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finding my (poetic) voice

January 4, 2014

I’ve been blogging for 4.25 years, and have written 293,607 words to date. Categories and tags dynamically demonstrate what topics, motifs, and themes matter most to me.  But I think it took nearly a year of writing (~30,000 words, in ~100 posts) before I really started getting a feel for what I wanted to write about.

I’ve been writing poems since late 2011. Along with the latest one (just finished a few hours ago), I have 36 total. My poems average 68 words each.

If, hypothetically, I need to write 30,000 words before I achieve a sense of what really matters to me, I would have to write 441 poems (with an average length of 68 words). Which could take me 27 years.

Do I write much longer poems?

Do I just write more poems? A lot more?

Maybe poems are different, and I won’t need 30,000 words before I know what matters?

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A few weeks ago, I began compiling a list of motifs / elements / topics / themes covered in my poems. It quickly got ridiculously large enough that I felt overwhelmed, so I stopped.

But if my prose and my poems are both part of the same phenomenon — Stuff That Matters to Me that I Want to Write About — maybe individual word counts aren’t nearly as relevant?

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I have this odd sense that my poems are somehow . . . more “public” . . . than my blogs, even though way more people have read my blog posts than have read my poems. For instance, I have 2 poems that have been “(relatively) widely read”: 1 was heard by 9 people, and then a roomful of people; 1 has been read by 6 people. The majority of the rest have only been read by me.

I have submitted 13 of my poems for publication, so presumably someone read them each at least once. (Before declining to publish them.)

Maybe it feels weird because . . . I don’t expect comments on blog posts, but with poetry submissions, you don’t know ahead of time if you’ll receive comments about why your poems were rejected. Yet, even without comments, there is obviously a response, which is a rejection.

Maybe 9 out of 10 people who read any of my blog posts don’t really care for them. But there’s no easy way for them to give me a thumbs’ down, so we all go on in happy ignorance.

I’m not writing my blog posts for other people either.

Although . . . I’m not writing my poems for other people neither.

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It’s 4:18 a.m., I’m sleepy, I’m having trouble thinking through what is bothering me (but something clearly is, else I’d have gone to bed an hour ago).

What if the issue is quality as well as quantity? I know there are other people who not just polish everything they write, but burnish it before they’ll let anyone else see it. Obviously, I’m not one of those people.

Now, nothing I let other people see is a first draft — I revise and rewrite everything as I go, and sometimes after I’m done, too — but for both blog posts and poems, it feels more important to get them out into the world, rather than endlessly tinkering after some elusive hope for perfection. Since they are records of my thought process,  it seems obvious they’re going to be rough-ish initially.

And unlike ceramic pieces, or paintings, I can (and do) tweak a poem later. (Which seems common, from what I’ve read of other poets.)

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The most-recent poem is another “bricolage poetry kit” success. Unlike others, this one contains some improvising.

I want to (eventually) be able to write poems that read like they could’ve been constructed this way, but weren’t. Except, not in a word salad kind of way.

This method helps me say things I don’t know how to say straightforwardly.

It seems like this method might come across as a postmodern gimmick to other people, but it’s actually doing something important . . . even though I don’t know what it is, or why it matters. Only that it does.

Maybe that’s enough for going on with.

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