Thursday, March 12, 2015

Why I'm Not Writing Poems At the Moment

Well, it's complicated.

Of course, that's what one always says. But there is truth to it. I am at the moment going through an exhausting process of getting rid of most of my belongings, preparing to sell my house and move, probably even be homeless for a month or two, and going on from there. It's a big change, and often quite overwhelming. It is so enveloping a situation that I find myself not making much art right now—which is an aberration in itself—and in particular not doing much writing.

This is one of those things that I will write about when it's all over. When, during the course of the summer, I will probably be living in a tent, traveling for a bit, spending some time absorbing and processing what has been happening, and what has happened, and thinking about What Next. I often do much of my my best thinking and writing while traveling. I often write longhand when on the road, poems, essays, journal rants, even the occasional short story. I expect that to happen, this summer, once the dust settles. I really miss not having been able to travel much in the past year or so. Cabin fever has been a constant problem. I didn't get to do a road trip out West in the past 20 months, and I can feel both the spiritual and psychological pressure, and the physical restlessness, that are a result.

Not making art is not good for me. I've been under too much stress and anxiety. So, sometimes I just have to shout. Sometimes you just have to. I have been making some art, in between, but the stress and physical exhaustion of all that must get done has often left me with no energy after a long day or night, and I just collapse. It's not good for me to not make art. It can be worrisome if I'm not getting that done.

And the truth is, I have been in a music-making and visual art mode for several months, writing only scraps of poetry, and shorter personal essays, rather than longer poems and so on. I have been composing a lot of music in the past few years, and that is so very satisfying that it sometimes makes the rest of the art-making go away. Music is still my centre, my core, my deepest source and root. Poetry has never been the primary art form for me—which has been known to piss off other poets, who think it ought to be, or like my poems well enough that they want more. Well, most of them have other jobs, too: so they have no pressure on their writing beyond what they put into it. I am required to use my creativity for whatever trickle of income it generates. So I wrote a short poem when I am moved to: not when folks want me to. It's a matter of focus.

But also of crop rotation. Right now, I'm just not in poetry mode. I expect that will come around again. Honestly, I write a lot of poems, and good or better poems, when I'm not feeling so musically satisfied. The visual art is on its own parallel track, because these days it just goes on no matter what, since even my cellphone has an excellent camera on it. I can always make photos.

Recently I spent some time in the Art Institute of Chicago, looking at artwork. It's always inspiring to visit a museum full of paintings and other art. You get ideas. You absorb the vibe. You think about how other artists lived and worked. You feel validated in even some of your craziest. It's always a good day when it's spent in an art museum.

And so, why I'm not writing poems at the moment doesn't really matter. It will shift back in that direction when I'm on the road again, I have no doubt of it. I hope to write a few more songs soon, as I am finally ready to gather enough songs to record a solo album of songwriting. There will be other singers than myself, I hope; singers with better voices, albeit under my producer's direction. I hope to get to that once I'm past this big change in life. Stay tuned.

For the moment, this is just a ramble out loud down the thinking lane towards the garden of forking paths. Who knows what's around the nest turn? I never have known what art I'm going to make next. I just do it, and see what happens. And we go on.

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

I’ve never equated poetry with choice, Art. The poems come. I write ‘em down. End of story. I long ago gave up looking for any pattern in my creative output. As a teenager I would be painting, composing and churning out bad poetry constantly; there were never enough hours in the day. Nowadays I daydream about painting and composing (composing especially) but there’s only time for the words in whatever shape or form they choose to manifest themselves. At the moment I’m editing a novel I wrote years ago and completely caught up in that world again. I love editing. The creating stage is good too but much harder. Now all I get to do is play with words; the hard work’s done. But that doesn’t mean I won’t find the need to stop in the middle of what I’m doing, open a fresh Word document, and jot down a poem that’s just come into my head practically fully-formed. The poems have always come out of the blue like that. I never force them. I never say, “I’ve not written a poem for a few months, I’d better sit down and try to squeeze one out.” Well, I have. And they’re never any good.

6:57 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

The irony, of course, is that yesterday a substantial poem came to me, demanding to be written, and so I did. First thing except a haiku in quite awhile.

I never try to force it, either. And I'm aware that there's a force, like water under pressure in a firehose, a creative force that needs to be let out every day, expressed all the time. I do crop rotation because I have to make something every day, and I don't feel like doing the same thing every day, and i wait for poems to happen. Something creative has to happen all the time, continuously, it's just not always the same thing.

12:13 AM  
Anonymous Somerset Wedding Gal said...

Sometimes we all need to take a break to reinvigorate ourselves creatively, so I totally feel your pain and I don't think you should worry too much about what your readers think, because we know that you're going to come back stronger when the time is right!

10:00 AM  

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