From a poet who didn’t believe in herself. I replied. Maybe that reply can help or inspire you, too.
Let me tell you a few ideas I have about developing your poetry – first, it can be hard just to make the *time* to do it! Do you have a regular Poetry Moment in your daily routine? For serious simply keeping doing it is the best way to get where you want to be with your writing.
I do have a cute little informal, free, made of real people writing drop-in group on line. If you’d ever like to drop in, please do. The links and schedule for the different meetings are here: www.birchislandbooks.com/writerspace/
So, grammar. English is a branch of the German language family on a Celtic language structure with a ton of Latin-derived vocabulary, adapted to be closer to Norse, with words made up and carried in by new friends in every century. In the 1400s, the guy with the first English printing press said “I’m going to standardize spelling the way it is in the most formal, long-established documents” at the exact same time that the entire population of England underwent a massive shift in how they pronounced things. In the 1800s, women trying to teach in the very most rural of frontier prairie schools tried like the absolute dickens to write up rules of grammar which looked like Latin because they had heard that Latin was the ultimate, perfect language. Thus was born the American Academic dialect of English.
Here’s what I want you to know: your first draft is for you. It is impossible to make a mistake on a first draft because that’s the purpose of the first draft, to get the poetry out of your head and onto the paper, regardless of someone else’s idea of “correct”.
Later, if you wish to make a second draft which would communicate clearly to other people, great! My method for turning a first draft into a second draft includes coffee and talking out loud. If I read a sentence or a line of poetry out loud, in my native dialect of my native language, as the words come out of my mouth I can hear if they are the right way around and I can try different ways of saying the same thing until it sounds right. If I then have to translate into the American Academic dialect, that’s later. First I make sure it sounds like real sentences.
There you are
with the clouds finally peeled away.
Scorpion’s heart, you sound like a villain,
you look all red and pulsing,
But somehow I don’t believe it.
I believe that you are a friendly star, just there,
as a skymark so I can learn my way.
Antares in the morning sky.
Here on this earth
Breathe in snow-scent,
Breathe out thanks.
Breathe in stillness,
Breathe out thanks.
Breathe in enough, more sweet than a feast,
Breathe out blessing.
Today’s snow is tiny, tiny crystals of diamond ice which whisper and touch as they fall on the previously-fallen snow and on each other. The whole night is full of them and I want it to go on and on and I want the night to hang on for a few more hours —
It is lovely.
is absolutely the right tool for the job — I dream so rarely that I know of, the practice of observing anything at all will help —
and all I have written so far is “I don’t remember any images or actions, but there was a pervading sense of peace”
over and over for days
Which is lovely, of course.
Is it true?
When I’m home safe and asleep in my bed, do I dream about being home safe and asleep in my bed?
But she was a Great Lady,
behind thick veils of deep grey cloud silk
Yet I knew where the Great Lady was
by the lightness which could not be stopped.
let wisdom flow like water
through your willing servant
and be manifest in right action and right stillness.
with a bit of moon-glow, but only a light touch.
I look around and see worry and striving or
lonely depression or
But for some reason they are not mine.
I am in the right place.
I am in the right work.
I am loving the right people.
I am making progress on cleaning the attic, which is absolutely proof of miracles. Sit with me and I’ll tell you about the correlation between how my house looks and how my mental health is going.
We cleared out a box labeled 1993 this weekend, that’s how long and how deep has been this struggle.
And it’s early yet.
As thought it were this approaching night.
In an impossible month,
in the aftermath of an impossible year.
Twenty twenty-one, you have inherited a mess.
I’m hopeful for tomorrow
and I wish for everyone a sudden and compulsive love of knitting
May peace do so as well.
Sgiob is singing a little song to herself,
something to do with chasing the bouncy ball
and having a cool stone lintel to lie on when she gets too warm.
The sound is close to a purr,
and it is both comforting and nostalgic.
Something about “this lovely life,
yet I have memories which are not mine
of great flocks and open places.”
It’s not as dark out there this evening as it was yesterday.
Earth rotates, revolves, moves on.
but there used to be a soul-eating demon out there, coming in through the windows,
slipping in as blackness right around the edges where the glass meets the frame,
eating me hollow so that nothing but a husk remained,
going through the motions.
I don’t know exactly when it left,
but out there it is only the Night, which is a good friend.