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Lost Poetry

December 13, 2014

For many years, I considered “poet” a part of my identity. Poetry, and writing in general, felt important to me. I burned to share my experiences and perceptions, to create works of depth and beauty, and to cultivate an identity as a writer. Throughout my career, I received some validation in the form of publications and readings, but I also came up against a lot of rejection (“Thanks for submitting, but we’ll take a pass.”)

Now that I’m in my early 40’s, I find my identity as a creative writer fading into the background. I spend far more time doing work I love, but which has nothing to do with writing. The last few years have found me rather enmeshed in a classic mid-life crises. I’ve obsessed over weighty questions about my own identity as a woman, a wife, and a person in this world. I tend to want to be around people more than when I was younger, when I felt perfectly content to lock myself away from the world for hours to write. These days, I find I’d usually rather go outside and connect to some living thing. It’s been an immense philosophical shift from believing connecting to art was the way to save the world, to believing connecting to nature is the way.

I have so many unfinished writing projects with great potential: a novel on pre-ancient Greece, a nature-travel guide about the Lower Keys, a poem about mermaids, all languishing. But here’s an early New Year’s resolution: I’m going to remember that poetry and creativity is a part of my soul, and a part of my identity, whether I’m actively writing or not. I’m not going to neglect my own little gifts, I WILL remember to write, and I WILL try to get more of my work “out there!”

Here’s the last poem I actually finished and submitted anywhere. It won top three in the Robert Frost Poetry Contest in 2011. I love it because speaks to my sensibilities as an environmentalist and a feminist (whatever those words mean) and because I adore using mythology and fairy tales in art.

In Eden

In Eden
when the insects were screaming
in the fields in high summer
When the honey
was aching to be taken
The skies filled with white wings
the fruit fell in pink piles
on the orchard floor

Remember how it was
before the trees were cut
before the rivers pitched their guts?
How the giant beasts beat their feet
slowly through our sleep
my lover kept me naked
the bounty of our bodies
not yet spent to ashes

I didn’t just bite the apple
I licked its juices from my fingers
I was a dancing cretan girl
and I reached for the universe
I was tempting and tempted
and not afraid of snakes
I saw we were spirit
bodies became pillars of white
the sea gave off the same light
as did trees, birds. Everything singing.

Despite what you’ve heard
I had a mother; she sang to me in the
slosh of the sea, in birdsong
Even as the machines rumbled,
when the garden revealed a stage
with a trap door
She sang until there was nothing
left of her but bone

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