How does a poem begin?
I don’t know anymore. With hope, I think. Writing a poem is a life-affirming act. I am here, and I care, it matters to me even if nobody else does – even if it’s not a very good poem or has dark intentions or is misguided in some way. If I write something I must think it’s something worth writing. So something in this world is worth writing about and maybe I can survive the day because I found something worth keeping, worth redeeming. If I share it with someone I must think there’s something of value to others in there, too. But I never know.
Everyone wants to be seen somewhere. Yet devotion to poems have helped me to see myself. The reward for being the writer who stays in the chair seems to be the poems come looking for you. There are so many I want to write now I struggle through anxiety – there’s never enough time. And there isn’t, of course. And it goes fast.
If you have something to say, now’s the time. Now is always the time – tomorrow never comes. It will not be perfect. There will always be more to learn and challenge yourself with, right – but you still have to dive in and swim because you may not get another chance. The feeling you have today may be gone tomorrow. Someone you love, someone you might have shared yourself with may be gone tomorrow. You’re here now and real and you, and no matter how bad you think you are your voice is worth being heard. So don’t self-reject. Time is the monster. There is no cure for this. Staying solitary can be a curse but you can break through. Never stop working, first.
Home is where you stand with love, and maybe a poem is where you stand most bravely. Poets don’t get backing vocals and a rhythm section. So for me a poem begins with love, I think. The best kind. Radical self-love in the face of devastation – and the monster comes for us all sooner or later – is among the finest impulses of the human spirit. In the past I was overrun by the intensity. I don’t fight it now and it goes easier. I fight no more but to surrender.
In defense of love, you poets out there – you honor us with your bravery. This is important work and I think probably the most important. You’re actually saving lives in the places no-one else can go.
You’re saving mine, every day.
So back to work!