Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Confession Tuesday

Recently I read poems by Reginald Shepard and Rethabile Masilo and what strikes me among other things is the imagery. The language is so lush and the writing is so beautiful, I am swept up. I'm envious.

For years, I have secretly hoped that if I read enough, wrote enough, I, too, would create imagery that was not only meaningful but aesthetically so beautiful the reader would read and reread the lines with pure admiration. I haven't learned that skill. I'd like to think I've a learned a thing or two about writing poetry, but I don't whip off the exceptionally complex and powerful lines the way performance poets do on stage nor do I create lines like Lorde, Shepard or Masilo on the page.

I've written about developing my style before, and I suspect it will be an ongoing conversation as I struggle to define my voice. When I doubt my work, I often conjure up a quote by Robert Bly. He said, "It's important that the words in your poems be those you could speak to your friends." Intellectually, I get this. Emotionally owning it, well, I'm working on it.

The quote is taken from The Language of Life, an anthology that introduced me to many poets at once including some of my favorite poets: Donald Hall, Jane Kenyon, Lucille Clifton and Gwendolyn Brooks. "The Bean Eaters" by Brooks is one of my favorite poems because she takes ordinary objects and simple language and creates something that is extraordinary. Since deciding I wanted to learn to write poetry, I have looked to these poets most often for guidance and inspiration.

You know how stroke patients sometimes lose their ability to speak? The words are there, they know what they want to say, but they can't pull the words from the mental file cabinets. My writing is my effort to retain my ability to retrieve the words and to communicate with others. It is no imagined struggle. I write to record memories, ideas and beliefs I fear I won't always be able to pull from my cabinets. Why I feel this way is another post.

Today, I celebrate the Shepards, Lordes and Masilos. And I am grateful for the Halls, Kenyons, Cliftons and Brooks.


christine said...

Well, you're a fine writer. This post reads so smoothly, so honest and heartfelt. I wish you didn't compare yourself to the others so much, though. Just enjoy the process, it's your natural born right to create.

susan said...

Thanks Christine,
Point taken. Your words over the last few months really encouraged me.

Rethabile said...

Write on, Susan, write on. We're reading.

And thank you.

1,000 Faces of MotherHenna said...

Clifton's Good Woman is one of my most cherished... And Olds' Satan Says, too. I love writings and sometimes think something decent has fallen from my finger tips. And then I re-read those books and oh.my.gawd. i suck. :) But what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks, my voice is mine, so there :) I'm totally digging your writing -- for whatever my little perspective is worth -- keep letting the words find the surface! Many of us out here are totally getting it!

January said...

What a great post. And I concur, you are a fine writer and poet.

The Language of Life is one of my favorite anthologies. If you can, try to pick up the audio version. The book and recordings were compiled from the Dodge Poetry Festival. This year's festival is next week in NJ.

If you can't come this year, make plans to attend the next one in 2010 (the festival is every two years).

rebecca said...

you echo what i sometimes feel, yet i remind myself that we all carry our own voices, our own language, our own particular words. one of the worst things i think we can do as writers is to compare ourselves to others - we can only write from our own view, our own eyes, our own experiences, and it is in that writing that comes from within, that writing that is natural to us, that beauty comes out. and in this area, you are doing more than fine.

susan said...

Thanks all,

Sidenote: I inadvertently deleted my rant (09/18). lol Thanks to those who weighed in.