Quick Note: It’s been a while since I’ve written (obvs.)—but in my defense, I was having problems with WordPress’ posting/editing interface, and it took me a while to figure out the sitch. Turns out I’m an airhead. Anyway, it’s squared for the time being. Now, onto the post!
So, a few months ago I was lamenting my writing. Or rather, my lack of writing.
This seems to be a typical thing with me. I suppose it is for many writers, though—you just go through phases, some of which are productive, some of which suck ass. And of course, my ever-present and generally intolerable BFF, “Deppie,” has made a real nuisance of herself in my life: that is to say, the dysthymia and anxiety pretty much kick my ass every day. (Sometimes, I tell myself: just get through the next hour—and that’s the best I can manage.) But this isn’t a post about effed-up brain chemistry, this is a post about writing.
As I was saying: in February (technically, two posts prior), writer’s block (you know I hate that term, and try not to use it because it always feels like a crutch) was a thing. I mean, THE STRUGGLE WAS REAL.
Poetry and I repelled each other, although there was always kind of a Rey/Kylo (Reylo?) thing going on between us. And while it upset me (not just the least of which had to do with thinking about my writing in terms of the most recent Star Wars trilogy), other more pressing things on my mind (like staying alive) took precedence. So, I just added “writer’s block” to the list of THINGS THAT MAKE MY LIFE MEANINGLESS O WOES ME. And carried on.
And then I had a vision of Mary Magdalene.
I know this sounds hokey. Just go with me on this.
Digging through some old files on my computer, I came across a poem I had written years ago about Mary Magdalene—it had been nominated for an AWP Intro Award (which it didn’t win—big shock there)—and it got me thinking. What could I do with this poem? Would it just continue to sit in the file in perpetuity? Or could it be part of a sequence?
The only way to see if a poem will be part of a sequence is by writing another one. And then another one. And so on. To help myself focus, I looked at image after image of Mary Magdalene through the ages, remembering the bond I used to have with her (as well as other women from the Bible). I read hagiographic blogs and articles. I wrote a dozen poems or so, of varying qualities.
Caravaggio, The Penitent Magdalene, ca. 1594-95
Some poems were ekphrastic because I believe in THE DREAM (writing a good art poem one day—and I do love me some Italian Renaissance/Baroque paintings), some were my typical narrative poems-with-a-wry-bent, some were just fragments (the Caravaggio poem is in limbo…for my sins). While I still need to revise and complete the sequence, it feels like I’ve accomplished something, and that takes a bit of the edge off.
And then (!!!)—I started another sequence of poems. I mean, I wrote (and revised!!! OMFG!!) 25 poems in the span of 6 weeks.
I was like Hamilton. I worked nonstop.
Or to put it another way, it was as if I had a visitation from The Madonna and she told me to me to get into the groove. So I did. And I’ve even started sending them off into the world. Two of the poems will be published in Soul-Lit: a Journal of Spiritual Poetry in the near future. Maybe more acceptances will be forthcoming. (I can hope.)
If I sound amazed, I truly am. But I don’t want to sound like I’m all, “look at me, look at me, I’m so fricken awesome.” This is not me espousing a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps approach to writing. (Barf. I would never.) This is not me trying to lure you to my Patreon (which I don’t have—but maybe I should?) or to broadcast an infomercial at 3 a.m. promising that “You too can conquer writer’s block! For six equal installments of $29.99, you can download my step-by-step method…” It’s just me being surprised at how inspiration (another word I hate when it’s applied to writing) works sometimes.
I have slowed my roll somewhat since the middle of April, but I haven’t rolled to a stop. So that’s a win.
My to-be-read pile (from NYPL Digital Collections)
A lot of work is coming my way though—I’m plodding (slowly) through a ton of reading to do for Atlanta Review (now that we’re down to basically only me as the reader/typesetter/social media maintainer), and a pile of research I need to for my next major WIP is accumulating on my bedside table. (Every time I look at it, there’s another book on the pile.) And of course, the new Fall teaching schedule dangles before my eyes, even if it’s still a couple of months away. Not sure I can maintain much rolling at all, with all this going on. But slow and steady wins the race, or something like that? I just need to keep trying (Which is difficult with that beyotch Deppie albatross hanging around, but I’ll try.)
The middle one is “Deppie.”
(from NYPL Digital Collections)
Anyway…enough blathering. I hope your writing is going well. And I hope you, my beloved 5 readers, are staying safe and healthy, even as the world opens back up.