“advice to myself” . . .
I was reading an interview/article about Louise Erdrich, the writer today. Actually, I guess it was two articles. The first one was this morning in the New York Times newspaper that her latest novel, “The Round House” had won the National Book Award. And she had some stiff competition too.
By coincidence this afternoon, I happened upon an interview with her in the literary magazine “Poets and Writers,” a publication that I sometimes find really inspiring and many times, am as easily put off by it. Must be the frustration I have about being a better writer for myself rather than trying to beat the publishing system. Anyhow, that’s neither here nor there.
The interview in P&W came (obviously) before she won the National Book Award. It’s interesting that she thinks of herself as Native American because her mother was part Ojibwe Indian, her father was German. In fact, she lives in Minneapolis where she runs a small independent bookstore called Birchbark. Recently, the article described neighbors and townspeople coming to her aid when the cafe next door closed down. Now, it seems, Birchbark will be able to carry on. One of my daughters lives in Minneapolis and I’ll be sure to visit the bookstore the next time I’m there for a visit.
In any event, it wasn’t until I found myself reading all the way to the end of the P & W article that a short poem of hers appeared, called “Advice to Myself.” Here it is:
“Advice to Myself”
Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom
drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom
of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and
don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend.
Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath
Talk to them. Tell them they are
I don’t know about you, but reading this poem really made my day.
(Note: clicking Erdrich’s highlighted name above will take you to a lengthy interview which appeared in the Paris Review.)