Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Why Write?

Yesterday as I was looking through my files of poems, both published and unpublished, I was struck by a sort of wistful sadness:  so many collections of poems that I had once planned--and now, I can't even remember which poems would have gone with which possible collections.  Luckily, I can still open the poems one by one, for example to see if a poem named "Safe" is about terrorism or about Jesus playing baseball.

And then I wondered how many ideas for poetry collections have come and gone and I don't even remember them.  Sigh.

I have lists of course--I have all sorts of ideas for possible publications of book-length collections of both prose and poetry.  I have a lot of the rough draft work done.  I've even done some revising and polishing.

I often have a "why bother" moment.  I am not great at the persistence that it takes to send book-length manuscripts out again and again until a publisher says yes.  And should that happen, could I really support a book in the way that I would want?

I say that I'm not good at persistence, but my various files tell a different tale.  I've been looking for a home for my full-length poetry manuscript for more years than I like to think about.  Through the years, I've done some revising, so the manuscript isn't the same--I want to believe it's been getting stronger.

In the end, I will keep on.  I will send out individual poems and stories.  I will keep thinking about larger collections.  I know that literary history is full of people who would be surprised to know that we know their names at all.  I think of John Keats, who died thinking he was an obscure poet, quickly forgotten.

The writing is an end in itself--worth doing even if my writing was never seen by anyone else.  It's a way to order the world.  It's a way to delight myself.  It's a different way of remembering the events of my life.

For example, if I hadn't written that poem about Jesus and the baseball team, I'd have likely forgotten the night that I showed up to be part of a mixed gender baseball team.  They needed another woman player to avoid being disqualified from play.  My friend asked me to join them, even though I said I had no skills.  As I was playing in the outfield, hoping that the ball would not come my way, the idea for the poem came to me.

As I left the brightly lit playing fields, I saw 2 small owls on the grass by the parking lots--at the time I didn't realize it, but now I think they were burrowing owls, which was why they were on the ground.  We blinked at each other for a few minutes, and then I made my way to the car.

If I hadn't written that poem, I wouldn't have had a reason to preserve that memory--and if I hadn't written that poem, I wouldn't have thought of the night at the community park baseball fields long ago.

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