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Ellen Steinbaum (2009)

Why do I write? Dustin has posed such an interesting question, one I was surprised not to have an immediate answer for. The title poem of my book, Container Gardening, has these lines: "apply attention/plainest form of love." I realize that this is my answer, written into some of my poems: I write to pay attention.

When I am writing, everything around me seems to call out, "write about me!" "think about me!" "look at me!" I experience the world in a different way then--more thoughtfully and also more vividly. Instead of mindlessly walking through my day, I'm more aware of the things that interest me, please me, anger me, terrify me. Would I notice them as intensely if I weren't writing? I don't know.

I do know that the writing--even just the intent to write--gives me this gift, an extra dimension for taking it all in. It feels as if there is a kind of sacredness in this, an honoring of the time I have been given. Another one of my poems ends, "what is holy in this life/is noticing." All we have, finally, is our time and how we choose to use it, what we think about, what we notice. Writing is how I notice.

Originally posted in Dustin's former blog on 2/23/09.


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