Thinking Makes It So: Was Ezra Pound chosen last in gym class?

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By Kelly LeVan

The most important word in the phrase “Happy New Year” isn’t “year.” Some might argue for “happy,” but you can’t control “happy,” a real worm of a word, scriggling away with every headache or disappointing microwave lunch. But “new,” there’s a word I can work with.As my most steadfast readers know, every Dec. 31, I write myself a letter, detailing rather generously my plans for the next year: massive totals of short stories I will write and fuet turns I will majestically spin on the tiny satin tip of my pointe shoe. I will complete a series of sestinas! I will do a middle split!I should start with almost reasonable goals, like cleaning out my truck or finishing that loaf of sourdough farm bread in the refrigerator.But anyhow, as 2007 burbled into the cold dirt, I wrote my overblown letter, and even this wildly far into the new year, I still remember the gist of what I wrote.I would like, as Ezra Pound said in the beginning of the imagism craze – “craze” being a somewhat strong word since it mainly infected him, an absent-minded doctor-friend of his, T.S. Eliot, and a few other writers with prominent initials – to “make it new.”In reference to poetry, “make it new” means to use exciting language, vibrant combinations of sounds and most of all, to bring fresh life to ordinary objects, the most famous of which probably being William Carlos Williams’ wheelbarrow.In reference to most people’s lives, I do not advocate buying a new wheelbarrow, unless you happen to need one.Nor do I suggest we all run out and buy more, slightly trendier versions of objects most of us already own: cars, computers, shirts, value packs of socks, shower curtains, scalp massagers.However, the sentiment behind “make it new” could not be better suited for what I want from 2008.It might sound as though because I crave novelty I don’t like what I already have – that I want replacements for failing parts of my daily grind.A desire for change is one reason to embrace newness, a really great reason. However, I long for sameness, and I think it requires an identical, tenacious embrace of things with which I have no experience.The problem with literal sameness is that you can’t have it. A life you absolutely love when you are 15, to use an obvious example, wouldn’t cut it at 25. The external details would become tedious over the years, not to mention lame and a little creepy.I remember, in high school, knowing people in their early 20s who still hung out almost exclusively with teenagers. We might have appreciated some of the numbers on their driver licenses, but we didn’t trust them. Not that we preferred adults who acted their age, but why hadn’t these guys (they were always guys) grown up? Yes, they were very good at the kind of humor we were just learning, but why were they trying to seem cool to kids so many years younger than they were?I see life like a gigantic logic puzzle, a more complicated version of the kind where you have six first names, six last names, six airlines and six drink orders, and you have to figure out who had what on which plane.In the “grand scheme,” as some people call it, you have countless names and drink orders to sort through. So, by the time you figure out a little bit of it, you feel pretty terrific, even happy. But you can only enjoy having finished part of a puzzle for so long before you notice the rest.In the spirit of mega-brainteasers, this year I acted in a play at the Los Alamos Little Theater. Acting terrified me – mainly the idea of having to be someone else when I could barely be myself, compounded by the idea of doing this in front of an audience. However, acting surprised me: I felt more myself than ever onstage, so aware of my own presence and power to convey what I needed to. I found a piece of that endless self-identity puzzle.I also joined a volleyball league. Of the two feats – neither of which I ever thought I’d do – acting is by far the more feasible.Volleyball is primarily played in gyms, the kind with the shiny wooden floors with mysterious curving painted lines all over them. They remind me of high school gym class, which devastated me twice a week for four years. That’s not even counting middle school gym class, which, luckily, I barely remember.I had no coordination growing up, no ability to aim successfully at a basket or block a ball from hitting me in the face. I could run fast, but gym class was always about teamwork, which inevitably meant no one wanted me on her team.So far, I have discovered that adults are nicer. If a grown-up is playing volleyball, it’s because he or she wants to play the game, and while it’s always a little more fun to win, people are willing to teach me and even compliment my occasional dig. Nowadays, only the ball hurts me – but I smack it right back.

Please address questions about Ezra Pound’s war crimes to Kelly at laeditor@lamonitor.com.