Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Printing Old Poems

Lately I've gotten nervous about losing poems, so over this past week I've been running through my folders and printing out old poems and throwing them in a notebook. I've been in a rush so I haven't been reading more than a line or two of each, as they print...but that's been enough to surprise me.

I've been writing Lucy poems like mad--afraid that if I don't get some poetry down about having a baby (birth, babyhood, nursing, etc.) I'll forget it and I'd really like to work with this material.  But as I've printed, I've realized how much I've actually managed to write over the past few years, and most of that has been about babies.  I've actually got several hundred poems.

I think I may  have forgotten (or blocked) the idea of writing about babies, because for so long I felt like it wasn't going to be something I could do much with--I just needed to write it, and I never direct my subject matter, so I wrote--but it seemed like it would be for just me.  Then I went to AWP in Denver two years ago and attended a panel with Beth Ann Fennelly and she blew that idea right out of the water. Her book Tender Hooks is an incredible "mama book"--rich, articulate, funny, smart--all the things we'd want in a good book of poetry.  And she was published by Norton!

Seeing her book, and listening to her talk, gave me two wake-up calls.  First, writing about birth and children is not off the page.  Of course we've seen so many terrible "baby poems" out there, but nothing is off limits when it comes to writing.  And giving birth--being present at one of the two most fundamental moments of human existence--is a heavy weight poetry topic.  Amen!  And second, it taught me to stop doubting myself.  I learned this lesson once before (actually, at the AWP conference in Vancouver)--to not doubt subject matter (then it was writing about faith) and this was a good reminder again, to simply trust my instincts.  That doesn't mean any of this will get published, or turn into a book, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't do it.

And right now, a ratty white notebook is sitting in my desk drawer with the very first outlines of a book in it.  Feels pretty great.

No comments: