Jay Kirk, Inside the MacDowell Colony

on Feb 03 in Flotsum & Jetsam by

I don’t know if my friend Jay Kirk is a believer in utopias, per se, but he’s in one now. Come to think of it, this has been a spanking good year for the Kirkster. In addition to having his usual two or three fine pieces in Harpers, two in GQ, both well-received, and a Pew Fellowship, which is a very big deal here in Philadelphia, he signed a book deal. Anyhow, Jay drove yesterday to the MacDowell Colony for the month of February to work uninterrupted while having his bed turned down and his room cleaned by scantily clad wood nymphs and being served scrumptious meals in the company of other artists. (Ok, so I exaggerate a bit). Anyway, here is the first of what may be several dispatches from him:


I am, indeed, snug in my lil’ cabin, though I must admit it’s somewhat palatial — and yet I reckon I can still put myself in the requisite deprived-monkish mindset so necessary to confabulate about literary taxidermy. I trapped a squirrel yesterday outside my woodshed, and am letting it die slowly in my top desk drawer. I’m hoping the smell of its rotting flesh will inspire me the way that Auden used to do the same with moldering apples.

Everyone I’ve met so far, in my one day, seems very cheerful and happy to be here, welcoming, etc. The food is excellent. The toilet flushes with stunning force, and yet not so titanically that you would find it unsettling. Its power gives me a sort of comfort, actually. I hope that one day I can regard my own creative powers with a similar mix of awe and ease of mind. For now, I just take satisfaction in being able to change my font settings.

There are tablets called “tombstones” in each cabin showing the previous tenants. Looks like Michael Chabon spent some time in mine, as did Stephen Dunn, who, as a poet, I know you despise, but you must consider his poem I think titled “Sixty,” in which he has a very nice line paraphrasing Lorca, something-something about life being like a lobster made of arsenic dangling over our heads.

Dwell on that, my friend, the next time you find your wayward fingers stroking the moll of a latin king who happens to be sitting next to you in the gallery. Life is like a lobster made of arsenic dangling over your shiny pate. Stroke her thigh, or don’t stroke her thigh? That’s a decision only you can make.


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