May 16, 2013

The Poetry Feedback Loop

Besides being a blogger, I happen to be a poet. 

In January, I graduated from the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in writing.  After two intensive years of reading and writing poetry, I suddenly found myself able to read whatever I wanted, from the trashy to the sublime.  I immediately embarked on four months of reading novels and nonfiction.  I read a lot of great books like Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, and Anna Karenina by Tolstoy, and a lot of above-average-quite-good-not-at-all-sorry-I-read-'em books like Are You My Mother by Alison Bechdel and The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  

But I didn't pick up one single volume of poetry in my four-month post-graduation extravaganza of reading. And guess what? I didn't write much poetry either, or at least not much decent poetry.  I even took the April poem-a-day challenge but my poems were decidedly uninspired.  

And of course my pea brain wanted to write good or even great poetry and said pea brain knew it was missing something but it couldn't quite settle on what that something might be. Chocolate? Sunshine? Puppies? Oh, (palm hitting forehead) poetry!!

Now I'm easing my way back in--I just finished reading my contributor's copy (see how I slipped that in?) of The Cancer Poetry Project 2, an anthology that features poems by cancer patients and the people who love them.  Next up is Reverse Rapture by Dara Weir, a book with more parentheses than are found in entire libraries. Then I'll turn to my shelves of unread poetry books and choose whatever calls to me, whether its David Trinidad or Tess Gallagher, Thomas Lux or Rita Dove, Jack Gilbert or Eduardo C. Corral.

I can't help but wonder if there's a metaphor embedded here; that what we take in is also what we put out; that we, as an American people, are taking in way too much of the wrong stuff—crap TV, fear, anger, corruption. The paradox is that we need to put more goodness out into the world—more friendship, considered thought, hard work for justice—in  order to then get it back, but that does seem to be the state of things, doesn't it?  Slap me before I start singing Kumbaya.  

And now, to Dara Weir.