“When people can email me the shrimp souffle instead of the recipe for it, then I’ll get email!”
-Diane De Prima, First Thought Best Thought: The Art of Spontaneous & Inspired Writing Taught by Four Legendary Mentors of the Craft
Diane De Prima was devoted to the artifact of a work. She loved a transcript she could hold in her hands, one that could be pressed and made a keepsake. When online publishing became possible, she wasn’t interested. I sympathize. I’m working on a collection of poems about houses in California, and it’s been maddening to do my research online. Taking video tours, looking at pictures, reading descriptions of gardens and architecture-- all these virtual experiences evoke a sense of longing. I long to touch the wallpaper, taste the dust, hear the tourists murmuring, and smell the wood polish and decomposition. I want to be there with all of my senses, but here I’m stuck with surrogate sight. It’s become the way of so much of everyday life. When I get off Zoom calls, I’m somewhat relieved to have talked to a friend but equally pained in my desire to be with them (really with them) in the same space.
So, I sympathize with Diane De Prima, and I laugh at us. It’s funny for writers to reject the intangible, wordsmiths slinging images from one imagination to the next. But it’s a funny world, always messy. One conviction bleeds into the next. At night I have dreams of getting lost in large crowds. I wake up and daydream of dinner parties. Bring on the post-quarantine touching! I keep texting my friends. Until then, I’m going to keep working at emailing the shrimp souffle because the fool in me believes in some cabalistic way it can be done.