“Write a poem about resolutions.”
New years bring blue-sky thoughts that cloud over before February.
How long does it take the lie to rise to the surface?
Kill the lie. Push it down
into the darkness whence it came
and suffocate it.
Spite works best,
thick and stubborn, cloying, sticks in lungs, clogs the arteries.
Make it your shield.
Ah, fuck it.
. . . . .
Drafts are hard. Prompts make me feel awkward, clumsy, forcing words that don’t work about subjects that don’t inspire me. Drafts can be edited, of course, but you have to actually write to get a draft. You can’t edit a blank page. And sometimes you can sit there, wanting to write something, feeling that need to scratch a pen across the page and still… nothing. That’s where the prompts come in – theoretically. But when I actually start to write…
I have a notebook with nice paper, a pen newly inked and a head full of romantic art. I have emotive snapshots spread out before me. Inspire, I tell them. They give me a feeling, but not anything to say. That feeling doesn’t go together with clumsiness. The words I’m writing don’t match that image in my head.
But the alternative is… what? Nothing. No words written at all. I don’t want to ruin those beautiful pages or that image in my head with my own stumbling. I want beauty. I want moodiness and aesthetic. I want something good to spill from my pen. But you can’t get to good without going through bad. Get over it, girl.
I’m a big believer in resolutions, goals, plans. This year, as I spoke about in my last post, I want to get more creative. Take more photographs, write more, blog more. Explore. I have a 365 day poem-prompt book, and I don’t really use it much. I get this idea at the beginning of every year that I’m going to write a poem draft every day, and I get up to maybe day four and never touch it again. “Write a poem about resolutions.” The next one is something like “Protecting Niagara Falls”, where you’re supposed to write about something you want to protect. I find that sort of thing really hard. My work comes across either insipid or preachy, if not both, and then I want to throw the whole exercise out the window. My guess is that you’re not really supposed to write a good poem based on one of those prompts. You’re just meant to write.
Look at the draft up above, if you can bear it. I actually like the first line. The rest of it? Absolutely not. Like too many of my drafts, I reach a point where I’ve written myself into a corner and give up. Where is this poem meant to go? I have no idea. I had no idea when I started it. I wasn’t saying anything. But the first line? I like that. I’ll add it to my list of “decent lines” and, one day, cobble together a new poem from a series of them. Mix-and-match, find connections. I like doing that. It’s how I wrote Dec-Jan, which was written, shit, a year ago now. Time flies.
I don’t often post poem drafts. Sometimes I post story drafts, but not poems. It’s something I should really use Patreon for. I wanted to share this here, though, because it was really the inspiration behind this post. The last few years, I think we’ve all grown hard, cynical, thick-skinned. There’s nothing wrong with being those things. Maybe we need to be. But it’s hard to do that and write poetry.
All poetry reaches something raw, and to get it out, you have to take your skin off.