A few hours of restorative DAOTC* has left me in better shape to comment on my current shmintellectual pursuits.
I’m working on something which I have irreverently titled The Dara Anthology of Contemporary Poetry in preparation for my MFA program. I am making a list of all the poems that are most important to me: both those other people have written, and those I have written myself. When I get a printer, I’m going to print them out and put them all in a binder, in chronological order, so I can refer to it easily. Credit for this idea goes to LaCona, who once told me to make a list of everything I had done. Ten years later, I’m doing it.
One of the things I need to remember but have often forgotten is that when I was a freshman, having a lonely fall semester, I wrote a 365-page, 365-poem document, tied together through the loose narrative of a plucky but misguided antiheroine. I showed it to one person, an unfortunate Stanford professor, who never commented on it, and then I lost both the original and the computer on which it was stored. This is probably a good thing.
364 out of the 365 poems in this document were TRASH of the TRASHIEST variety, but there are one or two that I think are worth remembering. One, in particular, contained this one line that I thought was really good. It was a semi-sonnet. It used a limited sound palette. It was the first thing I’d written in some time that could be descrbed with the word “restraint” as opposed to “excess.” It was derivative of Sara Teasdale, but it was still, to my mind, the best poem – and the best line – I had ever written.
I still kind of like it, honestly. But remembering how I thought it was, like, THE GREATEST LINE OF POETRY ANYONE HAD EVER WRITTEN BEFORE OR SINCE gives me humility. You never know what is good when you are working on it. It takes forever to get perspective.
About eight years later, I rewrote that poem. I didn’t choose to rewrite that particular poem, but I wrote another little semi-sonnet about failure and wanting to be alone which had a very similar tinge. Except this one didn’t suck as bad.
So perhaps, in another sixteen years, I will rewrite this same poem, and it will be good enough to be something. But by collecting the things I have written which remain important to me, I can see what my subjects are. (One of them is the word “rot.”) And I can get a sense of where I am going by surveying where I’ve been.
This poem to which I have been referring is not good, or even interesting, to anyone but me. But to see it, and know that at one point, it was the best thing I had written, gives me a lot of perspective. So it’s going in the Anthology. As is a lot of stuff that just makes me laugh now.
* dicking around on the computer