When we are not writing, we are calming ourselves down enough to pay attention to the exits and entrances and connections. Perhaps we can even unlatch the door on our own.
I am not writing. Well, I should amend that: I am not writing poetry. My not writing poetry is slowly dissolving me like a penny supposedly dissolves in a glass of Pepsi. Part of the thing that is causing the dissolving is my unease at not writing.
I’m doing a lot of charging at windmills. This is my new project! I squeal to myself and then read all about a subject until I’ve bled it of any interest. No, this is! and then I buy four used books on a long-dead writer and can’t remember why I was drawn to her. I push my way through arcane texts in the hope of sparking something. I read volume after volume of poetry, enjoying each book but baffled just the same. How are they doing it?
The other day, I was searching for a way to describe this inability to settle into a poem, and I struck on the metaphor of the empty cabinet. The thing is, I have been taking time to nourish myself. I am not been going back to an empty well. I have been doing all the things that before made poems bubble out of me like a never-ending spring. And still, when I crack open the door to look inside, I am greeted by dusty shelves.
I know that I am over-thinking. I know that it is all part of the process. I know. I know. I know. I also know that for me to write, I need to not feel a constant press of obligations. I need to be able to drop into that deep quiet where my poems come from. That deep quiet has been very elusive.
Yesterday, tired from a night disturbed sleep (7.1 earthquake, yo), I stumbled on a blog post by the poet Ada Limón. I read it. I reread it. I admit, I cried about it a little. I want to share it with you. But I want you to promise that you will go read the whole post here, because it is all important and nourishing, and this but a little fragment of its wisdom:
…there are times poems do not come and life is too heavy to be placed on the page, or life is so deliciously light and joyful you must suck it down before anyone notices. That is okay. You are still the writer watching that train, doing laundry, getting lost in this massive mess of minutes. There is value in this silent observing. There is value in the soul finding even the smallest moment of peace in its mouth.