As I may have mentioned, this is not my first attempt to put together a collection in hopes of submitting for publication. In 2012 I came close to finishing. Frustration over a particular—and necessary—poem that wouldn’t come, then one of those ugly aspects of real life got in the way and I gave up.
I was blogging back then, too, and wrote this after reading a book of Frost, just a few weeks before calling it quits and running away to hide in a cave.
Robert Frost’s poems often include tools. I suppose he was a man who believed men were defined by their work and took pride in his as well as of his father’s, and so on. I’ll admit to not being a student of Frost’s, just a casual reader, but the tools are obvious. He wields them with a certain loveliness that can be appreciated.
Poets can be depended upon to have a central theme to their larger body of work. Whether or not the theme is premeditated or simply emerges probably depends upon the individual writer.
Regional landscapes, religion, sex, love, mythology, environmental rape, social discord, war, motherhood, traffic jams, cats… nothing is off limits. Poetry can translate the most mundane day-by-day schlock, or even the ugliest horrors, into tremendous, emotionally evocative lines.
Of course every writer and reader of poetry knows this. Being a greedy reader, I knew this, and it was usually a fun process to read through a particular book a second time once the theme had become clear and relatable.
However! Now that I’m earnestly working on completing a collection of poetry that will bear my name, my theme is emerging—with the grace of a 2×4 hurdling from the guts of an F-5 tornado toward unsuspecting victims.
No, I didn’t expect the first dozen or so poems completed for this collection to hold up to scrutiny like that endured by Mr. Frost’s poems, or any other incredible household-name-sort of writer. I just wanted them, in some small way, to reflect me. Truth be told, this work is reflecting an aspect of my personality that is bluntly misanthropic.
I didn’t realize my tendency toward misanthropy until recently. I certainly didn’t intend for it to burst out of my poetry in such an obvious way. After reading through these first dozen or so poems, I said “UGH!” and went about trying to force in some sunshine and brotherly love. That did not go well. Then I read through poems that I’ve posted here, and completed for class assignments. Wow. It was there all along.
I do not hate all humankind, not every day at least. Promise. But on the days I do, I’m not very good at making it seem otherwise.
I remember being genuinely concerned about this. Melancholy and people-hating can make for interesting poems, true, but fifty pages of it? Notsomuch. Thankfully the following years my writing glimmered with hints of optimism and sweet nostalgia. I’ve mined some of those older works, dusted them off and deleted a lot of semicolons. The diversity is satisfying.
Authenticity is a must for all poetry, and a definite must for all this work that bears my name. So, it’s necessary that more than just a singular theme, a singular mood emerges. I am prone to moodiness, not decades of inky black voids.
While I still carry that disappointment over not completing a book of poetry in 2012, I have to admit that the work is much better today. Guess that cave dwelling paid off.