Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dead Poets Society

I used to write poetry. I used to do almost nothing but write poetry. I have an MFA from a bloody expensive, prestigious program. My thesis advisor was Daniel Halpern, editor-in-fucking-chief of Ecco Press. And I did jack with this, except repay the student loans (I'm still repaying the student loans). Once I had the degree, I couldn't write a damn thing. Ever. Again.

I might have a theory or two about why, but the main thing is that I never tried to get what I did write published and then I couldn't write at all. I recently dug up all those poems, and the useless thesis reviews (Thanks, Deborah Diggs, for the kudos. Sorry I just filed it away.) and thought, why not just post some of them here?

So, I will.


  1. I feel exactly the same way as you do - ie. being disappointed that I have not been able to fulfill the potential of what I think I could have or should have been able to do with my career. I then think about people with little or no career aspirations who seem perfectly happy and try to find peace with what I have been able to accomplish. I also realize that my career does not equal my life. I have great kids, a good marriage, good health etc. etc. But it is not easy and I empathize with you completely.

  2. Hi Alice,
    when I left university, the career's advisor asked me what I wanted to do, and I said I wanted to write. She laughed at me. The bitch. I wonder now if it was that derisive laughter that put the kybosh on my writing.
    It wasn't until around the time of a miscarriage I wrote again. I wrote for a couple of years and then, almost suicidal with disappointment at the publishers who went half way to taking me on and then got cold feet, I stopped.
    I stopped for nine years, i think and then one morning, I woke up and began again. The hidden narrative had been running on silently in the background and my soul woke up to it again.
    In practical terms, posting on a blog is a great idea; what you write gets read, and it's the blank silence that most of us hate the most.
    I expect you have come across Julia Cameron's books about kickstarting the creative process, but if not, ask me and I'll let you have the isbns etc.
    Good luck and thank you for your kindness to me.

  3. Lisa: Yes, it's difficult. It's that feeling of incompleteness that's so bothersome.

    Zen: Thanks for your comments. I did try Julia Cameron at one point, but I suppose if you aren't really ready to let go, nothing works very well.

  4. I'd agree about Cameron. If it falls at the right time, the books are a very good tool. Otherwise they become something else to beat yourself with.
    My copies are gathering dust right now even though I'm blocked at this time.

  5. The movie is one of my favorites. it has so many points to recommend.
    for the first time i saw it, i put that sentence on my notebook, I mean "Seize the day"
    and later, every time i catch sight of it, it can really inspire me.
    and the last scene, "O Captain my Captain" it made me cry every time.

  6. Writer's block is the pits, man. I've been "writing" since I was nine, but so far I haven't been able to finish anything. I have notebooks and notebooks of random narratives and beginnings, all lifeless. And my friends the characters are locked in those pages, begging and screaming at me to let them out again. They want to play and eat, but I starve them because my mind shifts too much. I want to finish; I want to nurture them. I just... can't.