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IlanaSimons
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Week 92: The Loneliness of a Writer at a Window

[ Edited ]

I'm lonely and low on energy.  It's raining, and it's cold out.  I just searched online for poems about loneliness. 

 

I got the thrills when nearly all the poems I found did a similar trick: They contrasted loneliness to light, or daylight, or white.  That contrast rang true to me--as if a community of loners who never knew one another had individually tuned into an archetype.

 

See Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese 6:

 

"...Nevermore

Alone upon the threshold of my door

Of individual life I shall command...

Serenely in the sunshine as before."

 

And Willa Cather's "The Tavern":

 

"...When the night was cold without,

And the ravens croaked of storm,

They have sat them at my hearth,

Telling me my house was warm."

 

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt's "The Desolate City":

 

"...Sadly I rose at dawn, undid the latch of my shutters,

Thinking to let in light, but I only let in love.

Birds in the boughs were awake; I listen'd to their chaunting;

Each one sang to his love; only I was alone."

 

William Blake's "The Little Boy Lost":

 

"...The little boy lost in the lonely fen,
Led by the wand'ring light,
Began to cry; but God, ever nigh,
Appear'd like his father in white."

 

In all of them, loneliness, the feeling that thrives in closed spaces, is contrasted to daybright lights. 

 

That said, light doesn't always equal happiness here.  Sometimes there's a transfiguration: Cather's own interior is the warm spot--less claustrophobic than we typically think of solitude to be.  And in Blunt's poem, while light is the sign of love, love is also a source of pain.  So, the light can stab him.

 

I have a student in one of my classes right now who is writing an essay on how there are always dark spaces juxtaposed with sunny windows in Kafka's short stories.  Kafka's obsessed with the window as the pothole in and out of loneliness.  My student says the window is a blessing and a curse--and the student's onto something. 

 

Writers' desks, after all, are often propped at a window, as if to dramatically stage that internal contrast between our isolated work and life outside.  Maybe a writer loves the prison of a desk at the window because it straps her down while stirring her dreams about the sunlight.  In this sense, a writer who puts her desk at a window is a masochist: She dreams of social life while keeping herself from it.

 

In "The Metamorphosis," Kafka's protagonist, Gregor Samsa, is turned into a bug--in a metaphor for his lifelong isolation.  At one point in the story, when Gregor's really coming to understand his alienation from others, he scampers up a chair and "lean[s] against the window panes, obviously in some recollection of the sense of freedom that looking out of a window always used to give him."  In his own diary in 1912, Kafka writes about staying up all night to write, and looking out of the window several times to see others going about their lives.

 

The window is a strange thing (thank you, Natan, for helping me think of this this week): It's a sharp divider between the interior and the exterior.  It lets light through, but it is a harsh divide we make to keep ourselves in isolation.

 

What images evoke loneliness for you?  Right now, I am looking outside a 29th floor

window at a million lit NY apartments.

[note: I usually post on Monday or Tuesday.  I'm going to be out of town this weekend, hence the early post.  This one will be up until a week from Monday.]
Message Edited by IlanaSimons on 03-26-2009 10:37 PM



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


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tgem
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Re: Week 92: The Loneliness of a Writer at a Window

Ilana,

 

Sorry to leave you at that lonely window.  My life has been going by in a blur - I looked at this post one day and a week passed.

 

Windows....one of the memories I have from childhood is looking at lit up windows at night as I drove past them with my parents.  For some reason those windows and homes looked inviting to me, and I felt lonely at the same time.  A vague youthful feeling of not belonging to my own family.

 

Speaking of lonely - where are our cyber-buddies?  Timbuktu, where are you?  Sunltcloud, I know you still read the posts, as do I, care to share some of your light?  KathyS?

 

Ilana - again the contrast between your environment and mine strikes me.  I live in a town consisting of single story buildings. You look at millions of lights and I can go outside and see the starlight, and maybe some skunks and raccoons.  You hear the sounds of the city and I hear nothing or coyotes.  We both get online and read, sharing a more similar world?

 

tgem

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IlanaSimons
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Re: Week 92: The Loneliness of a Writer at a Window

Hi tgem,

Thanks for such a warming post.  I do think our computer screens are windows in the same vein.  We sit here alone, but look out on each other.  Hello to you and the coyotes!

 


tgem wrote:

Ilana,

 

Sorry to leave you at that lonely window.  My life has been going by in a blur - I looked at this post one day and a week passed.

 

Windows....one of the memories I have from childhood is looking at lit up windows at night as I drove past them with my parents.  For some reason those windows and homes looked inviting to me, and I felt lonely at the same time.  A vague youthful feeling of not belonging to my own family.

 

Speaking of lonely - where are our cyber-buddies?  Timbuktu, where are you?  Sunltcloud, I know you still read the posts, as do I, care to share some of your light?  KathyS?

 

Ilana - again the contrast between your environment and mine strikes me.  I live in a town consisting of single story buildings. You look at millions of lights and I can go outside and see the starlight, and maybe some skunks and raccoons.  You hear the sounds of the city and I hear nothing or coyotes.  We both get online and read, sharing a more similar world?

 

tgem


 




Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.