Do you ever write something down, reread it, and discover something about yourself that’s been there all along?
This happened to me when I revisited today’s lesson in my Write a Poem a Day class featuring Jack Gilbert’s Failing and Flying, one of my favorite poems of all time. Like Gilbert, I believe anything worth doing is worth doing badly. And that’s why I’m a champion of daily poetry practice.
When we do something every day, we learn to relax. The work we produce is not so precious. It’s just the day’s work. And tomorrow, there will be more. And then more after that. When the focus is on practice and not product, we are likelier to take bigger risks, discover bigger ideas, and stumble into unprecedented territory. When we are consistently surprising and delighting ourselves in this way, we’re far likelier to keep writing—and ultimately, improving.
That’s why I hold all writing we do as practice. Every word we commit to the page takes us that much further into ourselves, our craft, and our evolution as a writer.
But what I didn’t quite understand until I saw it written into my lesson is the turf I occupy as a writer and teacher. The truth is, I don’t care that much whether anyone writes a good or great or publishable poem—or any other kind of writing. What I do care about almost as much as I care about breathing is what I’m calling “resilience poetics”. I want to write and read and share and invite poems that teach us how to make loss generative, medicinal, and sometimes even triumphant.
I want poems that instruct me how to live.
I’ve been obsessed with poems for 30+ years, and it finally clicked that this is what I’ve been after: writing and reading myself through to resilience. And inviting others to do the same.
Along the way, I’ve noticed that the better my poems get, the better my life gets. And vice versa. The two are irrevocably entwined. Discovery, healing, and craft coalesce as language becomes its own alchemical salve for all that we attend to.
What do you want from your writing? What do you want for your life? And how might the two begin (or continue) to mingle? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
Let’s get resilient together!
- Poem Medicine: A Ritual of Hope and Healing meets virtually (online) on Saturday, May 11 from 10 a.m. to noon PT. (If this time doesn’t work for you, I’ll be offering another ritual in June!)
- The Crucible of You: Write Yourself from Hurt to Healing, a live workshop from August 31 to September 1 at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology.
The 30/30 momentum continues in May! $50 gets a poem written for you.
In the month of May, I’ll be participating in Tupelo Press 30/30 project – a kind of poetry writing marathon like the one I’m leading now! Except this 30/30 project is a fundraiser for this press that I cherish. I’ll be writing a poem / day in the company of some amazing poets. All of our work will be shared daily on the Tupelo Press website. You’ll see the underbelly of poems getting written fast, as practice not product. I’ll share that link when the time comes! You can sponsor me for any amount! Contribute $50 or more and I’ll write an ode just for you (or for anyone you’d like)!