Confidence; or, Poetry and Golf

They say that golfers’ games go to hell when they lose confidence, which is an elusive thing. But when you have confidence, they say, the hole looks as big as a basketball hoop. Confidence, notoriously, comes and goes. Over the last decade I have written probably fifty poems, or drafts of poems, that I have never quite managed to finish or send out to editors. I lacked confidence in them. My game was off. But over the last year or so I have been going back to those poems and finishing some of them and sending them out and they are beginning to get published. I blame the avant garde. I blame flarf and conceptual poetry and Charles Bernstein and Ron Silliman and all the Language Poets from sea to shining sea. I have always, temperamentally and politically, identified with the cutting edge, with the most progressive policy, with the new. Make it NEW, Pound told me when I was but an impressionable boy. I tried to be like those guys. I kept tinkering with my swing. The result was that I was always hooking or slicing of digging the club into the fairway. Jim Furyk has a swing you would never teach to a beginner, but he has been ranked as high as number two in the world — it’s a funny-looking loopy thing, but it’s his swing and he has made it work. I think I’m maybe finding my swing.


I’m used to feeling a major relaxation at the end of Spring Semester each year, but this year the relaxation has only been partial. Partly, this is because I’m going to be teaching a summer course online, which begins next week, but the course won’t really take that much time since almost everything is already online from last summer, the first time it was offered. Also, I’m going to be spending a month at the Blue Mountain Center up in the Adirondacks. That’s obviously not a hardship — quite the opposite, it’s an luxury to be able to spend a month doing nothing but writing, reading & hiking around one of the most beautiful lakes in the country. It does, however, reduce the amount of time available to complete several projects around the house & yard. To say nothing of golf & bike riding. I just took my bike in for a tuneup this morning & I’ve already been to the driving range a couple of times, where I hit the ball better than I had any reason to expect.

I guess I should be grateful that I’m not going to Vietnam this summer, as I had hoped earlier in the year. I did not get the NEH summer stipend I applied for, though it was always a long shot. (They funded around 70 of 800 proposals.) I wanted to do a series of interviews with Vietnamese poets as the foundation of a sort of poetic ecology of the country. Actually, I was very disappointed when I got turned down for the grant, though the proposal I submitted got some decent comments from the reviewers. It turns out they wanted me to provide a much more detailed schedule of activities while in Vietnam — hard to believe any of them have actually worked there! (Otherwise, they’d understand the difficulty of predicting what will happen when.) My plan now is to resubmit the proposal for the summer following my sabbatical next spring. I should be in a better position to carry out my plans then, honestly.

So it’s going to be a compressed summer in anticipation of a compressed academic year, since I’m only teaching during Fall Semester, with a sabbatical in the spring. I want to use the summer to get a running start on my sabbatical — don’t want to have to waste any time “warming up” in the spring. To that end, I have been pulling disparate pieces of manuscripts together & trying to finish the things that are finishable in order to clear the deck for things that are going to take more extended & focused work.