That sensation doesn't necessarily mean that I'm writing badly. What it means is that I've lost my rose-colored glasses behind the couch. What it means is that writing feels like breaking rocks in the hot sun: bashing out one word after another, after another, after another, instead of floating glibly in a blue-green, image-laden sea.
Still, I made a poem that stares back at me: sharp and hard and glinting. I invented a character who assumed her own whirlwind being for eleven stanzas. Next week I might I feel differently about her and her poem. For now, I'm feeling like Sisyphus, on the morning he thinks he's found a little dip in the mountainside that just might keep his stone from rolling.
This week, as I've been wrestling with my own poem, I received my friend Anne Britting Oleson's chapbook The Beauty of It in the mail. I have no idea how she wrote these poems--in blue-green sea or in hot sun. That's the thing: when it comes to the final product--once it's been carved out, planed, and sanded; once the nail holes are filled, the varnish spread--you can't tell how hard or easy the piece was to write. What you have, in this case, is a small, deceptively plain, deceptively clear-eyed recounting of a situation. What you have is a sentence-driven poem speckled with dull little words at the ends of the lines: "And." "Much." "The." "In." What I hear, when I say the poem aloud, is that those line breaks were not accidents . . . not at all, not in the least. They might even be more important than "tumbling" and "desperately" in the final stanza. They might be the real story.
PropositionAnne Britting OlesonA year since I've seen you, andtwo men I know makeoffers in the same day. One wheedles:nobody needs to know. No,I answer, everyone always finds out.The other suggests sexwill liven up the friendship.Or kill it, I can't help reply.They are both too short. Andmarried. But this emptinesswarns it wouldn't take muchto change my mind, to tip thescales in either's direction,and I'd be back, as I'vebeen too often, tumbling inthe grass, on a back seat,somewhere, anywhere, wantingdesperately for it to be you.