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Whither Goest Poetry?

For a period in my life, I lived poetry. I read poetry, wrote poetry, and published poetry.
Recently someone asked me, are you still writing poetry? And for the first time in a long time, I had to say, No, I’m really not doing anything with poetry anymore.
Life takes us in strange, circuitous routes sometimes. Parenting takes what seemed to be a clear trajectory and sends it skittering off toward destinations uncontemplated. Had you told me five years ago that I’d be a homeschooling mom, blogging about my daily life, I would have said…
Geddouttahere!
Unpoetically, perhaps. But something like that.
Here’s how I used to see my life: I would write a book. Enough people would read it and appreciate it that I would get to write another book. And another. And another. Hopefully people would appreciate them enough to want me to write more.
And then life came around and hit me upside the head.
I had one child, and kept writing and reading poetry. Then I had another, and I wrote a little bit more until it started… to fizzle… out.
Poetry speaks to people in different stages of their lives and in different situations. Famously, poetry speaks to people in the first throes of love. Stereotypically, poetry speaks to teenagers in the throes of existential angst.
But right now, for whatever reason, poetry is not speaking to me.
I was thinking about a book I published, one of my first. It was by a local poet, Joseph Keller McNeilly, who was at that time my friend. He and I and some other friends used to meet for breakfast and talk about poetry, education, and life. I had a baby, and still we met and talked about poetry and life. I published his book and moved on to other things. He moved away.
The book has survived our friendship. I remember the poem of his that hit me the most. When I read it, I knew that it had to be the last poem in his book. It was about the need for poetry. How he had lived through difficult experiences and had a great need to express himself through poetry. How he had come to raise a son who was, in a way almost foreign to him, happy.
This was a goal he’d had, and he’d attained the goal. In the poem that hit me so deeply, he writes about his son’s beautiful dreams, and his ugly ones. He ends the poem with these lines:
My son

will have no need

of poetry, which is a sadness

I can bear.
Of course, it is possible that at some point in his life, his son will need poetry. But at the time he wrote those lines, they had the bell-clear ring of truth. His son was happy, and the things that he expressed were not the stuff that makes good poetry.
So that leads me to wonder: what about my life has led me not to want poetry, at this time, in this place? It’s not that I’m happier, necessarily. Certainly, I feel like I am getting out more, growing and experiencing, learning and understanding. When I feel like this, I have less of a need to express my emotional dis/connection to the world.
I also have very little time. But here I am writing my little blog pieces that are not unlike poetry. I take a small idea and expand on it, and I can do that in a half hour or less. It’s a format, like poetry, that lends itself well to motherhood.
I think that the intensity of my mothering experience, needing to help a child come into herself so that she can be at ease in whatever social environments she might choose to put herself in, has led me to ponder the mysteries of life in a more practical and concrete way.
In other words, I can write a blog entry about Nature Therapy or Omega-3, but I’m not sure it’s the stuff of poetry.
I may surprise myself and find inspiration yet again in poetry. But I get the sense that it will wait until my life is more my own again. When I’m not so involved in helping someone else, I might find the places in myself that need poetic expression. Until then, I’ll try not to be sad. It’s not a loss, just one more dream pushed into the future. Something mothers know a lot about.

Posted in Parenting.


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