- J Hopkins
Say "Yes Yes Yes" to the Creative Person Within You, June 30, 2022, by Jude Hopkins
What I love about Kaylin Haught’s poem above, “God says yes to me,” is the message of assurance it gives to girls who question themselves—yes, even grown women who do the same.
I know, I know. It’s a poem written by a woman, not a directive from God, secondhand though it be.
Nevertheless, it tells females that it’s OK to be you— short, melodramatic, flawed you. In fact, it’s better than OK. You are true and worthy as you are. You are human.
Because of works like the one above, I love poetry. I love to read it and write it, as many of you do. But I think when it comes to being published, we don't always hear "yes." I call it the “blue heron” approach. If there’s not a blue heron in a poem (as symbol of something deep or an indication that something abstruse or “heavy” is occurring), then forget it. It’s considered to be fluff.
And “fluff,” as we know it, is often wrongly thought of as "girl stuff."
The first poem I ever had published was in my college literary magazine. Here it is:
It looked like someone had cut a moon-shaped cookie
out of the celestial dough.
The legs of the dock wore moss stockings,
woven by a sea loom,
The water lapped against the pier —
A reminder that the moon, the tide, were all in sync.
I closed my eyes and imagined the wind
blowing its night noises through the strands of my hair,
like an Aeolian harp.
But when I suggested a swim,
you said the water looked as cold as hell.
Yes, it looks like the work of a young'un. But I was still very proud to see it, published and all. When I tried, years later, to publish a revision of this poem in a literary journal, an editor wrote this: “Too theoretical for the subject matter. I got that it was a woman and a man: that is clear; their language, for lack of a better word, OK, their perceptions are vastly different. A title like ‘He and She’ or ‘He and I’ might go further toward creating the atmosphere and cluing the reader in to the doomed nature of the relationship.”
Those words were enough to discourage me, so I never revised it or sent it out again.
Luckily, I didn't give up and happened upon poetry editors who were encouraging and offered constructive criticism, so I was able to publish numerous (different) poems.
If you love to write or want to write, don't be discouraged. Start out by writing down your ideas. Go back to them and develop them. But write them down! Get a notebook or create a folder on your computer just for your ideas. And fill up the page(s).
I have notes that I keep and return to from time to time to see if there’s a germ of an idea in them for a poem or essay. Here are a few examples:
Damn the temperance! The dulling of the blades.
F and G keys pressed together before opening into e and g, the resolution
All cats are gray now — where once they were brindled and tortoise shelled and tuxedoed —
and had jewels for eyes
Boundaries – seamless on a hot night, touching the screen to feel the outside as warm as inside
The ocean and horizon both blue
revenant: One who returns after death (as a ghost) or after a long absence.
vade mecum: a handbook or guide that is kept constantly at hand for consultation.
Love is loud
A corolla of arrows surrounds it
I’m on the back beat , the one and three
I’m running out of the past
The past, which peels away from me
Like paint from a wall in an abandoned building
I take things neat: coffee, oatmeal, you
Blet - verb tr.: To overripen to the point of rotting.
Even the once innovative had flaws … Cinerama’s tripartite seams, eight-track songs
I just need to be carried over into the morning
with something more than
knowing I could edit the local paper full of grammatical errors or
sing the descant to “Angels I Have Heard on High”
unlike the college kid they’ve got singing it now
Lawn mowers – chorus of Doppler shifts
I make doctor’s appointments on the birthdays of those gone … when once those days were special, they are ordinary now
All of these are snippets of ideas, ideas that might be developed into something one day. But they are there when I want to get motivated.
And I also keep the poems that were never published, that didn’t completely gel. I still like them; they have ideas that could be yet developed. They show my thinking at the time, my brain at work. But they're not quite "there" yet.
I have friends who say, "I have no time to write." In her wonderful book “Silences,” Tillie Olsen writes about women who don’t have the time or means or place to be creative because of responsibilities, obligations, work. She writes: ““Literary history and the present are dark with silences . . . I have had special need to learn all I could of this over the years, myself so nearly remaining mute and having to let writing die over and over again in me. These are not natural silences--what Keats called agonie ennuyeuse (the tedious agony)--that necessary time for renewal, lying fallow, gestation, in the natural cycle of creation. The silences I speak of here are unnatural: the unnatural thwarting of what struggles to come into being, but cannot.”
To add to this, I know some women who don’t want to be alone with their thoughts, who prefer to always be with people. My Facebook is filled with women who post solely about their boyfriends, their engagements, their marriages, their children. I often wonder, “What about you? What are you doing to fulfill your creativity?”
If you would like to begin your creative journey by writing poems but don't know where to begin, I recommend Steve Kowit's book "In the Palm of Your Hand: A Poet's Portable Workshop." His book is friendly and encouraging, filled with great advice, gently administered.
Also worth reading is the introduction to Kowit's book by poet Dorianne Laux. Here is a paragraph worth studying:
Once I wrote a poem that I thought no one at a literary journal would like. For one thing, it was simple, as many of my poems are, and accessible. But it was tricky. I wanted to get some ideas in there compactly, so I revised it over and over again. I submitted it to many journals, where it was rejected, as I knew it would be because it lacked the “blue heron” effect (see above). But California Quarterly published it.
Later, I saw a call for an anthology asking for poems about the moon and/or stars, and it was taking reprints. So I submitted it, and it was accepted. I liked the fact that most people understood it, that its message was clear and the language was succinct. Maybe it wasn’t “art,” but it said what I wanted to convey. And it might make people think in a different way about that cold rock up in the sky!
In Haught's poem at the top of the page, she tells us God says “Yes Yes Yes” to those of us beset by doubts who ask permission to be our less-than-ideal selves. Instead of succumbing to our insecurities, listening to naysayers who tell us we are, in effect, acquired tastes (a boyfriend once said that to me), say “Yes Yes Yes” to who you are and the creative person within you. Act upon it. Spend more time alone, as Joan Didion advised. You might be delightfully surprised at the person you find within. And maybe one day you'll share your discovery with us by means of a poem, an essay, a story, a novel.