It’s probably not the poetry; I’m drunk on light. I spent January-July 2011 in the southern hemisphere, so this is my first spring in two years, and I feel transformed. I sit outside every spare minute, grading papers on campus leaning up against a white column or watching the sun set over House Mountain from my front porch, shivering over a glass of carmenere. I’m less interested in sleep and food, presumably because I’m photosynthesizing. And I’m drafting a poem a day according to the National Poetry Month regime, though I’m not following prompts or being at all systematic about it. I’ve written at midnight, three a.m., dawn, lunchtime, late afternoon, after dinner. I’ve composed on laptops and in notebooks, in the study at home or at my office, at a picnic table downtown, in the front yard, tonight on a hotel balcony swarming with sand flies. The process is less difficult, more fun, and far more revelatory than I expected it to be.
I started off exercising the usual reflexes. On April Fool’s Day, following an argument with Chris and Cameron on the relative appeal of Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner, I started typing: oh, look, I seem to be rhyming; my goodness, it seems to be a sonnet. I stayed with received forms for a few days because they always give me something to go on, a sound to chase (I identify with the ingenious, pathetic Coyote). I noticed that my poems were getting sexier as spring unfolded and that the maple outside my house was a recurring character: golden flowers, expanding leaves, and suddenly samaras. Since then the poems have been about sex, particularly during my years in college—a bullying first boyfriend, rape by a stranger at a party, another assault in a fraternity, falling in love with Chris and owning my desires, various weird pickup lines along the way and wondering what those glib young men could possibly have been thinking, what I looked like to them, how I seemed to myself. I’d never written poems about any of it, the bad or the good or the extremely funny; those experiences were just too big, it seemed, to become material. The verse is very messy and I’m not sure much of it will ever see the light of day, but it’s worth writing. It feels like digging. If I didn’t keep at it, the tide would come in and silt over the excavation, reshape and soften the marks of the shovel.
I recommend this, even though I’m sitting awake most nights, not upset or tired, just a little more alive than is entirely comfortable.
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I imbibe words and consume past minds. As a result, I often awake next to strange sentences and forgotten meanings.
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Into one's life a little poetry must fall
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