Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Imagery, Writing, and Whatnot

I've been thinking a great deal about my writing, particularly poetry, in the last little while because my poetry professor, who was recently the state's Poet Laureate, is dying. What I remember from her class varies from day to day, but there are some specific points that I managed to retain...I was in the course the semester of my nervous breakdown, so it's a miracle that I remember much of anything.

  • Go for imagery- if you can't evoke it, don't write about it
  • Helen Steiner Rice is a hack
  • Write what you know
  • The New Yorker is one of the best venues for fresh poetry
  • Don't force it

My professor called me to her office after class one time, though, and it was a poem I had written entitled "When I Am Icarus". She'd been worried after she read it. She wanted to know what it was really about because she sensed it was something deeply personal. After I explained what was going on, and also that I was receiving help through the university counseling service, I think she felt a little better about it. I don't remember the whole poem, but I do remember the first line and the subject.

It was about several things...leaving one dangerous situation for another, being so caught up in one's ego that one cannot foresee the ultimate failure, and, well, putting yourself at risk when the stakes are very high. That was the metaphor. The truth was that I'd thrown myself back into dating again on the rebound, and in the end, my attempt to date "above my place" (a fat GDI girl dating a fraternity boy) had resulted in utter devastation. I'd lost the only boy I loved twice by then and I'd become careless. I knew better, but I did it anyway, and the inevitable happened. What was I thinking? Why did I ever believe I could be the exception and not the rule? When the flimsy wax of my logic burned away in the heat and light of reality, I fell to my doom and lay broken on the ground.

I had already voluntarily entered counseling at that point. Writing, then as now, was how I worked through it, although it admittedly still feels like crawling across a field of broken glass.

The feathers are falling out as fast as I can put them back, and we all know we get more vulnerable and less able to heal as we age. Maybe I should go back to poetry, or maybe not. I don't know.

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