When I write a line of poetry, it’s like going on Tinder to meet all those writers I fell in love with as a teenager. My particular crush happens to be poetry. If I saucily drop the word asphodel (a flower) into a stanza, a mythic William Carlos Williams must look up from wherever he is. Wordplay of mine that “dare(s) to eat a peach” has turned the world T.S. Eliot-wise.
Sometimes, after reams of poetry (yes, Van Morrison? Just a moment…) that is poor to mediocre, I might pen two lines which cause a movement of intelligence in the region of the heart. So, I continue.
Every now and then I publish a poem. A woman wrote to me saying she wanted to know the stories of the people who slept in the boat. The poem’s boat image came from the thirty-foot sailboat we cruised from 1974 to 1991. The image was a metaphor for family life, staying afloat, protection, direction, confinement, and opportunity seized or foregone.
Nautical words will always be evocative to me, but by writing, I also see the clichés that I am prone to, the emotions I find attractive to write about. Sometimes these emotions are not felt in full by me, but writing gives me a chance to draw them out, to see where they might go if I let them, to feel their nudge.
Always, after a few hours or days, edits must be made. It is a joy to eliminate words and see the meaning emerge. The best thing I ever heard said about the courage to write was from former Poet Laureate Juan Filipe Herrera. He encouraged his class to have trust that if you forget a phrase you thought was perfect, it doesn’t matter. The words, the essence, is yourself, and the voice will come true from resting in your own awareness of what you know. There can be different words, but he teaches that we are all writers because we are all worthy of our own voice.
Many people who would never say they are writers keep a day journal. To write down for ten minutes how the sky looked and if the grass was turning brown is more beautiful than we permit ourselves to know. Writing these simple, or sometimes tortured passages gives us space. Our experience of life is worth putting down. This fear, this hope, this walk into tomorrow.
It is not an act of self-importance to write. It is an act of gentleness toward oneself and the world. Our feelings of dismay when reading the news can be set down in writing. Even if no one but ourselves reads it, it is an act of humanity.
Next Saturday, try it for half an hour. Make it a practice. Next time someone in public office is making excuses that you can’t swallow, open up a word document, put the date at the top, and write.
~ Heidi Evans McArdleBrowse Front PageShare Your Idea
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