Monthly Archives: October 2013

How Did This Happen?

Not so many mornings ago, I put pen to page and began “poeming” an image that had come into my head. Three-quarters an hour later, I realized what I was doing, what I, in fact, had been doing for some months: turning to poetry, first, as my means of expressing the images and ideas that come to me.

Used to be, not so long ago at all, I had harsh issues with my writings being frequently referred to as, poetry; with my being called a poet. It wasn’t that I held poetry/poets with low regard. Rather, it was because I thought so highly of them that I snarled at any implication my writings and I might be among their numbers. Mary Oliver, Naomi Shihab Nye, WS Merwin, William Stafford, and Jane Hirshfield—I know poetry and poets; and what I write isn’t poetry, and not just because I’m not a poet.

This was the story I was stuck to.

Then came a recent writing workshop in a Colorado Western Slope town. Nearly in passing, the leader called one of my written responses, poetry; later adding, “I see ten poems in what you wrote.”

Does anyone ever know why one specific comment finds fertile ground, when previous ones have not? Maybe because she was referring to a freewriting I’d done during the workshop, rather than something I’d worked on and polished, it was still malleable, hadn’t solidified, and because I therefore still held it at some distance, its being called poetry sunk where it landed and began gestating.

As these things happened, as I was able to see why that freewriting was being called poetry, I also, therefore, saw why so much of my previously written stuff had been called likewise across the years. Of course, since I was now seeing that I had, indeed, been crafting poetry, even if unawares, it became obvious: I write poetry; ergo, I’m a poet.

This brings us back to the morning in question, which I opened with. As I said, it’s been quite awhile, since shortly after that workshop, back in July, that I’ve been habitually going first to poetry (rather than say, fiction or essays) to put onto the page the images/ideas that come to me. I reckon it’s an indication of my comfort with being a poet that it seemed so natural to me, so matter-of-fact that I was writing poetry, that it didn’t seem odd until I realized how muchso my doing so would have been, mere months ago.

In an bewondered by grace sorta way, I asked myself, How did this happen?

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Risk Taking, Putting It Out There

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There’s a discussion taking place within a FB group I belong to, regarding the sensation of feeling like an intruder within a gathering. One of the members had gone to an other-side-of-the-state poetry club’s monthly meeting, and had felt like an outsider. Even though they’d been greeted and treated warmly, because of the town’s close-knit nature, this person had felt no small bit of having not belonged there. Another of the FB group members commented that even when asked to host such an event, it could feel like they’re intruding—that having a sense of not belonging can plague any of us, and at any time.

Hemingway has said writers are to write clear and hard about what hurts, because that’s where the power is. In other words, we are to risk going out on a limb in telling the bared truth because that’s when the “what matters” gets written. Time and again, I’ve seen when someone has opened their heart a little bit in expressing themselves, their vulnerability has been gratefully received.

I think intimacy happens when we cross lines, when we risk the stepping out of our shells. The huge majority of us aren’t as all-together as we appear. We’re often not alone in feeling out of place and maybe even intrusive. So somebody confessing their awkwardness might find they’re actually of the majority in the room, rather than the odd one out. This kind of connectioning is why risk taking and being clear about what hurts is so important: Our isolations are what bind us to one another.

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