Appreciating the gift of one’s work

Sometime this summer one of my poems will appear in Salamander Magazine. This is, I think, the fifth poem of mine to be published, and feels very different from other times. Actually, it may be the sixth, if I count that one that was published in the high school newspaper. And one of those other poems I initially published by taping a hand-written copy to the door of the dining hall at Indralaya (anonymously).

At any rate, I’m noticing how different this time around publication feels. The overriding feeling is an increasing sense of detachment and at the same time a feeling of the poem coming back to me as a gift from the creative ether. Somehow seeing it go out into the world, I’m now able (or encouraged) to step back and see what was given me in the process of writing the poem. (This may also be feeling different because it is the culmination of a decade of writing, a decade of working through layers of thought and feeling all called into consciousness by a moment in a hospital. Then taken through several workshops, where it was held and palpated with varying degrees of attention and care.) Now that it has been accepted, with one final edit, and now that I have seen it arranged on the page by other hands, I can begin to enjoy it in a way that I enjoy the writing of others. I can see in it parallels and images and connections I hadn’t seen before.

Most of all, I can relax into the truth of its birth through creative collaboration — that yes, the initial impulse came from my encounter with a very different kind of poetry in an oncology waiting room, and it was my continuing awakening to that encounter, my choice to make time and room for the chemical reaction that ensued, and to continue working the irritations that arose. At the same time, I see the support and input and guidance of various teachers and readers, and the faint impression of something I cannot name but know that it comes from the creative energy we are always surrounded by and too often don’t see or mistake for our own ego’s brilliance and invention.

Speaking of ego, news of this poem’s publication initially sent me into a flurry of shoulds — you should publish more, you should write more, you should send more out — but when I felt into what I really wanted, beyond the ego’s constant itching for validation, into a playful, excited energy of desire and curiosity, it was to spend more time with this poem, to fully receive what had been given to me and to more fully appreciate the gifts of this partnership with…whatever it is out there. So for now I’m learning how to do letterpress so that I can create a broadside of the poem, and that process is leading to its own series of creative gifts and new ideas and humorous blunders and healing learnings. And the space created by moving into a different creative endeavor is, perhaps, refreshing me for a later dive back into depths that will yield more poetry.

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