Thursday, May 06, 2010

The passing of time

I spent lunch down in the food court we have in the building here where I'm working now, eating half a turkey sub, drinking Coke Zero, and poring over old and recent poetry of my own composition. Red pen I'd just bought at the drug store in hand, I crossed out the ones that made my eyes roll, and kept the others. The project is to update a body of creative work for a man I haven't seen in nearly 20 years.

When I was in university I was blessed, in my junior year, to take part in a writing course with one of this country's premier authors; a man who's won the Governor-General's Award for writing and who was short-listed for the Nobel Prize once; and who knows what else. I had no idea who he was when I sent in my portfolio to get into the class… if I had, I'm reasonably sure I would have chickened out. It was over the course of the year that I came to understand the privilege I'd been given to study with this man. It was his retirement year, and in his closing interview with me (he had one with every student who made it to the end; somewhere just over a dozen, as I recall), he said some very kind and very encouraging things to me. He made me feel like I had a future. It was maybe my proudest moment.

Two decades on or so, I've pretty much given up the idea of ever being a real "published" author, and I'm largely okay with that. I've made my peace with it and I'm just happy to amuse myself with what I can do. The only regret I have is that I feel like I let him down a little… the investment he put into me and all those other students, and the things he said to me at the end of the course. I'm probably blowing it way out of proportion; by now, he probably barely remembers me. But I can't help feeling the way I do.

There's a book store here in the building and a few days ago, I picked up the latest novel by this man. It's heavily focused on nostalgia, semi-autobiographical (as much of his work is). He prefaced the story with comments about feeling he had to tell the story now, because having reached his 80s, he wasn't sure how much time he had left. That line has filled me with a terrible longing and a barely-controllable sense of urgency.

And so, I'm trying to put together some of my efforts that don't make me blush too much. I've ordered a toner cartridge for my long-neglected laser printer. I'm working out in my mind how to set the poetry in FrameMaker… should it be part of the volumes of short stories, or something separate? (I'm leaning towards separate.) My intention is to put it all together next week, put it in a binder, and FedEx it to him. He lives in town here, and though we exchanged a handful of letters early in the decade, I just cannot barge up after what's really 20 years and knock on his door. I just could not do that, much as I'd like to. Besides, it would put him on the spot. This way, if he gets two pages in and dumps it in the recycling box, shaking his head, well… I'll likely never know. But I feel I owe it to him to show him how much his opinion meant to me, how much it made writing a joy for me, even if it never took me anywhere special in the world. Even if he never reads it, I want him to know that much and just be able to hold it in his hands. And if he should take the time to read some of it, and find some merit in it and maybe even see something of himself in it, so much the better.

Anyway, this is where I'm at today. I always hope I'll remember how special this day feels right now.


jim said...

First, thank you for spelling "poring" correctly.

Second, good luck with this project. It's rare to be able to learn from someone who really knows what he's doing. I hope sending him some of your work gives you a second chance.

Lone Primate said...

Ha ha, you won't believe this, Jim, but it was only last week I encountered the phrasing "poring over" something in print for the first time I can remember, and I was surprised to see it spelled that way. I'd always just assumed it was "pouring". But it made an impression and now that you've re-enforced it with your comment, I'll likely never spell it wrong again and look for every opportunity to use it. :D

Thanks for the good wishes. I'm not expecting, or really even hoping for, a second chance in terms of getting published or anything. But if it did lead to a correspondence, that would be the sweetest thing in the world. I wish I'd followed up on it over all those years but frankly, I was intimidated by the man's stature, no matter how approachable and even quietly avuncular he seemed to me in person. That is to say, I didn't want to impose. I still don't, but I'm compelled to.

See you Down the Road! :)