Tuesday, May 29, 2007

finding self

Things that are well worth a one hour commute: poetry group. The first meeting today at Eireann's house, situated in Minneapolis. Eight of us folded up, sitting on the edge of creaky chairs, lovely in the mixed texture of an old living room. Wine glasses in cabinets, bookcases with old spines facing out, our writing notebooks shapely in our laps. It felt so good, so good to be in the company of people who roll words about in their minds like balls of glue on the tips of their fingers. So good to look across the room and see an old friend, pick up to that feeling of kinship that was a part of classroom workshops. There is a kind of bond that comes between writers who trust each other to show what is most vulnerable--material we actually want to improve. That is a scary thing. It is one thing to splay ourselves about in a blog, which everyone knows is just a jotting place, a public diary, typos and all, imperfect, but to show someone a poem you want to see in a second life: this is a frightening thing indeed.

Of course, it all went so very well. Strangely, at the end of the night, one of Eireann's former students, Ian, asked, if I knew a Chelsea (yes) and my mother's name (yes), and he was one of her students, saying he wasn't so well behaved in that last year of French (and yes, she says you were not always the best, but you did write a charming song about Le Petit Prince which may have redeemed you). Small world, four and a half hours from our shared high school, something like six or seven years apart, and even now, an hour's drive from her house to my own. Another I recognized, but I can't quite place him--a former class we took together? A past life perhaps.

I had also forgotten what it was like to be up on that editing block, to be silent as your words are mulled over, are discussed and critiqued, criticized and defended; your own opinion would only get in the way. My poem survived with some excellent times and may find its way into revision. which is so good. Often I cannot do this thing others are doing: find what to keep, what to leave out. Of course, the stanza they suggested cutting was one I cringed at while reading (too easy to tell it like that, so cliche), so I suppose that would be one big sign.

I am in charge of next week's questions to pose for the group's discussion. It is so early on that this might not be weak to do, but I am wondering: What kinds of things appeal to each reader in poetry? How do we deem it "good" or "bad"? And what are all these categories about anyway? If we were to poems into boxes, how do we do that? This is too much and too broad, and I have a week, but to you, dear readers of this blog, what questions would you ask if you had the attention of seven other very poetic and smart individuals? How would you spend a rainy Tuesday evening with chocolate chip cake and glasses of cool water in your hands and poetry in your heart?

This group could not have started at a better time. I have been on this exploration of self kick lately, and have enthusiastically returned to the page. But the past few weeks have found me sluggish, hating my words, feeling as if there is no hope whatsoever of going beyond the rubbish that I jot between exhausting trips to This High School. I was pushing through, continuing miserably with morning pages, still writing here, dutifully, thinking, "I can get through this poor writing funk" and not actually believing it. But tonight, in the quiet of N Street, with the tock of her mantle clock, I remembered what it was to string words together like glass beads, each ticking against the next, making a quiet song, a bridal necklace that somehow works, brings it all together.

(I have a long way to go. But I'm happy on this journey and glad for the company I keep!)

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