Creativity is a terrible thing,
When it gets you in its clutches.
It won’t let you sleep, rest.
It jerks you awake,
Kicks you out of bed,
And before you know it
You’re at the keyboard
At 3 a.m.
Belting out a poem
Belting through the bleariness
To get it down
Then head back to bed
Where it starts again
The brain twitch, the jerk,
The plummet into wakefulness.
You don’t even make a living out of it
But it’s the way you’re living
The gift, equal curse
But when that sweet chariot swoops you up,
Oh the rush, the voltage,
You’d trade your grandmother for it
Were she still around.
I don’t know whether you noticed but when I write a poem I slam it down on the page still white –hot from the cauldron of creation. Only when it cools do I see its cracks and imperfections. This may take minutes, more often hours, sometimes days. One poem took me nine years to write. There’s still a few I’m working on from twenty years back.
Those of you who see the still molten post will be surprised when you see the reworked version solidifying into its present state. Yes, you should edit. The trick is not to edit out the primal energy which birthed the poem.
I am staring down the barrels of
the red pencil sharpener
big as drainpipes
fat as full moons
flared like the nostrils
O-shaped mouths hungry
The red pencil sharpener sharpens
I envy the patience of pearl oysters
Which can labour up to twenty years
To produce a pearl of great price.
The freshwater ones lacking the deep
Patience of their seawater cousins
Produce a pearl in a mere six.
But I have the shallow patience
of a gnat: a poem in a few minutes
else I lose interest.
No wonder I produce little of lasting
his little epiphanies
tucked away in his notebook
like matches in a box
You shouldn’t have written that poem, he said.
That short one about brain tumors.
But I wrote it before her daughter …. I protested.
Doesn’t matter. She needn’t be reminded of it.
I can’t take it back. It’s out there now.
You didn’t have to give her the book the poem was in. Each time she reads it she’ll be reminded.
You could have pulled it, he said. It didn’t have to be there.
He was right. It didn’t. But it was a good poem. My editor said it had to go in. Anyway it wasn’t about Jess. It was written about a tumor I had seen in Scientific American, how beautiful it was, how like the wings of a butterfly unfurling into the hemispheres of the brain.
Are there subjects we should not write about?
You tell yrself
You’ve got to stop reading when you’re feeding yr face
That coffee, wine and honey leave stains
On the crisp, pristine pages but then you think, nah !
They’re the stains of life like grease marks
From yr fingers,
The collateral damage from reading;
Rain spots too when magazine’s are left outside,
Creases from the wind speed reading again
As though the story you found a bore was a real page turner;
Sometimes too blood stains from a nose bleed;
Marks like footprints in the sand saying
That someone’s been there
And, yes, had a good time.