14 June 2010

Abandoning Poetical Fears


I used to find it hard to paddle my little poetry kayak through the writing/revision ocean, afraid of being buffeted by wayward similes and inappropriate metaphors, fated to rise and fall with the swell of current (ha!) poetic issues. My legs braced, teeth gritted, my back and arms grew sore from furious paddling, as I read and read and read other poets, how to books, every nut and bolts and widget guide on the shelf. I stuck close to shore, afraid of the deep waters of personal introspection, the shoals of classic mythology.

You can only read for so long and put off the inevitable. I like mythology, psychology, history and the brash interactions of the three. One day I looked up and discovered something novel (to me). If you didn't paddle so frantically, dig so deep, try so hard, it was actually easier to navigate the ins and outs of writing poetry that said what you wanted it to say. That reflected your inner passions and interests. I relaxed and let the words take me where they wanted to go. I quit trying to write about topics I wasn't interested in, and toward specific markets. As soon as I stopped listening to everyone else, writing got easier.

Not that I ignored everything other people said about my writing. My writer's group has some darn good editors, and I would be foolish not to consider their critiques carefully. After many years of listening, applying some suggestions and ignoring others that didn't 'feel' right, I think I finally discovered something profound. My own voice. Overshadowed by my fears, I'd been swamped by immobility and indecision. Time to jettison those unwelcome stowaways.

I found out just why my poetry watercraft was a kayak. It takes a beating, gets flipped around, dunked, and rights itself again without a whole lot of fuss. Once you know what you're doing, the waves are no longer a worry. Yes, sometimes I'll write crappy poems, I can accept that now. Yes, sometimes a poem stumbles, or sings off key. That's okay. It's all part of the process. I've known for a long time I am a process artist, not a project artist – I love the thrill of creation, the discovery, the learning. Why should my poetry be any different?

My final discovery was that as I let go and enjoyed the process, it became easier to also become a project artist/writer. I set myself projects to complete -doable projects, not impossible tasks- then settled back and enjoyed the ride. Deep in the process of creating poetry lurks my inner kayaker, eager to get paddling, undaunted by lashing waves – but still prissy enough to hate getting completely wet. Ah well, even our inner critic deserves some empathy.

How are your literary kayaking skills these days?

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

My literary kayaking skills
are rudimentary.

My physical kayaking skills are rudimentary.

Constance Brewer said...

Anon - Hey, at least you HAVE a physical kayak. And a river to explore.

Gabriele C. said...

Nice new layout.

Constance Brewer said...

Gabriele - I suspect it will change again before too long. :) But I like the wider width.
Oh - struggling along relearning German just to read Rilke. It's worth it.

Gabriele C. said...

Yes, Rilke is definitely worth it. Have you tried other German poets as well?

Constance Brewer said...

Gabriele - No, I haven't read any others. Who would you recommend? Remember - my ability to read German is pretty primitive. :)

Gabriele C. said...

You could try Heinrich Heine. He loves to add an ironic touch, but his language is simple and elegant. For lyrical beauty, Theodor Storm could make for a nice addition to your list, and Theodor Fontane has written a lot of historical ballads which are not too difficult to read.

One of my favourite poets is Stefan George, but his language and images are difficult to decipher even for Germans.

Goethe is a special case. I love some of his poems and can't stand others, so it's very much a hit and miss. Friedrich Schiller's best poems are his ballads, imho, and since they actually tell a story, might be easier to access.

I'll have a closer look at my anthologies one of these days. Most of the stuff is out of copyright so maybe it can be found online.