During the years that I have not been writing much poetry, I have found many ways (some better than others) to sublimate that yearning: tending a huge pollinator garden and raising butterflies, compulsive jigsaw puzzling, “Hey, why shouldn’t I binge-watch high-quality TV shows? Everyone else does.” Facebook.
One of the best, most enriching ways I’ve skated away from confronting my real creative self, and the way it most needs to speak, is by becoming involved with my local community theater group. Talk about ventriloquism! If I can feel some of that same satisfaction by delivering words that other people wrote, or by (my favorite — seriously, I love it) adapting a book into a script and helping it come to life, then maybe I never have to write another poem.
And if I don’t, then I never have to try to rub those sticks together again and find that they’re still just as damp, and confirm — again — that I just had that one spark, and that’s it.
This work has been satisfying, and real, even though it’s been a bit of a dodge. It has sustained me creatively and has also meant that I have a whole new community of good friends I would never have met otherwise, even though most of us live in the same neighborhood. I first came into it because my chapbook (my only one, remember) was made up of persona poems that lent themselves well to a dramatic reading. I intended to just direct that and then disappear, pretty much. But I didn’t — because I was fully welcomed into the group — and I’m so glad.
Most recently, I directed a staged reading (on Zoom, of course) of a very odd book of poetry, prose, and music. (I’m not going to mention it by name, for reasons, though the book has been out of print for quite a while.) My husband brought this book home for me this fall from one of the many Little Free Libraries near us because he thought it looked like something I would like. Indeed, this late writer shares a lot of my sensibilities and interests, and I thoroughly enjoyed the month or so that I spent adapting his book and directing others in how best to present the ideas that he no longer can on his own.
On the night of the reading itself, all of us (well, almost all — there’s always a crab or two) enjoyed this strange work and found ways that it connected with us, spoke to our own experiences, and enlarged our view of the world. Not once did I think that this writer didn’t deserve for his work to be presented because, while he achieved a decent measure of fame in his lifetime, he’s not as timelessly lauded as, say, Robert Frost.
Because it’s not a contest.
The theme of this writer’s whole book is the importance of being fully alive while one is alive, and that there is significance and dignity in even the smallest things that help us in that daily effort. If his words helped me feel that way for the month-plus that I worked on this project, if the actors and others I worked with felt some of that same vitality, and if all of us (including, or even especially the writer) gave our audience an hour of warmth, laughter, and contemplation on a December evening … isn’t that enough?
I was thinking about this while walking the dog this morning. What if, in a sense, I “adapted” my own work — meaning that I looked at my own writing as charitably as I do other people’s, sifted through to find what is the strongest and seems to work as some kind of whole, and presented it in a different form?
What different form? Ohhhh, a book is the most logical, and that way lies contests. But I promise, contests and prizes will not be the main point this time (a point — I am what I am). Instead, I hope to give my own work some of the same respect that I give to others’, to enjoy and admire some of it again, and to say that while it will always fall short of the goal — perfection! — it is also somehow enough. And real.
What’s next for this blog? I’m going to commit to one new post each week, whether it’s a poem, something like this, or a recap of any of my various dodges (for example, I finished a puzzle last night and am stalled out on Season Two of The Crown). It helps me to write like this, and if you’ve ever felt blocked in your writing or in whatever matters to you, maybe it helps you to read it. If it does, that would definitely be enough.