Monday, April 11, 2011

Month of Poetry, Refuge

Last week was hard.  Very hard.  Not in any way related to the content of this blog--family, home, health, finances, marriage all fine--but that other half of my double life was rocked to the core.  And I did not handle it very well.  I spent a lot of time angry at the wrong person.  I cried.  And cried and cried and cried.  I was beastly to my children.  I spoke to someone in authority in a way that was not very, er, respectful.  I knocked some stuff off some shelves.  Broke a picture frame.  (Turns out I can rage a little bit after all).

I tried to exercise my coping skills--I went to the pool every morning, tried to keep my mind focused on the water, my stroke.  I ate lots of chocolate.  Drank wine and margaritas and spent time with friends (what?  emotional eating and drinking don't count as coping skills??).  Finally Friday I remembered my walk and spent a few minutes nature journaling.

But my true lifeline through it all was poetry.

I keep this notebook in my bag,

and I found myself pulling it out in the parking lot of the Y, at red lights, after meetings, in the middle of the night.  I poured my broken heart onto the page, just like I did when I was 12 and the world was coming to the end because the only cute boy in the room did not return my adoration.  A lot of crap came out of my pen.  Some of it made it onto this blog, but the worst of it will stay in my notebook.  And a few words, lines here and there, maybe even a whole poem or two have resonated with me.

I don't have a really good, objective way of telling if a poem is good or not.  I read a poem and it may baffle me, do nothing at all, or ignite me.  With my own poetry, I feel there might be something there if I run the lines over and over in my mind long after putting them down on paper.  Does this mean it will light another reader on fire?  Or at least not make them groan?  I have no idea.

In Sage Cohen's book, Writing the Life Poetic (I'll talk more about it later this week), she speaks of Receptivity...being open to receiving poetic cues from the world around you.  I think because I started this poetry project, and was already opening up in such a way, that poetry became the natural vessel into which I poured my suffering.  Normally, I write one poem every three or four months--last week I was writing three or four a day.  If I weren't in this poetry-writing mode, I might have written long, rambling journal entries, or just stuck with the wine and crying.

Poetry is also a good medium for tackling topics that you are not willing or able to write about head-on, because in poetry you can approach your subject tangentially, using metaphor and symbolism, and take your own personal little crisis and blossom it out into a universal that may touch someone else.

I have been amazed, this past week, to discover how intensely I care about what I do (or at lest what I did before the New Sheriff waddled into town), about how intensely personal the political is (I dropped my child at a birthday party at the home of a person whose bumper sticker, proclaiming their allegiance to a particular politician, sent me home trembling with anger, as if that person had personally snatched my future out from under me--I went home and, guess what, wrote a poem).  And I have been amazed at how, even if it can't fix anything, poetry has been my refuge and my solace through it all.


  1. Poetry - Yes.

    Sorry about work. I'm glad you know you care, but sorry about whatever is happening. Call anytime you need to talk.

  2. Recently, I've had issues that seem much easier to carry once they're put down on paper. At the moment of writing, it doesn't feel cathartic or helpful, just mean and whiny. Later, I find I'm not dwelling on it, that maybe (I hope) there is room now for forgiveness, and that is a tremendous relief.

    Best wishes.

  3. Glad that poetry is helping! Thanks for sharing your poems with us. I agree that it's so hard to know if a poem is "good." But I always love your writing.

  4. I had wondered about you and the current climate in our state. I am so far removed from it and still I feel so frustrated and angry. I can only imagine how you must feel. I am however, glad to know that people like you work for the state. Take care of yourself!

  5. While I'm sorry you're experiencing this, I appreciate your honesty and what you've shared--it's good to see a real person and not just a picture-perfect image.


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