Something strange has been happening to me over the past few months I did not expect would ever happen. I have not, as I have hoped, returned to writing poetry.
Before we get into the meat of this, let me define the parameters of what I see as not returning to poetry. In the past three years, I have written no more than a half dozen short poems worth showing to others or throwing into the submission process. This includes the haiku I posted a few days ago. I have not written anything I would consider new, and none of the few ideas I have had regarding poetry exploration (I tend to write with a manuscript in mind) have panned out. I have written the occasional book review for friends, conducted an interview, and had conversations about poetry, but no really good poems to speak of. I will admit "really good" is a relative and highly subjective term, so allow me to expand on this. I have attempted maybe a dozen poems in the past three years and completed a half dozen.
Now I know that's a half dozen poems I wouldn't have at all if not for trying. I understand that. What I am speaking of is the growing feeling I have which tells me more and more every day I need to prepare for the moment when I no longer want to write poetry. It's not a particularly disturbing thought, and it is entirely possible I am more upset that I am not bothered by the thought than I am at the prospect of not writing another poem.
I am no stranger to gaps and spaces in my writing life. My first poems were published in 1994, and it took another three years to see any more poems published, and then another three years to see any more poems published. Often times, when I am nearing completion of a manuscript (book or chapbook) I have a tendency to stop writing at about the 90-95% mark, and I end up struggling to get the last bit of the book finished. However, I have never gone as long as I have currently gone without doing a lot of writing or returning to writing with a new passion and a considerable amount of production. This is new.
It's a new feeling and I don't know what to make of it. I have a book coming out later this Spring and I have a completed manuscript making the rounds. Normally I would have gone through maybe 11-12 months of not writing much as a way to cope with my rebound from the struggle I have when completing a manuscript. but this has been 36 months of drips, drabs, and false-positives. Even when I was at my worst, I was still writing a lot of bad poems---yes, even bad in my eyes.
But not now. Now I am in the midst of writing the longest piece of work I have written in more than a month---and that counts a book review and a series of e-mails to a fellow poet. And I have no idea if I am even going o be able to finish this.
I have no idea why I am not writing poems. Maybe I have said everything I want to say in poetry. Maybe I do not feel I have truly resolved one or both of the above mentioned manuscripts. Maybe I am afraid to try and write because I have forgotten how to write a poem. Maybe I just have no more desire to write poetry and I am just a little stunned. I mean, everything I know about myself tells me I should be knee deep in poems trying to figure out what kind of manuscript I should be constructing.
But not now. Now I am wondering what is stopping me from writing poems---good poems, bad poems, poems which mean nothing, poems which are sure to be rejected, and possibly occasionally accepted. Instead of getting excited about which journals I would love my poems to appear in, I am questioning whether I ever want to bother submitting another poem---ever.
Now for the thing of which I am most frightened. I don't know if I have the energy or desire to do anything creative. Not only do I not know what that might look like for me, I don't even know what direction to look. I simply do not care and I simply don't have any idea what might spark my creativity again.
I can say that if I do end up returning to poetry in a relatively short time, I doubt I will bother with submitting or even sharing with too many people. I will still buy books and read poetry, but I doubt I will write too many reviews in the near future. And those things might change, too, depending on what else changes for me in the future.