There was a time when a writer’s letters to friends, family, or paramours revealed a side of the author unknown to their general reading public. Today’s self referential and twittered universe hardly knows the meaning of such private information. The addiction to connectivity as a means to relevance allows passive following a footing in the production cycle heretofore reserved for the banana peel. Distraction is the action floating across the hand held screen. I can efficiently see the breakfast dishes of folks halfway around the globe, but what I need help with is seeing behind the mask I present to the world. A pearl begins with irritation, the nudge we credit to the still, small voice could just as well be a thorn in the paw.
One function of poetry is to comfort the broken. What repairs us prepares us to be a balm. To only stir anger is to sell the spoon short. Keeping a journal may soak up the bleeding of our wound, but hanging up the bandages under the guise of art is a little too simple. When pain makes us tender, we write to extend a courtesy of awareness to others in the same hurt. The lighthouse warns sailors about the coast and gives folks on land the hope of a ship coming in. To be cathartic we need to be accurate, articulate, and artistic. If we can do it without appearing strained by the endeavor so much the better.
Madison Avenue wants to know, “What’s in your wallet?” Literally! As poets in age of mind numbing media we might aim to fold hope into the secret pockets of the heart. Musicians know the groove begins and sustains by playing in the pocket. The upbeat makes the difference when you’re getting down. The timely advice of keeping time is personified by the sage of the stage, George Clinton, “Most of all, we got to help them find the funk!” What can poets find in the grit, grind, and grime to set our minds on things above? Oscar Wilde, and Chrissy Hynde, remind us, “All of us are in the gutter, some of us are looking at the stars.” When I try to force uplifting sentiment into a sentence the lack of grace ruins the intent. The paving on the road to hell has a lot of crumpled paper from would be sonnets, snippets, and false started songs. Better to litter than mail a lousy letter. Learning to let it rest is the best response to a stubborn bit of resistance. Alternatively starting another line, even in another genre, can sometimes unfreeze the pipes. If you write prose, start a lyric. If you’re a song writer, work on a brief memoir. If you do freestyle verbiage, make a painting, or a mud pie.
Our creative juice, like water, seeks it’s own level, but unlike the planetary covering, it can defy gravity. The craft requires exercise, repetitive motion, and time management. Poetry, like music, painting, or dance is a hard won discipline. The quality of the work isn’t the only reward, the effort itself fires a neurological sequence of serotonin and dopamine. The first person a creative endeavor uplifts, chemically speaking, is the author. The adrenaline rush might not match ripping a guitar lick in front of a stadium sized crowd but there is a buzzing of the bees in the bonnet. The spiritual pleasure of writing poetry is real as well but rather than considering it as a magician’s cloak of mystery we might look at it as a bonding agent, an empathetic energy of expression. Our audience may be unknown at the moment we write the line, but like a magnet head a poem ought to attract, or repulse, somebody. Finding a recipient for our work puts us akin to the hummingbird in January searching for a crimson blossom in the grey. That seeking, that reaching out, that submission for publication is where the divine settles back into being human and takes a chance.
Where is the when is an important question to ask about our writing. To make time for churning out pages is to take time from other pursuits, priorities, and or playtime. The very prolific James Joyce is said to have committed to write at least seven words a day, in the right order, even if it took all day and night to do it. The universe can only be conquered by the individual addressing the universal challenges. The pull to put something down on paper is part of the tide that goes against leaving the pen flat on the table to day dream about our impending grandeur, winning a Grammy, or Gramma’s biscuits and gravy. Work is work and it’s nice to get it in early, but if midnight approaches and we have yet to attack the blank page, we ought get up and scribble. Maybe a half remembered dream is enough to kick start a story line, if not, there’s always nightmares, just ask Stephen King.