Discovering the Relevance of Words
Have you ever been so sick that you just puked and puked until there was nothing left? That feeling of utter exhaustion, of emptiness, of never wanting to eat or drink again in your life—sometimes, writing poetry is a little bit like that.
The last time I wrote a poem I was happy with was the beginning of April. It was about a boy, about heartbreak, about the same boy and the same heartbreak I have been writing about for the last three years; and at the end of the poem it was like I had finally finished throwing up, like I had expelled the last of the poison from my body and there was absolutely nothing left.
For a while afterwards, I had no desire to pick up a pen. And although I was relieved… I was less than myself.
See, I have a problem. Sometimes, I’m so embarrassed by my own emotions that I don’t even want to look at them, let alone write poems about them (let ALONE share those poems with a bunch of strangers). But that is the great agony of the poet, maybe even more so than any other type of communicator—that our job consists of exposing our pain and our foolishness and our intimate memories and our very selves willingly, recreationally, and maybe if we’re lucky for a little profit.
The only thing I’ve read that comes close to describing the calling of “poet” came from a book on preaching (as in church) by Bruce Thielemann, in which he says,
“The pulpit calls those anointed to it as the sea calls its sailors; and like the sea, it batters and bruises and does not rest… To preach, to really preach, is to die naked a little at a time and to know each time you do it that you must do it again.”
I would say the same of poetry. To be a poet, to really be a poet, is to die naked a little at a time and to know each time you do it that you must do it again.
And sometimes, that is hard. Sometimes, that feels like throwing up. Sometimes, you never want to see another pen or microphone or computer keyboard or audience full of eager faces waiting for you to make them feel less alone ever AGAIN.
But in the quiet stillness of your soul you know that you will never be anything even remotely close to happy until you do.
Or maybe that’s just me. But I know that for me, it’s time to get up off the couch, go to the store and buy some Sprite and saltine crackers, and get back to work.