Poetry is about truth, and writing truly exposes me, even if I am not the subject of the poem. If I pull my punches, soften my truth, or omit some detail that I feel exposes me, I stab my poem in the gut. I have to write truth, though not necessarily for publication.
The poem that propelled me, indirectly, into serious poetry writing is a case in point. I was in a meeting, listening to someone talk about his drinking, and inspiration struck. I hauled out my handy pad and pen, and, ignoring the nudges of my companion, (She: “What are you doing?” Me: “Taking notes.”), jotted down what would become one of my first published poems. But it was about a sensitive subject, and I hesitated to submit it for publication. Would people assume the narrator of the poem was me? Maybe not, but at the very least, the poem would clearly indicate that the subject was one that mattered to me. Was I willing to risk that? Ultimately I decided I was.
Some time after that, I wrote a poem about a batch of chicken soup (I was annoyed, and I find writing poetry can be wonderfully therapeutic) and hesitated before writing, “I wanted to hit her with the soup pot.” Yes, the line ended up in the poem. Best of all, by the time I’d finished writing it, the impulse itself had passed.
Here’s the poem. It was published in the June, 2006 Humdinger (www.humdingerzine.com):
I don’t want to hear how unhappy you are
because I didn’t buy any Roast Beef at the deli
or because I made Chili from Dave’s recipe
with the six tablespoons of Chili powder
with the rind from the Parmesan cheese in the broth
just like Marcella does.
It was enough to make me want to hit you
with the soup pot.
And if you’re ever happy with my cooking,
then please tell me.
But I’m not holding my breath.