Become a Cabbage

2016-02-02 15.58.00

A sign on the beautiful landscape of The Millay Colony of the Arts, which was once the summer home of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.

The title of this post comes from a poem I love by Naomi Shihab Nye called “The Art of Disappearing.” I was talking about this poem with my friend Holly last week, and was reminded of it again when I read her wonderful blog post this week about Nye’s poem, attention, and creative work. Holly and I are spending this week on a writing retreat at The Millay Colony for the Arts.

Most of the time, I’m someone who walks around (without even thinking about it) with E.M. Forster’s adage in my head:  “Only connect!” Talking, deepening friendships, enriching conversations, creating community- these are never far from my mind. However, it takes time, attention, and solitude to work on a longer writing project, and too much connection (online, phone, coffee dates) and that sustained attention, so hard to come by, withers.

Here’s Nye, from “The Art of Disappearing”:

“When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven’t seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don’t start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.”

I think she has point. Another Rochester writer, Sonja Livingston, and I were also recently talking about Nye’s poem. Rochester is a small town. I spend my life running into people I know just about everywhere (especially Wegmans) and I like it. But maybe it’s important to save your singing for your work, for your writing. It’s worth reading the whole poem here as well as Holly’s blog post on attention, Nye’s poem, writing, and Millay.


4 thoughts on “Become a Cabbage

  1. Thank you for this, Sejal. Enjoy your time at The Millay Colony. Sending positive writing/creating thoughts.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Andrea! Will I see & meet you at AWP this year? I recommend applying to Millay, by the way, if you are able to get away for a few weeks. The deadline for the next round is March 1st.

    • You inspire me, Holly! It’s foreign to me, honestly, and also a relief. There’s a reason (I see now) that I’ve known this poem for 20+ years and that I’ve taped it above my desk at home. 🙂 Thanks to BOA Editions for publishing and introducing me to Nye’s work!

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