Thursday, June 7, 2007

Small Poems in No Room

It would be great if I had a room of my own, with a door I could shut, a comfy armchair in the corner, and a desk by the window. I would write there for long hours, noises filtering in faintly from outside. Alas, I have no such room, and neither do many other writers who do their best to scrape together words as hastily as I grab my breakfast before running down the stairs on my way to work.

So, Virginia Woolf said a woman deserves a room of her own. Well—deserves and has are two different things. Sandra Cisneros said (and I paraphrase) that poetry is the particular art form of the poor, busy, working woman without a room of her own. It can be written on scraps. It can be written at the reception desk between calls. It can be written on lunch breaks—I take mine by a fountain, which sometimes splatters my page when the wind blows.

Poetry is often at its most powerful when it is most condensed. Think of how the haiku is revered. Think of Emily Dickinson and her four-line landscapes. This is different than the epic, grandiose work of Whitman or Ginsberg. I realized the other day that in my writing goals for grad school I’d written that I wanted to write longer, more complex poems. Do my poems have p*nis envy? Or too much American super-sized pride? Why not hope to write shorter, more complex poems?

Part of me (the scared part) is still searching for the ONE answer to how to write well…. I guess that scared part is the same part that looks to blend in with the American monoculture. But the diversity of the world, of art and nature continually throw monkey wrenches into the gears of those creaky assumptions. I am grateful for that. I am grateful for the challenge of juggling work, school, relationship, self, and writing in a corner of the living room early in the morning when I’m the only human awake, when I almost have a room of my own.

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