First comes craft, then poem

I’ve been finding it difficult to write poems. It’s not for a lack of inspiration; life is full of strange and moving moments that are suited to poetry. I feel them intensely, and there is intent—both of which are needed to write a poem—but then, my words just don’t sound or sit right (if I manage to find any, that is). I am unsure of the form, meter, device, tone…all of it. I am unsure of it all.

I decided, yesterday, to stop trying so hard. (I don’t want my frustration to turn into resentment.) Instead, I’ve begun reading poetry, and about poetry.

It has been many years since I did either. I’m sad about that fact. I must write about why and how that happened, because ‘moving on’ requires contending with choices of the past.

For now, here’s the start of my journey to find my way back to poetry: reading Mary Oliver’s ‘A Poetry Handbook’. In it is condensed a lifetime of appreciating and teaching the craft of poetry. I’ve been savoring every sentence, drinking up every advice, chewing on every fact. Rediscovering ‘scansion’, ‘caesura’, ‘alexandrine’, ‘spondee’ made my heart weep. I embraced a dear lover lost to time and circumstance.

In the first chapter, ‘Getting Ready’, Mary Oliver writes,

“The part of the psyche that works in concert with consciousness and supplies a necessary part of the poem—the heat of a star as opposed to the shape of a star, let us say—exists in a mysterious, unmapped zone: not unconscious, not subconscious, but cautious. It learns quickly what sort of courtship it is going to be. Say to promise to be at your desk in the evenings, from seven to nine. It waits, it watches. If you are reliably there, it begins to show itself—soon it begins to arrive when you do. But if you are only there sometimes and are frequently late or inattentive, it will appear fleetingly, or it will not appear at all.”

I need to make a standing date with my lover if I wish us to ever make music together.

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