Bet you didn’t realise it was Poetry Week, did you? That’s because i) poetry-related events tend to pass most people by without notice; and ii) it’s only at my house, or more specifically, in my brain. Yes, it’s a self-declared Poetry Week in which I undertake to gather together the fragments of the many poems-in-progress (PIPs?) scattered here and there on my computer and my desk and in the dusty corners of my mind. I’m reading at Perth Poetry Club next Sunday and am weary of cracking open my little book Cleanskin to read the same poems over and over.
So I hereby resolve to complete one new poem a day between now and then. I know I can do this because I have so many poems that are ‘almost there’, that need just that final push of commitment to bring them to completion. And I’ve been resisting it – partly because I have a lot of other things going on and partly because bringing something to completion implies a sort of satisfaction with its final shape, a letting go I’ve found myself reluctant to participate in. It’s not quite a lack of confidence; though it can be confronting to declare something ‘finished’, laying it open to review, I don’t think that’s it in this case. I think it has more to do with enjoyment of the process. I like the openness of a poem in process, of the sense of possibility. Once it’s done, it’s done, and it feels like a kind of abandonment, a shutting down of the process of exploration and association I find so appealing.
But I often find too, that some of what is shut down breaks off the original poem to form its own work. And this can’t happen until the first poem is formed. So in that sense, failing to bring a poem to completion means forestalling the beginnings of the others. So somehow, in a circular fashion, I’ve managed to co-opt the basis of my resistance into a justification for its defeat. How very tricksy of me.
Today’s project will be ‘Welcome Stranger’, which is the closest to completion of any of my fragments. So I’m easing my way in and will report back in a few days, when I have some poems to show for my labours.
It’s fridge poetry, which was one of my Christmas presents, and to which, via the crafty goodness of magnetic sheets, permanent marker, and a sharp knife, we have added our own personal touches – family names, idiosyncratic phrases, specific buzzwords and so on, but also, unexpectedly, hyphens. Did you know there are no hyphens in fridge poetry? Clearly these kits are not put together by poets! Any poet knows that hyphens are absolutely essential. I didn’t realise how essential they are to me until I started trying to make poems without them. In fact, I’ve been going over some of my work and noticing how ubiquitous hyphen-based compounds are. In looking at just four short poems, I’ve found:
Maybe I overuse hyphens? Maybe they are a crutch of sorts? It’s eye-opening to find things in your work you weren’t aware of. And interesting to think about the ways in which you can adopt a kind of formula, a set of pre-choreographed moves, without really thinking about it. Good to become aware of these things so you can write against that lazy grain and open your work up in new directions.