shiftless: to write and keep kind

Each evening around six-thirty, a word drops into my box, a random word of the day, sent from the editors of the OED to those who subscribe. Some days, though, the word strikes me as something more than random, something pertinent, something scrutable, the way tossed coins or cards drawn from a tarot deck can be read and understood.

Last week Monday, the day I began thinking about starting this blog, the word shiftless appeared. Seeing it, I thought of a PBS documenatary I like on Raymond Carver called To Write and Keep Kind. In this clip he reads briefly from his poem “Shiftless” as the camera pans the town where he grew up, which quite by chance is the town where I now live.

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4 Responses to shiftless: to write and keep kind

  1. Lane says:

    Great title for the blog Jill. Look forward to reading it – all best, Lane

  2. Jill Widner says:

    Thanks, Lane. And you can be sure you’ll be keeping me on my toes.

  3. Lane says:

    By the way my connection was bad last time. This time was able to view the video. Thanks. I didn’t know Carver did poetry.

  4. Jill Widner says:

    He wrote poetry first. He was admitted to Iowa for his poetry and then couldn’t finish. I think he was asked not to return his 2nd year. Most of his poetry was published much later. My favorite collections are Ultramarine (1987) and A New Path to the Waterfall, published after his death in 1994.

    It’s interesting that this is the post you’ve focused on. When I was thinking of using your Janis Ian line, i remembered something Tobias Wolff said about Carver in the video. Something like, You couldn’t tell him anything. He would steal relentlessly. He’d be like an old lady listening over the fence to what her neighbor was saying, and the next thing you knew, he’d have used what you’d said in a story.

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