Thursday, December 13, 2012


Yesterday, while revisiting “William’s Law,” I had certain pieces in mind. One is directly related to my relative silence this past year. Early on, this was noticed by some, and I was touched by their concern. I did my best to explain: that, frankly, after the release of the tenth anniversary edition of my novel, A Listening Thing, I was tired of listening to myself.

In any and every commercial light, I am the world’s worst salesman. I don’t travel, I don’t do readings, I don’t sit on panels — as, in fact, I shy away from anything in life that feels unnatural or false, to me. Let it satisfy and work for others in whatever degree; I have learned the hard way to heed that warning in my chest. As a writer working in this shallow, glib, self-centered age, I feel my responsibility ends with faithful completion of the work at hand, and telling others in my own way that the work exists. And that’s exactly what I did, with the unfortunate result that, on some days, I still felt like a beggar or a clown. But that feeling is gone now.

In the entire year that is and has been the year two thousand and twelve, two copies of my novel were sold, and one copy of The Painting of You. I’ve been quiet through it all, reading, studying, making notes. Where once a dream seemed whole, I found pieces. And they are beautiful. A handful of friends, people I’ve yet to behold in ripe and animated flesh, still stand by me. Most of the pretenders have flown — those who, for whatever barren reason, feigned interest in me and what I do — elsewhere to pose. Such are the gifts.

Not long ago, I mentioned the new revised edition of the Armenian translation of my book, The Old Language. Since the print edition was released in 2005, several later poems were added, taking the volume from about eighty pages up to 100. This online edition, so generously presented and gracefully designed by the translator, is being given a most kind reception. And so, where little effort on my part was involved, the stories and poems to which my name is signed have gained more readers in three weeks, in another language, than they did in the last year or more. Such are the gifts.

I remain full of heart and full of work. If I tell you things that make you smile or make you cringe, I do so because it is necessary if we are to move forward together. Love is strong. It does not mince words.

I’ll close for now with something Shakespeare said: All things that are, are with more spirit chased than enjoy’d.

To which I’ll add: If you would love your life, then you must embrace your pain.

Thanks again for reading.


erin said...

speaking for myself, william, it is not what you do exactly (sorry) which is that which has me coming back and back to you, but rather who you are (such are the gifts).

your silence is understandable, but selfishly we miss you warming the kettle, moving slowly up the stairs in our days, the walls of our shallow houses responding to you.)))

that is not to say that what you do is not important, but with more than anyone i know, who you are is what you do.


vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

William, your bits and pieces have kept and are still keeping us whole--I know I'm a better man for them--keep it up, my good man.

Jonathan Chant said...

I echo Vassilis - life would be barren without your beautiful bits and pieces. Many a time they have carried me through some difficult moments. Please keep going.

Conrad DiDiodato said...


you and the great J.M. Hopkins have a lot in common. He once said, " I cannot think of altering anything. Why shd. I? I do not write for the public. You are my public and I hope to convert you."

And you've already converted at least the four of us to your sense of the real integrity of the work.

Don't stop listening, friend.

William Michaelian said...

Erin, Vassilis, Jonathan, and Conrad:

Thank you — for taking the time, for your kind words here, and for all you’ve given me and others through your distinct talents and enlightening views. Your thoughts here are even more effective applied to yourselves. I long have, and still do, admire and appreciate you all.

Another dear friend of mine, someone you all know, Robert Willson, has also responded to this post. You’ll find his letter here:

May we all be wood on the fire.