Blog discussion of Roger Rosenblatt’s Kayak Morning

Kirsten Reach
August 28, 2015
Comments 6

kayakThis is the first in a series of posts about Roger Rosenblatt’s Kayak Morning. Please click on the links below to access additional posts.
Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky, Part One
David Lynn, Part Two
Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky, Part Three
Sarah J. Heidt, Part Four
Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky, Part Five
Claire Oleson, Part Six

Over the month of September, David Lynn, Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky, and other insightful readers will be conducting a blog conversation about Roger Rosenblatt’s Kayak Morning. Rosenblatt will receive the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement in New York City on November 5, and he will be in Gambier on October 2-3 to give a keynote address at the Kenyon Review Literary Festival. We’ll celebrate with workshops, panel discussions, a sidewalk sale, and other readings.

As a part of the Knox Reads! program, we’re distributing copies of Kayak Morning from 9:00-11:00 AM on Saturday, August 29 at the Mount Vernon Farmer’s Market and from 6:00-9:00 PM on Friday, September 4 during First Friday at Paragraphs Bookstore (if you’re local, please stop by one of these giveaways!). Limited copies will also be available at the Mount Vernon Library. We’ll conduct in-person conversations at the Mount Vernon Library, at Paragraphs Bookstore, with Kenyon College students, and in local high schools. And we’d love to hear from you, too–please follow along, and leave thoughts and comments.

Roger Rosenblatt is the winner of a Robert F. Kennedy Book Prize, a Peabody Award, an Emmy, and two George Polk awards. He is the author of seventeen books, five of which have been New York Times Notable Books, and six off-Broadway plays. He writes essays for Time magazine and for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. If you’re not familiar with his work already, you can listen to a conversation between Rosenblatt and David Lynn.

The award-winning Kayak Morning is a meditation on grief, solitude, and family. Floating out on the water, Rosenblatt’s mind wanders–to the subjects he has met around the world during his storied career as a journalist, to the words and letters he rearranges in his head to kill time, to poems he has read and famous books about men in boats and, of course, to memories of his daughter, Amy, who has passed away two and a half years before the story begins. “You can’t always make your way in the world by moving up,” he writes. “Or down, for that matter. Boats move laterally on water, which levels everything. It is one of the two great levelers.”

We’ll post the first installment of this conversation in early September. Join us!

Click here for the next post in the series: Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky, Week One

6 thoughts on “Blog discussion of Roger Rosenblatt’s Kayak Morning

  1. Rosenblatt has written: “…in every heartbreak beauty intrudes…”
    This may not be literally true, but it invites all manner of remedial expectations.
    I’m looking to read more and more of his work.

  2. When I was moving away in August, my ideal place to go was nowhere than where I will be involved in a huge creative community. But again, I found myself thinking, have I made a mistake. Of course, not even when I married someone who is not creative. I have run outside. It seems like my life is about waiting now but it is not. I am very creative from all standard. I have written so much, but loosing trust; not in my own writing, but where I need to submit my work. Why is editing so important, so that I can limit words. How, what I say is very important. Yet, I have become anxious, I want to share my work, but is it ready? Someone help me. But to know that I am not alone has been the best part of writing.

  3. I too was struck by how much this book described the true nature of writing (I half-wished that the title included a reference to it right after ‘small boats’given the attention to the topic throughout the piece). Writing and grief, and similarly writers and grieving, are two things that have seemed to go hand-in-hand for ages. The age old advice given by therapists everywhere to ‘journal one’s feelings’ is not given off-hand, as it has been proven to work time and time again. Throughout the book I kept going back and forth between feeling like I was reading Rosenblatt’s grief journal and feeling as if I was reading a writer’s conflicted relationship with writing. When I dwell on grief as a shared experience I think of 9/11, and how the whole nation grieved one shared tragic event but in many different ways. Grief in this case, like in Rosenblatt’s case, is both universal and personal, unifying and dividing. If grief is the sea, then the individual is the kayak, navigating it in the company of others (like the osprey, the mussels, and the purple martins) all while being completely alone.

