After that last post, I think the first order of business is to say that I finally wrote a poem. It had the effect that I feared (hoped?) it would. Once I came up with the first line it just jumped right out onto the page like it had been suffocating stuck in my body, and the second I finished the last line I just started crying. I can’t say that’s a bad thing. Sometimes I feel like I need to cry and I just don’t…and then something really small and stupid will unleash everything I’ve been holding back.
After experiences like that, I’m not sure that Louise Glück’s claim that writing poetry is all triumph and no courage is completely correct. It seems to me that triumph is already underwritten by courage—the courage to try in the first place. Triumph is more complicated than exhilaration. In that sense, I applaud Glück’s word choice. Triumph implies a battle, a darkness, and maybe even death. It’s not as simple as win or lose.
The way poetry works on your soul is like a master gardener working in her plot. There are things in your past that you’d rather not acknowledge. All you want to do is move on from them…and the easiest way to do that seems like just ignoring the problem. These events are like weeds in the garden. You put all that work into planting the flowers, and now you have to put even more work into ripping these weeds out by the roots? It would be so easy to just pretend you don’t see them. But this will backfire on you. The weeds will grow so big and strong that they’ll begin to take over your garden—the flowers will start dying from starvation and lack of light. A good gardener removes the weeds from the garden, and she doesn’t do it simple by snipping them off the surface. She digs down into the roots, no matter how stubborn or strong they are, and rips them up through the earth. In the spaces left by the weeds, she plants new flowers. It’s a laborious, violent process…and it’s never over. There will always be new weeds, with different roots systems, choking out different flowers. That’s exactly what writing poetry does…it tears you apart and plants anew.
It rips that damn weed out of the earth and plants a fucking bird of paradise in the hole it left.