Elizabeth Macklin from the 2paragraphs Writers Interviews: What Do You Like Least About Being A Writer?
Being in the middle of one of the two months a year in which I get to live as a writer (rather than as an editor, my freelance work for the rest of the year), when I first read this question I couldn’t think of a single answer. Not one. But then, that very afternoon, on the phone trying to get together for a cup of coffee, I heard Bernardo Atxaga—a hero of mine, probably the best-known of contemporary Basque writers (b. 1951), who has made his living from writing for many years—use the word patua about being a writer: it was his “fate,” he said wistfully. Not the writing itself: he loves that, when he’s writing “just because”—ha’atik, a word I first learned from him. But everything about a writer’s life that takes him away from his wife and his daughters and any other semblance of normal Basque life, like taking a companionable break for a cup of coffee.
One Basque word for what you do for a living is ogibide, in which ogi = “bread” and bide = “way, route, method.” And every ogibide, of course, has some downside, no matter how good the bread might be. But there really is no downside to being a poet, or other not-making-a-living-at-this-precise-moment kind of writer, unless you live in a place where they kill poets, at a time when they happen to be killing them. Or unless you have no gainful ogibide, or enough to keep body and soul together, as we used to say.
--Elizabeth Macklin has received both the Ingram Merrill poetry prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry. Her work has appeared in The Yale Review, The New Yorker and The Paris Review, to name just a few. Her most recent collection is You've Just Been Told: Poems.
(photo: ©Txomin Saez)
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