Poet's Absolution

Poetry. Sometimes I really hate it. And that includes my own.

Sometimes it feels like an easy way out. You want to create a moment, and prose doesn't quite do the job. So you
write a
sentence and
chop it
up so it
all dramatic
and shit.

And that's if you favor free verse. Yes, free verse: the literary crutch for drunken 20-something "writers" across the globe. I have notebooks fair to bursting with this drivel. I would go to my classes at Emerson, where I was working on an MFA in Writing & Literature, and have form beaten into me. Then I would hop on a train and go see the band of whatever guitar player I was "seeing," drink myself into a careening blur, and conveniently forget everything I'd learned. And so other than the pieces I wrote specifically for my poetry classes, the rest of my "poetry" from that period is some grim dreck indeed.

I quit drinking in 2002, and didn't write another poem again for eight years.

When I "auditioned" for and got the Friday slot for 5x500, I did not intend to write poetry. I was frankly awed by what my newfound collaborators were doing in that regard, and I still associated poetry with that drunken lack of discipline and feckless drama queenery. One of the gifts of sobriety is learning that one does not have to lubricate one's muse with the better part of a fifth of Jack Daniels. Clearheaded, the ideas still come. So I tried out a villanelle. Then I wrote a sestina. I reacquainted myself with the rules before I felt safe enough to break a few. And then, trembling, I tried my older, sober hand at free verse.

I haven't been 100% pleased with everything, but I've come to think of each poem as something I'm not afraid to go back to. And it's given me a deeper respect for the work. I'm so inspired by the other writers with whom I share this site, particularly Brian McGackin. But I'm equally inspired by BAD poetry, which is to say 95% of the stuff I wrote in my twenties. Want to learn how to do something? Learn how NOT to do it.

Truth be told, I enjoy being confined to form. I love the challenge of form. When I want to hurt my thinker, I lean towards sestinas and pantoums. I haven't yet attempted a sonnet, but I'm game. But I am much more comfortable with free verse now.

So does that make me a "poet" now? Ick. I hope not.

lisamcc at 5:18 p.m.

2 comments so far
Amanda White
2011-04-05 08:07:01
Actually that example you used to start the entry.. is a really awesome poem. Seriously, put that out there!

2011-04-13 20:14:09
Can't quite understand how you're not hopping with glee at what you've produced in 5x500, but of course I'm not in your head when you're writing these little gems. To the outsider (this one, at least) your poetry is chock-a-block with meaning, humor, lucidity, leanness, intelligence and pathos. I'd chuff you more, but those are all the adjectives I know. And by the way? THANK you for introducing me to a pantoum. Never heard of that form before. And form and structure is SEXXXY! Love you. xo, T.

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