Thursday, July 14, 2011

100 times = beginner status: thoughts on breastfeeding (and poetry)

I had the wonderful good fortune about two years ago to be invited to the intimate living room of Donald Hall, multi-award-winning poet and writer, and poet laureate of New Hampshire from 1984-1989. His wife, Jane Kenyon, also a poet who died way too young, could be felt in the house as well, her spirit saturated into every wall and room, decoration and memory, clinging like a ghost.

Mr. Hall spoke of his writing and revision process, explaining how he edits his poems a minimum of 100 times before considering them good and on the way to finished. I could not believe it when I heard this - 100 times! I can't say I have edited my own poems more than a handful of times, if that. His reworking speaks not only to his commitment to writing and refining his craft, but also to the process of a poem's birth it emerges in stages sometimes, and becomes its own animal whom you must get to know bit by bit.

Two days ago, I realized it was Lucinda's "day 10" in the world. I was thinking if we practiced the breastfeeding together about ten times a day, that would make 100 times already finished at the process. (Generally, methinks it is best not to tally these things, especially when one is lacking sleep and feeling like a veritable prisoner in one's own house, at the whims of a tiny little queen who only just days ago appeared out of nowhere...) And suddenly I remembered what Donald Hall said about his poems. And I thought, "Practice, practice, practice, and now I am only just a beginner"...which was strangely comforting.

We - Lucinda Grace and I - are getting the hang of this new job we share (me in feeding, and her in eating and processing the food). Breastfeeding is hard work and does not - contrary to popular myth - come naturally. You have to learn how to do it, and figure it out with your baby, and then work at it until it becomes natural. It gets easier every day and we both feel more confident now that we will be able to accomplish our goals.

I am thinking about practice in many contexts now. And realizing that 100 times at practice are just the start.

Let us give ourselves a break as we learn new ideas and activities. Let us consider ourselves both babes to this world and struggling poets, who will one day be discovered for our genius, but in the meantime, we will do the toil of practicing. It will pay off, I just know it.

Blessings to you Donald.


An old life

by Donald Hall

Snow fell in the night.
At five-fifteen I woke to a bluish
mounded softness where
the Honda was. Cat fed and coffee made,
I broomed snow off the car
and drove to the Kearsarge Mini-Mart
before Amy opened
to yank my Globe out of the bundle.
Back, I set my cup of coffee
beside Jane, still half-asleep,
murmuring stuporous
thanks in the aquamarine morning.
Then I sat in my blue chair
with blueberry bagels and strong
black coffee reading news,
the obits, the comics, and the sports.
Carrying my cup twenty feet,
I sat myself at the desk
for this day's lifelong
engagement with the one task and desire.

A Birthday

by Christina Rossetti

My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water'd shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
Because my love is come to me.

Raise me a dais of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Mombie: Zombie mom, ala Night of the Living Dead; wandering soul who cannot distinguish night from day, complete simple sentences, or recall if teeth were brushed; state that leads to inability to remember baby's name, puffy eyes and frequent bouts of crying (the baby cries too), and ironically, the inability to sleep.

~Note to other Mombies: Do NOT attempt to assemble helpful electronics or install batteries at this time...can lead to throwing away of said electronics and random thoughts of hatred.

~Note to Non-Mombies: Frequent bouts of crying may also be joy related. There's really no way for you to tell. Keep a few feet between you and Mombies at all times for safety. And if approached by one, feed it before proceeding.


My best news all year!

See Scott's post...

Love, Ally