Here at the last of 2009, I've been hoping to work through some of my reading backlog and this morning hunkered down with the newest-that-I've-received issue of Poets &Writers, Nov/Dec. I had apparently picked it up a few weeks back but soon found where I'd left off, "Beyond Intention," an excerpt from Dean Young's forthcoming and compellingly titled book of essays, The Art of Recklessness. I can't commend the book to you since I've only read this smallish excerpt, but I shall recommend this line taken from the excerpt of said book:
To cultivate fire is to perpetually gather fuel, sometimes to reconceive what is fuel.
The context for Young's comment is the case he is building for embracing a creative recklessness, specifically in writing poetry, as opposed to remaining within our tried and perhaps tired methods of writing whether they entail our intentions, expectations, assumptions or aesthetic notions. In this instance a poem is the fire . . . not a thing, Young suggests, but "a conversion."
That's an exciting comparison, one that resonates with some of my own thinking about fuel, about what "makes the engine go," as poet Stanley Kunitz put it. Making the engine go is what life consists in, whether it's writing a poem, novel, song or doing whatever it is that makes a person unique, whole, alive. I think of fuel not only as feeding a creative act, but as energizing resistance to life's decline. Part of resistance, I'm sure, is the ability "to reconceive what fuel is," to look beyond one's usual sources. It's a liberating idea for creative expression and for continuing to renew the lives we lead.
And so I wish you fuel for the coming year in its unseen joys and challenges, fuel for the fire that is you, fuel for your work and loves, fuel from unexpected places. Adieu, 2009. Happy New Year, All.