Monday, December 14, 2009

From Clever to Poem

I want to capture this process what it's relatively fresh.

Three Sundays ago I started a new poem. I was at the Met. The spark was in the collection of European art, one of my favorite wandering zones--where, as an acquaintance said, "it's all that Jesus, all that blood." She volunteers at the Modern.

Not mine to worry about my love, why I love. Just grateful to love art.

I'd wandered there and here and as usual was grumbling to myself about inadequate signage. I explained to two very sweet college students that flash bulbs could damage the paintings. I might be overdoing it but what's wrong with an effort towards conservation.

I think--think--the students were pleased to be told the art was archived online; the reproduction would be better than any they might snap. So there I was in everyone's business and world but mine, when I stopped short.

What was this? The painting that nabbed me was Jesus Christ at the Last Judgment, making decisions. It was a little eerie, as if he was deciding who should go to the right or the left with all the historical associations there. My mom said Heaven and Hell are here on Earth and we can make our lives either. Not going to argue, but there is a part of my Christian-Jewish-Sufi being that entertains a teensy concern about the next phase. I know what I've done.

I was enough unsettled to settle on a bench and write a draft of a poem. A few days later I input it, then every day I edited, crossed out, honed what was turning out to be one of the cleverest pieces the western world had ever known. I was soaring.

I like to keep the latest print-out of a poem by my bed so I can take a look when I wake or any time it catches my eye. One of these times it hit me like a tiny brick--I don't need a ton--that I wasn't writing a poem. There was no tension between the scan the words the music the breaks. It was a paragraph from a book I wouldn't buy, an idea, a clever leaden pastiche that no one would want to read, including myself.

Since I do most of my work online once I've written out the first draft, I can't reproduce the drafts themselves. (I don't archive. I'm not T.S. Eliot. Getting anyone to buy The Future Is Happy is work enough, let alone worrying if a library will purchase my letters. I'd probably make more from a med. school purchasing my body.) When things are hopping I go to the library daily to print out.

I gave into my sinking awareness. I deleted. I sacrificed. I sacrificed more. I kept reading it out loud.

It's been over a week since I figured out that was I was working on needed a sea change. I keep reading it out loud. It will be a poem. I'm even pushing to say something. My emotions have led me around for so much of my life--true of many. What a nice trick to mine them. To rise from the well and make my golden way.

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