Most of my poems were born in a 4.3 X 6 inch Picadilly wire-bound journal I bought for $4.99 in the bargain section of Barnes and Noble. I used to have separate notebooks—one for thoughts, one for dreams, and sometimes a third for my to-do lists—but I’ve consolidated to one notebook for my entire life because everything is connected, isn’t it? I’ve saved over 30 notebooks, going back to 1999, though I didn’t always write in them on a regular basis. And of course, I’d love to say I write daily, but the reality is that I don’t. However, I bring my notebook everywhere, just in case a thought falls out and needs a safe place to land.
My current journal contains sayings of Buddha on every page as well as notes from my Spanish conversation class, three-minute poems, and the poems I need to write but haven’t finished. It’s also the vehicle to carry around photos, letters, and printouts of poems I’ve read at open mic events. A lot of what my notebooks contain may never become poems, they are the filler helping me to write my way to the next idea.
When I was in my MFA program, I came to the page with the expectation that what I was about to write would become a poem. With a packet of 3-5 poems due each month, I felt pressure to make every word count. Working full-time, I felt I couldn’t waste any thought, that every thought must eventually become a poem or else! Fortunately, my 3rd semester adviser, Sascha Feinstein, gave me this advice:
“Consider everything in your notebook to be seeds, and understand, too, that seeds need time to grow.”
Now I approach writing in my notebook as being just that—writing in my notebook. With what I learned about my writing process, I know there are good poems living in those pages even if I have to go back 2 or 3 notebooks to find them. What’s most enjoyable is reading about the events going on in my life around the poems, seeing the context in which each poetic thought grew, and understanding what might have influenced this word or that image.
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