I got my first actual poem up on White Whale last night, which felt good. I had given the source pages a really good read, made a bunch of notes, thought a fair amount about what Melville was saying in those pages. For over a week there was no poem in my head at all. Writing poetry again is a challenge- I haven't done it seriously enough since college nor have I done it often enough that the fear of writing a bad poem or two has gone away. When I sat down last night to write it ended up just kind of coming out, imperfect, actually not very good at all. It didn't matter. What mattered was writing again and getting the rush I felt from doing so back.
In college, I convinced myself fairly early on that I needed to do something that challenged me and that I might have a career future in. I knew I wanted to do Environmental Studies, though I'm not sure why I was so certain in that either, but I wasn't as sure on a minor course of study. I ended up doing a bunch of geology, which became my concentration. English and writing, where every course I took held me rapt and where good grades came relatively easy, was pushed off to the side. In fact, although I minored in English writing, I didn't know I was doing so until the end of my senior year, when I added up the credits and went over to Richardson Hall for a sit-down with a professor I had never met before and a handshake. "You're on the list." An English minor without ever really meaning to get one. I didn't see the path that was there- major in English, write constantly, read constantly, graduate degree, PhD, professor somewhere, writer for life and for a living. I had no idea I could have maybe done that.
Looking back, I could have chucked all the other coursework and spent my life in Richardson and the library. I loved my English classes but had relegated them to the "fun" part of my college experience. One night in 1999, I went to the library to write a poem. Six hours later I came out, with a poem in hand and feeling like not only had hose six hours slipped past like nothing, I felt like I had been on vacation, or if you do yoga from time to time, I felt like I had just done and hour of yoga- relaxed, centered, fulfilled. Schoolwork had never made me feel that way.
10 years later, here I am. I'm not a writer by trade, but in this little house in Vermont, Kate and I have carved out a room for writing with a view of the garden. I may not have written a great work last night, but the hour it took flew by like those hours so long ago and the feeling at the end as popped the paper into the scanner was the same. And if it's bad poetry, hey, there are worse indulgences.
If the poems come as slowly as this, I think I'll continue post them here and use this main blog space to write about the writing a bit. White Whale itself will be just the poems.