When I started writing, words poured out of me as if drawn up from some unknown emotional well deep inside. Poems flooded the pages, but it wasn’t until much later that I considered myself a poet instead a failed novelist. My emotional state directed the content of my writing: feelings of love, loss, and longing became the heart of the poems. Here’s an example:
I miss our magic
I miss the way your kisses taste like kisses are supposed to taste
I miss those four moles that form a constellation on your face
I miss the way you look at me and stare into my soul
I miss the easiness I feel when you take control
I miss you
Even though I’m not supposed to
Fast forward to Vermont College of Fine Art’s low-residency MFA program. For two years, I wrote 3-6 poems every month. I didn’t have the luxury to wait for the Muse to rifle through all the emotional boxes in the attic. I had to take inspiration wherever I could find it, even from the view of the old location of Chapel Hill Public Library:
Here is where I connect
to the essence of everything unfolding.
Here is where I witness
how life stripped down can be just as full.
But I already see buds forming on the leaning maple.
Soon an abundance of green will block the view outside.
(excerpt from Pritchard Park)
Now everything I see, touch, taste, hear, or smell can inspire a poem. The poems I wrote at Cave Canem ran the gamut of topics: my brother, my father’s death, unrequited office romance, professional development, berry picking, and the transit of Venus. Lately, I’ve inspired by photographs and movies like this one:
You were loose once
and then a mysterious
finger twirled you
around itself. You begged
for the ride to stop
and when it did, the middle
and thumb used you to strum
their pain. And now the ring
finger pulls you ever so
gently to your edge.
Fearing you will snap
at any moment, you beg
for the all-powerful hand
to release you and scream
when you reach your limit.
But then the pinky
hooks and stretches you
just a little more,
just to prove you wrong.
Images are a good starting point for expressing an idea connected to something I have observed or experienced. It is my job to find the words to let you, the reader, see this snippet of the world through my eyes.