely you have taken more science classes than I have, xenodiagnosis can document the presence of infectious disease microorganisms by exposing possibly infected tissue to a vector and then examining the vector for the presence of the microorganisms or pathogens it may have ingested. Vectors have so many meanings, depending on whether you are an airplane pilot, a graphic designer, or a Euclidian mathematician, but I for one didn’t know that vectors could “ingest,” even if the vector is ingesting something as small as a microorganism. Clearly there’s a poem (or a monster movie) in there somewhere.
With regard to my valentine poem for Kate, which I share here with perhaps more transparency than is warranted, the secret messages I stuck in there are also full of love, as you may be able to decipher. In his most recent album, Elvis Costello insists that "Love is the one thing we can save." Memories of love will be primarily what I am saving from this Valentine’s Day, and from this past plague year. I wish the same for you.
Thanks to new Pub Quiz patron Alex Hovan, who opted for the discounted yearlong subscription option. I rewarded Alex with some bonus digital Pub Quiz goodies when he subscribed, and I will continue to do so today. Like Alex, you should check out the yearlong subscription option on Patreon, if only to unlock access to the photography pub quiz questions I add a few times a week on the Patreon website. One of you guessed “Natalie Wood” as a response to one 1950s starlet’s photograph and list of best films, but that was a bit off. I await your guess. Thanks also to the sustaining sponsors of the Pub Quiz: The Original Vincibles, Quizimodo, The Outside Agitators, and Bono’s Pro Bono Oboe Bonobos. I would love to add your name or team name to this list next week.
P.S. Here are three Pub Quiz questions from last week:
Books and Authors. What German-born American political theorist published her influential study The Origins of Totalitarianism in 1951?
Current Events – Names in the News. What Wyoming Republican recently survived a challenge to her leadership position in the House of Representatives?
Sports. In what U.S. state was seven-time Superbowl champion Tom Brady born?
P.P.S. “The things we fear most in organizations -- fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances -- are the primary sources of creativity.” Margaret J. Wheatley
P.P.P.S. Poetry Night this coming Thursday, February 18th, 2021, at 8 PM will feature short readings by Patrick Grizzell, Traci Gourdine, and Jeanne Wagner. Set your reminder now, and then join us in my Zoom room at that hour to be revivified by these three masters of creativity!
Pictured: Patrick Grizzell, Traci Gourdine, and Jeanne Wagner. What a lineup!