I am not considering suicide at the moment, wanted to get that said. But I have considered, longed for, planned, and even attempted suicide in my past. So the two suicides this week do not leave me unscathed, even though I admit (sheepishly?) that in my cloistered life I didn’t know who Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdian were. But never mind that. I miss them anyway and feel the weight of public grief.
On top of those very human lives and deaths, I read two books over the past 24 hours (while traveling) that each made me cry. I would have sobbed if not on an airplane or in a coffee shop. It feels somewhat surreal that it’s been a long while since a novel moved me so, and now two in a row. I’ll get there, but the one before that was “Sing, Unburied, Sing” by Jesmyn Ward. I still read novels, but much fewer than I used to, reserving most of my reading time for poetry. The last poetry book that I immersed myself in also made me cry, “Seam” byTarfia Faiizullah. So good.
There is a feeling of being transported by literature that I crave and try desperately to hold on to after closing the book, although usually it is shortlived. I do catch a whiff of it when I am writing, and that is why I write. But comparing my own thoughts of suicide to others thoughts or actions, just like comparing my work to another’s work, it is clear that others transport me more than I am able to transport myself. That may sound so obvious that it needn’t be uttered. I suppose I am chiding myself for not opening to others sufficiently, or more like, closing myself off so deeply.
This brings me to “Diary of a Bad Year” by JM Coetzee, which is brilliant and complex and devastated me. I’ve always loved Coetzee’s work, which over and again teaches me that self-knowledge is insufficient, others’ knowledge of us is distorted, and knowledge itself breeds the most desperate of feelings: typically guilt, remorse, powerlessness, hopelessness, angst. Although in Coetzee’s case it is a very quiet angst. There is no suicide in this book, more of a quiet withdrawal from life, which brought me to tears, and yet transported me to that feeling of belonging somewhere.
The other novel, which I just finished and haven’t yet recovered from is “Swimming Home” by Deborah Levy, a new author to me. I’ll read more of her work, it’s brilliant and dangerous and I won’t spoil it for you, just recommend that you read it.
In other news, I’ve been transported to NYC, where I will be reading with other queer poets tonight and Sunday. And I just want to say this about the city: the water. Right from the tap. I had almost forgotten how good it is. There are always surprises to be had, when you go looking for them. I saw the poem by Galway Kinnell, “Wait” on someone’s Twitter feed. And I leave us who have thoughts of suicide with his words. Wait.