I used to get the most wonderful feeling from writing. Poetry, especially, was a lifeline for me. I loved that percolating, almost giddy sense of impending creation that meant I was ready to rough out the bones of a poem. The revising was even better, shaping lines and words like clay.
That feeling died over the years. A lot of it was killed off through sheer overuse after more than a decade of writing greeting cards nonstop. I also grew up, literally and figuratively, and lost the luster of naivete — instead of the lofty self-delusions that I could be a great poet, I faced the reality that I wasn’t even a good poet (at least not according to the standards I respected). That kind of gritty acceptance renders the effervescence of literary creation as flat as yesterday’s bath water. Editing Poet’s Market for all those years kind of sealed the deal as far as my slacking off on my poetry. Instead of being inspired by all those opportunities to publish, I felt overwhelmed by them and by the quantity of poetry that gets published yet goes unread.
I’ve never reached the point of understanding the difference between crocheting a piece of lace, embroidering a sampler, or quilting a wall hanging and simply writing for the pleasure of it. It never bothers me that few people will ever see my handiwork; yet the lack of audience has no impact on either my striving for excellence or my immense sense of satisfaction and enjoyment. I reach for a current needlework project as if picking it will save my life; I haven’t reached for my notebook that way in more than a decade.
Yet to create a poem that won’t be read or published, to do it simply for the enjoyment of the process and the fulfillment of completing a small work of art, seems like an act of futility. Why? It’s all wrong. It doesn’t help that the literary establishment doesn’t seem to encourage writing without trying to publish. God forbid there should be love of craft without ambition.
Since leaving Poet’s Market, I’ve taken a year off from poetry. I haven’t read much of it, haven’t visited the blogs or the zines, and definitely haven’t written a single line. That was partly due to my latent resentment at losing Poet’s Market, partly due to that futile, burned-out feeling; but it was also a deliberate choice, an act of literary fasting.
Maybe it helped. Because I’m beginning to miss poetry, both reading it and writing it. And sometimes I feel that little tingle that means I WANT to start working on a poem. I think it would be good for me. Whether I try to publish or not, I don’t know. I’ve been sending out work for almost 40 years, so it’s kind of second nature. Then again, maybe I’ll just post the poems I write here. Maybe update with revised versions. We’ll see. But it’s one of my resolutions for 2009 — I’m going to write poetry again. I’m going to write more period (that includes blogging as well).