Thursday, March 5, 2009

FORTNIGHTLY WRITER


When I spend part of the year in New Iberia, Louisiana, I meet twice a month with a group called The Fortnightly, with an accent on “THE” because this club is the mother Fortnightly that spawned at least 12 other Fortnightly branches in Acadiana. The Fortnightly is a literary club, and each member hostesses and presents a book review according to a chosen theme for at least one meeting per year. It’s a sprightly group of women in their sixth, seventh, and eighth decades who are omnivorous readers and, I learned just this year, who’re also skillful writers.

This year’s program featured an autobiographical theme, and we enjoyed the memoirs of members, some of which had been written in a Creative Writing class sponsored by the Iberia Parish Library. This week, Claire Mire, who has a wonderful sense of humor, presented writings from several of her assignments for the Creative Writing class, the most notable one being on the subject of procrastination and another called “Reflections On A Song.” I asked Claire to make a copy of the assignments and mail them to me, which she did, and I’m presenting a few excerpts of her reflections for “A Words Worth” readers.

Claire writes:

“It has been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but I really believe that all of our good intentions count, maybe not as much as they would if they were carried out, but they do count for something. I can only hope that my good, unfulfilled intentions will add up to be of some merit. For example, I have composed so many letters in my head which never got put in writing. I too often counted on telepathy. In fact, if I had written all those letters, the persons receiving them would probably have said, “Oh no, not another letter!” When I did actually write a letter, it was usually a long letter. I always wrote with a sense of history and often a letter would be seven single-spaced pages, and the receiver probably said, ‘She writes such long letters,’… but they always had the option of reading them in installments…

“God knows exactly how much success we need, and He gives each of us the time to accomplish what he wants us to do, but we must cooperate… Unfortunately, we waste so much time. I have probably lost several years, maybe more, wasting time. …My middle initial is ‘P’ which stands for Pauline, but it really should stand for ‘Procrastinator’ because I perceive this as my biggest fault and the main one I’d like to overcome. There’s an old song, the lines of which read: ‘Give me five minutes more, only five minutes more,’ and so often when I have a task to complete, those words, or sentiments, invade my mind. I think, ‘I’ll start in five minutes, or more often, I’ll start at 10:30, or perhaps 2 p.m., or maybe I’ll just wait until tomorrow.’ Well, as Goethe said in one of his poems, ‘Days are lost lamenting over lost days’…and the German theologian Karl Rahner said ‘most of us die with symphonies unfinished’…However, there is an important line in the Lenten liturgy (Roman Catholic) which reads, ‘NOW is the acceptable time.’

In addition to Claire’s treatise on wasting time, she also talked about her singing and her attempts to be a “better me:” She laments: “There was a period when I wasted a lot of time wishing I had a beautiful voice. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to sing a solo, even if only once. But I soon realized that I was wishing for a different gift than the one God gave me, and I was being ungrateful. I have enjoyed singing in St. Peter’s Choir for 35 years, and I sang in the Glee Club at Southwestern… and I sang with Les Son du Teche for all the years it was in existence. But I could have sung better. I could have improved my voice. Fr. Moag started his course in logic by quoting Lauritz Melchior (the opera singer) who said, ‘Most people go through life without ever learning to breathe properly,’ to which Fr. Moag added, ‘most people go through life without learning to think properly.’ In an attempt to be a ‘better singer,’ I took logic and tried to learn how to think properly. Then I bought a book entitled THE ART OF PROPER BREATHING, hoping to learn to breathe properly. I read most of the book without taking it very seriously, then loaned it to someone who never returned it.’” Claire confesses that her opportunity to sing a solo is hampered by her inability to sing soprano. “I am an alto,” she said. “I have talked to altos in other choirs and it seems we’re all alike. We admit to being somewhat arrogant. I mean, most altos know how to read music, and while it is often necessary to rehearse the sopranos’ part a number of times, the altos’ part just gets rehearsed once.” Claire concludes this reflection with a verse from one of her favorite songs, “In your time, in your time,/You make all things beautiful/In your time. Lord, my life to you I give, May each song I have to sing,/Be to you a lovely thing, /In your time.”

This reading by Claire, delivered with a wry smile, caused one listener to declare about her writings: “Well, after all, she IS a Burke,” which, in New Iberia, translates to James Lee Burke, the best-selling author of detective fiction who calls New Iberia his home.
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