Word of the Day: Insouciant

 In The Writing Life, Word of the Day

The word of the days, boys and girls (but probably mostly girls, if anyone at all — hello out there?  * crickets echo in an empty room *) is insouciant.

I discovered it reading an article in The New Yorker about queer Vietnamese poet, Ocean Vuong:

Reading Vuong is like watching a fish move: he manages the varied currents of English with muscled intuition. His poems are by turns graceful (“You, pushing your body / into the river / only to be left / with yourself”) and wonderstruck (“Say surrender. Say alabaster. Switchblade. / Honeysuckle. Goldenrod. Say autumn”). His lines are both long and short, his pose narrative and lyric, his diction formal and insouciant. From the outside, Vuong has fashioned a poetry of inclusion. (read the article here)

I liked the way it looked on the page.  But I had to look it up.

(I ain’t ashamed.  When I took the GRE in preparation for applying to MFA programs, I scored higher on the logic section than the verbal section.  English major fail.  Logical… win? All those times Kelly Donovan and I spent our fourth grade Saturdays working through logic puzzles on her chalkboard, well, I suppose they paid off.

Says the girl who never ended up going to grad school, after all.

If I did, maybe I wouldn’t have needed to look up insouciant.

If I did, maybe I would’ve already known who Ocean Vuong is, instead of needing to be introduced to him.

If I did, maybe today I would write more like Ocean Vuong, and less like a pulp fiction indie, churning out novels for reasons that range from self-gratification to cash flow to a slim, pipe dream hope of helping a sista out.

Maybe I would be less flippant and insouciant.  Maybe I would care more.  About everything.)

Use me in a sentence.

“Only people with no real troubles can afford to be insouciant during times like these,” she said.

Oh, really?

Are you calling me untroubled?  …Or uncaring?  Have you already pegged me as one or the other?  Or as both?

Use me in a sentence; I promise I’ll bring trouble.  And by the time we get to the punctuation at the end (or the parentheses in the middle), we’ll see who manages to care the least.

Confession time:  But let us be honest with one another.  I have never been insouciant in my life.  I have tried.  I have aimed for nonchalance; I have faked it well at times.  I have, at least for a period of time now and again, played casual and unconcerned, and all the other synonyms tacked on at the bottom of your definition.

But you know me better than that, don’t you? You know that if I cared any more than I already do, I would burst, and we would find pieces of me spread through a debris field with a radius of a thousand miles.

Pardon me.  I’ve gotten dark again, haven’t I?  Bad habit.  Let me bootstrap my way out, return to my feigned insouciance, and we can all move on with our days.

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