Friday, August 21, 2009

Ha Jin

Just finished Ha Jin's newest novel A Free Life. Amazing! He's definitely in my top 5 authors. The protagonist in this novel owns a Chinese restaurant in Georgia and wants to be a poet. It's heartbreaking and has so many truths about the difficulty of trying to be a writer. The novel ends with a collection of poems written by the protagonist. Here's one:

Another Country

You must go to a country without borders,
where you can build your home
out of garlands of words,
where broad leaves shade familiar faces
that no longer change in wind and rain.
There's no morning or evening,
no cries of joy or pain;
every canyon is drenched in the light of serenity.

You must go there quietly.
Leave behind what you still cherish.
Once you enter that domain,
a path of flowers will open before your feet.

This is the first week of my new tenure track job, and the first time I've ever been paid to write. I've written so little in the past two years--all my time has been teaching and caring for the babies. I've let my writing slide and fallen into the exact trap I tell my students not to fall into. But now that I'm getting paid to do it, I won't have any excuses.

I'm really struck by the line "leave behind what you still cherish." Any time writing is time away from the girls...yet it's work I love, too. And maybe there's a way to be with them, even while working. I've wanted to write about them, but like religion, or the other things I care about, it's such a large topic I feel lost in the shadow it casts. I guess all I can do is plunge in.