Beginnings

I’m pondering beginnings.

1. A young friend is a writer. I’m hoping to interview her, here, mainly for selfish reasons. I want to remember what it was like when I started out. Which means I’m trying to find the right questions to ask. I remember the feeling of secrecy as I sat alone in my room with lined paper and pencil, afraid someone would walk in and ask what I was doing. I’m not sure I was consciously aware of the world opening up, but I remember realizing that dreams were, in a way, coming to life on the page.  When I read things I wrote a long time ago, I cringe. But at the same time I laugh and don’t make changes because there is so much enthusiasm in those stories, even if the craft of writing still had to be learned. Heck, I’m still learning. But you know what I mean. Those early pieces are just dang fun to read.

Have I lost that enthusiasm? No, but the stories don’t overflow, meaning I don’t write non-stop all day. Now I’m more inclined to write while the muse is flowing and then go back and revise. Back then, I just knew that everything was perfect. So maybe the naiveté has been tempered by craft.

2. A story is finished and waits on cover art. I have another story I’m fiddling with and a bit overwhelmed by. I also want to start on a third in the series. I know I want it to be a prequel as several people liked a character that is killed off in the first book. I can feel the tiny, faint, niggling feeling that tells me an idea is there, but still buried. I have some thoughts, I’ve jotted a few notes, but I can also tell it’s too soon. If I try to jump in and force the beginning, to start before the idea is firmed more, then the whole story will die.

That itch is there but it’s too soon to scratch.

3. And then there’s the beginning a poet starts. She has finished her radiation, her chemotherapy, and the changes to her body. Now she starts the healing. Those who haven’t been through it assume it’s the start of a joyful time, of relief, and there is that, in a small part. But it’s also the start of anger and deep sadness, and feeling like you’re going insane. Few people realize that some who have had to deal with cancer, end up with PTSD afterwards. Few people want to talk about that. And so she begins the uphill battle to regain who she was, and learn who she is. As part of that she wrote an amazing poem that I hope she will allow me, some day, to share here.

The thing about all these beginnings, that I hope she realizes, is that they pass.

pincushion flower (scabiosa)

pincushion flower (scabiosa)

Remembering Poems

Poetry fascinates me because I can’t write it. I’ve tried. And failed. Two friends write poems that make my heart ache with the beauty of their words. It takes me a novel and 80,000 words to say what they convey in five stanzas.

I don’t edit poetry simply because I don’t understand it and could never edit with an unbiased eye. I know what I like but couldn’t tell you why. It’s a form of writing that is a deep mystery to me.

A few months ago I watched a little known gem of a movie called ‘The Business of Fancy Dancing’ based on a book of poems by the talented Sherman Alexei. There is a scene where the main character is remembering a pow wow. He’s sitting in bed with paper and pencil and as his memory brings alive the drumming and singing, his pencil begins to tap the rythm he hears in his past. Before long words are flowing into a poem with the same rythm.

That’s when it hit me that a poem is remembered music, and that music comes alive only when the poem is read by someone who recognizes it, that finds something in the words that resonates. I’m not saying that a poem is just lyrics to a song. Far from it, for a song is heard by the ears while a poem seems to be music heard at a deeper level. I think all writers hear that song of words inside, but only a gifted few can turn that into a poem.

So have you written poetry? If not, consider this a challenge to try it. Let me know how it turns out. And feel free to share your favorites here. Mine include Wedell Berry’s ‘Peace of Wild Things’ and Robert Frost’s ‘November Guest’.