Posting that old poem, it occurred to me that I haven’t any new ones. I started writing poetry in high school, as most teens with a literary bent and a lot of excess angst do. I wrote them through college and into my early thirties. The 1980s, when I couldn’t seem to get a novel going, spawned a lot of poetry – some of it meant to be song lyrics. Then, somewhere in the late 1980s, the poetry urge completely dried up. I have no idea why.
Of the several notebooks filled with poems, I have forty-six I’m not ashamed of. I think I’ll post them one by one on this blog, as poetry doesn’t sell. Only one has ever been published, in an anthology called Light Year back in the 1980s, and I didn’t get paid for it. Had to buy the book. Oh, well, at the time it was worth it to me.
So what makes a person a poet, as opposed to a prose writer? A lot of people are both, but I’ve always been rather single-minded as far as the creative impulse. I’ve noticed that when I’m writing a lot, I stop knitting, and when I’m knitting a lot, I seem to nearly stop writing. I have never figured out what it was about that particular decade that inspired the type of writing I did then. It was a hard decade. I was working at a well-paying job that I absolutely hated. My father died in 1983, which plunged my dysthymic self deep into the dark flood. In 1984 I got laid off from that job (thank God), and never have earned that much money again, though the stress wasn’t worth it. When you burst into tears every time the alarm goes off and it takes you five minutes to unclench your jaws in the morning, you need a different job, no matter how good the money is. To illustrate the sort of people I worked with, here’s the primo example. My father wasted away from cancer in the first half of 1983, dying the Thursday after Father’s Day. I had been telling people at work who asked how he was that he wasn’t going to recover. When he died I called in to tell them I wouldn’t be in for a week. The person who answered the phone, who I had considered a friend, said, “Oh, he really died? We thought you were just saying that.”
I wrote the poem February Midnight at a midnight in February, into a small tape recorder I kept by the bed then. In the morning when I transcribed it, I didn’t change a single word. I still think it’s my best poem. The little tape recorder helped with a lot of inspiration, because by the time I found the light, a pencil, and my glasses, I lost the thought, even when all that was on the nightstand. Just picking up the recorder in the dark and hitting the On button was a lot faster. I’ll post that poem tomorrow.