Last night on my way to the American Library for Evenings with an Author, I had to stop a minute to admire the Eiffel Tower in the mist. I really loved not being able to see the top; it seemed even more compelling this way, part of it lost in the fog.
Writing is similar for me, in a way. I might start with one clear image, but the rest remains hidden from view. I feel there is something real and concrete within the hazy mist and I just have to find it. There’s an aura of mystery to the process…and frankly I think I better keep it that way. Poke around too much and I’m afraid some of the magic alchemy that happens might disappear.
I have a poem over on The Buffalo Creek Review if you want to take a look. I don’t consider myself a poet, but I don’t question too much the form work takes. The “I” in poetry is particularly interesting to me.
In fiction, the first person is an imagined character, but for the character to come alive on the page I have to fully get under his or her skin. In poetry, the “I” might be assumed to be closer to the “real me.” Often it is. Just as often, not. Heck, even on this blog, the “I” is only part of who I am. These personas, all the facets of our complicated selves.
The poem, “Reincarnation,” did come to me on the train as I describe, though. I was simply sitting there on my 45-minute commute (back when I had a daily commute) and I had this very powerful image of a woman in the Old West. I knew she was both me and not me at the same time.
Why the idea struck me so strongly like that or how I arrived at some strange knowledge that “my slender arms once held men seeking fortunes,” for instance, I’m not sure. Again, that’s the mystery part of it. I just wrote the lines down as line 2 chugged past Montmartre.
I remember the poem being something of an awakening for me, too. It was at a time during my Paris journey where I felt pretty down, almost silenced, and was struggling for ways to find my voice in the cold City of Light. I had stopped writing almost completely by that point. This poem was my re-emergence into the world of words.