Tuesday, January 2, 2018

My First Confession

Explorations of the Oronoco
I love the idea of confession, not poetic confession or religious confession but blogger confession --- nothing too messy; nothing too dangerous. But what do I know? The true name of this activity is the sacrament of penance. It seems to be pretty popular. I came across this article on Andrew Greely's The Poetry of Catholicism: Living Between Absurdity and Faith. And without knowing his work I recognized that this is where I like to exist best: between absurdity and faith.

Dear Reader,

This is my first confession in actually, Forever.

How does one confess anything on an open access blog? Here the idea of  confession becomes inextricably linked with exhibitionism. It cannot be otherwise.

And yet...I promise to do my best to be authentic and even a little vulnerable.

I confess this feels a bit odd. I also confess that at one point in my life I seriously considered converting to Catholicism.

Something true: my manuscript newly titled, A Spy in the Afterlife, is a terrifying book for me to have enter the world. It details a time in my life --- 30 years ago --- which I still understand as my own personal apocalypse. It's taken 30 years for me to be able to write poems about this time --- to not be able to write except about this time. 

For better or worse, one poem, Shadowbox, was published by the Academy of American Poets so I guess the secret is out.

Did I say yet that I am not a fan of confessional poetry? Elizabeth Bishop was known to respond to confessional work with, "sometimes I wish they'd kept it to themselves." I agree with her. Of course I can also confess that I've taken her as my dead mentor poet. That's another blogpost!

I am looking forward to 2018 as my year of possibility and magic. I want to move through my life like the woman in Remedios Varo's painting(see above) --- Varos --- a Spanish painter who spent most of her life in Mexico City --- I've written about right here.  I have an ekphrastic poem inspired by this painting to be published this spring. This painting, "Creation of the Birds" has haunted me for years. The poem took years as well. Dear Reader, I am a very slow writer. As I get older, this bothers me more and more.

Creation of the Birds

And so dear Reader,

So what have I revealed? A love for the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop and the painting of Remedios Varo. My hope is that their work will inspire you as well. Oh yes, that I am working on a 5th book, A Spy in the Afterlife that gives a surreal retelling of a difficult time in my life.

Should you have any thoughts on Bishop, Varo, or A Spy in the Afterlife --- I would love to hear your comments. Is anyone out there? I'm hoping so. It was my first confession and I don't want to have to go it alone. Isn't that why we're here --- to be a little less alone?


  1. I didn't know you were thinking of converting to Catholicism! I learned something.

    I think if you don't care if anyone is watching it's not exhibitionism and Elizabeth Bishop has actually been called a confessional poet (so it's funny about her quote!) A really good book called *The Wounded Surgeon: Confession and Transformation in Six American Poets (Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, Randall Jarrell, Delmore Schwartz and Sylvia Plath)* explores this idea.

    Wonderful first confession! I hope to return to the blog confessional next week! Cheers to a GREAT start on your blog, Susan! Loving it!

  2. Thanks, Kelli~ Bishop was conflicted about most things so this makes perfect sense and her "confessions" were cloaked and coded. Sounds like a good book to check out --- also, have you looked at the new letters of Sylvia Plath? Well, old letters, new publication!

  3. Elizabeth Bishop had her first teaching job at the University of Washington and lived in the Meany Hotel. She was a person who needed people to care for her (or they thought so) and love bloomed. A complex life is one long confession.

    1. Hi John,
      I know she also lived in The Brooklyn which was a new building at the time. Yes, she was difficult and she ran away with the English Department secretary who was pregnant (and married) at the time. There's a book to be written about Bishop in Seattle. I can't wait to read it!

  4. Your 5th book sounds fascinating, and brave. I admire your courage to explore this difficult time in your life. And I love the title!

    1. Hi Yvonne,
      Thank you so much! It's going to be a tough ride and yet I (finally!) feel ready to bring this into the world. First I couldn't write about it ---and now I can't stop. The magic of poetry. I hope you're well! Maybe see you Feb 10th if you are in town~

  5. It was a lovely and engaging post, your poem Shadowbox was visceral if that's the right word...deeply felt.

    1. Thanks, Sean! It is a strange poem to have in the world. I'm always stunned by the power of poetry to travel through space and time~

  6. I have never before encountered Varos' paintings, although a dear friend of mine and poetry mentor was hugely influenced by surrealist works. Your post brought him back to mind (he died 20 years ago, and I still mourn...my first book's poems were largely about wrestling with the loss of him).

    So thank you for inviting us to look at her work! And for the confessions.

  7. Dear Anne,
    Thank you so much for letting me know this. You've made my day. I have fallen in love with her work and that of her good friend, Leonora Carrington. There is a wonderful book about their friendship titled Surreal Friends. Highly recommended! And I so appreciate knowing you stopped by!