Sheer force of will. That’s how my poems are written, mostly. Other writing flows from my mind, my heart, my pen. But poetry? Not so much. Not at all, really. We are in a constant, pitched battle. And they show up on the page, sometimes scarred and ashen, sometimes sullen, sometimes breathing a heavy sigh of relief to finally have me off their backs.
Okay, that’s not always true, right? Sometimes — when I’ve chosen a form for April that doesn’t kick my butt every single day — the words can fall together as if I actually have an idea.
I said all that to say this: my poems have been heavy so far this month, heavier than I intended, heavier than I imagined they’d be. Tonight I tried to force things another way … and the poem reminded me that that’s not at all how this works. It doesn’t go where I want. My role is to follow it, pen and steno pad in hand, taking rapid dictation. If I could ever learn that, there’s no telling what I could do.
I don’t know what tonight’s poem is. It isn’t what I thought I was writing, and it doesn’t seem to have resolved itself yet into whatever it was pushing back against me in order to become. But I’m tired. So I’m going to post it in it’s half-way state and put myself to bed.
The lines I used for tonight’s poem are from Lucille Clifton’s “eve thinking.” I was drawn by her opening line, “it is wild country here.” It reminded me of a writing activity I did once, many years ago, with a group of rowdy and adorable 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders. The kids were writing and drawing poems about what was wild in them, about who their wild selves were. I aspire, still, to the pure abandon those little ones shared on the page.
Open My tongue is new and it hurts still. It is surprising, sudden, wild -- a far country. Far, and right here. No need to go searching, digging under rocks for signs, for language -- it's mine to sing, to laugh, to call every secret name ever given to me. And, at the end, I do as I will. Always. I stretch, whisper truths into being. Into his ear, into yours. Ground out of my mouth, wrapped in my tongue, wrapped in our hands, calling the gods by their first names.
National Poetry Month 2021: the Golden Shovel
As I’ve done for the last forever, I’ve chosen a poetic form, and I’m going to try to write a poem in that form every day for the month of April. I don’t always succeed, but I always give it my best shot. The “Golden Shovel” was created by Terrance Hayes in tribute to Gwendolyn Brooks. I learned about it from my friend Sonia (aka Red Emma). I’ll be using Lucille Clifton’s poems as my starting point this month. Here are the rules:
- Take a line (or lines) from a poem you admire.
- Use each word in the line (or lines) as the end word for each line in your poem.
- Keep the end words in order.
- Give credit to the poet who originally wrote the line (or lines).
- The new poem does not have to be about the same subject as the poem that offers the end words.
If you pull a line with six words, your poem would be six lines long. If you pull a stanza with 24 words, your poem would be 24 lines long. And so on.
Should be interesting!