When I was a freshman in high school, a thousand years ago, I was walking home after school with my sister, who was a sophomore, and a friend of ours, who was my age. Marina (not her real name) was astounded. Her eyes open wide, her brow up, she said, “I learned of a poet named Emily Dickinson. She locked herself in her room, never came out. She just wrote poetry until the day she died!”
“I know,” I said, enthusiastically. “I learned about her in sixth grade.” Marina looked at me.
“She never came out of her room!” she repeated, stunned look frozen on her face. She wondered why I was smiling and excited, instead of being horrified.
“Isn’t that cool?” I said.
“NO!” Marina said, emphatically. “That’s NOT cool! That’s crazy!”
“I’d like to live like that,” I admitted.
Marina about fell over. “NO!” she screamed at me. “That’s no way to live. Only a crazy person would do that.” I still remember her face at that moment, scrunched into a terrible frown, glaring at me. I felt embarrassed, having exposed an apparently aberrant nature. But Emily Dickinson, I thought, wrote amazing words, words that made no sense to me in sixth grade, or even ninth; yet, I felt her poetic power. The language amazed me, her unusual diction. (In those days I would’ve said “weird words.”) No one matched Dickinson. I was intrigued. In my opinion, having a gift like that was worth the trade-off. But, apparently, I was weird, possibly “crazy.”
My idea had always been that poets were unique individuals, of a different mind, a unique perception and distinct ability to manipulate language. Different. Not ordinary, not the norm. “Outside of society,” so to speak. Perhaps inevitably bent. A substitute teacher in my first creative writing class, a woman who had a rather hostile, impatient attitude toward cw students, said, “All great writers have something wrong with them. All of them.” She swept her eyes across all our pathetic faces, “All of them!” she said forcefully, sweeping her hand across the air, glaring at the bunch of us hopeless, dumb, fucks. I don’t know who she was. I don’t know if she is published, let alone great. But there did seem to be something wrong with her.
I see now that there are people who write poetry, or stuff they call poetry, but there is nothing particularly extraordinary about them. Different people have different ideas about what poetry is. I recently read an article about Patti Smith, who attended a few poetry readings with Gregory Corso. She said he “was the biggest heckler [she] ever saw. He would yell at the poets,” in the middle of their reading, “things like ‘Get a blood transfusion!'” (The Guardian: Sunday 4 Oct. 2015). She wanted to make sure he didn’t heckle her. “I didn’t have a game plan,” she says. “It was just to make poetry a little more visceral.” That, to me, is how poetry should be–visceral. It should be alive, have energy; it should have power you can feel. That, I believe, is what Corso meant. He was telling those he heckled that their shit was dead.
My mother was a fabulous seamstress. I have never met anyone who could sew like she did. It was impeccable work. It was art. When I watch Project Runway, I think of my mom. I wish she had used her gift to earn a living. I don’t mean become famous. Just to earn a living. Fame has never been my dream. Just to create art. That’s primary. But I want to put it out there, not keep it to myself. I want to sell it. That’s my second dream. It isn’t a dream I’ve always had. But I def have it now.
“You’re in your own way,” a healer said to me. “Get out of your way.” Me? The brick wall is moi? Well, yeah. I suppose. My fear. My fear is my brick wall. I think my mother had the same wall.
I’m making a list of small mags to send my work to. There is one in particular I’m especially interested in. I first heard about it thirty years ago, when I wrote my first poems. My first creative writing teacher told me about it. It was a new mag then. I wasn’t ready back then, but I hoped I’d someday be. I’m astounded so much time has passed. I suppose it’s even astounding the mag is still around. It’s done well. If my cw teacher is still around, he’d be in his mid to late 80’s. I’m glad I’m still around. I think my poems are worthy of this mag. BUT. Do they? That remains to be seen. When I meet folks, younger than me–way–who have been published in it, I’m impressed. ‘Cept, it makes me feel like a piece of shit.
I remind myself, I raised three children, on my own, after my divorce, while getting through college, clueless, without moola, with no help. I’ve taken care of other people, besides my children, but no one has ever taken care of me. On the contrary. It ain’t been easy. So fucking what? Just keep at it.
I’m on Twitter, now. I was on Facebook a few years ago, just for a few months. I didn’t like it. I didn’t/don’t have tolerance for it. I don’t know anyone, personally, who’s on Twitter. Last time I looked, I had five followers. Some show up, then disappear. Some I block. No, I am not interested of clicking on your link to see your “pictures.” Creepy shitheads.
A poet told me he hates Twitter, and he will NEVER tweet. But he’s on Facebook. Funny. I think it’s the same intolerance, but he can hang with FB, and I can hang with Twitter. Of course, he’s known even across the ocean, so he needs to connect with fans, publishers, distributors, other writers, friends. All that. He said he just uses FB to make announcements, check on events, connect with contacts, not constantly on it. Virtually everyone I know is on Facebook. I’m experimenting with Twitter. Twitter is an underdog in the world of social media. I’m an underdog. A dark horse. Apparently. Working on courage, and solidifying who I truly am. Awe, man, is that pathetic? Fuck it. I don’t give a shit. It’s written in the stars, anyway. I don’t know what is, just that it is.
I’m a poet, but I’m not crazy. At least, no more than anyone else. ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