Bud, Hunt, Sex, Poem. Hibernate. Repeat.
“You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing. Permit yourself to flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”
- Anaïs Nin
Just as a gardener tunes the soil with amendments to give rise to the plushiest and most ardent tomato, I tune the soil of my inner life to grow each poem that wants to come.
I know that the poems I find most delicious like an atmosphere of uncertainty; of unfamiliar characters and setting; of emotional exposure, often-but-not-always unrequited; invariably, of wanting. If I’m not hungry, I can’t write. I need to be hungry.
Sometimes, like tomatoes, my poems will arise unasked and awkward, pushing their little buds out from a moment I would have thought entirely unsuited. Usually, though, I feel the season on me, I get my amendments together and I start to knead them in.
Poems don’t pour from me, as a rule. I don’t make a habit of them, as much as I don’t make a habit of taking lovers. Poems are distracting. Lovers are distracting. Poems and lovers both goad me off the steep path I’ve chosen out of sheer love of steepness, white stags flashing behind deep trees. Most of the time, I manage to barely notice. Sometimes — and I can never seem to predict when it happens — I have no choice but to load my bow and launch in after it. As any huntress does, I go to some lengths. Sometimes, afterward, these lengths feel so ample as to be comical; in the forest, bow in hand, I don’t notice them.
Even if the poem doesn’t end up announcing itself as any kind of love poem, they always are.
(Come here and fuck me. I want to have your poem.)
The thing that always strikes me, when the poem is done, is how true they always are. Dishonesty, even in service of a prettier presentation, comes as a frost and kills a poem on the vine. They’re not true in the sense that they give any information, of course. They’re cross-processed prints of an emotional photograph taken from an odd angle; more honest than honest, but with shifts of color and contrast that make the original scene somewhat unrecognizable. What was in front of me when I took the photograph was there when I took the photograph. I can tell you that for certain. That it doesn’t look like itself anymore is quite beside the point.
The poem chooses its own form, true as any growing thing. It decides the meter; the length; the style. It decides when and where it wants to rhyme.
And, when it’s done, because language is a sharing act, I (always shyly, prodded by what feels like responsibility) share it with its co-progenitor.
You may find this funny; I do. Recently, I was with a man who mentioned, in passing — not sure what the conversation was about; open-mic nights? — bad poems, and the embarrassing people who do not know how to write good poems, with the implication that poems which do not rhyme and do not take a recognizable format are not, in actu, good poems.
The poem that arose from that meeting decided — of course — that it was a broken torrent of prose and emphasis, cryptic and swinging from the forceful beats and silences he made me think of.
My sharing of that particular piece might have had a slight whiff of apology. (Can’t choose these things. Sorry.) It’s the last I’ve heard from him. Unsurprising, that.
The fact of this matter, though, is that, for me — uphill-plodder, occasional huntress, always-gardener, witchy watcher of the switching seasons — the poems come as a clearing of the throat, leaving my heart’s voice richer and more profuse in their wake, as much as they are a creative sustenance grown from inner earth. Without them, I am hardly me, so despite the trouble it takes to wander and create them, that trouble is taken with glee.