On Sunday it was my writing group, which meant that it was time to pull another poem together. I've often said that being in my writing group is the best way to make sure I write at least twelve poems a year, which is mostly true, though for a long time I've been riding on material I produced in the fall of 2001, when I was at the artists' colony (she says with a superior sniff. The Artists' Colony. In Vermont. When the Leaves were Turning.). Which can either be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. It's good, because I produced like 60 odd pages of stuff when I was there, most of it very rough and raw, and it's good, because I'm taking that material and working with it and making it into something, something very like a poem. But it's bad, maybe, because once again in my artistic life, I'm not exactly tearing it up with new material.
That characterization, of course, is not entirely fair, as I've written entirely new poems that I started from scratch in the meantime. Sestinas. Sonnets. Pantoums, even. So I should probably just be glad that I can get a poem together at all, and not search my soul, for crying out loud, about notions such as "artistic life" and "new material."
This new poem actually came out of stuff I wrote last summer, sketchy and bare notes. Notes like "burning our artifacts." Or "Feeling sick inside at missing my beautiful husband, my beautiful children—" Or a note like "last night my heart racing, sleeping and not sleeping in a dark enfolded by motel curtains (tenderly lain . . .)" (that last bit sounding pretty poetry-ish, I admit). Also a couple of lines from David Wojahn.
When I opened this set of notes on Sunday morning, I realized that sometime not too long ago I had amplified and embroidered them into a messy draft. How did I do this and not remember it? I find this happens all the time--sometime, apparently while I was sleep-walking or automatically writing or something, I open a file and do something new to the notes. When I open the document again, I see: Ah, so I turned that into a canzone. How/when did that happen? (Of course, I've never actually written a canzone, but I find I'm just as surprised by whatever I did write as if I had turned the notes into a canzone.)
I write all the time--it's like I never stop writing--but it's a little disturbing to find that poetry has crept into the least noticeable part of my conscious life. In part of the ongoing cleaning and sorting that is a new theme in my life (speaking of surprising developments), I found a file of old poems from a period when I wrote a poem a day, practically. I remember feeling then that the poems were being torn from me, like pages from a notebook. (Sorry--perhaps that metaphor's too torrential?) What would that be like now? I remember living in a constant state of heartbreak. Maybe, for the most part, I'd rather have poetry show up once a month on a Sunday morning, just hours before my writing group meets, to surprise me.