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#AuthorFail 10: Laura Goldstein

Um, well, this is embarrassing: if you checked this post this morning between 9 am – 9:26, you would have found an incomplete entry: devoid of this snappy opening, and truncated, it the main text, from its full form.

Could it be that #AuthorFail has had its first fail?  Would this then equal success.

I feel miserable, I mean happy…I mean, well, something else.

As Jean Francois Lyotard notes in The Inhuman, the sun will burn out one day.  Thus, all human activity is under the sign of this eventual catastrophe (no, I don’t think he considers widespread space colonization). I wonder if the sun will fail in its great and final task, to burn into nothing.

When you look into the sky today, enjoy the steaming ball of ambivalence–before that, enjoy this serious failure of a column from Laura Goldstein.

The most valuable resources that I have as a writer are my mind and time. My process is very specific. I’m an instructor. For ten months out of the year, I am focused on teaching. I write long poems and series’ that require planning, research, and concentration for a solid stretch of time. So, my process. Each year I start a project, the one project that will be done that year. This might be a concept that connects a string of poems, or a book-length project. As my teaching winds down, I begin to think about what I should write about. What are the issues of significance that need to be examined? What do I need to be better informed about as a writer? What kind of structure and form should I apply to these concepts to make an aesthetic statement? How can I use language appropriately to balance the political with the beautiful?

All these questions pile up before I begin. I was reading Harper’s Magazine out on the back deck. The sun was warm but the breeze was cool, as is common in June in Chicago. I was reading the “Findings” at the back of the magazine and I read:

 Scientists may have discovered a failed star with a surface temperature of only 86 degrees Fahrenheit, which would allow the star to have its own atmosphere. The world was getting windier… Engineers had trapped red through green and were optimistic about trapping the whole rainbow

It reminded me of Carl Sagan and Gertrude Stein and it reminded me of being alive and also made me think about how our own world closely resembled what was being described here. And, what with all the war and cruelty, our world could easily be described as a failure. But living, sometimes described as surviving, is often equated with success. Was this the beginning? Should I search for a quote in the Book of Genesis to put on the first page of a grand manuscript divided into five books? The first could describe the impossible conditions of life, the irretrievable notion of being pre-lingual. The last could become absorbed in the most tactile aspects of the products that lull us into middle-class comfort with dopamine that’s softly brushed out of our brains and into our grateful bodies. It happened in a second, but why use time or materiality as the only measure of success. My world stopped growing. It was very windy out on the back deck. There’s a big green tree and a red bird in it.

I felt a window close with a world on the other side receding. I started writing this. I know that books are out there in the world. None have my name on them, but I don’t think that’s a failure, or not the one that I wanted to write about. I write long poems that are worlds you enter and join me in. A fantasy of alternatives in which language leads us in different directions and we stop for longer moments and let it change us. You can’t call a thought a failure, can you? If it didn’t come into the world or become its own. But then what is this about?

My failure: to figure out the best way to reach you through the atmosphere of a poem that was never made, or to figure out what this is about.

What seems like a simple thing to discuss opens out into a deeper call to examine what we have been forced to consider success and failure according to the standards of the academy or the market, but when really asked to consider it, failure and success hinge on the uncanny nature of language itself to show us, and for us to see it.


LAURA GOLDSTEIN’s poetry, reviews and essays can be found in American Letters and Commentary, EOAGH, Requited, Little Red Leaves, How2, Seven Corners, Text/Sound, Rabbit Light Movies, Otoliths, CutBank Reviews and Moria, She has three chapbooks to date: Facts of Lightfrom Plumberries Press, Ice in Intervals from Hex Presse and Day of Answers from Tir Aux Pigeons. Her next chapbook, Let Her, will be released in Spring 2012 from Dancing Girl Press. She currently co-curates the Red Rover reading series and teaches Writing and Literature at Loyola University

Last week’s #AuthorFail 9: Richard Thomas

Next week’s #AuthorFail 11: Roxane Gay

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