that night, the dark and drizzly air lit by
a street lamp in the park along the lake
whose waves lapped rocks beside the shore,
their nearly silent, whispered “yes” just yards
—From Van Anderson's "A boat of light"
In order to find relevance in the world, we must ask what we are seeking from it. Field Notes pursues change inside and out. We do not want to bore the world with articles that appease the sensibilities of other writers. We want to challenge the systems and structures around us. We want to mold the world of writing and make it more democratic.
For many poets, the act of writing is about the loss of control. An author hopes that those interior ticks responsible for their art will be unleashed on the page and past the urge to tame it. Uninterrupted art is a difficult thing to achieve.
MFA so white they say “I love him” when you talk about Toni Morrison. MFA so white they think AAVE is an acronym for an artisan beer. MFA so white they think code switching is a Call of Duty move. MFA so white that you are the only black student in a program of sixty; you think there may be a black faculty member, because someone mentioned it once in passing, but you’ve never actually seen them and are still unsure.
Pink in the sky! Lit by a rising sun.
Framed in bared branches’ tentacles,
reaching up to touch soft, cotton-candy-
You’re not using your good fortune,
think of your sisters’ mental diseases—
of Syria, Jerusalem, seething,
You should be doing more, the inner voice nags.
Yet, refreshingly, How to Do Nothing does not ask its readers to throw their phone out a window or delete their social media accounts or snub their nose at a society that creatively stymies them. Odell writes: “I am less interested in a mass exodus from Facebook and Twitter than I am in a mass movement of attention: what happens when people regain control over their attention and begin to redirect it again, together.”
The part that sounds weird to non-writers is that—What is this about observing people who only exist in your mind? But that’s how civilians think. To people who do what we do, that doesn’t sound weird at all. That’s the whole job: observing people who aren’t real.