I keep trying to take myself seriously. It’s a process. I’m at that point where I’m staying conscious that writing is the most important thing, for me, that I do. Yet I don’t give it nearly enough of my time. So today I remembered that Monday is the day that local poets gather at Lehani’s from 5-6pm and put their names in a hat to get time to read aloud to one another. It’s been months, if not a year, since I last went down to try out new material and see how it’s working. Today seemed the ideal time to push myself towards being more present and diligent as a writer. I pulled out the poems I’d written over the past four months and read them through to see which might be most ready to read. I was only looking at those I felt were my best of the recent efforts and wow did that bring home how easy it is to start congratulating oneself on new work. Poems I thought were done, polished, as near-to-perfect as I could make them, all seemed suddenly slight. Then, I wrote a new one, based on things that came up as I took a long walk in the woods today. I worked it and liked where it landed on the page. It looked good, sounded good, too. But if poems I’d been working on for 1-4 months seemed less desirable after a little time out of sight, how could I trust a new one? Still, it’s important as an artist to stand and deliver. I find that I know better how well a poem is working when I read to an audience, rather than just to myself at home. It’s not just whether and how that audience reacts, but the fact that my own awareness is heightened by risking the reading of my work to people I know are discerning and thoughtful writers themselves.
So I printed out half a dozen that I thought, for various reasons, might be my strongest choices, punched them, put them in a notebook and drove downtown. (I'd likely read three but I prefer to have choices even in this situation.) When I got to the door I saw no familiar faces inside. In fact there was almost no one there and it was 4:50. The owner confirmed that they had indeed changed to Friday evenings at 5. I deflated. I was not relieved, but disappointed. It was like standing on the edge of the dock with my toes hanging over, bent into first-dive position; or taking my paddle firmly in hand to push off the bank of the Nantahala River and into the rapids. When you’re ready, you’re ready. Not necessarily ready to succeed but ready to try. Maybe this is just a reminder to me, like the title of that song by Madeleine Peyroux that I’ve been listening to so much lately: Don’t Wait Too Long.