On Knowing There Could Be Better Work Down the Line
“Hemingway Never Did This” by Charles Bukowski
I read that he lost a suitcase full of manuscripts on a
train and that they never were recovered.
I can’t match the agony of this
but the other night I wrote a 3-page poem
upon this computer
and through my lack of diligence and
and by playing around with commands
on the menu
I somehow managed to erase the poem
believe me, such a thing is difficult to do
even for a novice
but I somehow managed to do
now I don’t think this 3-pager was immortal
but there were some crazy wild lines,
now gone forever.
it bothers more than a touch, it’s some-
thing like knocking over a good bottle of
and writing about it hardly makes a good
still, I thought somehow you’d like to
if not, at least you’ve read this far
and there could be better work
down the line.
let’s hope so, for your sake
Finding Your Flow
I’ve been reading Bukowski like a madwoman for the past two weeks, since a writer friend encouraged me. This same friend writes like a fiend, like there’s a demon inside him, while I have found myself paralyzed with fear. It’s wonderful to meet someone thoroughly consumed with his art. It’s inspiring. Intoxicating. I thought it might help to take cues from him. “Bleed,” he admonishes me. “Stop thinking.”
I will not subject you to the lousy poems I have been writing, but I will say that my friend has taught me something about flow. I usually joke that poets scare the wits out of me. Robert Olen Butler argues that writers are not intellectuals, that they are sensualists, and I like this. I am by no means an intellectual, but I have good instincts about writing prose and I usually trust them. I love teaching because it allows me to really examine how stories are brought to life. I will always be more student than teacher, but I do enjoy sharing with other writers the tricks I’ve learned and the aha moments that I’ve experienced in my own struggle as a writer.
Poetry intimidates me. I’ll just admit it. I admire it. I enjoy reading it. I’ve even, as a student, tried my hand at it. I love the formal aspects of poetry. Meter, verse, rhyme, structure. The villanelle. Haiku. It’s a beautiful feeling to read a brilliantly crafted poem. I’m awed by those who do it well.
Still, poetry is not the thing that comes to mind when I think of flow.
Until now. Until Bukowski.
Reading his work, as well as the work of my prolific writer friend, has given me a renewed sense of possibility. Sometimes we really do protest too much. We really do need to simply stop thinking and open ourselves, become a conduit for the words and images and stories that are swirling about us in the air.
Find your flow again. Write a poem about anything, the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t worry about meter, rhyme, verse, structure. None of the formal devices of poetry. Don’t think about storytelling. Don’t think about anything except putting one word down after the other. Whatever crazy thing pops into your head. Shape it into some semblance of a poem. When that poem feels finished, write another one. Don’t think about submitting these ugly babies anywhere. That’s not the point. Forget all that. Just write some crappy little poems, knowing that there could be better work down the line.
Read Bukowski for inspiration.