Italian

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You’d think it would be a good thing, right? Learning more about language through another language, exploring how the puzzle pieces fit together, reveling in the music (la musica!) of it.

Since I’ve started to learn Italian by listening to learn-Italian CDs in my car on the way to work, I’ve found it harder to write when I pull into a parking space and turn the car off. I generally read some poems first, and that helps sometimes. But later, when I’m walking by the creek, instead of observing the grasses and birds and emptying my mind to receive images, receive poem sparks, I’m rehearsing Italian, conjugating verbs, making up sentences in my head–very simple sentences.

I thought about maybe listening to NPR on the way to work and listening to Italian only on the way home, but I forget to switch to the tuner, and after the voices start asking me questions, I just respond–or I repeat simple words and phrases, which is a kind of comfort.

What ignites your writing? What distracts you from it?

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It’s true I haven’t posted here much since the end of Poetry Month–except for the Saturday poetry pick (sneak peek: this week, it’s Rilke’s Duino Elegies). But I do have a guest post up at Superstition Review exploring the difference between poetry and prose, the role that music plays.

The rest of the time, I’ve been working and in traffic–vast stretches of time sitting in traffic. I’ve listened to a lot of NPR–which I love. But I still felt, especially on commutes lasting longer than an hour, that I was sacrificing too much of life to the traffic gods. Last Saturday, I had a cheap CD player installed in my 18-year-old car and ordered Learn Italian CDs. Yesterday was my first day driving while learning how to say, “There is a car. There is a big car. There is a white truck. Is there a car?” I’m not much of a conversationalist anyway–but it made sitting in bumper-to-bumper rush hour on 405 and 520 feel valuable instead of frittered away. And as my foot got sore from pressing the clutch, my mouth got tired switching from sounds like “machina” to “nuova” or “piccola.” A kind of progress.

Finally, it’s lavender season. At Father’s Day brunch, I mentioned this to the family–time for lemon tart and lavender ice cream, and we made a plan for Wednesday, which happily is my work-at-home day, when I can use some of that traffic time for other activities. I remembered to put the ice cream maker in the freezer a day ahead, plucked the lavender on my way back from the gym, infused the cream early–and we gathered for dinner that night. Chicken thighs in a rhubarb sauce (from the New York Times, with a little lemon thyme from the garden), steamed potatoes with butter and parsley, roasted asparagus, and then the lemon tart and the lavender ice cream. More important, we had time together. Tom pointed out that we were seizing the moment and living in it: lavender = party = joy.

The lawn still needs to be mowed, but its rainy Junuary here and I’m going to get into the car and wrap my mouth around some more new words. Happy Friday!

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