On Poetry Writing: A Reflection on A Totality of Failure to Write an Exquisitely Wonderful Love Poem
I do not know first hand the suffering of other poets. I know my own defeat too well, particularly my recent attempt to compose a love poem . Perhaps I suffer alone? I share my angst to cleanse my racked soul, stretched to misshapen dimensions. Is it not fortunate the soul of a poet is so stretchy?
To commemorate the Olympic Year I hoped to pen, er, screen an Olympic love poem. I had the intention to celebrate the gloriously ruckus braying of the ecstasy of being immersed in amore, immersed like a shot of whiskey in a beer to fashion a boiler maker. Perhaps love and poetry are alike in the shared state of intoxication which expands the very idea of infinity?
Do textbook templates exist for the writing of love poems? If so, I have found them not. Or is a poem just a response to an inner stirring which ignites desire to slam words onto screen in much the way one thumps pucks into a wide open hockey net? There is always the initial adrenalin rush of inspiration. Words, at times, flow like water at the rapids of the Saint Lawrence River at the site of Montreal, Quebec. At other times, words crawl like molasses down a silk cravat. At other other times, words float like ashes above a crematorium. Then again, words trot like polo ponies zooming towards fresh buckets of ice cream on a summer’s day comparable to a flat-iron pressed against the earth.
How often words fail me.
As I scanned the drafts the entire episode felt too raw. The opening lines read well. It read: ‘Love made clownish entrance/like a freight train through/a stained glass window,/which measured 18 feet in height and 7.56 feet in width’. I sensed the intro combined all love’s elements of unexpected surprise, humour, religion and modern transportation.
There is in the writing of a poem the omnipresent optimism that the words will plonk into place and a poem of sense and sensibility will emerge like treasures from an archaeological dig. Such was the case as I wrote and rewrote, writing as if in a rapture which borrowed generously from my lived experience as beloved, lover, bereft and stalker. The writing was a labour, er, well of love, actually. After hours of days broken pen nibs gave evidence to a ravage of words. The words did not line up like pigeons on a telephone line. The poetic essence was present. Yet it felt not quite enough.
Uponst one A.M. as I swept the hearth and freshened the lavender in our sawdust-filled pillows, I re-examined the poem and thought to tinker with a line or two.
Perhaps you fellow poets have also been drawn to rewrites?
Perhaps the line ‘love as true as true love true’ was too obscure? I rewrote as: ‘love as smouldering/as a snagglepuss of a cyst/upon the buttocks of the empire of our love’. The visual elements seemed more colourful. Yet? Does love smoulder? Or just bubble? Broil? Deep fry?
I also toyed with the line: ‘love as reckless as a moped through the streets of Rome.’ This became: a gasping cow, puffing penguin, asthmatic race horse, and, finally, a shivering amoeba stuck on a slide under Love’s microscope. I was dissatisfied. Too literal?
I retitled the piece several times.
After turtle waxing the tractor, I felt inspired to rewrite the line, ‘love is never ever lost’. This became, ‘although our love was tossed/ into the Lost&Found like a pair of hockey skates/I knew our kisses would rebound/forswear and yet who keepeth score/in love matches, which ignite like marshmallows dropped in campfires?’. There are times the poet’s words do reach.
Almost effortlessly the poem kept unwriting itself. In this case, well beyond the hours of midnight Valentine’s Day 2014. Love, I found, could be likened to blue suede shoes, a Kiss concert, a distillery, a monastery, an averted helicopter crash and a mismatched pair of twins.
What was a poem became a muddied road, a road as muddy as a byway in a monsoon drenched in torrential rains obliterating the moonlight. I assessed the damage and recognised that the poem resembled rotted fish or contents of a disposable diaper. Hence, no epic of ecstasy was available to celebrate a day dedicated to the saturation of lovers’ glazed gazes. Ah, love’s labour lost.
Perhaps not? I recalled Percy Sledge’s, When A Man Loves a Woman and skated into the poetry of pairs figure skaters, Martini and Underhill.
I close with much love. Happy Belated Valentine 2014.
© S. Calliou, February 16, 2014