I’m currently wandering in the weird limbo that is the aftermath of finishing (put that word in quotes) a long poem (27 pages in manuscript) that has consumed, off and on, nearly three years of my life. There were many other short poems along the way—sprints in the midst of the marathon—but now I feel pretty much out of ideas.
Such times always send me back to my notebooks. Two thirds of what I write never leaves them, for good reason. Here and there I’ll find a still-living phrase staring up through a tangle of cross-outs, and I liberate it for later; but it’s mostly squibs, orts, embarassing pomposities, etc. The best are those small forgotten jottings that are just, for cryin’ out loud, laying there, all but complete. Minor, of course, but still appealing.
Here’s one, dated 3/29/07. You’ll recognize the source if you know Robert Bly‘s “Watering the Horses” (you can find that one here; just scroll down a bit):
LIGHTING A CIGAR BESIDE THE PUBLIC WORKS TRENCH
How strange to think of giving up all punctuation!
Suddenly I see with such clear eyes
my match’s exclamation point flaring down
toward the hissing split in the muddy gas main!