This is not to try to correct mistakes, though maybe it’s worth saying that Australia’s 2022 winter solstice happened on Tuesday, June 21st (at the start of this episode, under-caffeinated and nervous, I say it’s June 22nd).
It’s not to smooth over inconsistencies (am I against work, or can I not stop working?), errors of emphasis (surely it’s Mayer’s daughters who are exposed, more than Mayer herself), or skewed characterisations (you’d be forgiven for thinking I do all the housework—Thom does more, with less drama). This would set a pointless, exhausting precedent.
It’s to say that after I’d edited, listened to, re-edited and re-listened to these 37 minutes too many times, I got it: boredom is the point.
Much of Midwinter Day is boring. This makes it hard to read and tricky to talk about. But I don’t think it makes the book a failure. After all, most boring poems end up boring despite the poet’s best efforts. Midwinter Day is boring because Mayer is so successful.
As best she can, she’s recording what’s happening the way cameras and microphones do, capturing shape/sound as well as blur/static. The result is so personal and specific it’s close to meaningless to most other people. (The next time you hand your phone to someone, notice the moment their expression changes as they flick past the photos you’ve given context for. “Why do you have a picture of this?”)
And somehow, it’s not only boring. The book is also funny, deeply weird, and oddly comforting. Again, these moments only exist because Mayer is recording as much as she possibly can. She is relentless.
Unlike Mayer, I couldn’t let go of my need to edit. I kept freezing up, or leaving my decision to hit record too late and missing the moment. I was trying to edit the day as it was happening. Playing at being experimental, but still trying to guarantee a flattering, entertaining outcome.
So. While this is nowhere near my favourite book of poetry, I’m still fascinated by it, and admire Mayer’s ambition, stamina, and refusal to please.
As always, thank you for listening, especially when I try new things. I love that you’re out there.