At a recent retreat with my intrepid writers’ group, I was advised that my prime directive in writing for the remainder of the year would be to “Play.” (This was uttered by the beloved poet to whom I’d given identical advice a few years ago when she was the one stressing over a precipitous deadline, so I had to admit the advice fit me this time.)
How do I “play,” I’ve been wondering, when preparing a poetry book on a publisher’s deadline (which for me involves completely rethinking and swapping as well as rearranging and rewriting) while toying with a full-length play and committing to several other significant and true-to-my-purpose initiatives in the next couple of months?
And did I mention there’s one month of summer left in which to reacquaint myself with my mercifully independent-yet-loving family and rewrite my courses? (Sorry, stressing again.)
If my quandary resonates with you, look at your cat. Or dog. Or horse. I can’t speak for birds or reptiles, but most any domesticated mammal will do, including kids (the kind that bleat or the kind that throw fits with pudding fingers; I’m not picky here). If you have none of the above, entertain or visit one for a few minutes.
It’s not a big commitment to witness another sentient being’s hilarious commitment to playing. No material proves inadequate. Anything is ripe to be pounced, bounced, ruffled, tousled, nibbled, crunched, mulched, munched, spat out, sat upon, twirled, scribbled, scrambled, or served. As luck would have it, this was precisely what I needed to do with my poems—taste them with and without epigraphs, with deeper embodiment here and more stripping-away there, with a new point of view in this case and tighter or looser form in that case. And, of course, with the kind of rearrangement play that involves scooting actual sheets of paper all around the floor, though it’s a more involved and engaging game than 52 Pick-up. The enticement is irresistible.
The world is, after all, a playground. Or so Zack the Cat says.