Karen Rivers

word count, words count.

Karen Rivers

I've been reading poetry recently and thinking about words.  I think maybe because I'm doing two side-by-side edits (two different books, completely different genres), I'm thinking about words in a more macro way.   Like poetry, but not.

Writing new things (novels) is more (for me) about trying to write as many words as possible and hoping that in that mass -- that big, ugly tidal wave -- of words, there are enough to string next to each other to form a story.   Rewriting old things is more like poetry, more like picking through the debris after the storm and finding beautiful things you didn't know you were looking for, a tiny crab shell that looks gold in the sun, the refraction in a drop of rain clinging to the edge of a piece of kelp.    Tiny, tiny, smaller, smaller, until when you step back and look at the whole, it looks changed because of the recognition of the importance of the details you never noticed before.

Does that make sense?

I'm sometimes not in the mood for poems -- the sparseness of them makes me feel tired and pulled at and prodded and somehow forced to squint.   And other times, I love poetry so much, I can't believe everyone isn't reading it every day. 

I'm the same way with music.   Sometimes I listen.   Other times, I drive in silence.   Sit in silence.  Write in silence.   Is that weird?

Anyway I've been thinking today of tiny adjustments that change everything.   Placement of words.   The importance of that.   And I read these two poems and I thought about how I post youtube videos of songs I like, in the moment that I like the song, and then I thought, I'll blog these two poems that I've been thinking about.   Same thing, right?   I just want you to read them, too, and pause for a minute and then nod and say, "Yes, I know what she's talking about."   

Or maybe just read them, just because.

To Wake at 3:00

To wake at 3:00
and not want to go back to sleep
is different
from waking and wanting
not to go back to sleep. 
come to the mind, 
predictable almost as breath. 
The day's small errors and failures. 
wrong words that were said, 
right ones that were not.

Outside the window
a truck, with yellow lights
running the length of its body
and R&L Cargo lettered large down its side, 
diesels the street inexplicably backward.

Making its own deliveries, 
equally exhausted, from some great distance.

- Jane Hirshfield (After)


The first stanza of that, the difference between wanting not and not wanting is so amazing and true.


The Red Wheelbarrow


so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white

 - William Carlos Wiliams 



There's a reason why The Red Wheelbarrow is taught so much in schools, I think, but I think it's overtaught and the point is missed.   What does it mean to you?