Thursday, July 17, 2008


This week Missy left a comment on my Monday Poetry Train poem that made my day. And yet gave me pause.

She said, "I so wish I could write like this. It's beautiful!"

It's obvious why it would make my day. Maybe not so obvious why it would give me pause.

It was because I know that feeling so well and what a sneaky little harpy it is. A harpy with double-edged teeth that sneaks in through the door of your appreciation of a story or poem whose encounter moved you in some profound way and its bite poisons your joy in the art in two ways. First with that insidious sense of intimidation casting a shadow over your memory of the encounter that moved you. Then, with intimidation suffusing your spirit, your motivation to even attempt emulation is sapped until eventually your willingness to even try is completely drained.

I was bothered by my sense that Missy was falling into this trap that had kept me stifled for more years than I care to contemplate. So when I left my comment on her Poetry Train post I thanked her for her over-the-top complement and then continued thus:

I must say in return: you can! if by 'like that' you mean writing something that moves another heart to say, 'oh yes! that's it!'

I know this because I can see the evidence in your blog that you have a passion for language and story and respect for the craftsman's tools--words, image, metaphor, ideas, conflict etc--and based on the choice of poem you shared today I see you can recognize 'it' when you encounter it.

This is what I've learned: 'it' happens when the writer combines the competent use of the tools with the willingness to be vulnerable--when the choices of words, images, metaphors etc come out of your unique take on life, your personal anxieties and ecstasies, your wounds and your victories.

It took me decades to learn this. Not the fact but the willingness. And I'm still at the toddler stage. So I wanted to encourage you on two levels: to believe that you can. And to know that 'it' is in the well of your own heart so its needless to be intimidated when encountering 'it' in other's work.

Some of what I wrote there, I wasn't even aware that I knew until I encountered Missy's complement and began to contemplate why it both exhilarated and worried me and then began to try to put it into words to explain it to myself as much as to her.

For that, I owe Missy yet another thank you: For holding up the mirror in which I saw one of the ways in which I'd been sabotaging myself for so long.

0 tell me a story:

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