Friday, February 8, 2013

Every Word My Last

Just now I was reading a book of poems by the late Ken Brewer, and I stumbled upon a strange thought.  Ken passed away when this book was about to be published, dying from pancreatic cancer.  While sad, that isn't my stranger thought.  My strange thought was wondering how long he knew this was most likely going to be his last book.  I have this thought on occasion.  The first time I listened to John Coltrane's Giant Steps, I wondered if he knew his death was 11 years away, what I would be doing 11 years before I died---if I had already done that.  Probably not, but that isn't my point.

I have always had a fatalistic approach to my writing.  As a young poet I am sure that helped to write many of the dark and teen-angst filled dreck I was writing at the time, but later it still serves me.  With every writing project I complete, I literally believe for a short while what I have just completed will be the last thing I ever write.  I don't mean to think so, and I hope I am not looking at the issue from a this is my legacy perspective, but I do.  I look at what I have completed and I cannot imagine anything ever coming to me with the same sense of renewal as my last project brought along.  I cannot perceive of anything being interesting enough to ever write a poem about.  In fact, for weeks and sometimes months after, I find writing poetry distasteful, too much effort, and quite boring.

That's not the model.  I am supposed to be passionate about writing, but in the wake of completing a manuscript, my writing suffers.  Even this blog suffers.  I lose interest and I become obsessed with seeing the final product of my efforts even though I don't have the energy I am supposed to have to work on it any longer.  Many of the poets I admire are writing two or three different manuscript at once.  Others have a slower pace to writing and simply write a few poems every year.  Still others write furiously every day as if their lives depended on finishing a draft or two every day.

Here's what I am wondering:  Do we share a fatalism only to express it in a variety of ways?  A friend of mine once said, "I have written thousands of poems, and I would give them all up to write another one."  That's devotion, as are the other habits I listed above.  I wonder if my fatalism is my way of making what I write count for something more. 

Some day I will want to write more poetry, but right now I am feeling a little ambivalent about not wanting to write.  I almost feel like a traitor, a liar, and a fraud all wrapped into one because I am not writing poetry.  Having been through this several times before, I know I really won't be interested in writing poetry until I become genuinely afraid I have written my last poem.  Even then it will be a struggle to get back up on the horse.

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