Saturday, April 4, 2009

Poetic Asides

I’ve been working at my own poetry lately, as well as reading as much as I can. I’ve recently run across a great opportunity to work at it harder and longer. This, I hope, will provide me the practice and effort that will actually get me writing good stuff from time to time. This opportunity has come in the form of a Writer’s Digest blog that throws an annual April poetry writing marathon, April being National Poetry Month. The idea is to write a poem for every day in April based on a posted prompt. You can find the blog and participate here.

If all goes well, I’ll have twenty-five awful poems and five decent ones. If it goes exceptionally well, one of those five will be excellent.

It’s day four, and so far I’ve just taken each prompt as it comes, letting my imagination run with it.

I won’t lie; I normally have real contempt for poets as a breed of writer. The good ones, I have no problem with. They work hard and know that art can come in no other way.

But, on the very blog I posted above there’s an interview with a “poet” that really pissed me off and exemplifies everything about poets that pisses me off. This particular poet describes her habits by blithely remarking that she has a goal to write at least five minutes every day.

That’s right. Five minutes a day writing mediocre nonsense and you’re an artist. It’s just that easy; that is, if you’re one of those elite, godlike creatures called a poet.

Five whole minutes!? Oh, the backbreaking work! I can’t imagine how tough that would be. I hope she doesn’t strain or sprain anything. Maybe she should cut back to two just to be safe.

Excuse me, but between my freelance work, my novel, my screenplay, my poetry, my blogs, my stories, and whatever other miscellaneous projects come my way I put in several hours of writing every day.

Granted, I love what I do. I have one of the easiest jobs in the world. I reject the image of the tortured artist (a pose that usally accompanies the pensive poet’s and is equally obnoxious).

I realize, however, that art means hours of work. You have to do it for thousands of hours in order to do it well, no matter how much talent you’ve been blessed with. Real art is a result of hours of practice, inconvenience, discipline, setbacks, and triumphs that add up to making dazzling work look easy.

Real poets do this. Shelley, Shakespeare, Pope, Byron, Whitman and the like come to mind. They worked in forms, or when they didn’t it wasn’t because they couldn’t. They broke only the rules they had spent years mastering.

So, am I setting myself up as one of these guys? Hardly. I’ve written about as many poems as I have digits on my extremities. The one thing I hope I have in common with these poets is that I have a shit detector that works fairly well. I’m almost never satisfied with my poems. Even when I am, that feeling of satisfaction has a shelf life of hours.

In fact, one thing I love about writing poetry is that it gives my shit detector a good calibration and tune-up.

Do I read my stuff out loud to anyone other than just myself? Never. I won’t even put my fiction through that. I’m a writer, and I feel like there’s something incestuous or masturbatory about reading my own stuff; consuming and admiring my own work in public, fishing for praise.

Anyway, I don’t need the ego boost. My hat size is already bordering on the astronomical, which, sadly, is an occupational hazard.