Poem

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t draw. I can remember learning to read and write, so I guess the drawing came before writing. I stuck with the visual art all through childhood, high school, and into undergrad. I wrote, too, but that was not my focus.

In my last year of undergrad, though, I started writing in earnest. In part, it was pure pragmatism: once I was out of school, how would I make welded or cast metal sculptures? Surely writing, with its simple tools, would be easier to integrate into real life.

So I graduated from undergrad, and spent 8 years working in bookstores in Boston and Cambridge, always volunteering to open the store so that I could finish up my day early and go home and write.

Then, after those 8 years of practicing 😉 off I went to grad school. With Allen Ginsberg, which was great fun, though we shared little in common, aesthetically. Still, he was a terrific guy.

For many years, I completed each poem, only to be scared that I would never write another. I labored over each and every one, thought about my process, tried to improve, blah blah blah. I kept a scrapbook of rejection letters. Basically, I belabored the whole damn deal. Interestingly, when I was 25, it occured to me that no matter how much my work might stink, if I kept at it until I was 60, I was bound to improve. So I stopped being so critical of myself and figured I’d check back in at 60 to see if the whole thing had been worth it.

Then a well-respected, curmudgeonly avant-garde editor took a shine to my work and published a bunch in his literary journal. No more rejection notices. Invitations from editors of other magazines to send work. Invitations to publish books. After all that practice, all had come. Interestingly, it was nothing like what I might have imagined. It didn’t blossom into some reality that included me as a successful poet. I was still just me, writing.

Even more interestingly, I had no interest anymore in BEING a successful poet. One memorable thing Allen told me was that he had been “frozen in time” by the success of “Howl.” Everyone wanted to see him do the same trick, over and over.

I finished my third book more than a year ago. No additional poems followed. Sometimes I’d get a little urge to write, but I stopped it. I didn’t want to do it just because it was part of the routine, just because it was a way I recognized my “self.” Plus, I knew something was really going on with the yoga practice, and that I had to let it work. That there was a new way of perceiving in there, and I needed to be patient.

Lately, I’ve known I was going to bust out with some new writing. I’ve actually kind of tried to put it off, and I’ve managed for a while. This afternoon, though, I just went with it. A new poem. It’s funny — I actually felt a little disappointed. “Aw, I thought I was done with all this…” The writing takes up time and energy and I’m going to have to fit it in again. Actually, I guess I shouldn’t assume that. This is all new. It’s not same old same old. It’s a brand new moment.

I’ll just wait and see what happens.

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2 Responses

  1. I’d like to read these. Is it Singing Horse Press?

    I’d also be in favor of putting a new “Poem” tab up there 🙂 Who needs publishers these days?

  2. It is Singing Horse Press. I can just send you a copy, though. I’ll be in touch via your site.

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