THERE ARE THREE things top of mind these days that I could talk about: my poetry month challenge, my fiction and how it messes with my head, and how sexual attraction works and if we have the power to change it. Three good topics. Let’s start with poetry. I can tell you about the other two things another time, if you want. Remind me.
I like these challenges that are all over social media nowadays, where you’re supposed to do something every day for a month. As April drew near, I was faced with two choices: write a poem a day for National Poetry Month or do the 30-day Rewild Your Life challenge. They each sounded like good ideas, but I knew I couldn’t do them both. And I wasn’t sure I could actually spend 30 minutes every day out in nature, much as I’d like to try. I decided to do the poems.
I guess I could post some samples, but the truth is, I’m afraid to. Poetry seems even more personal and revealing than fiction. At least my poetry does. And if you’ve read my fiction, that’s saying something. Most days, I’ve written about whatever had the strongest emotional pull on me that day. Some of it’s pretty raw, diary-like stuff, including one poem that references Bread’s “Diary,” come to think of it. Does that make me a bad poet?
Which brings me to the other reason I hesitate to post my poems: I am not at all sure they’re any good. When it comes to poetry, I have to admit I haven’t the slightest idea what I’m doing. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s even a good thing. Or maybe my poems are just not so hot.
Why the self-doubt? It’s not like me, I know. Truth is, I have always had an uncomfortable relationship with poetry. For many years, I just didn’t get it. I didn’t like it, quite honestly. It always seemed a little loosey-goosey, like you could make mistakes and say “I meant to do that,” kind of like jazz.
I was young and stupid. My ideas about poetry (and jazz) have changed. Lately, I’ve heard some very, very good poetry, and I am frankly mystified at how it’s done. Great poets amaze and intimidate me. I aspire to learn what these geniuses are doing.
I will admit I like some of what I’ve written. I went back and reread it all, 27 poems so far, and there are moments. I don’t know if there are whole poems that work, but they almost all have something going for them. Isn’t that what writing is so often about? Finding the gems.
I’ve shared a few poems with people for whom they were written, and their reactions have been good. That could just be gratitude at having had a poem written for them. Maybe they’re just being nice. Or the poems could be good.
As with any kind of writing, it takes skill honed through a lot of practice to get good at it. I know this. It doesn’t just happen. And maybe that’s where my doubt comes in. When I write poetry, it’s kind of like freewriting, where it flows out of me and onto the page uncensored. It does just happen, in other words. There can often be something very special in that kind of writing, I know. I just don’t always trust it.
When I write that way, sometimes I feel like I’m in a trance. Does it sound any good to someone who’s not also in a trance? This might be one of those things like the Grateful Dead, who—no offense—sound extremely awesome to stoned people and just all right to the rest of us. But then, does any group have more dedicated fans?
It is always going to come down to connecting with some people and not with others. If I write honestly from the heart, it’s likely someone will read what I’ve written and feel a resonance. What is good writing anyway? To me, it’s writing that makes people feel something. It happens or it doesn’t. When you know you’ve connected as a writer, there’s no better feeling.
So, yeah, maybe I’ll post a few things once the month is over. I’ll sift through it all again, find the gems, and polish them up. Just so long as I don’t smooth out all the rough edges.