A few days ago, I went on Souldier Girl’s blog and came across this quote: “I don’t write poetry. I write you.” I loved it and felt inspired to write a poem, only … I couldn’t. I had too many ideas going through my mind and couldn’t make them fit together. I struggled with it for a few days. I like my poems to be relatively short and simple, and this poem was too long. Unfocused. I decided to trash it and vented my frustration with the whole experience in a very simple, silly rhyme called – wait for it – Venting. Appropriate, right?
Well, yesterday, just a couple of hours after I published Venting, I picked up a collection of poems by Sylvia Plath. This is a short quote from the introduction to that book:
“By the time of her death, on 11 February 1963, Sylvia Plath had written a large bulk of poetry. To my knowledge, she never scrapped any of her poetic efforts. With one or two exceptions, she brought every piece she worked on to some final form acceptable to her, rejecting at most the odd verse, or a false head or a false tail. Her attitude to her verse was artisan-like: if she couldn’t get a table out of the material, she was quite happy to get a chair, or even a toy. The end product for her was not so much a successful poem, as something that had temporarily exhausted her ingenuity. So this book contains not merely what verse she saved, but – after 1956 – all she wrote.”
– Ted Hughes, Introduction to The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath
I smiled after reading those words. It’s a well-known fact that even the most talented writers produce mediocre work. But should that work be shared or should it be trashed? It depends on who you ask and how brave you are. I think it should be shared (for free, with a warning, a disclaimer, and a box of tissue next to you for when the negative comments start pouring in and you feel like crying. Also, a big bottle of wine is very helpful in dealing with negative comments … VERY helpful.)
Anyway, apparently, Sylvia Plath believed that all literary efforts should be brought to some kind of acceptable final form and then shared. I’ve written quite a few things that haven’t made it on my blog yet because I’m not “unashamed” enough to publish them. The poem that I started a few days ago was the first piece of writing that I trashed without any intention of re-working it into something acceptable. Reading Sylvia Plath’s story changed my mind. I took my laptop, retrieved the doomed poem from the Recycle Bin, and … changed nothing about it. I just gave it a title, made a video for it, and here it is: I don’t write poetry.
For all it’s worth it, I like it because it’s personal and true to what I feel. I just don’t think it’s a good poem. If I were to use Ted Hughes’ artisan-like reference, I would call I don’t write poetry not just a table, but a whole furniture set … mismatched furniture set that is. Still, it came from authentic material and it temporarily exhausted my ingenuity. So I shared it. Enjoy.