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February 23, 2014

Almost exactly a year ago [2.26.2013], I submitted the first of my poems to a contest.  As of last night, I’ve submitted 21 poems (some more than once), for a total of 27 times.

There have been 5 contests overall.

Another 7 poems have been shared with individuals.

I have 47 poems that I consider finished, and another 5 that are still in progress. (Plus lots of fragments that I’m not sure what to do with.)


I really like writing poems. But, even more, I love the places they take me. The way they reshape my ideas about the world.

Several times now, I’ve written poems about (what I thought was) a fairly-straightforward issue, only to discover the kernel of truth/emotion is completely different than I had thought. And I can’t rewrite the poem until I make further progress on the underlying issues.

Doing things by feel, though, means I can’t necessarily ‘solve’ anything just by thinking about it. I have to actually act. Often, I don’t know what might help.

For instance, in late 2011, I wrote a poem about [events in my life during] 1985. At the end, it veered off into a tangent about my houseplants. It took me months to figure out that I needed to part ways with my houseplants. Which did happen at the end of 2012. So I removed the parts about the houseplants from the poem. But I still don’t know how to end it.

A few weeks ago, I tried remixing that poem, by visually combining it with something I wrote about [events in my life during] 1990.

That was . . . closer . . . to something, but didn’t quite work either.

Seemingly unrelated altogether, my unconscious mind came up with a title for a separate poem, that references . . . a character/persona I didn’t know existed.

I got the idea to add that character/persona to the remix of the 1985 & 1990 poems. Except that, that character . . . doesn’t speak a language I understand. I wrote . . . noises that they made, and something real seemed to be happening by doing that. But whenever I tried to ‘interpret’ or ‘translate’ what the noises meant, I came up short.

So, as it stands, the poem contains memories of 1985, 1990, and then this not-me character’s attempts to ‘bridge the gap’, or ‘heal by exchanging emotions’, or . . . something.

Which (I think) means that . . . it’s not really a poem at the moment. It’s a proto-poem. It’s ideas for a poem. It’s an experiment. But I don’t think I can show it to anybody else either — it’s too weird.


I have an experimental poem I wrote/drew for the 2014 Sketchbook Project. It also doesn’t quite work in its current form, but I don’t know what it needs. I don’t even know what that poem is about. Well, I sort of do. It’s the very first poem I’ve written that references Chesapeake Bay, albeit indirectly.

Chesapeake Bay has been vexing me for years now. Almost as soon as we moved here, in 2008, I somehow knew that I needed to write a book about Chesapeake Bay in some way. Maybe poems? Maybe photographs? Or illustrations? Some of my own work? Something only I could write, except what does that mean? Millions of people live here, and can and do write about Chesapeake Bay. What’s special about whatever I would write?

When I first tackled trying to figure that out, I assumed the answer would arise out of an environmental job (because I’d had an environmental job back in Indiana, dealing with water issues). Except that, I couldn’t find an environmental job, with water, or anything. Then I volunteered with MDNR, but that didn’t go anywhere.

In 2011, I took a class in science writing from The Writer’s Center. And I wrote a prose piece about my relationship with waterbodies. I mentioned Chesapeake Bay, but didn’t talk about my relationship with it, because at that point, it was merely theoretical. And it still kind of is.

I can’t write about a relationship I don’t have.

[[That suddenly feels like the truest words I’ve ever written about anything ever.]]

Wow. I did not see that coming.

How did I not figure this out before? I look at the satellite photo of Chesapeake Bay on my bedroom door every day. I think about Chesapeake Bay all the time. But I don’t interact with it physically. The closest I’ve even come to it, I think, is driving over the Bay Bridge in 2011, on our way to Assateague.

All the creative nonfiction stuff I write has to be about something that really matters to me; otherwise my brain doesn’t turn on. In other words, if it’s just ‘objective’/impersonal facts, I can’t do it. I need to be curious, interested, and engaged. The topic needs to touch me, move me. Chesapeake Bay, even in the abstract, touches and moves me, . . . but I haven’t touched or moved . . . in . . . it. And I need to. Otherwise I have nothing to write about.

My life is experiential, not theoretical.

Oh, shit.


Sometimes I hate how entangled everything in my life is with everything else.

How can I resolve 1985 and 1990? Fuck if I know. I’ve been working on both of them . . . since they happened. More than half my life.

I really doubt that the only connection between Chesapeake Bay and my tangled-poem-problem of 1985-1990-buzzing is that I’m blocked about how to write about them both. That would be way too easy.

Trying to ‘solve’ their connection head-on, though, is giving me a headache, which usually means it’ll have to arise organically, from the bottom up. In other words, I’m not ready to face whatever the real connection is; I’ll need baby steps to inch my way to it.


I was already thinking about a writing weekend in Annapolis. I’ll need to see if I can find a place to stay that allows me to interact with the water of the Bay.

Edited to add:

1985 poem, Embraceable You [title is bittersweet & ironic]

1990 prose piece, A Taste of Danger

1985 poem remixed with 1990 prose piece => A Taste of You, Embraceable Danger

1985 poem + 1990 prose piece + character of wasp witch [not poem of same name] => ???

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