Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Billboard or Dresser Drawer?

When I took the Poem-a-Day challenge once again last month, I posted all my poems on this blog, some thirty-nine of them, to share with my readers. I was talking about this via e-mail with my “famous poet” friend, who said it was rather brave of me to do this. She said almost anything she writes must wait months, even a year or more before it sees the light of day. She said she’s from an “earlier, perhaps shyer time” (even though she’s my peer age-wise), and this may be why she doesn’t really identify with the likes of a poetry slam, for instance. But, she concedes, others get their joy from putting their work right out there, and that’s fine for them. William Stafford, for example, liked to say he sent all his poetry out in the world as soon as he wrote it, and “let the editors sort out which ones are good”.

Her tactful comments got me thinking, though: Am I “brave” or just “foolhardy”? Am I too eager to get instant gratification by pushing my newest creations to blink in the blinding light of public display? Certainly some of them are not yet in their final, mature form. Now, I’m not an obsessive-compulsive revisionist; if I have to revise a poem more than a half dozen times and it’s still not behaving, I may relegate it to the trash bin. But I’m sure there are some that should have been held back a little longer, at least to allow time for the ink to dry. Despite this eagerness to share my newborns with the world, I feel the same as my friend about slam poetry, which is often too extemporaneous and frenetic for my taste. Yet I sometimes read a poem publicly that I’ve written that same day. I also find the internet is a perfect avenue for getting almost immediate feedback (and hopefully praise) for one’s work. Poetry workshops, too, are a great way to produce something creative and get the immediate reaction of your peers. (I’ve certainly taken my share of those over the years.) So I think my desire to put my poetry “right out there” comes from the influence of those two outlets. Still, there’s something to be said for restraint, letting a poem develop and mature beyond the first flush of creativity before sharing it with the world. It all comes down to the individual: whether you’re more comfortable putting your new work on a figurative billboard or letting it sit for a while in your figurative dresser (or desk) drawer. So what do you do with your new poems, and why? Share your thoughts.

[Warning: Shameless plug ahead.]

Here's a sonnet that appears in my latest chapbook, Twenty-four by Fourteen (Maverick Duck Press, 2012). It's especially appropriate for the season.

All in the Month of May

In those old English ballads, why is May
the most important month? Some folks are wed,
someone's boyfriend always goes away
to sea, or some girl's lost her maidenhead,
Lord Someone gores the lover of his wife
with a beaten sword. Could it be the pull
of spring, rosebuds and lilies come to life,
emotions running high, libidos full?

Perhaps it's just that "May" makes many rhymes,
not difficult to fit into a tune,
which could explain, too, all those other lines,
like why the best moons always shine in June,
and why we are more likely to remember
September, and November, and December.