Saturday, June 07, 2014

What Comes Round

I have not indulged in free-writing much lately, as I've been writing and editing for other people.  It's my job, you see, and I love it.  I write blog posts, articles, letters, brochures, web content...all of that.  I edit books, professional documents, marketing material.  I set up websites and integrate social media. I post on Facebook and Twitter.

And then I forget to write for myself.

I forget that it's okay to slice out some minutes to write any old garbage I want.  My brain and my fingers miss it.  So I thought I would give myself permission this morning, permission to write whatever comes to mind.  I find, however, that I am cheating, editing as I go, automatically looking for those missing commas or repeated words, even though I said I would just write what my mind lends me, let my subconscious navigate.

See that's how poetry comes about.  The neurons fire up, travel through the brain, through the fingers, to the keyboard, and whatever has been pent up comes round like a stray dog you know is always there but is ignored while you are off doing more house-bound things like writing about community events, handling family crises or wondering where the the next check will come from.  The dog is perpetually looking to come in, but you glance at it thinking, wow, that thing sure is grungy.  Here.  Here's a biscuit.  Now stay outside, flea bag.

But that's where the poetry is--outside, sitting on your back steps, turning big eyes up towards the door, wishing you'd let it in and then out and then in and out the way dogs always want.  If you owned the dog, you'd install a doggie door, let the creature do it's own thing, know it, too, needs time outside, but instead, you think, this is a stray, and strays belong in the street.  You can't take on one more responsibility, one more activity, one more speck of drama, even if that drama is really just made up of words that have been collecting in your mind for weeks now.  So the dog follows you home, sits and waits until you are ready to say, okay.  Come in and let's give you a bath, old fella.

So that's where I've been, ignoring the dog, knowing how much I love animals but having to turn my eyes and mind elsewhere.  Funny thing about dogs, though.  So long as you don't abuse them, they don't often hold grudges, and if they do, it's not for very long.  I'm not an abuser, and the dog knows that.

I'm sitting here now wondering what I mean by all this and hearing the tone of authors I have been reading, Garrett Carlson and Rupert Thomson, in particular.  I'm not much of a non-fiction writer, nor am I a very good fiction writer, but when I read these guys, I hear a lilt that stays with me, a rhythm, a means to a poetic end even when the poetry still isn't ready to be written.  The way these authors spin simile and metaphor reminds me that poetic devices can thrive in any environment and that I am not relegated to some rule that says no, you may only write poetry.  So what if my prose aren't great?  They are another means to an end, another way to express myself, another way of looking at the dog.  They give me an excuse to let the dog in, feed it, take care of it, because in doing so, I am taking care of myself.

That's the crux of it, yes?  Self care?  I've not been so good at it because I'm too busy doing everything else.  By the time I get to thinking about my own needs (and I do need to write, I do need the dog), I'm so exhausted mentally and physically that all I can do is lie on the couch and stare.  I sneak in moments of reading for the pure pleasure of escape, long enough to hear the authors' cadence, allow it into my already crowded head, knowing at some point it will come out and when it does, it will change the way I look at writing.  That's what good writers can do--change your perspective.  It's an act of letting in and then releasing, letting in, releasing, a gift these writers give us, an offering I appreciate.

That's where I have been, alternately chasing assigned words and caring for others, neglecting my poetry.  But that's okay because here, I am writing something a little bit different, letting in the dog and noticing things about it I hadn't before. Its fur has softened with the elements.  Its nails are long and round, filed from the days it spends on the pavement.  Its belly isn't as thin as I expected it to be, having been filled by other generous donors.  It's not pathetic, nor is it ready to die.  I could write a poem called "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Dog."

Or I could just howl.
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