Monday, June 23, 2008

In Memoriam

The email this morning
was matter-of-fact. Bad news
travels so easily: quick and clean,
sharp, definite. She died.
Thirty years old, she was riding
her bike. I don't know
the details of helmet or speed
but I do know she was married
holding red flowers with a deep
red sash on an autumn day of leaves
and sun, to my childhood
friend. My question is:
"How can I make sense of this?"
From the Tarot deck, I draw the Magician.
White robe, red sash,
cup and coin and sword and staff,
feminine and masculine, lilies
and roses, the go-between of worlds.
This afternoon a bicyclist
passed my bench. I saw him
bend down, pick up a book -
not sure if he dropped it
or found it. I wonder -
when she fell - who
picked her up?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

It's true, we are like cicadas...

I recently signed up for yet another poetry email list, this time from the Poet's Market. I'm not yet sure if it's worth my time, but at least today their message made me think. Today's post from editor Robert Lee Brewer reads, in part, "Lately, there have been a ton of crazy cicadas ... buzzing around without any apparent pattern or thought, which has led to many of them ending up splattered across my windshield (gross!). Anyway, the crazy flight patterns of cicadas remind me of the crazy submission patterns of some poets. For instance, some poets will go long stretches of time without submitting anything. Then, suddenly and without any apparent pattern, they'll begin submitting everywhere they possibly can without any rhyme or reason..."

He is talking about submitting, which, it's true, does require planning and research in order to be successful. However, the actual process of creating poems is much more akin to the life cycle of the cicada. No matter how many wise writing teachers recommend writing every day, practicing and keeping in shape with sonnets and sestinas that no one will ever read, it's still the case that those bright moments of writing something people will actually want to read are few and far between. Yet, unlike the cicada's return, it's unpredictable (though sometimes it does feel like it will be 17 years until it happens again). My advice is: keep going (i.e. breathing, eating, journaling, etc.) but don't beat yourself up when you have to bide your time in the roots of trees before you're ready to grow your wings and keep the neighbors up all night with your incessant buzzing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dispatches from the Poet in the Conference Room

Sitting through meetings, trying to focus on all the big, conceptual words, I can't help noticing petals wilting on the apple tree, and the slow trickle of artificial rain from the lawn sprinkler. Richard Hugo said it best: "Think small.... If you can't think small, try philosophy or social criticism." The reverse is also true. If you can't think big, if the words of organizational work plans and economic indicators sound like the wind worrying pine trees on a stormy night, then you must be a poet.