Wednesday, February 24, 2021

wingless, legless

"For months, I couldn’t write. It was the loveliest vertigo, sort of like drinking tequila but without the hysterical blindness. My blackbirds were wingless, legless. They sputtered on the ground like firecrackers while you played flare gun, fire engine.


I've been sharing some bits from older projects over on twitter and tumblr and thinking about fallow periods and what grows both within them and after them.  What develops when nothing seems to be developing at all. How we're sometimes writing even when we aren't writing at all.  Or at least it doesn't seem like it.  I've spoken before about the couple years after my MFA degree when it felt like there were too many fingers in my poems, too many cooks in the kitchen.  Having written under observation for the previous four years, it was suddenly strange to be free to make not have to produce and show up, red pen in hand to defend those choices.  Some folks love workshops, and I actually liked them for getting to see other writer's work in progress and how poems became poems.  But they were less useful for me--at least most of them.  Craft classes I loved..since most of it was reading things and developing projects and then presenting bits of those projects, not with an eye toward vivisection of every little bit, but with an open-ended discussion on the project as a whole. I think so much is lost in critique-based workshops that could be so much better.  Also, the bad tendency of writers to try to change another author's poems into what they themselves would write and not through a reader's eye.   Also, just assholes. 

So in that early party of 2007--a lot of things were happening in terms of new project releases (feign, the Cornell project, my first little Dusie E-Kollectiv chap.)  But in the fall, when I moved into the studio space, most of my time was spent growing the press now that I was free of grad school and setting up the etsy shop.  It continued much this way for the next 3-4 years.  I was just really busy. Not that I wasn't writing at all.  Poems would fly out if me at intervals.  I was loosely working on what would become my narrative chap, beautiful, sinister, but very slowly.  I'd go a few month without putting anything down on paper.  It was a good time for visual and design projects, but not so much for words.  My second book, which had been accepted my last year of the program came out in 2008, but the bulk of in the bird museum had been written between 2005-2007. My third manuscript, girl show, (also my thesis) had been accepted by the press that published book #1, but they folded in 2010 and it landed back in my lap.  I was waffling on whether or not "being a poet" was something I even wanted. And editor and publisher, yes.  An artist , maybe. But writing was hard and thankless at times.  So why keep at it?  But then again, also why not?

What was happening in those years behind the scenes, in more personal things,  offered a lot of subject matter, however, and maybe I needed to take a step back to go forward. I've mentioned before how the james franco poems loosened some gears in its silliness. At around the same time, Black Lawrence accepted girl show, so I felt like maybe not all was lost. Maybe I was still a writer after all. In some ways, the windows and doors open, I could breathe inside the space and things began to grow there.  In late 2011, I put together a chapbook, havoc, of the poems that had been busting up through the concrete anyway, mostly about poor romantic choices. A couple years later, they would make up a good chunk of my 5th book, major characters in minor films. 2012 bought a burst of productivity and it was settled.  I kept going.  

Poems got easier, of course, the more I was back to doing them.  Since then, I've been trying to channel and summon the excitement I felt when I first started publishing and sharing work in the early aughts. Not what I learned in MFA school, which is strange system of secret knocks and code words and arbitrary rules to the outside. I've seen some of the best poets in my program go on to never write (at least publicly) another word and it makes me tremendously sad.  I get it, I totally do.  But I wish it weren't.  Nevertheless, something did rise from the floorboards in those years.  havoc is testament to that.  Are they a little overwrought?  Sometimes I think so.  (I had a way of digging in on something that can get annoying to my more mature eye, but they're still good poems.) But more importantly, they exist. 


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