    Rosenblatt also continually references the many different stories that are centered around the themes he addresses throughout “Kayak Morning”, such as water, father-daughter relationships, the nature of justice, and loss. He writes about Captain Ahab and the end of “Moby Dick”, he talks about the thousands of titles of stories he finds that examine the intricacies of paternal-offspring dynamics. Yet, in literature, like in grief – he finds himself alone. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote how part of the beauty of literature is knowing that others long for the same things you do, and in it, you find that you are not truly alone. Rosenblatt does an effective job of presenting the reader with this idea and asking – ‘and?’ So, you may not be truly alone, but things like grief and writing demand a kind of isolation within the company of others. It is at their core, and it is part of their nature – not unlike the nature of the kayak.

  4. September 15th seems like a fitting day to “put in” to a conversation about kayaking, writing, and grief. A great deal happens on this day in history: the Mayflower sets sail from Plymouth, England (1620), the British occupy Manhattan (1778); the Butterfield Overland Mail Company begins postal service between St. Louis and San Francisco (1858); the notorious Dalton gang make off with $2500 after holding up a train near Wagoner, Oklahoma (1891); Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin (1928); Berlin begins flying the Swastika (1935); US Marines invade Korea at the port of Inchon (1950); Greenpeace is founded (1971); Sandra Day O’Conner becomes the first woman to serve as a Supreme Court Justice (1981); the Lehman Brothers declare bankruptcy (2008).

    Perhaps of course, there’s more. On the Ides of September, such as they are, /The Lone Ranger/, /Lost in Space/ and /The Golden Girls/ first air on national TV in 1949, 1965 and 1985, respectively. The Cardinals’ Ozzie Smith logs his record 1,554th double play in 1995. Secretariat wins Marlboro Cup in 1973. The Liverpool-Manchester railroad opens in 1830, and the first person to be run over by a train dies. Oliver Stone is born in 1946, Agatha Christie in 1890, James Fenimore Cooper in 1789. And on and on.

    This morning, though, it was something else that caught my attention as I scrolled through my newsfeed: “Birmingham, Sept. 15 — A bomb hurled from a passing car blasted a crowded Negro church today, killing four girls in their Sunday school classes and triggering outbreaks of violence that left two more persons dead in the streets.”

    A friend, an activist and popular educator in the Mid-South, celebrates her birthday today, and the first thing that went through my mind as I read the /Washington Post/ piece, was the echo of her description of that 1963 day. She told us that story on the Green River somewhere between Colorado and Utah, some of us on rafts, some of us in a paddleboat, others in “duckies” or kayaks. As a result, I’m thinking about how historical events are also personal ones, sometimes deeply so. I’m thinking about how we live out—as well as in—the recent and distant pasts. I’m thinking about when we write in past tense and when we choose the ever-present, so-called literary present. I’m also thinking about what makes an occasion momentous, wherever it falls on the continuum of tragedy and celebration.

    For the past year or so, I’ve been “doing” social media for a national professional group I lead, the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition. Sometime yesterday, before I started thinking about September 15th, I preset today’s first post with a link to Warsan Shire’s poem “Home”:

    no one leaves home unless
    home is the mouth of a shark

    you only run for the border
    when you see the whole city running as well
    your neighbors running faster than you
    breath bloody in their throats
    the boy you went to school with
    who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
    is holding a gun bigger than his body
    you only leave home
    when home won’t let you stay.

    Shire is a Somali-British poet, and her poem captures events and relationships that do not ripple and flow so much as they shriek and crack, whether it is in Somalia or Syria or someplace else. The line everyone is quoting from “Home” is also about boats, however: “You have to understand,/ that no one puts their children in a boat/ unless the water is safer than the land.”

    Sergei’s questions—How do we remember? How do we grieve?—seem especially apt. They are the questions of not only memoir but also history and protest:

    Addie Mae Collins.
    Cynthia Wesley.
    Carole Robertson.
    Denise McNair.
    Johnny Robinson.
    Virgil Ware.

    We could spend all day and still not be able to say all their names. There is also no getting in the same river twice. Instead, writers of all kinds set the past to different rhythms and flows, as David notes, giving us much to circle back to over the next weeks, as we read and reread /Kayak Morning/. As always, /The KR/ gives us much to muse on and look forward to.

  5. Reading or listening to Rosenblatt, paddling through all the joy and grief life allows us we all lost Amy and gained her child

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top ↑

Sign up for Our Email Newsletter