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February 28, 2017: The Writing Life: End of the Month Tally

I am very sick. But I gathered up my energy and wrote the final poem of the February poetry challenge. It’s a somewhat lame poem, about Cassiopeia, the narcissistic Greek goodness, finding her dream job, which is counting stars. It’s not my best poem ever because I don’t feel up to par. But I learned a few important discoveries in the process of writing it.

As there are an infinite number of ideas to act upon, there are also an infinite number of stars in the sky.

Poetry taps on the door of the subconscious – as we write we begin making seemingly tangential connections.



And, there is a connection here to be made between the subject of this poem, obsessive compulsive disorder, and what I’ve been doing this past month. The poem, “Don’t Give Up Your Night Job,” is about being OCD, and my now conscious realization that taking on the Poetry challenge brought forth the more compulsive side of my personality.

I was so intent on getting the next day’s poem written that I’d lay awake in bed and begin working on the next poem. I was driven by anxiety. I could not have maintained this pace for 365 days.

Something quite remarkable came out of my taking on this challenge and this is that I began seeing myself as someone who writes poetry. Notice I did not say “began seeing myself as a poet.” I will never take on the moniker Poet. I can’t write sonnets, villanelles, or sestinas. This is because, for me, function has always proceeded form. I am and always will be limited by the constraints of my own mind.

I stopped seeing myself as someone who writes poetry when I started writing personal essays. I began self-categorizing. And the teachers in the MFA program I was in encouraged this rather narrow minded way of thinking. We create frameworks and we adhere to them. The academic world is rife with this sort of thinking. It’s probably because we fear that embracing other genres will take us down rabbit holes. And yes, we who are mortal have at best 100 years on this planet. We gotta make our mark as writers and what is taken as a given is that we aren’t going to make this mark if we take the time to dabble in all the genres.

Had I bucked the trend and saw myself as a poet and essayist I would have remained open to more options. I, for instance, have read lengthy essays at readings. Would have been better to have read poems. I also bypassed the opportunity to take part in poetry workshops because, well, I was not a poet.

My mentor Wendy Bishop wrote poetry and academic articles. She was not a great poet. She lacked heart. But that she did this and persisted at this, and encouraged others to do this, is more than admirable. I didn’t realize this until now. That which was obvious was so obvious that I did not fully grasp it. She was as she once put it “an interdisciplinary kind of gal.”

But my having had paid attention this past month to individual words, voice, syntax, line breaks (which is what one does when they write poetry), is going to make me more cognizant of this when I resume writing essays.

I also came to the realization that I need triggers in order to spark the flow of ideas. Odd, my MFA teachers never talked about their composing process, or how we as writers might get ideas on paper.

I am going to revise what I wrote, all 39 poems, and this is going to take a long, long time. I first have to revise the goat poems, and get going on putting together the March Reception/Reading/Exhibit. The problem is that I’m my harshest critic, and when I look at any poems anew, I see them as being simplistic and trite. However, I made a commitment in regards to revising these poems when I took on this project. This is good, otherwise, the files folders that they are tucked into would eventually become dust-covered.

Now I have this other idea – I should put out a call for poetry and metanarratives have talk about how the finished product came into being. I really like this idea. I have written this idea down on a post-it and put the post-it on my study wall. There are many others. The beauty of post-its is that you can reprioritize them. So this will be second or third next project.

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