I wrote my first poem, about a kitten, when I was nine. I still have that piece of very wide-ruled paper in the basement somewhere. It was a school assignment, and I lost points for spelling “cream” “creme.” I knew how to spell “cream,” but this was a conscious choice. I just thought “creme” was a fancy way to spell the word. (OREO did it, why couldn’t I? That’s what I said to the teacher.) I couldn’t have articulated it at that age, but I felt the exotic spelling added texture. I have always loved to play with language.
Two or three years later, I wrote my next poem. I was watching an episode of The Addams Family (a show that played no small part in my franco-erotic awakening and also influenced my fashion sense), in which Morticia was planning to write an opera called Afternoon in a Swamp.
I tried to imagine what such an opera would possibly be like and, when the show ended, I got up and wrote a poem called Afternoon in a Swamp. This is how it starts:
Isn’t it lovely to sit in the bubbly
mushy gushy swamp?
A thunder and lightning
most of all frightening
wonderful place for a romp.
It’s in the basement too. I travel light, but there are a few scraps of paper I’m still dragging around.
I kept writing poems, heavily in the teenage years, of course (my what crap), and on into my twenties and thirties (mostly sonnets for a man I ended up being with for 16 years). I came out of that relationship with a nice sonnet sequence spanning that significant chapter of my life. And the cherry on top of the sonnets, when it all came crashing down, was a villanelle I’m pretty proud of. Too much pain for 14 lines to hold, and the kind of challenge that keeps you so focused you forget to kill yourself that day.
For the last 10 or so of those 16 years, I drank a lot. We drank a lot. My daily buzz wrapped me in a sort of silence, was a buffer that kept me floating on the surface, which is not where poems come from. And so none came. But when I got divorced I took a dive, a deep, deep dive, and I haven’t come up. I like it down here. And I found a buddy.
All of this is to say that my priorities are changing. I’m planning a gradual and graceful exit from the rat race. I’m just too bored and disgusted watching the rats spinning frantically in their wheels to nowhere, and busting my ass for people who don’t appreciate it. I will be switching to the tortoise and hare race, in which I will be the tortoise, pausing to sit in the shade at the foot of a tree and ponder and write a thing or two before I continue along the path.
Life’s just too short.
In case you didn’t know it, I’m working on a novel. It’s about learning to dive (metaphorically speaking). And I’ll never finish it if my time and energy are squandered on pointless pursuits (though some may think writing a novel is just that). I also have a blog of prose poetry and photography. And then there are the Instagram photos. My miraculous husband makes things too: music as well as art.
My advice to you: take up diving.