And for heaven’s sake, publish nothing before you are thirty.
That, I am sure, is of very great importance. Most of the faults in the poems I have been reading can be explained, I think, by the fact that they have been exposed to the fierce light of publicity while they were still too young to stand the strain. It has shriveled them into a skeleton austerity, both emotional and verbal, which should not be characteristic of youth. The poet writes very well; he writes for the eye of a severe and intelligent public; but how much better he would have written if for ten years he had written for no eye but his own! After all, the years from twenty to thirty are years (let me refer to your letter again) of emotional excitement. The rain dripping, a wing flashing, someone passing–—the commonest sounds and sights have power to fling one, as I seem to remember, from the heights of rapture to the depths of despair. And if the actual life is thus extreme, the visionary life should be free to follow. Write then, now that you are young, nonsense by the ream. Be silly, be sentimental, imitate Shelley, imitate Samuel Smiles; give the rein to every impulse; commit every fault of style, grammar, taste, and syntax; pour out; tumble over; loose anger, love, satire, in whatever words you can catch, coerce or create, in whatever metre, prose, poetry, or gibberish that comes to hand. Thus you will learn to write…Virginia Woolf, letter to a young poet
I broke Virginia Woolf’s admonition quite a lot in my 20s. The previous blog was one that I never thought I’d leave, but I need to find a way to get myself back into writing just for the sake of it. I’ve grown tired of the random comments and the odd threat of a cease and desist over a five-year-old post that never called anyone out except Etsy itself. I also chafe at times, improperly, when my Facebook friends start comment threads when I wrote there. I want friends. I don’t always want friends I’ve not spoken to in years to pop up at random and criticise my take on whatever new shitstorm this era has inflicted on us all.
This era. I listened to Waka Waka from the 2010 World Cup the other day and felt overt nostalgia for that time wash over me. I graduated university in 2010. The world felt open and possible and even friendly. In the years after, I wrote freely and took thousands of photographs of the world, almost always believing it meant me well and not harm.
I’ve found it difficult to summon my classic (hopefully) witty invective from years past ever since the Fall of 2016. It’s not just that Brexit and Trump happened, it’s that a series of personal difficulties came up as well.
A job that was absolutely the worst of ESL packaged into one, in the beautiful city of Busan. It sucked the life out of me and we shared such a small apartment, you could barely lay down side by side in it.
Another summer in Iceland, but completely different from the first in both our ability to afford things (we were VERY broke) and the sense of community that summer 2016 had woven right through it. I recorded my thoughts while leaning on the secret cake I was baking to make up for the loss of cake time, after three weeks of bizarre, postapocalyptic quiet in the wake of the largest medical evacuation in Icelandic history (a story for another time). I deleted the recording later. At the time, I had conceived of a podcast made out of unedited, raw audio from my travels around the world. I dropped that, too.
I haven’t been able to write since 2016 because the words I used to use don’t seem to fit with this new era.
My grandmother passed away suddenly in early 2017, before I could get out of that terrible job in Busan.
I had a cancer scare immediately after that mass medical evacuation in 2017, the first in my life. It changed me and may have altered my path forward in ways beyond my control.
In Vietnam, we lived well but isolated. My job was again super stressful, and I struggled more with culture shock than I ever have in my life. The heat punished me for being a grumpy, exacting teacher and gave me panic attacks in the classroom.
We lived in Italy and Austria last summer, with the Italian portion (a supposed homecoming) being a rude awakening and a struggle against the more horrible trends of our time (virulently anti-immigrant racism coupled with misogyny, with a side of sexual harassment in the strawberry fields). We moved on and lived in a beautiful, if-unknown part of Austria. It was a sanctuary. I finally learned about my beloved honeybees.
And then onward to China. Fuzhou is a great city, but again we are isolated here. The stressful process of getting the visa to move here was difficult to wash clean immediately upon arrival, and a random bully made the transition harder than it should have been. Things that should’ve happened in the first months we were here are starting to happen now, nearly nine months later.
Yesterday, summer course started. It’s nothing like summer courses I’ve done before, far too few crazy amounts of classes and chaos. It’s orderly. That makes me feel oddly off-balance.
All this churn feels like it is simply one period of time and all of it confused into one whole, in spite of the different years . In what feels like the middle of it all, I turned 30 in Hanoi.
It’s not been easy. I’ve stopped taking photos with myself in them. I look at the old photos where my smile is much wider, and my eyes less troubled. I even look different.
I’m not in my twenties anymore. Now it’s time to start publishing the real stuff.