Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dreaming Sloth Leisure

Still mourning the passing of summer--the slippage from heat, light and leisure to frost, darkness and haste.  Once the semester starts I feel forever behind--in tatters, belated, in arrears.  Breathless.  I will never catch up.  So I hear, particularly loudly, Robert Lowell's lament to Elizabeth Bishop, when, in the full sweep of too much going on he writes: 

[C]an anything be well done that isn't accompanied by dreaming, sloth, contemplation, leisure?

In part, he's trying to make Bishop feel better about the painstaking slowness with which she writes--months and years may run out before she completes a poem.  Though at this writing, in late October 1963, revolution and a military coup are brewing in Brazil, where Bishop lives with Lota de Macedo Soares, and Kennedy will soon be assassinated--preoccupations that may slow even the speediest of poets.  And within weeks Lowell will be hospitalized by the onset of another manic episode--his own painful way of braking excessive speed.   

I just catch the flu--and then scramble on.  As Lowell writes, signing off, "Pardon this flurry.  It's just in the nerves."

Robert Lowell to Elizabeth Bishop, "Letter #285" (October 27, 1963). Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence between Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop.  Thomas Travisano and Saskia Hamilton, eds. (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2008): 513, 514.

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