A Twitter mutual, @emilyfmaloney, recently tweeted this:
“…writing is a lifetime, not one book, or essay, or review. It’s almost a relief: you will always have it, even if you think you don’t. It’ll be there. You can fold it up in your pocket and take it with you, forever, I swear.”
As hard as this can be to trust when the writing has gone underground, I’ve found it to be true. For example, I have more or less tried to quit being a poet several times during my life, when poetry seemed too far away from my actual life or when writing got fogged and distant, or I felt utterly incompetent at it. So rather than tucking it into a pocket, I tried to burn it in a trashfire.
Never worked, for which I am extremely grateful.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes tells of the creative cycle as of a wave, which has stages where it recedes and dies to nothing. In her inimitable evocative manner she expresses the crucial need for that death stage, where the creative flow has gone underground and cannot be located. There, she offers, it is gathering force and–new life, in fact, for its eventual resurgence. At one time I even charted that cycle for myself, noting the stages as I experienced them on a little calendar. I found that doing that enriched the process and that by leaning in to that death, actually cultivating it when it occurred, the ensuing wave build and crest was nourished in surprising degree.
Even so, when I find I am not producing poem drafts at my usual pace, I forget about that wave, I fret, I wonder about my trajectory.
Some things are just hard to fully establish at that instinctual level and for me this is one.
Recently it did feel I was out of phase with my poetry, and that’s when I saw Emily’s tweet, and I responded: “Mine is folded up in my pocket right now, but it’s been there before. It’s cozy and the heartbeat is still strong.”
And then I wrote a poem.