posted in: Poetry 0
"Don't talk to me. I just spilled an entire bottle of India ink on the letter I just wrote and now I have to start over. Please go away."  (Illustration: Charles Dana Gibson, 1905.)
“Don’t talk to me. I just spilled an entire bottle of India ink on the letter I just wrote and now I have to start over. Please go away.” (Illustration: Charles Dana Gibson, 1905.)

My intention is to post on the ol’ PG at least six times a week and usually do. The past couple weeks have been a little thin, though I think I’m back in the saddle. The trouble is not that I haven’t had anything to say: I have too much.

I’m soaked with words lately. Work is going along, I’ve been traveling, etc., but my nose has been poked into a book at every opportunity. The 250-page journal I began two months ago is nearly out of pages. Poetry has been coursing through my veins. I’ve re-memorized Eliot’s Prufrock and have been reciting it as I tidy up the house or wheel my luggage to the train. I brushed up all my Parker. I’m planning to pull out my favorite Philip Larkin pieces and make sure I’ve got them down pat and I’m 90% on my favorite James Dickey poem, The Sheep Child. (Read that instead of the paper tomorrow morning. You’ll weep into your Cheerios and it will be totally worth it.)

I could be satisfied by the presence of these gems in my head. But those words have company, however shabby; I’m turning out new poems at a clip I haven’t seen for years. I don’t believe in writer’s block, and the concept of some hot muse coming to see you (or not) is for entertainment purposes only. But I’m the first to admit that sometimes the poetry is with thee, sometimeseth iteth noteth. Trying to force poetry is like trying to force yourself to paint a beautiful portrait. You can only do the best you can do: it’s either there that day or it isn’t, and even a lifetime of technique may not save you. So you wait and hope you have a few more portraits in you.

If I were a full-time writer, I think I’d go absolutely nuts. If the full-time living in my head didn’t kill me, the poverty would. But I think about Scottish poet William Soutar a lot. He was going about his life, doing his thing, making big plans. He loved poetry so much and wrote it when he could. Well, when he was around thirty, he was diagnosed with spondylitis, a disease that would paralyze him and render him bedridden for the rest of his life.

When he got the diagnosis, Soutar stood a moment and then said, “Now I can be a poet.” He didn’t have any excuses anymore. He was free to do what he needed to do.

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