Sunday, August 2, 2009

The New ReadWritePoem

I've been following the ReadWritePoem blog on my Google Reader for a few weeks, and I was wonderfully surprised to see ReadWritePoem burst forth into a full-on poetry community -- a place to discuss and analyze poems as well as to write and perhaps even receive critiques. This upgrade may be the perfect timing for me as I'm working on a poem for submission to the next issue of Image whose theme is "confession." It's coming along -- still needs much work but it's definitely making progress. I doubt it will be accepted, but I'll never know unless I try. And I am working and reworking this piece far more than I usually do.

As I write more poetry, scooping up ideas and sifting them through my soul, choosing words with as much care as one points out the perfect donut from behind the glass (well, actually more thoughtfully than that, even -- much more), I am unearthing the truth of Paul Valery's statement: "A poem is never finished, only abandoned."

I have rarely taken the time to truly hone my work. I abandon them far too easily, I'm afraid. The enjoyment (for me) is often in the first flash of insight, the first image that burns itself into my psyche, the first attempts to capture the uncapturable. But the genius of writing isn't so much the inspiration as it is the perspiration -- the dedication to revise, re-envision, re-phrase, re-organize. Re-write. Cut and cull. Re-place. Scribble additions, judge possibilities. Scratch out. Make a mess.

Revision of a poem is like redecorating a room. Something that is acceptable but not brilliant is before me. Something I can live with. Really. But rather than settling for the mediocre, I tear apart. Dust flies. Furniture gets pushed around, the dust bunnies underneath revealed for all to see. Walls are stripped -- denuded of pictures, shelves, wallpaper, paint. All is chaos. I can't think.

But slowly, one element at a time, order begins to be restored. The walls are freshly painted, setting an entirely new tone for the room. Furniture is shoved into new spaces and configurations. Dirt and dust is swept aside, vacuumed up. Walls are adorned, windows cleaned and brightened with new hangings. Slowly order is restored, and from chaos comes revelation -- and if one is especially gifted, Truth. All that is ordinary is seen in a different slant of light, glowing into the extraordinary.

That's what we hope will happen, anyway.

Sometimes demolition ruins the piece. It becomes so scattered -- bits and pieces strewn about, unable to find their places. But a nothing poem that is tossed into the trash bin is an improvement over the ordinary remaining so.

Most of the time, anyway.

So that's what I'm up to with this poem, and I hope to receive inspiration and perhaps some interior design ideas that will help me to get my space shining with the brilliance of divine revelation.

Or at least possible publication.


Anne said...

Susanne, thank you for this post! Although I have absolutely no background in writing, the practice of it consumes me. I am rarely satisfied with my completed pieces and am floored with wonder when something I write actually touches someone.

I have been working on writing a book about my experiences at the WIC clinic where I work. I post about it every Monday. I am completely overwhelmed with writing a proposal. Something about it terrifies me and I am afraid that no matter how many times I write and revise it, I will never be satisfied and may just abandon the idea all together. I think it stems from all of the poems, prayers and short stories that I have submitted to magazines and contests that have been rejected. Your words give me courage to continue to try. Thanks!

Susanne Barrett said...

I would LOVE to read your book about the WIC clinic -- the story today was wonderful and poignant. :) Praying for Tiffany!

Jane D. said...

What a great analagy to use - with all our recent decorating activity I can really see where you are coming from......... good food for thought x.


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