One of my neighbors is organizing a block-wide yard sale. I still don’t know most of my neighbors on this block so it sounds like it might be fun to participate. And I do love getting rid of things. Clutter drives me crazy. Right now I’m forcing myself to keep staring down at my computer. Looking up would mean acknowledging the fact that I’m a failure in maintaining my own sanity and a modicum of order in this house.
I was incredibly happy when I discovered you can rent a dumpster and have it delivered curbside and then whisked away a week later. No questions asked. I’m fairly regular in dropping shopping bags of stuff off at Goodwill. We clean out dressers, closets and the open surfaces in a haphazard fashion, but we do comb through the detritus. The girls have shed toys, dolls, blocks and books that they’ve outgrown. This is weird. We just don’t have many toys around anymore.
But the one thing I just keep accumulating is poetry books. There’s a scene Ann Patchett describes in Truth & Beauty where she’s helping Lucy Grealy clean out her apartment. Lucy tells Ann that she can’t get rid of any of the poetry books because it’s bad luck. I thought, “Yes, that’s exactly right. Maybe each book of poetry is a talisman. It takes too much damn hard work to put one of these together when only a handful of people buy them. That’s why I don’t get rid of poetry.” So my shelves of poetry, alphabetized by author and then by title, are bursting and will remain that way until I have my own library with one of those cool ladders on wheels that you can shuttle back and forth among all the glorious volumes. Anyway, you never truly finish reading a book of poetry anymore than a song becomes defunct after one listen.
Going back through my poetry collection is a way of remembering people, places and my life. Oh yeah–the Elizabeth Bishop Complete Poems dates back to college and has my loopy, scrawl of notes. I remember buying Kinell’s Book of Nightmares to read on a flight to NY, thinking it made me look cool. And there’s the tiny book of Shakespeare’s sonnets that I carried around the summer I couldn’t write. I figured memorizing some fine sonnets would count for something on the muse’s tally.
I’m including Bishop’s poem One Art in this post. It’s all about losing, but not to worry- the books are safe.
|by Elizabeth Bishop|
The art of losing isn't hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster. Lose something every day. Accept the fluster of lost door keys, the hour badly spent. The art of losing isn't hard to master. Then practice losing farther, losing faster: places, and names, and where it was you meant to travel. None of these will bring disaster. I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or next-to-last, of three loved houses went. The art of losing isn't hard to master. I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster, some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent. I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster. --Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident the art of losing's not too hard to master though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.