Monday, May 10, 2010

Euphoria and Reality

After I draft a new poem, in that first rush of euphoria, my impulse is always to give it to someone. Invariably, I'm in love. Look at this poem I've birthed! I've spun out of pure air! Isn't it amazing?

And then I have to remember, that not everyone wants to kiss a new baby, and not every baby is cute.

I really have to fight the impulse to share, because the poem is almost never done--usually, not even close. Most poems go through months--some even years--of drafts before they are done. The ones I love when I finish usually have a seed of rightness and possibility about them, but that's often about it--so much of it's not yet developed. I think that impulse to share is that longing for someone else to confirm that yes, it has potential. Yes, it might just be a good poem.

One of my goals this summer is to really work on revision. I think the impulse to stop too soon is really strong--for me certainly, and I think for a lot of poets. I think sometimes that's what workshop is all telling us other, kindly and firmly, to keep working. It's not ready. Keep working, it's not ready. We have to learn over and over that even though a poem can be drafted in a few minutes, that doesn't mean it's a finished poem.

Some days I like best the initial writing--that euphoria of a good birth. And some days I like much better the revision--the tinkering with words, the cutting of bad lines, the assurance that it will get better with a little more work. There's no assurance that a new poem has potential. I throw most of them away. A lot of poets do. William Stafford wrote a poem every day of his adult life. If an average book has 40 or so poems in it, and an average time between books is 5 years, that's approximately 1,785 poems thrown away. It's hard to sit down (or get up in the morning) and write one of those 1,785 poems. But we have to write those, to get the 40 good ones.

Today I wrote a new one that I think might be a good one and I rewrote one that badly needed to be pushed back in and germinated a bit more. So, this feels like a good day. I'm savoring this, knowing how many not good ones there are, to come. And I'm resisting the urge to post that new poem here.

1 comment:

Homeric Geek said...

Thank you for writing this, Emily. I know that feeling. However, in my case it sometimes takes a different direction. Many times I think my poems are ugly and vulnerable babies and I don't want anyone to see them, no matter how much I work on them.

This post reminds me that all writing needs TLC and sometimes "tough love" before it is ready to be shown to the world.