The past few months I’ve been plagued by the this sense that I haven’t been getting anything done. I’m running but I don’t feel like I’m getting any faster. I sit down to write and nothing gets finished. I pull weeds and dig out grass but the beds aren’t done. There’s more and more and more. And of course, I go to work and hustle. I skip lunch, I multi-task, I get the kids to help grade their own junk so I don’t have to and by the end of the day I’m still farther behind than I was when I started. I get the feeling that I’d catch up faster by not going into work at all.
I feel like I’d done all this work, but what do I have to show for it? Everything is still a draft–the kids, the garden, novels, poems, my physical fitness. Well, everything is still a draft except this: The Battered Suitcase, Summer 2011 edition.
I’d gotten the acceptance note months ago, so long ago that I’d (almost) forgotten I’d even sent these out. When I read them in the electronic edition they were a satisfying two full pages of done. It’s a feeling similar to weaving in ends on a knitting project, finishing a stack of grading or (you teachers out there will get this) doing the photocopying myself. They’re also beautifully formatted on the page–well done Battered Suitcase!
These five poems are striking to me because each was seeded by very vivid image rather than a collage of image or a powerful emotion. They certainly picked up those thing–the collage and the emotion–in the writing, but they didn’t begin there and so now, when I read them I see the story I tried to tell overlaid on the moment in time that seeded the idea. Take, for example, “Two methods for eating a cherry cordial”. I read this and I remember the morning I met up with my childhood best friend to re-acquaint and we ended up at a chocolate shop in Greenlake writing and eating gourmet chocolates. I’m sure you can figure out what I had. I’ve always liked this poem but had a hard time getting it published and I wonder if part of my love for it is not the poem itself but this memory of sitting with Megan who was the absolutely intimate stranger to me. Someone I loved because swaths of my childhood were built on her, but honestly now know very little about. She’s not in the poem, but she’s forever sitting next to it.
Each of these has a back story like that. Several of them are pieces I’ve worked on for a while, some are new, though they all went through that stage of feeling like they were steeped in work and yet not done. Drafts that were longing to be called final. And then I sent them off and forgot about them and here they are again, all grown up and published.
So, one small thing done. Now, back to the drafts.