I’ve become stuck and forgot my words.
I skipped writing poetry in high school. I was too busy pretending to be novelist and a playwright. When I got to college at 17 years old, I had a creative writing professor take exception at my low opinion of writing poems and, while the class got to work on short stories, I had to write poems for an entire semester.
There was a green notebook that I carried in my backpack everywhere I went so I could write my daily double poems. At first I hated it. Just hated it. I kept at it, though. I was pissy at the assignment and was basically grudge rhyming to prove that it was silly and stupid and dumb.
On the other hand, I LOVE poems. Fucking love them.
Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an’ a’ that;
The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that.
Our toils obscure an’ a’ that,
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
The Man’s the gowd for a’ that …
Robert Burns ‘A Man’s a Man for A’ That’.
When it’s well done, poetry is an amazing way to press emotional immediacy. It can be brilliant, it can be powerful, and it can touch the complexity of human feelings and depth.
It can also be silly.
A crafty young bard named McMahon,
Whose poetry never would scan,
Once said, with a pause,
“It’s probably because,
I’m always trying to cram as many additional syllables into the last line as I possibly can.”
So, poetry. I was bad at it. Just awful.
On the other hand, I was writing lyrics for songs because somewhere along the way, I learned how to play guitar and wanted to impress girls. Somehow, at the time, I never saw the similarities between poems and lyrics. I was young and dumb.
Over the course of the semester my writing improved. My poems became less … stupid and bad, my prose had better flow, my dialog became more natural, my vocabulary improved exponentially, and my lyrics evolved from forced rhyme to … dare I say – poetry.
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
RUDYARD KIPLING “If”
The notebook is long gone.
I don’t impress girls anymore.
Arthritis and carpal tunnel keep me away from my guitars.
I haven’t written a poem in at least 25 years.
I sat down a couple of days ago and thought to write a poem. The resulting creative silence was heart breaking. It’s all scar tissue. I can see what I want to achieve, I can paint a picture in my mind of what it should look like, the emotions I want to communicate … and nothing happened. For more than an hour. I tried again the next day and got a long Not-A-Blog about how shitty I am as a parent. I sat down again today and got this one.
It’s not in there anymore, and I need it to be.
I need to find an internal dialog that isn’t angry at me, that doesn’t turn its back when I try to engage. I need to re-discover the joy in being alive … and I don’t know if I can. Everything is just so fucking big right now. So dark and hopeless. The harder I work, the worse things get.
I have someone in my life I want to write poems for … someone who deserves poetry, and laughter, and adventure, and … more than me. What the fuck am I? Who the fuck do I think I am? Where did I go? How do I get back? Can I even get back? Anon, anon, and anon.
Jesus, I need therapy. It’s pretty messy up in here right now.
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
Longfellow “The Rainy Day”