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Poetry Has a Posse- after VONA

July 5, 2010

Had an amazing time at the first week of VONA in the advanced poetry workshop with Suheir Hammad. Hmm. Amazing isn't really the right word and of course poetry is about carefully choosing the right words, marking moments in time (saving the timeless?) and working the phrases to find freshness. Every word has weight and meaning even if they are supporting the push towards the next carefully chosen words.

I have to admit that sometimes my words aren't always so carefully chosen. Sometimes I rely too heavily on the inspiration in the moment, the  pressure to mark time, my intuitive rhythms and the relief of writing something new to share right away. I want so desperately to hold on to those instances even if they aren't the best words for the job. The trained eye can see this but my defenses kick in and want to fight those trained eyes because most of them don't seem to care about my growth or my unique voice. They just want to show off what their experience tells them about my choice of words, slashing phrases without regard to their energy.

I am mistrustful of poets and writers (especially in power positions) who don't show emotion about how serious these exchanges of energies are. If you don't take my work seriously no matter your tastes, or the judgement you have of my work or lack of understanding of my cultural context I will most likely build a wall to protect myself. And there have been many walls built in anticipation of this experience. I thought maybe this was a toughening necessary for those of us that put our work up for critique but it hasn't made me a better writer. It has built some walls into my work.

I see your defenses too. The way you'll confess how you prefer one type of poetry over another, how you are not a performer or your poetry's not for the page or how poetry's not really your thing or how you just write for yourself. Dear you. All cop outs. Tell yourself what you need to if you want to stay where you are but know I am aware of all of these because I am guilty of a few. Right here right now I give you permission to do what it is you have been meaning to do but then of course you're accountable to keep at it. None of this well I've always been an underachiever b.s. either. I don't believe the stories you have been telling yourself. I know it's painful to move in a different direction but it hurts even more when you are stuck. I'm telling this to myself just as much as I am to you.

And so it is I give thanks to Suheir and the poets of the Magic Poet Room for giving me permission to let down my defenses and build a tool box including a few numbers to call when I need a poetic sponsor. For the Compassion (with a big C) and for the realness. I know I need to do the work. It is not about wishing it came easier anymore.

This past two weeks I have been tearing down walls, practicing weightlessness, realizing work is not a punishment (even when I feed off of the pain), and grateful for the time to reflect.

Now I'm in search of new forms that reflect my literary legacy and to freshen up what's tired. On a new journey joining those who support- draw focus to -not berate or enable. Re-committing myself to my poetic recovery releasing my past hurt to the wind. En todas mis idiomas y traducciones. This is the work.

One poem at a time.

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