Guilty Pleasures: The Inertia Variations by John Tottenham

November 5, 2013

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John Tottenham's poems about the will to do nothing are anything but unremarkable. In fact, the things he says about laziness turn out to be quite charming. This one flashed on my Tumblr dashboard over a week ago and made me grin with glee. I was on a break and had several projects to return to; the sentiment was spot-on.

Just as there is the desire to succeed, so exists the pull to vegetate. It's selfish and destructive and culturally scorned, but here it finds unabashed expression in verse. It's outrageous--oh my god, are you serious?--and that's what makes it so funny.


I have been awake since the dawn of noon,
And I have nothing to show for the time that
Was mine. To begin with I never began.
I sat down at the table with vaguely creditable intentions
But they were soon replaced by mere struggle
To remain awake, and with all the energy I could muster
I relocated to the sofa, where – several drowsified hours later –
I begin to chastise myself again.
Lifelong Lean Period

 Useless! But it's the thought that counts. I, like many others, have been conditioned to make myself useful. Thus, I make an effort, thanking God and all the gods above that I get to do the work I love. Then again, maybe these poems also speak of the particular difficulties of the creative life; that is: starting properly, and then making, always making, until finally it's finished. And then you make again. I can almost imagine the writer pacing in his apartment or the painter staring at an offensive blank canvas. Sometimes it would be enough to face the narrator and say, wait. let's languish together.

If anything is escapist, then this is, and I mean that in a good way. Reading these poems was indeed a relief, a pit stop, the perfect lunch break. There's a space in the world for works that refuse to deal with an honest day's work.

The Inertia Variations by John Tottenham


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A good time to let you know what I've been up to, then: this weekend will be the Christmas edition of the 10a Alabama Handmade Arts and Crafts Fair, happening at 10a Alabama, Quezon City. I'll be there with my hand-carved stamps under Rubber Ducky Stamp Co.


click here for the event page. poster by asa montenejo

I haven't joined the fair since April so it would be great to see you there!

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