Saturday, April 01, 2017

Project: Undiscovered, a Reflection

When I started this project, my goal was to self-publish 31 poems in one month.  I wanted to force myself to get my poetry out into the open.  I thought that National Poetry Month eve was the best time to launch my poetry, hopefully soliciting writing advice from all over the world.  It is now April 1 and I posted my 31st poem yesterday morning.

I did not receive the amount of writing advice that I was hoping for.  In fact, when one writes a poem and shows it to another person, there is a moment when you feel both confident in your words and completely terrified that you are an absolutely terrible writer.  It is an odd paradox.  By forcing myself to write an original poem each day, I concentrated these feelings, slowly building up a tolerance to my dependency on the outcome.  I started letting go.  Each day, I let another poem go, releasing it into the void and cosmos of the Internet.  Some days, I released a poem that I had been holding onto for many, many years.  Some days, I wrote feverishly and let the poem go quickly, almost throwing it out into the open.  At first, I cringed each time I clicked PUBLISH.  Then, I realized that it would be less painful to schedule the release of each poem, and just watch them go out on their own.  Each day, however, this project forced me to let go, and had the unintended consequence of completely letting go of my original goal: to publish.

I felt that the more feedback I received, the stronger the poems would become, and the better writer I would become.  However true that statement may be, I became a stronger writer by doing just that: writing.  I wrote every day this month.  One week into March, I began flipping through some of my favorite poets for inspiration: Whitman, Hughes, Yeats.  I pulled down some anthologies that I hadn't read in years, reacquainting myself with poets I hadn't read in years: William Stafford, Emily Dickinson, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Robert Frost, Anne Sexton.  After two weeks, I began binge-reading poets that I needed to know more about: Seamus Heaney, W.H. Auden,Tennyson, Wordsworth, Robert Hayden, Mary Oliver again.  I began seeing old poems with fresh eyes, new meter, and even newer imagery.  Project: Undiscovered reawakened in me a creative side that I thought had either withered away, or never existed at all.  Don't you need to take creative writing classes from some of the best poets in the world in order to become a poet?  How lucky are Billy Collins' students or Rita Dove's graduates?  Robert Frost was friends with Ezra Pound, who helped him promote and publish his poetry!

So, I hid my poetry away because I did not have any fancy creative writing teaching, or famous poet friends who took a particular interest in my work.  With all of those insecure questions floating around in my head, I had forgotten that the strongest writing teacher I could find, or the best poetry course I could take were sitting on my bookshelves.  Mary Oliver taught me the importance of sound, line breaks, diction, tone and revision.  W.B. Yeats reminded me that poetry can be startling and vigorous and musical all at the same time.  W.H. Auden reminded me of the importance of both the urban and pastoral landscapes.  Seamus Heaney taught me that it is okay to take some risks with more metered verse, and to always write what you know. Robert Hayden taught me to honor language and to be laborious in revising and editing my work.

Project: Undiscovered may be over, but my journey is not.  I have more to read and write. My goal is to keep reading and writing poetry, posting poems on Undiscovered Poetry as often as I can.  I do want to eventually take those 31 poems and bound them in a book, but that isn't as important now as is used to be.  If you are just discovering this blog and this project, I hope you enjoy my poetry. Please feel free to comment and leave feedback on any poem.  I really do read the comments and make changes accordingly.  If you know of someone who may like reading some contemporary poetry, pass me along! In the end, I will still be writing, no matter who out there is reading.

Thank you to Nanci and Laura and Gwen for leaving a comment here and there!  I really appreciate your support.

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