A Season for Writing (Stoically)

As a poet, I need to set aside time I can use specifically for writing and revising new poems. I found this much easier before I became a high school teacher. Now much of my time between September and June is taken up with preparing lesson plans, marking, and other school related activities (not to mention my other responsibilities as a husband and home owner). The time I have for writing most of the year is little at most, but I still manage to write a few poems here and there. Rising early on a Saturday or Sunday when the house is quiet and I’m alone with my thoughts for a couple of hours is the most I can hope for during the school year. The summer is my season for writing and I have ten weeks to devote more time to my work and attempt to produce more poems of greater quality that, hopefully, can make their way into a new manuscript.

It helps as well that this summer I’ve received a grant from the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council to help with a project I’ve been working on for a couple of months now. In the last couple of years I’ve become quite interested in Stoic philosophy, how it originated, the early doctrines and its later development in the Roman world. I first became interested in Stoicism when I read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, written over a number years while the man was Emperor of Rome. Reading this book, I began to form a sense of basic Stoic thought: the use of logical thought to inform human action and perception of the world, the importance of a strong moral character, the insistence that happiness is ultimately up to the individual, and one’s place in humanity and the world as a whole. A fascination grew and before long I’d purchased a number of books on Stoicism and works of the few Stoic authors that remain for us today (Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus being chief among them).

I will use the time I have during the summer to conduct further research and work on a series of poems that deal with the tenets of Stoic thought and explore responses to those philosophers who developed the classical tradition. I’m not just interested in the ideals, but how these might play out in modern life, my own experiences and what I see around me. As time goes by I will likely post the odd entry about some aspect of this writing and where it leads me, the difficulties and discovers I meet along the way.

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