Poetry is Weights and Measure

Yesterday I did some wild writing with Mikalina. As my teacher Laurie Wagner describes it, wild writing is a timed writing practice where, “we write as fast as we can, pen never leaving the page. By writing so quickly we are able to push past our inner critic and our ego and all the ways we stay trapped in looking good. This gives us a chance to move into a less self conscious, loose groove where, if we’re lucky we may stumble into the fertile imagination that lingers within us, conjuring up stories and memories that are waiting to be written.”

To start one round of writing yesterday, Mikalina read Maya Stein’s poem, weights and measure. A round of wild writing always starts with the reading of a poem and the suggestion of a few select lines or phrases to use as a starting point, then we write for about 10-12 minutes. When I shared my response, Mikalina told me I should post it to my blog, so here it is.

When I read Maya Stein, I somehow imagine that she writes each poem as quickly as we wild write, that what she writes comes out fast and fully formed. Clearly that’s not possible, not how it happens. Sometimes, I’m sure a line rises to the top like a bubble in the water, a fart in the bathtub, but it doesn’t always work like that.

Writing poetry is about space, about lingering, about circling back to the thought just before this one, or that thing that happened 20 years ago. It’s the smell that triggers a memory. It’s also getting somewhere and realizing you don’t remember the trip at all, you simply woke up and found yourself where you were going.

Poetry is like hunger, like forgetting to eat, like dreaming, like a long walk in the woods where you are surprised by a hummingbird or a bear, where you get lost or you find a particular rock that you just have to put in your pocket, take home and put on your writing shrine, always and forever able to remember where you found it, where it came from.

Poetry is that dream you can’t quite remember. Poetry is the map of an unknown territory that you study so much it’s like you’ve been there before, already. Poetry is like water, like air, like blood, like dirt, like roots, like waves. Poetry is grains of rice you can boil and eat even though before that they were hard and entirely inedible.

Poetry is the white noise that helps you sleep, the music playing in another room your ears strain to recognize. Poetry is citrus. Poetry is when Eric roasts peppers in our tiny kitchen in our tiny house and my eyes burn from the smell. Poetry makes you cry in the same way cutting an onion or a strong wind does. Poetry is your baby blanket, the satin edge of it frayed in one corner from all those nights you rubbed it against your cheek so you could fall asleep.

I'd love to hear what you think, kind and gentle reader.

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