For Wednesday, January 27, 2016:
“If you know what you are going to write when you’re writing a poem, it’s going to be average.”
“A poet is a [person] who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times.” (my edit)
Randall Jarrell, Academy of American Poets
Confession time: I envy the three or four of my friends who can write at least a poem a day. They’re usually beautiful poems, and they’re always thoughtful and poignant.
Two of my teachers – one in high school and one in college – said I had a ‘poet’s sensibilities’ and a ‘poet’s eye.’ From the time I wrote my first poem at six years old, I’ve always considered myself a poet. But, try as I might, I have never been able to write poetry every day, or by assignment, at least not very well. I can give words the form and shape of a poem, but only a few have counted as poems to my way of thinking.
Mary Oliver, one of my favorite contemporary poets, writes that “Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.” There have been periods in my life when I wrote a lot of poetry – especially when I was the primary caregiver for my dad when he made the years’-long journey through Alzheimer’s – so I know the basket of which Oliver writes.
But I also know the times when the basket remains empty. I can write prose almost every day at such times, but I cannot write poetry. As compartmentalized as my creative brain seems to be, I’m always on the lookout for a poem, always ready and waiting. Sometimes a line or phrase will come into my head, but that’s as far as I can get. The last poem I wrote, in fact, was almost two years ago and it was one of those lightning strike times of inspiration.
I so wish I could write more poetry. I always try to make my prose poetic, but it’s not the same. The feeling of release when a good poem is birthed is like no other. There’s a magical kind of lightness that goes along with the lightning.
For now, though, I’ll continue writing prose as I wait for another poem and read others’ beautiful and powerful poetry. In the meantime, my friends, I trust your words to hold space for mine, for there might be another lightning strike – or at least one more empty basket ready to be filled – in my future.