My five month long professional leave ended on January 25. When I told friends that I was back at work three weeks ago at Wellesley College, where I teach writing, and that I had just finished the 500-page first draft of a novel the day before I was to return to the classroom, many of them sweetly congratulated me and asked me when it would be “out,” that is, published, as though this would be imminent. When would it be on Kindle? In paperback? Or maybe hardcover?

Don’t talk about your book, one writer friend advised me, after we discussed my next steps in revising the overly long and unwieldy draft. So in this post, I won’t be talking about my book. I will be talking about the process of writing a book, a novel or a long work of creative nonfiction.

When the first draft is completed, it’s only a very, very  preliminary thing. Continue reading “Expecting”

Clifton Park

Enter a caption
I demanded that my mother
take me back to the park
with three swimming pools.
Summer was so much hotter then.
At night fans cooled us down.
In the days we moved slowly,
drank ice tea or Kool-Aid—
Again, I asked her
to take me to the city park
with the three pools
all concrete-bottomed, concrete-sided.
The baby pool, the pool for grownups
the middle pool.
I waded cautiously in to the shallow end,
watched boys dive in,
swim like fish through cold water,
yell and splash.
Their skin was dark,
their hair cut close to their heads,
dark whorls in perfect patterns—
I pestered my mother to take me back.
She shook her head.
Why, I asked. Why not?
All summer I contemplated
the park, the pools, the boys
calling out challenges,
shoving, laughing, scrambling
onto the pool’s concrete edges.
Why, I kept asking. Why
don’t we go back there?
Polio, she said,
too many city people.
I understood polio.
But the rest of it confused me.
What could be better than
to be near those boys,
their skin glistening,
their shouts, name-calling, bragging
in the park, in the city that belonged
to all of us?
                                 ~Lynne Viti
Reprinted from Topology magazine. February 9, 2016
Featured image: photo of Clifton Park Swimming Pool, Maryland Historical Society

Burn Your Darlings

Cardboard box of old journals, notebooks
full of the ephemeral and the wannabe
profound, words I wrote for an audience—
the high school journal, read weekly by
Sister Seraphia, and later, words for my eyes only—
about unrequited love, loneliness after a breakup—

Dominique has two words of advice—
Burn them. She did, and found the fire Continue reading “Burn Your Darlings”

Higher Math

for Roger

If topoi means the place, and logos means the study,
then topology means the thing you studied,
the evidence of which was, among other things
the scraps of paper strewn around the apartment,
on the glass coffee table, kitchen counter, sometimes
next to the soap dish on the bathroom sink,
notes with x and y and symbols that confounded us.

It was Greek to me—All I knew
was it involved sets, like a set of points
and a set of neighborhoods from each point.
You might have explained once or twice
you studied a mathematical space that allowed for
continuity, connectedness, convergence.
Those, I understood.

You said a neighborhood of a point is a set
containing the point where one can
move that point without leaving the set.

You said, if x equals a topological space,
and p equals a point in that space we might call x,
then a neighborhood of p is a subset—
call it V—of x that includes
an open set U containing p.

I was so out of my element—chagrined at how little
I knew about points, sets and neighborhoods.

Here’s what I know:
You are and were continuous, you’re connected to
The rest of us, you converge, in a number of spaces, with us.
You know your neighborhood, like your
neighborhoods of past and future
containing you, you know the points to which
you can move points
without leaving the set of family, friends.

You’re the central unifying notion
of this convergence of us who in one way or
another rely on you—you help us map
the deepest, most human things.


Reprinted from  Work to a Calm literary magazine, February 2016