Friday, February 5, 2010

Lists and Writing

I’m an inveterate list maker, even more so as I get older. I keep a master list of things to do, then daily lists of what I think I can accomplish. It helps me stay organized and I’m addicted, in my way, to accomplishment, to checking things off the list. So when during his workshop Kim Stafford asked us to consider lists as poetry, I was eager to try. Our first assignment (and my response) was this one:

Things I Learned Last Week

Tungsten is used for the nose cone on rockets.
Chi can be spelled qi.
Lamb shanks in red curry are delicious.
There should be a Hall of Fame for stupendously ineffective meetings.

Faucets screw off left, not right.
A 2.5-quart crock pot is not big enough for my life.
Maroon and grey brown are not at their best together.
You can’t make other people change, even when they say they want to.

What strikes me as particularly lovely about a list like this is that it is also a record of the stories of my week. The tungsten fact comes from a long work project in which I wrote up summaries about mining in Canada for a client who helps Chinese investors. I’ve also recently learned the card game Quiddler, and the writers who write together on Fridays (and play Quiddler at lunch) are all keen to find two-letter words.

I ate the lamb shanks at a Thai restaurant in NW Portland with my sister, and we had a long conversation about what to do when you’re through learning at your current job. I attended a stupefying meeting with a client who gave 8 minutes of useful information in 4 hours of sitting together.

I wrecked my kitchen faucet by tightening it instead of loosening it. I felt stupid but I also got to see Don, the handyman for our complex, an invariably cheerful man who always takes time to pet my cats. And last winter when I put the new wonderful grey-brown rug in my bedroom, which looks sensational with my chocolate brown-and-gold vintage wallpaper, my much loved maroon and lime green velvet comforter looked awful. So I gave it to my good friend Isabelle and it just works great in her bedroom.

Of course, each line in the poem could become its own poem as well as its own story, each fact of our lives another prompt.