Sunday, April 18, 2010

Some writers have a muse. I have a mess.

Sometimes when I start a new poem it feels so chaotic that after I sketch the ideas onto paper my head hurts. It's as if I birthed it, physically pulled each line out of my brain. There is no energy left for excitement about the birth. It's more like a crazy, messy conception, the aftermath of an unforeseen passion seeking honest expression, demanding it, refusing to be denied. The wildness of this process, followed by the sudden relief of having begun it, leaves me spent. Yeah, I see that this is all a terrible sex metaphor. Sans the cigarette. Anyway, when a poem begins that way, I have to put it away for a while. When I pick it up again, most often I'm surprised at what's there. Sometimes I barely remember it.  A few times I really have not recognized my own words. This has even happened with what I thought was a finished piece of prose. More than once in my life a teacher read my work aloud in class and I didn't know it was mine. But other times, with these crazy obsessively scribbled notes, it's like finding an old friend and being happy to see the familiar face. And then I'm ready to get to work on it.

I first wrote this note on the back of a page I started a new poem on a week ago. I still cannot go into the paragraphs and lines that are meant to become a poem and see what's there to shape. Just now when I turned the page over and glanced at it, the second I remembered what it was about I had to turn away.

So instead I wrote two new poems today. The first was exploring joy, love and gratitude in a complicated relationship. The second poem was the shadow side of the first. The part I'd left out. Because I have a tendency to do that: to look on the bright side and make that so important that I don't have to see the shadow for a while. But ultimately the shadow will be seen. By me at least. I usually can't look away for very long.

For now I'm calling it a day. Two poems. One with a good start; one out of too much pain to be good yet. And a third, raw still, which I can't look look at for now. And that one is the one - big surprise - that has the most potential. Of that I am certain.

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