The Thread

posted in: The Journey | 5

Yesterday, I was doing the things that you do when you’ve been gone from your home – cleaning, laundry, getting ready to start the garden seeds. In between, I was reading the latest issue of Poets & Writers, looking at social media, sorting my books, reading poetry. 

To be honest, I’d also been doing some work for Storyknife and for the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference. Suddenly I was struck with a certain amount of anxiety that the joke that I’ve been making in the past couple of years, I’ve been an emerging poet so long that I’m now submerging, isn’t funny anymore.

I won’t be going on any residencies or trips or guest teaching at colleges this upcoming year. Instead, I’ll be providing those experiences for other people. Gladly. I love this life I’ve crafted for myself. I love being able to make manifest those gifts for others. But the gnawing desire to do these things myself is still there. 

I’m reaching toward 60 years old. No big poetry publishing house is going to give an obscure poet from Alaska in that demographic a chance no matter how good the manuscript. How would I even get one across their threshold? I’m not going to be able to take a two month sabbatical, let alone a year sabbatical, to polish my work. I won’t have the time I truly crave to read and write as much as I want. 

And all of that sounds like bitter bitching. But mostly it is just becoming realistic.

Poetry is my thread. It is what has stitched my life together since I was in middle-school. There have been times in my life that I let other people make me feel like that thread wasn’t for me. That my poetry was not as important as whatever they wanted from me. And now, as I’ve lost so many friends who were wonderful writers, I wonder about that event horizon. Does it really matter if I keep keep trying to publish, pushing my work in scant centimeters into the world? Like them, I’ll be dead and my poems will sink into the library book sale discards. 

Oh, I won’t let go of the thread. But maybe, I will let go of the striving. It will be so much less wear and tear on my heart. And it will free up more time for me to work to lift other writers, those who stand a chance at changing the world with their words.

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

William Stafford from Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems 

5 Responses

  1. Mary Buchinger

    It certainly is a relationship, inward and outward…thank you for writing this, Erin.
    I’ve been trying to incorporate the ‘Stafford approach’ that you told me about at AWP, it’s quite wonderful–not yet a habit for me, but when I manage it, it’s fruitful. I’m grateful for you.

  2. Cindy Duprey

    It’s a good question to ask and similar to one I’ve struggled with lately as well: If no one’s going to read it, what’s the point in writing it? While a LOT of writers/poets have found fame in their latter years, I’m realistic in the odds. Yes, I’ll keep writing; yes, I’ll keep trying to find that publisher who understands that older voices have something to say, too. But somedays are harder than others. In the end, we can only do what we can do. Sending {{{HUGS}}}

  3. Farnaz

    I really believe we all need poets to keep being poets. Poets need a constellation of other poets, and so do people who don’t write poems. Whatever it takes for each of us to stay connected to that thread is crucial. I’ve often felt what you name here and try to keep steady inside it over the course of time, but yes there is a shit-ton of noise that makes that impossible sometimes. But I have to just say here how grateful I am that you are a poet at your core. xox

  4. Dave Bonta

    A submerging poet! I’m gonna steal that joke. Just turned 58 and yeah, I’m feeling this. But I’m happy to be writing at the top of my game and reading wonderful poets every day, and I seem to have several dozen faithful readers, so my main regret as a poet is just that I didn’t do enough to make my parents proud. Mom’s still very much around, though, so I still go through the motions of sending stuff out, lol.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *